BANGKOK — A leading U.S. newspaper has published an editorial harshly criticizing Thailand’s role in the human trafficking of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
The Washington Post editorial, titled “How Thailand is contributing to the misery of Burma’s persecuted Rohingya,” slammed the Thai Royal Navy for pursuing lawsuits against journalists that have reported on the plight of Rohingya people.
“Instead of seeking to rectify the situation, the Royal Navy has denied mistreating the refugees and decided to intimidate the messenger,” the editorial reads.
In December, the Royal Thai Navy charged two Phuketwan journalists of criminal defamation and breach of the Computer Crimes Act for publishing an excerpt of a Reuters report that alleged the navy’s involvement with the trafficking of Rohingya.
A similar complaint was also lodged against Reuters this month.
If convicted, both the Phuketwan and Reuters journalists could face up to seven years in prison.
Every year, thousands of Muslim Rohingya attempt to escape religious and ethnic persecution in Myanmar and travel by boat to perceived safe havens, such as the Muslim-majority country of Malaysia.
Boats carrying Rohingya refugees are often intercepted in Thai waters, where they are either detained and sent back to Myanmar, or sold into the hands of human traffickers.
The Washington Post editorial board condemned the navy’s effort to silence reporting on the fate of Rohingya refugees, a move that can only worsen the already tragic lives of what the U.N. has referred to as "one of the world's most persecuted peoples.”
The Washington Post editorial concludes:
This is a sad case of Thailand’s navy attempting to extinguish reporting rather than the misery that the reporting exposed. It is wrong to punish the journalists. But this misguided attempt at coercion is doubly wrong because it attempts to hide the shameful treatment of a people, the Rohingya, who are already suffering far too much.
The Reuters investigation into the plight of Rohingya people recently won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
Last month, U.S. lawmakers cited the Reuters report when they called on President Obama to downgrade Thailand for doing too little to fight human-trafficking and protect Rohingya refugees.
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