Hong Kong photographer free to leave Thailand as police weigh up case against him for ‘carrying bulletproof vest’
Hong Kong photojournalist Anthony Kwan Hok-chun must wait at least two more weeks to find out if Thai police will pursue charges against him after he was stopped at a Bangkok airport carrying body armour.
A Thai court this morning granted Kwan permission to leave Thailand until the next hearing on September 29. Kwan was stopped at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport after he was found carrying a bulletproof vest in his hand luggage. A licence is required to own a bulletproof vest, except when it is for military or police use.
A police probe into the case against the 29-year-old reporter is still active. If charged, the crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
“Anthony is allowed to leave Thailand [from today] and come back to report to court on September 29. “The police have not yet finished their investigation,” Kwan’s legal representative, Sirikan Charoensiri, told the South China Morning Post this morning.
Kwan is accused of breaching Thailand’s 1987 arms control act. His travel restrictions were lifted and his passport returned 10 days ago.
READ MORE: Hong Kong photojournalist detained in Thailand for allegedly carrying bulletproof vest has passport returned
Meanwhile, the Journalists Association and Press Photographers Association reiterated the charge against Kwan was without merit. The two associations spearheaded a petition urging Thai authorities not to press ahead with the criminal case.
“It is necessary for journalists around the world to carry body armour and helmet to enable them to work in dangerous situations. The equipment carried by Mr Kwan, who was in the country to report on the Bangkok bombing that killed two Hong Kong tourists, is no exception,” the associations said in a joint statement.
Kwan was preparing to board Thai Airways flight 602 to Hong Kong on August 23 when he was stopped. The next day, he was granted bail, but was forced to surrender his passport and barred from leaving the country.
He was on his way back after spending a week covering the aftermath of the August 17 Erawan Shrine bombing.