Thailand Muzzles Reporter in Freeing Him From Custody

BenarNews Staff

2015-09-15
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150915-TH-Pravit-620.jpg "My ideology is intact," Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk (pictured in May 2014) said after his latest release from detention.
AFP

Thai authorities on Tuesday freed Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior reporter and columnist for The Nation, after holding him since Sunday for an “attitude adjustment,” the newspaper said.

To win his release, Pravit, a frequent critic of Thailand’s military-led government, had to sign a document in which he agreed “not to lead, participate, or assist any anti-coup movement,” the paper reported.

“Released by Thai junta already. Thanks to friends, colleagues & supporters. My ideology is intact. Will talk more later. #Thailand,” Pravit said Tuesday night (local time) in a message posted on Twitter.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – the official name for the junta that came to power in May 2014 – lodged a pending police complaint against Pravit, which would be activated if he violated the council’s orders again, a source told The Nation.

Pravit was freed along with two opposition MPs who were also being held under the junta’s so-called “attitude adjustment” program and were made to sign a similar document, the paper said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for U.S.-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch, said the NCPO had freed Pravit due to international pressure and that “no one should be fooled” by the gesture.

"The reality is Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth [Chan-o-cha]wants to stifle critical statements about the government and is prepared to use arbitrary, incommunicado detention and intimidation to achieve that,” Robertson told BenarNews.

“What this means is that governments that care about human rights in Thailand need to be loud and clear in demanding an immediate end to such abusive detention of critics.”

‘Invited’

Pravit was detained Sunday after receiving an “invitation” to discuss with authorities statements that could “cause confusion to the public,” junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree told local reporters Monday, according to the Associated Press.

“Freedom can't be maintained if we're not willing to defend it. #Thailand,” Pravit had tweeted before his detention.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told The Nation that Pravit had been summoned because of “provocative and divisive” posts on his personal Facebook account.

Rights groups and associations representing domestic and foreign journalists responded with alarm to the detention.

Pravit is a “prominent champion of freedom of expression,” who has criticized the junta and as well as the civilian-led government that preceded it, The Guardian reported.

Since seizing power, the junta has used the “attitude adjustment” to detain and interrogate hundreds of dissenters, the British newspaper said.

Pravit’s detention was his second since Thai authorities held him for a week in the days following the May 2014 coup.

On Tuesday, The Nation quoted Prayuth as warning that Pravit and others summoned for “attitude adjustment” had to comply with the agreement they had signed by “informing the NCPO when planning to travel abroad.”

The NCPO has authority to freeze their bank accounts if it finds their movements suspicious, the paper quoted him as saying.

"I will agree with them no more,” Prayuth warned, according to The Nation. “If they repeat it again, they have to go to court. There’ll be no more negotiation.”

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