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Hong Kong journalist arrested in Thailand for carrying body armour and helmet

FCCTA journalist organisation in Thailand has said it it “dismayed” after a Hong Kong-based photo reporter was arrested and charged for carrying body armour and a helmet after covering the deadly bomb attack at a Bangkok shrine.

Hok Chun ‘Anthony’ Kwan was detained as he was about to board a flight back to Hong Kong from Suvarnabhumi Airport.

According to a statement from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), Kwan, who works for Initium Media Technology, has been charged under the 1987 Arms Control Act, which prohibits the possession of military equipment without a licence.

Initium, which only launched earlier this month, describes itself as a “multimedia news platform that serves the Chinese-speaking population worldwide”, adding that a newspaper edition will also be produced “soon”.

The FCCT said in statement that the offence carries a prison sentence of up to five years, with Kwan set to be tried in a military court.

“We are dismayed to learn that a photo-journalist from Hong Kong has been detained and charged for carrying body armour and a helmet,” it said. “The use of body armour and helmets is routine by journalists around the world, and is clearly to enable them to do their jobs in dangerous situations.

“The deaths of two foreign journalists in Bangkok from gunfire during the political unrest in 2010 underscores the need for this kind of protection.

“Journalists based in Bangkok have openly worn body armour during the more recent political turmoil without any action being taken against them by the Thai authorities. It is now a requirement of big media organisations that their journalists carry body armour and helmets into potentially risky environments.”

Under Thailand’s Arms Control Act, equipment such as gas masks, ballistic vests and helmets – all used by journalists in dangerous envrionments – are classified as weapons and must be licensed.

The FCCT said it has previously raised the issue with Thai authorities to ensure journalists can “purchase, import, and carry adequate protective equipment”, but to no avail.

“The case of Anthony Kwan presents an opportunity now to find a solution,” it said. “We urge the authorities not to press ahead with the criminal case against Mr. Kwan, and to work with the media community in Thailand to decriminalise the legitimate use of body armour and other relevant and purely protective items.”

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