Burma Times Desk Report: June 30, 2015
The Thai news outlet Phuketwan has requested Muslim nations to keep a close eye on the trial of their journalists.
Phuketwan jounrnalists are being prosecuted for revelaing complicity of high ranking Thailand government officers in the horrors of Rohingya trafficking.
The letter is issued below:
Monday, June 29, 2015
Open Letter to the 57 Nations of the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation
Dear OIC Member Nations,
The OIC has shown great concern for the Rohingya of Burma, who continue to be driven into the sea by religious intolerance and hate.
For seven years, our small news outlet, Phuketwan, has been covering the exodus of these boatpeople through Thailand, spotlighting the human trafficking and the complicity of Thai officials.
At the weekend, my colleague Chutima Sidasathian, and I learned that the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, has rejected a suggestion that an ill-advised criminal defamation action brought against us by the Royal Thai Navy should be withdrawn.
The trial will now be going ahead at Phuket Provincial Court from July 14-16.
We would greatly appreciate it if the OIC could possibly send an official observer. We are also encouraging widespread media coverage of this trial in all 57 OIC member nations.
It’s vital that the international community is represented to see how whistleblowers are treated in Thailand. We have done our best to reveal to the world Thailand’s dirtiest secret.
The pages of Phuketwan contain more than 1400 articles that reference ”Rohingya.”
In all modesty, we can say that since 2008, our coverage of the Rohingya exodus has been a key to raising international awareness of the plight of these desperate people.
Recent exposure of the graves of luckless trafficking victims in Thailand and the boats bobbing offshore has revealed more fully the horrors that Phuketwan has been accurately recording now for seven years.
During that time, the Royal Thai Navy, along with the Burmese Navy, has been attempting to maintain silence about what was happening to the Rohingya, and to the Bangladeshis who more recently joined them in the boats.
In December 2013, in an attempt to end Phuketwan’s coverage of this shocking breach of international human rights standards, one or two officers misusing the good name of the Royal Thai Navy sued me, Chutima Sidasathian and Phuketwan’s parent company, under Thailand’s repressive criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act laws.
As the world now knows, all of the thousands of victims who were murdered, raped, tortured and extorted in fleeing Burma and Bangladesh are Muslims.
For this reason, we believe it is vital that the eyes of the Islamic world turn towards this trial on Phuket.
Without the efforts of the dedicated reporters at Phuketwan, this story of constant persecution and maltreatment in Burma and Thailand would never have been told.
We are simply reporters who have been dedicated to doing our job.
The Royal Thai Navy chose to sue us over republication of a single paragraph from a Reuters’ news agency series that soon after won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize.
We know the Royal Thai Navy wants to silence Phuketwan because Reuters and other organisations that reproduced the exact same paragraph have not been charged.
The Prime Minister of Thailand and the Thai government have been called upon by the United Nations, the European Union, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and many other organisations to drop this misguided action.
We face a maximum of seven years in jail, just for doing our jobs. As we have said, the Royal Thai Navy will need to kill us to stop us reporting on the Rohingya issue.
Now, with the Thai government rejecting pleas for commonsense to be restored, we seek the help of the OIC in observing and reporting on our trial.