A Thai court has decided to put an American photojournalist on trial for possession of a bulletproof vest and a helmet, which are considered weapons in Thailand.
The announcement at the Samut Prakan provincial court near Bangkok came on Monday, weeks after Hok Chun Anthony Kwan, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was detained when he was about to board a plane on August 23 after covering the aftermath of a deadly bomb explosion at a shrine in Bangkok.
Kwan, who works for the Hong Kong-based Initium media group, said after the hearing on Monday that he was "preparing for the worst but hoping for the best".
"I'm not confessing ... I don't think that a flak jacket is a weapon, and I definitely didn't know it was illegal here," he said.
His lawyer, Pawinee Chumsri, said a pre-trial hearing was set for November 16. The trial will be held sometime in 2016, she said.
Pawinee said Kwan is free on bail and will travel back to Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The 1987 law
Under the Arms Control Act, a license is needed to possess body armour, which is considered a weapon. 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.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand expressed disappointment over the filing of formal charges against Kwan.
"Instead of charging Mr Kwan, the Thai authorities should consult with the media community in Thailand ... to explore a way around the 1987 law, which was surely not intended to prosecute journalists carrying out their normal duties," it said in a statement.
About 10 campaigners, mostly journalists, on Monday rallied in Hong Kong outside a building that houses Thailand's consulate calling for the case against Kwan to be dropped.
Source: AP And AFP