In honor of World Press Freedom Day.

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, we celebrate the whistleblowers, journalists, editors and members of the public who’ve dared to challenge authority in Thailand this year.

 

Freeland for its investigation with the Guardian that led to the arrest of notorious wildlife traffickers

 

Credit: www.facebook.com/freelandfoundation
 

Thanks to an investigation by Freeland, the Bangkok-based anti-trafficking organization founded by Steven Galster, and The Guardian newspaper, the Thai police arrested allegedly some of the world’s most prolific wildlife smugglers at the beginning of this year. Vietnamese nationals Bach Van Minh and Boonchai Bach, together known as the “Bach Brothers,” are alleged to have run an international supply chain through Thailand to wildlife dealers in Laos, Vietnam and China. Working with Thai police, Freeland had collected evidence on the brothers’ operations since 2003. The Guardian published an expose in 2016 naming the brothers for the first time, before their arrest in Dec 2017.

 

The 22-year-old student who exposed wide-scale corruption in Khon Kaen

 

 

While working as a trainee at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute, 22-year-old Panida Yotpanya uncovered one of the biggest corruption cases of the decade. Asked to fill in forms and sign receipts worth nearly B7 million on behalf of 2,000 non-existent villagers, Panida blew the whistle and the graft probe began. Rather than receiving praise for exposing wrongdoing, Panida was initially ignored by her lecturer at Mahasarakham University and then told to apologize for bringing a bad image to the community. The corruption scandal unearthed by Panida has since spread to Chiang Mai, Bung Kan, Nong Khai and Surat Thani provinces.

 

The Chiang Mai editor criticized by the city’s governor for publishing images created by a schoolgirl

 

Image originally appeared on CityLife Chiang Mai website
 

Even before the team at CityLife Chiang Mai newspaper decided to go through with a friendly get-together to raise awareness of the city’s smog crisis, they allege they were victims to threats and harassment. But it was only after they shared on Facebook an image drawn by a local schoolgirl, which showed Chiang Mai’s founding kings wearing smg masks, that the city’s governor filed a police complaint about editor Pim Kemasingki. Pim would later apologize to the provincial governor under the threat of up to a five-year prison sentence if convicted of the Computer Crimes Act. Earlier this year, Chiang Mai ranked among the 12 most polluted city in the world, according to its Air Quality Index.   

 

CSI LA’s running feed of luxury watches worn by Prawit

 

If it wasn’t for the work of this anonymous Thai sleuth living abroad and its 800K Facebook followers, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) would only have been investigation our Deputy Prime Minister for wearing one luxury timepiece. As it transpired, CSI LA unearthed photos that appear to show Prawit wearing 22 different watches with a combined value of B40 million. Their investigation turned out new images at such a rate that the NACC even used it as an excuse for giving Prawit more time to report to their investigation—how could he be expected to respond to allegations when new ones were coming in every week? Of course, the NACC could’ve just asked Prawit to document all the watches ever borrowed from the mysterious dead friend and not have to worry about CSI LA’s new findings. But that never happened.

 


Unfortunately, Thailand still has a long way to go in the name of freedom of speech, as the case of Andy Hall and the B10 million defamation verdict in favor of Natural Fruit laid bear in March. The long-running case against British Human rights activist Andy Hall reached its conclusion when courts ordered Hall to pay B10 million in damages to pineapple tinning company Natural Fruit. The defamation case had been ongoing since 2013. The initial complaint stemmed from an interview given by Hall to the Al Jazeera news network alleging the fruit company exploited migrant workers. Hall fled Thailand in 2015 citing judicial harassment.