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Thailand-Burma 17 July 2002

The press victim of tensions between the two countries

On 29 July, the Burmese military government issued a list of at least thirteen Thai journalists who are barred from entering the country. This order, sent to Burmese embassies around the world, states that the journalists are to be arrested if they attempt to enter the country using false identities. They are: Suvit Wat, Supaluk Kanchana Khundee, Ubon Rittular Anfong, Kavi Chongkittavorn, Thepchai Yong, Tairai Sunthon Prahart, Anchalee Phatrak, Fonkhon Adonyanon, Dr. Chanvit Kasit, Lomoliam Ynic, Lomta Larynhit, Nainmaha Saitthai, and Sailop Phubua.


image 172 x 51 (JPEG) Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA, the organisation of Burmese journalists in exile) strongly condemned the recent obstacles to press freedom by the Burmese and Thai governments, particularly in the frontier zone between the two countries. "Once again Burmese and Thai journalists are victims of the tensions between their respective governments", declared Robert Ménard, General Secretary of RSF. The two organisations have asked the Thai and Burmese Interior Ministers, Purachai Piumsombun and Colonel Tin Hlaing, to ensure that the restrictions on journalists’ work be removed at soon as possible.

The first obstacle came from Thailand, which, on 28 June 2002, declared personas non grata in its territory two Burmese journalists: Maung Maung, chief editor of the official daily The New Light of Myanmar and Ma Tin Win, author of a series of articles on the Thai monarchy deemed to be ’insulting’.

On 12 July, it was Burma’s turn to blacklist the names of fifteen Thai journalists accused of propaganda against the Burmese military junta. These reporters were not quoted by name but Kyaw Win, deputy chief of military intelligence, said they belong to the newspapers The Nation, Bangkok Post, Thai Rath, Thai News, Daily News, Siam Rath, Matichon, Khao Sod and to a radio station.

On 16 July, the Thai National Security Council banned foreign journalists from entering the refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border. The authorities invoked critical articles on how the camps are run. They also criticise the press for fostering tensions between the two countries by reporting on the refugees’ criticisms of the Burmese junta. The Bangkok government has however denied that this measure is aimed at calming its relations with Burma. Lastly, in Thailand once more, Khin Maung Soe, a reporter at Radio Free Asia, was interrogated at the end of June by the police in the frontier zone while he was investigating a rape committed by Thai policemen on a Burmese refugee.




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