|Education||University of the Philippines, University of Oxford|
Pravit Rojanaphruk, Thai: ประวิตร โรจนพฤกษ์, RTGS: prawit rochanaphruek, is a Thai journalist who works as a senior staff writer for Khaosod English ('fresh news'). He formerly wrote a regular column for The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Thailand, but was pressured to resign due to his political opinions following the 2014 coup d'état. Before the military coup, he was a prominent champion of democracy and free expression and was consequently investigated several times. Immediately after the coup, he was arrested on a charge of lèse majesté and detained for a week. Since the coup, he has been critical of the ruling junta and its efforts to limit freedom. Pravit has been detained for "attitude adjustment" twice by the ruling junta and as of 2017, has sedition charges against him for Facebook posts he made earlier that year.
Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former Reuters correspondent, described Pravit in the British newspaper The Independent as "one of the country's best correspondents". In recognition of his critical reporting, Rojanaphruk was awarded the prestigious International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2017.
Early life and education
Pravit was born into a Thai-Chinese family in Bangkok in 1967. The son of a diplomat, he spent several years of his childhood in Brussels and Manila. He received a bachelor's degree in community development from the University of the Philippines and a master's degree in social anthropology from University of Oxford. His master's thesis was entitled, Tourist and Cultural Authenticity: Anthropological Reflection on the Notion of Cultural Authenticity in Tourism.
After working briefly in business, he began writing for The Nation in 1991. As of 1996, he was working as assistant feature editor of The Nation.
After the 22 May 2014 military coup, Pravit and a fellow journalist, Thanapol Eawsakul, were summoned by the military on 23 May 2014. Before answering the summons, Pravit told the Thai media, "I hope people will not give up the spirit and that General Prayut will be the last dictator of Thailand". He was said to have added: "They can detain me, but can never detain my conscience". He thereupon taped his mouth shut and put his hands over his ears. On the following day he went with a lawyer and representatives of the UN to the headquarters of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). He was questioned for five hours without his lawyer being present and was then taken to an unidentified detention center.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCCT) of Thailand issued a statement expressing its deep concern about the detention of Pravit and Eawsakul, noting that freedom of expression and the right for journalists to work without fear of arrest or harm are core principles of the FCCT. The FCCT urged the new military government to end the detainment of journalists and lift restrictions on the media.
Pravit later explained that he had been detained for a week at a military camp outside Bangkok. He reportedly told the commander that he did not bear any resentment towards him or his men, but on the contrary, explained he was an ardent supporter of democracy and freedom. Upon his release, he later explained, Pravit was forced to sign a conditional agreement in which he promised he would not aid, join, lead, or have any involvement with any anti-junta movement.
Pravit was "detained" by the military for the second time from 13 to 15 September 2015. Pravit's first military detention was in May 2014, two days after the coup d'état, when the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) detained him at an army base in Ratchaburi Province for a week. In the second interrogation, after about an hour of questioning, Pravit was taken to an army base where he was asked about his political stance, his affiliations with political groups, and human rights organizations, and his reasons for disagreeing with Article 112, the lèse majesté law. During his interrogation, Pravit found that the military officials were concerned with social media. "They were paranoid about tweets, not even published news in The Nation". After being interrogated at the army base from 15:30-21:00, Pravit was transported in a van for a little over an hour to another location. During the ride, Pravit was blindfolded, so he did not know where he was taken. "Although I wasn't tortured,...I was severely intimidated and infringed upon", said Pravit.
Resignation from The Nation
On 15 September 2015, Pravit resigned from The Nation under pressure from the newspaper due to his political opinions. He said he agreed to quit because he "considered the newspaper to be like his own home, which he didn't wish to destroy". Pravit had been detained on 13 September by soldiers and held incommunicado until 15 September for what the military called "attitude adjustment". He had been an outspoken critic, in newspaper columns and on Twitter, of the junta that has ruled since a military coup ousted a civilian government. It was the second time Pravit was detained by the junta, which summoned large numbers of politicians and potential dissidents in the months after the coup, and resumed a crackdown on dissent. The junta says criticism could destabilize the nation, which it says needs unity after almost a decade of sometimes violent political conflict.
