Three Myanmar journalists and two activists are set to appear in a court in Thailand on Tuesday charged with “illegal entry” as the reporters’ news organisation urged the authorities not to deport them to Myanmar because their lives would be at risk.
The group was detained during a “random search” in the northern city of Chiang Mai on Sunday, DVB said in a statement.
“DVB strongly urges the Thai authorities not to deport them back to Burma, as their life will be in serious danger if they were to return,” said Aye Chan Naing, DVB’s executive director and chief editor.
The generals who seized power from Myanmar’s democratically elected government on February 1 have cracked down on the country’s independent media, forcing organisations to stop broadcasts and publication, and arresting dozens of journalists.
Last week it banned people from owning satellite dishes.
“Illegal media outlets are broadcasting news that undermines national security, the rule of law and public order, and encouraging those who commit treason,” the military said.
Thapanapong Chairangsri, the head of police in the San Sai district outside Chiang Mai, told Reuters news agency that five Myanmar citizens had been arrested for entering the country illegally and would be brought to court on Tuesday.
He said they would be deported in accordance with the law, but added that because of the coronavirus outbreak they would be held in detention for 14 days before being handed to immigration authorities.
On Twitter, Tanee Sangrat, the spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry said the authorities were “coordinating to find humanitarian solution(s) to the recent case of journalists from Myanmar”.
Human Rights Watch said DVB was facing “hostile actions” and the group should be released.
“Thailand should absolutely not send these DVB journalists and activists back into harm’s way in Myanmar because they will face certain arrest and persecution by the State Administration Council junta,” Asia Director Brad Adams said in a statement.
DVB’s television licence was revoked on March 8 and the broadcaster banned from doing any kind of media work.
The news group’s Aye Chan Naing, meanwhile, appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok to intervene in the case and “help guard their safety”.