Thailand said Tuesday it was seeking a “humanitarian” solution for three Myanmar journalists arrested after fleeing across the border to escape a junta crackdown.
The trio’s employer — the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) — and the Thai foreign correspondents’ club urged the authorities not to deport them, warning their lives could be in danger if they returned to the coup-hit country.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population take to the streets to demand democracy.
The junta has responded with force — shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents in night raids, and targeting journalists and news outlets by shutting them down.
Thai authorities on Tuesday confirmed the arrests, while foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said they were seeking a way out of the case.
“Thai authorities concerned are coordinating to find possible humanitarian solution(s) to this case,” Tanee told reporters.
DVB said the group was arrested during a random search in the northern city of Chiang Mai, and would appear in court on Tuesday to face charges of illegally entering Thailand.
“DVB 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,” said Aye Chan Naing, DVB’s chief editor, who is based in Oslo. Burma is Myanmar’s old name.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand warned Tuesday that if the journalists were deported, they would face “certain arrest and persecution, if not worse”.
“The world is watching what the Thai authorities do in this important case for press freedom in Myanmar and the region,” it said.
A well-known news organisation within Myanmar, DVB started as an exile media outlet during the previous junta, broadcasting uncensored reports on TV and radio.
It moved into Myanmar in 2012, a year after the military dictatorship loosened its grip, but had its broadcast licence revoked in March, sending its journalists into hiding.
Despite this setback, it has continued to report, posting regular updates on its Facebook page about the daily protests and crackdowns across the country.
It also broadcasts via satellite television — a move that the junta attempted to halt when it banned homes from having satellite dishes.
More than 80 journalists have been detained since the 1 February coup, according to a local monitoring group — which has tracked a total of nearly 5,000 arrests nationwide.