Yesterday (9 October 15), the public prosecutor of Samut Prakan has filed the case with the Samut Prakan Provincial Court against Mr. Kwan Hok Chun, a reporter of the Initium Media Technology Co., Ltd. for having in possession of arms without permission. The Court scheduled the first hearing on Monday 12 October at 9.00am.
Mr. Kwan Hok Chun, a reporter from Hong Kong, has travelled to Thailand to report on the blast at the Ratchaprasong Intersection which took place on 17 August 2015. He was given a body armour printed with the word “PRESS” from his office for his safety. But on his way out, he was detained at the Suvarnabhumi Airport on 23 August 2015 while waiting to board the plane for having in possession of the body armour. He denied the allegation while being interrogated by the police and the Court granted him bail.
Mr. Kwan Hok Chun being held in custody at the Suvarnabhumi Airport (Photo courtesy AP)
In the complaint, it is mentioned that the accused has violated the 1987 Arms Control Act’s Articles 4, 5, 6, 7, 15, 34, and 42, the Notification decreed by the Minister of Defense on 30 November 2007 and the Penal Code’s Articles 32 and 33. The prosecutor also asked the Court to forfeit the body armour as incriminating evidence.
On the same day, lawyers from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) has gone to the office of the public prosecutor of Samut Prakan to submit a letter to demand justice. The lawyers had learned that the case file had been submitted to the prosecutor on 6 October. The lawyers failed to meet the prosecutor in charge of the case and thus handed the letter to the reception. They only learned later that the case has been indicted with the Court.
In the letter to demand justice, it explains that Mr. Kwan had no intention to commit the crime and he simply brought into Thailand the body armour for his own safety. A body armour is meant for protecting life and body of a reporter while working in the field and it has not been intended for use in wars and has no bearing on national security. Thus, the act should not be construed as an offence as per the 1987 Arms Control Act. Thus, the prosecutor is asked to not indict the case. But the prosecutor has already indicated the case on the same day the lawyers has submitted this letter.
Right after Mr. Kwan was arrested, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement saying that a body armour and a helmet are not a weapon and a reporter should not have been subjected to such treatment. Also, the use of body armour and helmets is routine by journalists around the world, and is clearly to enable them to do their jobs in dangerous situations such as the events in 2010 during which two reporters were killed. The fact even highlights how important the gears are. The Thai authorities were thus urged to drop criminal charges against Mr. Kwan Hok Chun and to work with the media community in Thailand to decriminalise the legitimate use of body armour and other relevant and purely protective items.