THE Thai government has withdrawn criminal charges against a Hong Kong journalist for possession of personal body armor.
In August last year, Anthony Kwan was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok when he was found to be carrying a flak jacket and a helmet in his bags.
Kwan was about to leave Thailand after covering the aftermath of the Bangkok bombing, which took place inside the Erawan Shrine on Aug. 17, killing 20 people and injuring 125.
Under the Arms Control Act, it is illegal to possess body armor without a weapons licence, leaving Kwan to face a jail sentence of up to five years.
Kwan’s arrest and subsequent charges received criticism from media professionals and organizations, such as the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand (FCCT) and his employer, Initium Media.
After it was confirmed that the case had been dropped, the FCCT issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it was “pleased to hear” the news.
It added that though Thai law made it a criminal offence to possess body armor without a licence, “it is required and essential equipment for journalists working in conflict zones”.
The FCCT also called out to Thai authorities to help find a way for journalists and others who need to work in dangerous areas, like paramedics, to be able to use appropriate protective equipment legally in Thailand.