Hong Kong journalist faces charges in Thailand

Bangkok, August 23, 2015–A Hong Kong journalist faces up to five years in prison in Thailand for carrying protective body armor without a license, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the legal harassment of Hok Chun Kwan and calls on Thai authorities to drop the allegations immediately.

Kwan was detained at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday when he tried to travel to Hong Kong, according to news reports. The journalist, who was on assignment for Initium Media Technology, a Hong Kong-based news agency, was leaving Thailand after reporting on the aftermath of an August 17 bomb blast that killed 22 people, including two Hong Kong citizens, at a religious shrine in the Thai capital, news reports said.

Kwan, who is identified in reports as Anthony Kwan Hok-chun and Hok Chun “Anthony” Kwan, was released on bail on Monday afternoon. A Bangkok-based military court ordered him not to leave the country while investigations were ongoing, Kwan’s lawyer, Pawinee Chumsri, told CPJ. Authorities confiscated Kwan’s passport and ordered him to report to the court every 12 days for up to 48 days while police and prosecutors determine whether to file formal charges under the country’s 1987 Arms Control Act, according to Pawinee.

“The legal harassment of journalist Hok Chun Kwan is out of step with global norms for journalists’ protection and with the security situation on the ground in Thailand,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The government should prioritize reforming its outdated arms control act in a manner that allows journalists to reasonably protect themselves and stop harassing the press.”

Outbreaks of political violence have wracked Thailand’s capital city for more than a decade as political camps compete for dominance ahead of a delicate royal succession. In 2010, Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto and freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi were shot dead while covering crackdowns on anti-government protesters in Bangkok. Neither journalist was wearing protective body armor. CPJ published a special report, called “In Thailand unrest, journalists under fire,” about Muramoto and Polenghi’s murders, as well as the injuries sustained by other journalists. Five years on, neither case has been solved.