Three Myanmar journalists who illegally crossed into Thailand to flee a military crackdown have been fined and could face deportation, a member of their legal team said Tuesday, warning the trio’s lives will be in danger if they are sent home.
The journalists, who worked for the Democratic Voice of Burma news website, were arrested along with two Myanmar activists in the northern city of Chiang Mai in May and charged with illegal entry.
A court on Friday sentenced them to a one-year probation period and fined them 4,000 baht ($128) each, said Nadthasiri Bergman, a lawyer with the Human Rights Development Foundation.
The court also said they will face seven months in prison if they were to commit the same offense again.
“By law, they can be deported within 72 hours” after sentencing, Bergman told AFP, although she added they had submitted an appeal letter on Friday which stops immigration authorities from deporting them immediately.
“We are waiting for the process of seeking asylum in the third country.”
Thailand has said it was seeking a “humanitarian” solution to avoid deporting the trio back to coup-stricken Myanmar, where their employer has warned their lives would be “in serious danger”.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population take to the streets.
The junta has responded with force — shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents in night raids, and targeting journalists and news outlets by shutting them down.
A well-known news organisation within Myanmar, DVB started as an exile media outlet during the previous junta, broadcasting uncensored reports on TV and radio.
It moved into the country in 2012, a year after the military dictatorship loosened its grip, but had its broadcast licence revoked in March, sending its journalists into hiding.
Despite this setback, it has continued to report, posting regular Facebook updates — as well as broadcasting on satellite TV — about the daily protests and crackdowns.