BANGKOK – Prominent Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk has been detained by the junta for so-called “attitude adjustment”, a military official said on Monday (Sept 14), the latest deployment of the controversial tool used to stamp down on dissent.
Pravit Rojanaphruk, a columnist for the English language Nation newspaper and one of the few remaining vocal critics of Thailand’s military rulers, was summoned on Sunday and has been held incommunicado.
Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told reporters he was being held for “presenting information that is not in keeping with the (junta) guidelines promoting peace and order”.
Since the May 2014 coup, scores of politicians, journalists and citizens have been required to attend attitude adjustment sessions, which are effectively a brief period of involuntary incarceration by the military that can last up to seven days.
Some are released earlier if they sign pieces of paper promising not to repeat their transgressions.
Hours before he was detained Pravit (@PravitR) tweeted: “Freedom can’t be maintained if we’re not willing to defend it”.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights posted a picture of the journalist, who is known for his pro-democracy politics, flashing a v-sign outside a military base before handing himself over.
Thepchai Yong, the editor in chief of Nation Group, said his detention had “no justification whatsoever”.
“We see this as a direct threat to press freedom,” he added, according to a report published on the newspaper’s website.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand called for Pravit’s immediate release.
“The detention of journalists or anyone else for the peaceful expression of their views violates Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law,” the club said in a statement.
Since seizing power in a coup last year, former army chief turned prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has clamped down on dissent and ordered the media to toe their line.
As well as using attitude adjustment sessions, the military have also ramped up prosecutions under the country’s draconian lese majeste legislation.
Last week two former MPs who were ousted in last year’s coup were summoned. One of them, former energy minister Pichai Naripthaphan, has now been summoned seven times.
Both are still being held incommunicado.
Last week General Prayut, who is known for his mercurial outbursts and colorful off-the-cuff remarks, said those who personally insulted him would find themselves summoned by the military.
“If the political parties do not verbally attack me, if they just attacked the government, I would not get involved with that. But you can’t directly act against me, no-one would let that happen,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Thepchai Yong, the editor-in-chief of the English-language Nation, said “there is no justification whatsoever” for Pravit Rojanaphruk’s detention, calling on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as NCPO chief, to consider Pravit’s release as soon as possible, as well as to disclose the location where he is being held.
We believe he should be allowed visits from members of his family and his supervisors, so they can be assured of his well-being, and that he be granted access to a lawyer.
Detaining journalists without clear charges can raise concerns over media freedom in Thailand and give rise to questions about and NCPO’s sincerity in restoring democracy as it claims.