Thailand: Myanmar journalists jailed for seven months for illegal entry to Thailand

Three journalists from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) were sentenced to seven months in jail and fined for entering Thailand illegally on May 28. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Thai authorities to not deport the journalists and to support their efforts for political asylum.

Smoke rises over township in Yangon. Credit: STR AFP

The Democratic Voice of Burma was one of the first news organisations to be shut down by the military coup in March, following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1. The three journalists fled the country, but were consequently arrested during a police search in the northern city of Chiang Mai on May 9.

The three DVB journalists, along with their two other associates, were sentenced to seven months imprisonment and a 4,000 baht (USD 128) fine each.

Nadthasiri Bergman, a lawyer with the Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF), told AFP that "By law, they can be deported within 72 hours." However, Bergman quickly added that because of the appeal letter the HRDF sent, immigration authorities could not deport them immediately.

On April 24, an ASEAN Summit on Myanmar took place, where the leaders of eight Southeast nations congregated to discuss the Myanmar political crisis but Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, was not in attendance. News reports suggested this was linked to the Royal Thai Army’s close relations with the military establishment in Myanmar.

ASEAN has continued in its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of its members.  Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and thus there is no legislation governing the treatment of refugees.

Since the February 1 coup, more than 80 journalists are among the more than 5,500 people arrested or detained by Myanmar’s security forces. Many remain in detention, amongst widespread accounts of torture and extrajudicial killings.

The IFJ said: “The IFJ condemns the jailing of these journalists and urges Thailand to give full humanitarian support to journalists and human rights defenders fleeing the dire safety situation in Myanmar to allow them safe passage away from the country’s atrocities.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram