Thailand's military government detains journalist

2015-09-15 14:32

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Bangkok - Thailand's military government has detained a reporter for an English-language newspaper, in what rights groups on Tuesday criticised as the latest sign of a fresh crackdown on critics of the ruling junta.

The Nation newspaper, one of Thailand's prominent English-language dailies, posted a letter on its front page on Tuesday calling for the immediate release of Pravit Rojanaphruk. The paper said Pravit, one of its senior journalists, was detained Sunday and was being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location.

Rights groups including the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch echoed calls for the journalist's release and condemned the detention.

"The junta is expanding its authoritarian control by arbitrarily arresting any and all critics of its repressive rule," said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The CPJ called it "the strongest indication so far of [the junta's] intention to suppress critical comment about the way it is running Thailand".

Invitation for a talk with authorities

A spokesperson for the junta, Colonel Winthai Suvaree, said in a text message to local reporters Monday that Pravit had received an "invitation" for a talk with the authorities because of statements that could "cause confusion to the public". Pravit has been a high-profile critic of the military regime that took over after a coup in May 2014 toppled an elected civilian government.

After turning himself in Sunday, Pravit was taken to an unidentified location, according to The Nation. Detainees of the junta usually are held at an army camp.

"The Nation's executives and Pravit's family have not been able to contact him and are worried about his safety and welfare," the newspaper said in a letter to the junta chief, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, which it published on Tuesday's front page. "The Nation calls for him to be released immediately."

"We see this as a direct threat to press freedom," The Nation's editor-in-chief Thepchai Yong said in a statement on The Nation's website.

Attitude adjustment

Winthai said the length of Pravit's detention depends on how co-operative he is. The detention process has been used since the coup, with the junta calling it "attitude adjustment". To expedite their release, detainees are reportedly pressured to sign a statement promising to refrain from further public criticism.

Pravit has written critical commentaries in The Nation and frequently posts his opinions on Twitter.

It is the second time he has been detained by the junta, which called in large numbers of politicians and potential dissidents in the months after the coup but appears to have begun a new round of detentions.

Last week, the military detained two politicians who had been critical of the junta, including a former energy minister. Both men were members of the Pheu Thai party, which led the government that was ousted by the army in the coup.

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