By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer
BANGKOK — At least 10 foreign correspondents based in Thailand have been denied media visas during the past two months, said the former president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
Jonathan Head, who has been tasked with monitoring and responding to issue, said all 10 were bona fide journalists and not fakes, making it difficult to understand the rationale for the Foreign Ministry’s decisions.
“We still don’t really understand what the Foreign Ministry is trying to achieve,” he said. “All are doing legitimate media work.”
While Head would not name any of the 10 people, he said some of were freelance photographers and feature writers from small European countries.
None of the 10 has produced any work that could be regarded as critical of the junta or the monarchy, he added.
Head, the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, refused to speculate as to the ministry’s motives. The policy changes enacted last month introduced a vague rationale for denying media visas for anyone whose “work or behavior which indicates possible harm to the public or constituting any disruption to the public order or to the security of the Kingdom.”
A ministry spokesman has said it is intended to reduce “inaccurate reporting.”
That hasn’t stopped speculation it’s meant to appease the junta by making an example of some foreign correspondents by denying them visas, as they are generally viewed as being critical of the coup makers.
Head said the 10 people he’s aware of are also having difficulty securing alternative status, such as business visas.
Head said the lives of those affected are being damaged.
“I find the whole thing depressing,” he said.
Head said that it seems the Foreign Ministry is trying to narrow the definition of what it considers to be journalists.
The club will seek to engage further with the ministry about the new visa regulations.
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