Thailand's navy has filed criminal defamation charges against a news website that published stories alleging Thai military involvement in the trafficking of ethnic Rohingya boatpeople.
The English-language Phuketwan site in July posted a story carrying excerpts from a report by Reuters alleging that members of the Thai military were involved in trafficking captured Rohingya illegal immigrants.
Alan Morison, who has written several stories for the South China Morning Post on the plight of Rohingya, is the editor of Phuketwan. He said that he had been summoned along with one of his Thai reporters on Wednesday to a police station in Phuket to formally acknowledge the charges.
The lawsuit, filed by a captain on behalf of the navy, charges that the website violated the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which bars the circulation of material deemed detrimental to national security or that causes panic.
Phuketwan has for several years taken a leading role in reporting on the plight of minority Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar fleeing persecution and poverty to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The journey is a perilous one, and they are often forced back out to sea or detained if they make landfall.
The police charge sheet alleges that Morison, the Thai reporter and the company owning the website published "false" information defaming the navy.
"We were disappointed that the Royal Thai Navy decided to use a bad law against journalists who are just doing their jobs," Morison said. "It would have been so easy to telephone us or to hold a media conference to set the record straight."
"This just makes us keener to know who is mistreating the Rohingya in the secret camps along Thailand's southern border, and how they reach there by sea."
If found guilty, Morison and the other accused could face up to five years in jail and a fine of 100,000 baht (HK$24,000).