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Thai Military Government Releases Journalist Detained for 'Attitude Adjustment'

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a columnist for the country's Nation newspaper, tweeted about his release Tuesday night after being arrested over the weekend for criticizing the government.

by VICE News
Sep 15 2015, 4:50pm

Pravit Rojanaphruk, an outspoken Thai columnist for the English-language daily The Nation, poses for a photograph while being called to report himself to the ruling military government in Bangkok, Thailand on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo)

A prominent local journalist detained in Thailand over the weekend for an "attitude adjustment" was released by the military junta on Tuesday, along with two politicians connected with the previous government who were arrested last week on similar charges.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, who writes for the country's newspaper Nation, tweeted about his release Tuesday night and a spokesman for the government, Col. Winthai Suvaree, confirmed the news to the Associated Press.

Pravit was summoned by the military on Sunday for criticizing the junta. On Monday, Col. Suvaree told the Guardian that the length of the journalist's tenure in detention would be dictated by his level of cooperation.

After he was summoned by officials, but before turning himself in, Pravit tweeted: "Freedom can't be maintained if we're not willing to defend it." This wasn't his first stint in jail — Pravit was detained by the military last year as well. He has been a long-time government critic, both of the current military junta and the previous leadership.

Pichai Naripthaphan, a former energy minister with the toppled government, also took to social media to announce his release with a post on Facebook. The former official was detained for criticizing the government as well.

Amnesty International's Josef Benedict, the deputy director for the Southeast Asia and Pacific office, told the Associated Press that even with the release he was appalled by the detentions.

"Amnesty International was appalled by the detention of these prisoners of conscience and disappointed that their release was accompanied with tight restrictions," Benedict said.

Benedict also criticized the conditions for the men's release, saying it was "release but no freedom."

"Release restrictions that tightly muzzle hundreds who have been arbitrarily detained, and military powers of detention, violate Thailand's international human rights obligations on the right to liberty, movement, freedom of association and expression," he said.

Before Pravit's release, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the decision by the National Council for Peace and Order — the military government — to detain the journalist.

"The detention of Pravit Rojanaphruk is the strongest indication so far of the National Council for Peace and Order's intention to suppress critical comment about the way it is running Thailand," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "The military authorities must release him immediately."

Former energy minister Pichai Naripthaphan and former parliamentarian Karun Hosakul were detained last week for being critical of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's economic approach. In response, the prime minister doubled-down on the decision.

"I'm not applying the law to those who are against me, but using the law against those who are wrong. Do you understand?" he said. "If you let them blame me, the people and society will listen to them every day, and one day they'll believe in the things they say."

In May 2014, Prayuth, with the backing of the military, staged the country's 12th coup in eight decades, dissolved the senate, and declared himself interim prime minister. The coup came in response to Thailand's prolonged political deadlock between the elected populist government supported by the country's rural poor majority and anti-government protesters bolstered by the country's elite.

Authorities have cracked down harshly on dissenting voices since the coup. Hundreds of civilians have since been prosecuted in military courts, many of them university students. 

Watch VICE News' documentary Bangkok Rising - Is Thailand on the Brink of Civil War?

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