19 July 2002
RSF condemns ongoing obstacles to press freedom by Burmese and Thai governments
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF and the Burma Media Association (BMA, an organisation of Burmese journalists in exile) have strongly condemned the recent obstacles to press freedom by the Burmese and Thai governments, particularly in the frontier zone between the two countries. "Once again, Burmese and Thai journalists are victims of the tensions between their respective governments," declared RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. The two organisations have asked the Thai and the Burmese interior ministers, Purachai Piumsombun and Colonel Tin Hlaing, to ensure that the restrictions on journalists' work are removed at soon as possible.
The first obstacle came from Thailand, which, on 28 June 2002, declared two Burmese journalists "persona non grata" on its territory. Maung Maung, editor-in-chief of the official Burmese daily "The New Light of Myanmar", and Ma Tin Win, author of a series of articles on the Thai monarchy that were deemed to be "insulting", were banned from the country.
On 12 July, the Burmese authorities blacklisted 15 Thai journalists, accused of propaganda against the Burmese military junta. These reporters were not quoted by name, but Kyaw Win, the deputy chief of military intelligence, said they work for the newspapers "The Nation", "Bangkok Post", "Thai Rath", "Thai News", "Daily News", "Siam Rath", "Matichon", "Khao Sod" and an unidentified radio station.
On 16 July, the Thai National Security Council banned foreign journalists from entering the refugee camps along the Burmese-Thai border. The authorities invoked critical articles on how the camps are run. They also criticised the press for fostering tensions between the two countries by reporting on the refugees' criticisms of the Burmese junta. The Bangkok government has denied, however, that this measure is aimed at improving its relations with Burma.
In addition, Khin Maung Soe, a reporter from Radio Free Asia, was interrogated at the end of June by police on the Thai side of the frontier zone while investigating the rape of a Burmese refugee by Thai policemen.