2017 sedition charges
On 8 August 2017, the Police Technology Crime Suppression Division charged Pravit with sedition and computer crimes for posting comments on his Facebook page criticizing military rule and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta's slow response to flooding in northeastern provinces. Sedition in Thailand carries up to a seven year sentence. Thailand's "Computer-Related Crime Act" enables authorities to restrict online speech, spy on users, and censor. The government regards internet criticism of the NCPO as "distorted" and "false", an offense under article 14 of the law. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists the charges carry a sentence of seven to twenty years in prison.
His 1996 book Wishes and Lies is a collection of articles from The Nation, originally published between 1992 and 1995.
Honours and awards
- Pravit was awarded the 2017 International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
- In 1994, Pravit was named "outstanding journalist" by the Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation.
- In 1995, he became the first Thai to win a grant from the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development, which is given to journalists from developing countries.
- Pravit attended the University of Oxford both as a Reuters Institute Fellow and as a Chevening scholar.
- In 2009, Pravit was a recipient of a Katherine Fanning Fellowship for Journalism and Democracy from the Kettering Foundation.
- "Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer". Khaosod English. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- Tun-Atiru, Choltanutkun (2017-08-22). "Journalist facing sedition charges on attitude adjustment and self-censorship". BK. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- "Pravit Rojanaphruk". Oslo Freedom Forum.
- Peel, Michael (8 September 2014). "Spiritual spruce-up for Thai PM's compound". Financial Times.
- "Thai PM's plan to lift martial law with 'dictator' ruling sparks concerns". The Guardian. Mar 31, 2015.
- "Fighting the crisis of liberalism, one suicide-bomber joke at a time". Financial Times. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Thailand journalist detained for 'attitude adjustment'". The Straits Times. Agence France-Presse. 2015-09-14. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
- "Andrew MacGregor Marshall: Why I decided to jeopardise my career and publish secrets". The Independent. Jun 23, 2011.
- Harfenist, Ethan (2017-11-15). "Where doing journalism means 'breaking the law'". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- Rojanaphruk, Pravit (1996). Offner, Susan (ed.). Wishes and Lies; Feature Stories from Thailand. Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute, Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation. ISBN 974-260-122-4. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- "Hunting Authenticity - Pseudo-Tourism by Pravit Rojanaphruk and Pasakorn Intoo-Marn" (Email announcement). Thai Textile Society. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- Rojanaphruk, Pravit (2013-10-11). "All The King's Men". Narratively. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Thailand - Journalists summoned and arrested as Thai army gets tough on media". Reporters Without Borders. Thomson Reuters Foundation. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "Statement on the detention of Thai journalists". Prachatai English. 25 May 2014.
- "It's not possible to eradicate those with different views". Prachatai English. 7 May 2015.
- "It's scary when the abnormal becomes normal". Prachatai English. 19 March 2015.
- "Veteran journalist Pravit says military ill-treated him during detention". Pratchatai English. 2015-09-17. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
- Boonngok, Papitchaya (2015-09-16). "Thai journalist, just freed from military detention, resigns under pressure from his newspaper". Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Associated Press. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
- "Nation journalist Pravit quits after detention". Bangkok Post. 2015-09-17. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
- Feuer, Will (9 August 2017). "Global outcry over Thai Junta's charges against award-winning journalist". Southeast Asia Globe. Retrieved 20 August 2017.[failed verification]
- "Thai columnist Pravit Rojanaphruk charged with two cases of sedition". Committee to Protect Journalists. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- Charuvastra, Teeranai (8 August 2017). "Khaosod English Reporter Charged With Sedition, Computer Crimes". Khaosod English. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
- "Thailand: Drop Charges for Critical Facebook Posts". Human Rights Watch. 2017-08-09. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- "Pravit Rojanaphruk, Thailand". Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- Dundup Sherpa Subirana, Lobsang (16 November 2017). "Pravit Rojanaphruk Receives Press Freedom Award". Khaosod English. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
- "A Conversation with Pravit Rojanaphruk about the Right to Converse – the NCPO is 'camouflaging' their repression". iLaw. Bangkok. 2017-08-17. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
- "Pravit Rojanaphruk Joins Khaosod English". Khaosod English. 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
- "Press Freedom in the Region". Media Inside Out. Retrieved 2019-04-15.