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Thailand’s Junta Bans Outspoken Journalist from Attending World Press Freedom Day Hosted by the United Nation

Pravit Rojanaphruk in the Bangkok newsroom of Khaosod English

Pravit Rojanaphruk in the Bangkok newsroom of Khaosod English

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BANGKOK – Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s distain for the media has reared itself once again,   outspoken journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been banned from travelling to Finland to celebrate World Press Freedom Day hosted by the United Nation’s cultural branch, UNESCO, in Helsinki in May.

Pravit Rojanaphruk who writes for online outlet Khaosod English and is well known for his criticism of the Prayuth  and his military junta government.

Prominent Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, who is the first journalist to be summoned by the military junta, outside the army office

Prominent Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, who is the first journalist to be summoned by the military junta, outside the army office

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Pravit who previously worked for The Nation for 23 year before resigning in September 2015 after being detained incommunicado by Thailand’s military government for his critical comments.

Pravit is a well-known defender of liberty of expression and press freedom, and those were the reasons why we saw it fit to invite him,” said Finland’s Ambassador to Thailand Kirsti Westphalen.

During a so-called “attitude adjustment” session he signed a document — he says under duress — promising not to leave the country without permission.

Pravit filled out the relevant travel form and lodged it with the military intelligence department that oversees these matters.

“I had to, it’s not like I had a choice … basically if I tried to just leave the Kingdom at the airport, I would be apprehended and probably prosecuted,” he said.

His request was denied by the military government, which is known officially as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

“The NCPO has followed up on him and found that he still keeps posting [online] and attacking the work of the NCPO,” Colonel Piyapong Klinpan told the ABC.

“He keeps violating the orders of the NCPO in many ways, so his travel is not approved.”

‘Attitude Adjustment’ for Frequent Dissenters

The Finnish Ambassador expressed disappointment about the decision.

“I found it, and the embassy found it, very regrettable that he was not given permission to travel and attend this particular event, Ambassador Westphalen said.

Pravit said his grounding can be seen two ways.

“My basic right to travel has been travel has been taken from me,” he said.

“[So], on one hand, I’m very upset, but on the other hand, this is very clear proof there is no freedom for those who happen to disagree with the military regime.”

Pravit said he was considering an appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

But the Thai Government is only hardening in its resolve to stamp out criticism.

This week, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced plans to make anyone who offends the regime more than once attend a “Training Camp” an attitude adjustment for up to a month.

Also this week, a woman was arrested for posing with a red plastic bucket bearing a Thai New Year message from former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck.

The woman potentially faces seven years in jail for sedition.

“The Thai junta’s fears of a red plastic bowl shows its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Thailand’s military regime has promised elections next year, and this week released a new draft of the constitution that would have 200 appointed senators — including soldiers — oversee the elected government.

By Liam Cochrane – ABC

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