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Hong Kong photojournalist detained in Thailand for allegedly carrying bulletproof vest has passport returned

Anthony Kwan Hok-chun is free to leave Thailand, but must return to face charge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 12:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 September, 2015, 5:32pm

Hong Kong photojournalist Anthony Kwan Hok-chun is free to leave Thailand after a judge returned his passport, but he must return to Bangkok to face charge after he was stopped at a Bangkok airport allegedly carrying a bulletproof vest in his hand luggage.

A police probe into the case against the 29-year-old reporter is still active. The charge against Kwan carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. He was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport for carrying controlled items under Thai law. A licence is required to own a bulletproof vest, except when it is for military or police use.

Kwan’s legal representative, Sirikan Charoensiri, told the South China Morning Post on Monday morning: “The court returned his Chinese passport so he could travel out of Thailand to perform his duties, but with the condition that he will return to Thailand to report himself to the court on September 17.”

Kwan’s lawyer had told the court: “Anthony, as an international photojournalist, has to travel to perform his duties covering news in other countries. His case is not serious, and he will not abscond … He will defend his innocence till the end and not risk his career reputation.”

Kwan is accused of breaching the country’s 1987 Arms Control Act. He was released on bail two weeks ago.

He said he had not immediately decided when to return to Hong Kong, and was taking each decision “one step at a time”.

“The case is still under investigation, and I don’t really know what’s going to happen next, but I’m grateful that I’ve got my passport back and I can temporarily go home," he said.

“I’m not planning [to return to Hong Kong yet], I’m just waiting for the paperwork – one step at a time as I try and figure everything out … But of course, I want to come home.”

Kwan was preparing to board Thai Airways flight 602 to Hong Kong on August 23 when he was stopped.

He was on his way back after spending a week covering the aftermath of the August 17 Erawan Shrine bombing.

Kwan, who holds both a Canadian and Hong Kong passport, said: “They should just release me, to be honest, because I’m not a criminal.”