Three journalists from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) were arrested in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, in a police search on May 9. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Thailand (NUJT), remain concerned for the well-being of the journalists and urge Thai authorities to not deport them.
The three senior journalists, who have not yet been named, fled Myanmar after the military coup ordered the shutdown of DVB’s operations in March. According to sources, all three journalists covered anti-coup demonstrations in the country following the coup by the Myanmar military on February 1.
In a statement to US ABC News, DVB’s executive director and chief editor, Aye Chan Naing, said the three journalists, along with two activists, were arrested during a random police search and charged with illegal entry into Thailand.
IFJ investigations in Thailand also suggest the journalists were also allegedly arrested for failure to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures.
Since the military coup on February 1, many journalists and media organisation have been targeted under the Penal Code, which stipulates up to three years in prison for spreading “false news” and causing fear or agitating “directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee”. There are currently 40 journalists in detention, including two other DVB staff members.
The NUJT said: “The Burmese journalists should be provided a team of lawyers to help negotiate. The journalists should be afforded refuge in the city before being transported to a third country temporarily, in order to not be repatriated.”
The IFJ said: “We call upon Thai authorities to consider appropriate humanitarian responses for the arrested DVB journalists. Unable to work safely in Myanmar, many Burmese journalists have little choice but to flee the country for personal security and in an attempt to continue their important work. The Myanmar army has specifically targeted and jailed journalists and, for this reason, every effort must be made to appeal to Thailand’s authorities to honour its obligations to support their safe refuge.”