Thai immigration police took a Belgian reporter from his Bangkok hotel room and held him for hours because he planned to interview a government critic.
Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich, a staunch opponent of military rule, said Kris Janssens was held five hours and “threatened” not to cover Thai political news.
“He was reportedly threatened not to cover on politics news or interview me again, or else he would be in danger while he’s living in Thailand,” Anurak wrote online last night. “The police also forbid Kris to tell this to me because I may publicly talk about it on Facebook.”
He said Jannssens was released at about noon. Anurak said he was safe and had reported the incident to the Embassy of Belgium. Attempts to reach Janssens were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.
Several calls to immigration representatives were not returned Friday afternoon. Immigration Bureau chief Lt. Gen. Sompol Chingduang could not be reached for comment. Immigration superintendent Col. Thatchapong Sarawanangkul said by phone that he was unaware of the incident.
Reached for comment, Belgian Embassy police commissioner Pascal Wautelet said he was unaware of the incident.
Protesting Janssens’ detention, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand said the attempt to dictate who a foreign journalist can speak to was “deeply disturbing.”
“The idea that a journalist might be induced into committing an illegal act merely by talking to an activist is non-sensical. The Thai government should continue to allow foreign journalists to report on political issues here without facing threats of unspecified legal action.”
It confirmed Anurak’s account of what happened, adding that Janssens planned to interview him about an attack he experienced earlier this year, one of several shadowy assaults of government critics by masked men that have not been seriously investigated.
“During his questioning he was advised that he should not pursue is plan to interview activist Anurak ‘Ford’ Jeamtawanich about the physical assault he suffered in May,” it read. “Mr. Janssens was advised that the activist might induce him to commit an illegal act, and told he should leave Thailand immediately.”
In May, Anurak received six stitches after a group of men beat him with wooden sticks. The attack mirrored multiple repeat assaults carried out on dissident pro-democracy activists Ekachai Hongkangwan and Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat.
The government has denied accusations it has been behind the intimidation campaign.
It said that Janssens was allowed to stay until his pre-paid return flight booked for Oct. 12 on the condition he did not meet Anurak. “If he did interview him, he would be in trouble.”
According to an online profile advertising his services, Janssens was a veteran reporter with Belgian state broadcaster VRT and had relocated to Phnom Penh “to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.”
He states an interest in human rights issues.
— FCCThai (@FCCThai) October 4, 2019