Three Myanmar journalists and two activists who fled after the army’s February 01 coup are to be tried in Thailand on charges of illegally entering the country.
The trial of the five was to begin on Tuesday in the Thai city of Chiang Mai but was postponed for another six days.
If the Thai court finds them guilty, they are likely to be immediately deported back to Myanmar, where they say their lives would be in danger.
Since the military coup on February, dozens of journalists have been arrested and charged in Myanmar while more than 700 people have been killed by security forces and thousands have been detained.
There have since been multiple reports of detainees being tortured while in custody, with some dying from their injuries.
The group of five, who have yet to be named by Thai authorities, were detained by police in the city of Chiang Mai on Sunday and charged with illegal entry into Thailand.
The three journalists were from well-known broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). Like many media organisations, DVB has been banned from operating inside Myanmar.
The broadcaster said it “strongly urges the Thai authorities to not deport them back to Burma, as their life will be in serious danger if they were to return”.
DVB also urged the United National High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok and the international community to help.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called on Thailand to release the group and not send them back to Myanmar.
“They will face certain arrest and persecution” in Myanmar, Asia Director Brad Adams said in a statement.
“The junta’s hostile actions towards DVB were made clear when it revoked the DVB’s media licence in March. Just last week, the junta criminalised ownership of satellite dishes, in part to prevent DVB’s satellite broadcasts from reaching the Burmese people.”
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand also called for the five to be granted the right to remain in the country.
“The world is watching what the Thai authorities do in this important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region, and for the protection of those fleeing the junta’s brutal crackdown on independent media and civil society.”
According to the FCCT, more than 70 journalists are among the 5,000 people arrested in Myanmar since the February coup, adding that most are in detention at a time when there have been widespread reports of torture and extrajudicial killings.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group says 50 journalists are still in detention and half of those have been prosecuted. A few foreign journalists have also been arrested. (Source: BBC)