Monday, January 24, 2011

Thailand to deport two journalists

Monday, 24 January 2011 12:25 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai – Thai authorities are set to deport John San Lin, a Burmese freelance journalist, and his colleague Pascal Schatterman, a Belgian national, after they were arrested in the Mae Sot area on Thursday.

Thai authorities arrested the pair shortly after they entered Thai soil from Burma.

The journalists were covering the SPDC assault against a breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and its impact on local civilians.

The Committee to Project journalists issued a press release on Friday that urged the Thai government not to deport San Lin, saying his life would be in danger if he is sent back to Burma.

In the press release, Shawn Crispin, the CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative, called on Thailand to ‘take into consideration the prospect that San Lin will suffer severe reprisals if he is forcibly returned to Burma’.

According to the CPJ, Thai authorities confiscated their video footage which included ‘images of internally displaced people suffering from severe deprivation in the remote conflict zone’.

San Lin has worked for Aljazeera and France 24 and several other news agencies while covering the Southeast Asia region.

In a chance meeting in Mae Sot last week, San Lin told this reporter that he had come to the border to cover the conflict and was deeply moved by the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between the Burmese military and other forces.

According to the CPJ on Friday, a Thai court first sentenced San Lin and Schatterman to one-year prison terms, a 500 baht fine but ruled that both men could stay in the Kingdom of Thailand because neither had been convicted of a prior immigration related offence.

The CPJ says, however, that both men were taken back into custody and told they ‘would be deported to their respective countries in the next day or two’ after Thai Immigration police intervened with the judge.

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