BANGKOK — A journalist arrested for possessing body armor during an assignment to cover the bombing of Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine has been allowed to leave the country – temporarily.
Anthony Kwan, a reporter with Hong Kong startup Initium Media, won permission to leave Thailand today from the Samut Prakan Provincial Court two weeks after he was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport for carrying body armor and a helmet in his luggage, a criminal act under Thai law.
The court gave Kwan permission to leave Thailand for a work assignment in Singapore that runs Wednesday through Saturday. It also ordered him to report to the court again on 17 Sept.
On 23 Aug., Kwan was about to board his flight out of Thailand when police found the body armor and helmet in his luggage. Such items are considered restricted military equipment in Thailand and possessing them is illegal.
Kwan, who had been in Thailand to cover the 17 Aug. bombing that killed 20 people, was charged with possession of war materials – the same charge levied against several of the suspects in the alleged network responsible for the attack.
The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He had been out on bail but forbidden by the court from leaving the country.
His trial will go ahead.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand has urged Thai authorities to drop the charge. The club argues that journalists should not be punished for carrying body armor for their protection during assignments.
“Body armour and helmets used by journalists are not offensive weapons and should not be treated as such. … the use of body armour and helmets is routine by journalists around the world, and is clearly to enable them to do their jobs in dangerous situations,” the club said in a statement released shortly after Kwan’s arrest.
In 2010 Italian journalist Fabio Polenghi and Japanese cameraman Hiro Muramoto were killed by gunfire while covering anti-government protests in the Thai capital.
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