Media Groups Urge Thai Govt Not to Deport Detained Myanmar Journalists

By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2021

A press freedom advocacy group and a foreign correspondents’ organization in Thailand have urged authorities there to refrain from deporting three Myanmar journalists working for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) who were arrested in northern Thailand on Sunday for illegal entry into the country.

The DVB said in a statement that three of its journalists were arrested in the Thai city of Chiang Mai’s San Sai district during a random search on Sunday and charged with illegal entry. The statement said all three had covered the anti-coup demonstrations that have been taking place in Myanmar since the military seized power in a Feb. 1 coup.

Two associates of the journalists were also detained during the search. The five were scheduled to appear in a Chiang Mai court on Tuesday.

The Myanmar regime in March revoked DVB and four other media organizations’ licenses to operate in the country over their coverage of the regime’s atrocities against protesters, making reporting for them an illegal act. The journalists continued to do their jobs, however, making them targets for the junta.

Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s  senior Southeast Asia representative, said Thai authorities should uphold the country’s proud history as a sanctuary for journalists fleeing military repression in Myanmar, and on humanitarian grounds should not deport the three DVB journalists.

“Myanmar’s military regime has repeatedly abused and detained journalists, and Thai authorities should not force these members of the press to face potentially severe retaliation for their work,” he added.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) also said its members are seriously concerned over the arrest of the three journalists and their associates. It said that under no circumstances should they be deported back to Myanmar, because they would face certain arrest and persecution there, if not worse, for their work and association with DVB.

“Rather, the DVB journalists and their associates should be released from detention, urgently offered protection, and granted the right to remain temporarily in Thailand,” the FCCT said in a statement.

More than 70 journalists are among around 5,000 people arrested by security forces in Myanmar since a military coup on Feb. 1. The vast majority remain in detention amid widespread reports of torture and extrajudicial killings.

“The world is watching what the Thai authorities do in this important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region, and for the protection of those fleeing the junta’s brutal crackdown on independent media and civil society,” the FCCT said.

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