Case dropped against HK journalist over flak jacket

Case dropped against HK journalist over flak jacket

Hok-Chun Anthony Kwan leaves the Samut Prakan Provincial Court in this October file photo after being indicted on charges of illegally possessing a bulletproof jacket. The charges have now been dropped. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Hok-Chun Anthony Kwan leaves the Samut Prakan Provincial Court in this October file photo after being indicted on charges of illegally possessing a bulletproof jacket. The charges have now been dropped. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Court officials say the government has dropped a case against a Hong Kong photojournalist who was arrested last year for possessing a bulletproof vest and a helmet, which are considered weapons in Thailand.

The officials say the government filed to withdraw the charges against Hok Chun Anthony Kwan on Dec 30 in the Samut Prakan provincial court where he was being tried.

Two court officials told The Associated Press Tuesday that Mr Kwan accepted the government position on Jan 29, and the same day the court ended the case.

The officials cannot be identified under court protocol. It was not clear what prompted the change of heart in the government, which had faced criticism for punishing Mr Kwan for possessing items that journalists routinely carry in dangerous situations.

Mr Kwan, then 30, was detained when he was about to board a plane on Aug 23 after covering the aftermath of a deadly bomb explosion at a shrine in Bangkok. A Hong Kong and Canadian citizen, he works for the Hong Kong-based Initium media group.

Under the Arms Control Act, a license is needed to possess body armour. Violations are punishable by up to five years in jail. The law has rarely if ever been enforced for journalists covering the country's sometimes-violent political turmoil over the past nine years. Many large news organisations require their staff to wear protective gear in dangerous situations.

His lawyer, Pawinee Chumsri, said he pleaded not guilty to the charge of weapons possession after being indicted by the court. Ms Pawinee confirmed on Tuesday that the case has been dropped. Mr Kwan, who was freed on bail, was not immediately available for comment.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand expressed disappointment at the time over the filing of formal charges against Mr Kwan and said Tuesday it was pleased to see the case dropped.

"The FCCT welcomes this decision by the Thai authorities, and renews its call to them to help find a way for journalists and others, like paramedics, who need to work in dangerous areas, to be able to use appropriate protective equipment legally in Thailand," it said in a statement.


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