A Belgian journalist Kris Janssens has alleged that Thai immigration police detained him for 5 hours. He was warned by officers not to pursue his plan to interview activist Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich or to report on Thai politics.
Janssens said that five officers stopped him as he was leaving his guesthouse at around 6.45 am last Thursday. They asked to see his passport, but did not really give him any explanation. Janssens went back to his room to retrieve his passport, and the officers went with him.
He said that they took everything that was in the room and asked him to follow them. Janssens was taken to the immigration office on Suan Phlu Road in Bangkok.
Do Not Pursue Interview
The Belgian journalists was advised not to pursue his plan to interview red shirt activist Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich. And was told that he should leave the country immediately.
However according to Thai Media immigration police later said he was allowed to stay. On the condition that he did not meet Anurak and that he didn’t get involved in politics. Allagedly saying if Janssens did, he will “get in trouble.”
According to Thai Media Janssens was not allowed to contact the Embassy of Belgium or anyone else. The officers took away his mobile phone and did not allow him access to it until he was released.
Janssens contacted the Belgian Embassy immediately after he was released. The Belgian ambassador met with him on Thursday afternoon and offered to let him stay at the ambassador’s residence, but Janssens did not feel that it was necessary.
Anurak told Prachatai news that Janssens had scheduled an interview with him about the physical assault he suffered and about his campaign on the constitutional amendments. He said that he is still under surveillance by the military and the police.
Anurak wrote online the police of the planned interview after he received a call on Wednesday. He didn’t think that they would go as far as to detain Janssens.
Foreign Journalists Bewildered
Janssens, who is based in Phnom Penh, said that nothing like this had ever happened to him before.
Jonathan Head, the BCC’s Southeast Asia Correspondent, told Prachatai that he is not aware of a foreign journalist being threatened in this way before. Other foreign journalists in Bangkok also told Janssens that this “quite exceptional.” Especially because he was merely in contact with Anurak and hadn’t even met him.
“I think they wanted to give me a warning,” Janssens said. “Because they were very polite and not aggressive.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement on Friday afternoon (4 October) saying that they are “very concerned” about Janssens’ detention. “It is deeply disturbing when authorities anywhere try to dictate who foreign journalists should or should not interview.
Immigration police declined to comment on the news report. National police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said he is investigating the matter.