Thailand’s military government has arrested and charged a journalist for carrying body armour and a helmet at Suvarnabhnumi international airport.

In the farcical incident the Hong Kong journalist Anthony Kwan has been charged under the 1987 Arms Control Act., which prohibits the possession of military equipment without a licence. 

Journalists based at the Maneeya Centre in Bangkok have a veritable treasure trove of the stuff, so much so that they could hold an ‘on the front line’ fashion contest – (but then of course so do many shops in Bangkok)

This may be because the Royal Thai Army has successfully targeted more journalists than foreign aggressors of late and its certainly put paid to a few. The soldiers just like shooting, but then again its main function like the Burmese Tatmadaw is for internal subjugation.

Former friend and colleague BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead, more recently LA based which was very fitting, was quite the sartorial war correspondent. Below is a picture of us together.

In this one Alastair’s camouflage is not very good. In fact it’s shagadelic.  Judging by body armour in this photo taken at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence I think I must have just come from the barricades at Rajaprasong.

Not so much camouflage as shagadelic. Drummond though clearly is dressed appropriately for Bangkok

I’m not sure wheher Anthony Kwan from Hong Kong is being treated as a journalist or foreign aggressor or whether the authorities were just tee’d off they had had not arrested anyone after the Erawan shrine atrocity.

The FCCT has issued the following statement:

In a week in which two Hong Kong residents were killed and six injured by the Erawan shrine bomb, the professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is dismayed to learn that a photo-journalist from Hong Kong has been detained and charged for carrying body armour and a helmet. 

Hok Chun ‘Anthony’ Kwan, who was assigned by Initium Media Technology last week to cover the aftermath of the Erawan shrine bomb, was stopped at Suvarnabhumi Airport as he was about to board a flight back to Hong Kong. He is being charged with possessing an illegal weapon, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years, and which will be tried in a military court. Body armour and helmets used by journalists are not offensive weapons and should not be treated as such. 

Anthony Kwan is being charged under the 1987 Arms Control Act, which prohibits the possession of military equipment without a licence. However, the use of body armour and helmets is routine by journalists around the world, and is clearly to enable them to do their jobs in dangerous situations. The deaths of two foreign journalists in Bangkok from gunfire during the political unrest in 2010 underscores the need for this kind of protection. Journalists based in Bangkok have openly worn body armour during the more recent political turmoil without any action being taken against them by the Thai authorities. It is now a requirement of big media organisations that their journalists carry body armour and helmets into potentially risky environments. 

The FCCT has in the past asked the Thai authorities to address this issue, so that journalists can purchase, import, and carry adequate protective equipment. The case of Anthony Kwan presents an opportunity now to find a solution. We urge the authorities not to press ahead with the criminal case against Mr. Kwan, and to work with the media community in Thailand to decriminalise the legitimate use of body armour and other relevant and purely protective items.


  1. Thailand is becoming a farce. No charges for a police general carrying a gun illegally on a plane but they arrest this guy. Given journalists often become a target, going right back to Neil Davis in the 80's until the Italian killed in the red shirt crack down, who'd blame this guy for bringing a helmet and flak jacket. To now charge him is simply ridiculous. Surely a warning would have been enough.

  2. The so-called Thai justice system is beyond a joke.
    As Stickman so rightly points out in his recent article, the first 48 hrs after a crime as heinous as the Erawan shrine bombing are crucial if the case is to be successfully solved.
    What have we seen in Thailand?
    Botched collection of important forensic evidence – c.f. the BBC's Mr. Head.
    Oh, and "the mob" identifying a Western model resident in Bangkok as a possible suspect, because he bears a passing resemblance to a suspect captioned on a surveillance camera.
    And now this arrest.
    As I say – beyond a joke.

    1. You do understand that the majority of serious crimes, worldwide, including Thailand, are not solved within the first 48 hours, irrespective of Stickman's (now there's a joke) investigative observations and knowledge?

      What if that westerner (what's the relevance of your pointing out that he's a model, resident in Bangkok?) bearing a resemblance to the suspect had not been questioned? Now that really would have been a dereliction of duty. Why are images of suspects publicised if not to try to lead to the arrest of that person who obviously looks like his image? If you excuse people who do bear a resemblance to the suspects from being questioned then publicising that image in the first place is a complete waste of time.

    2. AD chose not to print my original response, so I had better tone it down somewhat.
      As a now-retired police officer I am well aware that crimes such as those committed at the Erawan shrine are often NOT solved within the first 48 hours.
      BUT, as any police officer will tell you, the first 48 hours are crucial to the investigation.
      The crime scene is sealed for however long is necessary – not opened up too soon so the Thai authorities can claim everything is back to normal.
      And certainly not before every scrap of forensic evidence has been found. Just view the video of the BBC's Mr. Head trying to hand in shrapnel which he had found at the scene to the Thai Police HQ's, and being turned away.
      I see nothing wrong in highlighting the occupation of the Westerner who was "outed," for want of a better word, as a suspect in the bombing purely because he bears a slight resemblance to the suspect shown on the CCTV camera.
      Your offensive comment about Stickman is uncalled for.

    3. Oh, and add to that list human remains found in trees in the vicinity of the blast some couple of days afterwards.
      And the Thai junta chief "bristling" at suggestions that foreign (i.e. British and Australian) forensic experts be called in to provide assistance.
      Mustn't have the junta lose face, must we Mr. Boob?
      You really do live in a world of your own.

    1. "Only in Thailand" could someone be arrested for contravening laws, is that what you mean? I think you're a bit off the mark there.

      Here's a tip. If anyone, regardless of how noble their profession is, wants to avoid being arrested for committing an offence in any country, even if you feel that you should be an exception to that law, don't commit that offence, it really is that simple.

    2. When Bob's banged up in Thailand after confessing to a crime he didn't do, after having electric shocks applied to his scrotum, his ears slapped and a plastic bag put over his head. Then he'll understand.

  3. Was this journalist who was covering the aftermath of the bombing carrying the body armour and helmet in public view or was it discovered by the x-raying of his luggage?

    I for one would feel very uncomfortable if a passenger on a flight I was boarding was seen to be carrying armour. Unless he was expecting to be attacked on the flight (and why would he if he was a normal passenger?) there would be no justifiable reason for him to be doing so. Anyone in possession of body armour should expect to be seriously grilled.

    1. What an inane comment. The journalist is accredited in Hong Kong. The sight of journalists wearing "body armour" or similar, plus helmet, when reporting from trouble spots is now well-established.
      (Think of the BBC's iconic Kate Adie during the Gulf War). And Thailand, by any stretch of the imagination, is a "trouble spot."
      The journo has now been released on Court bail with a trial to be held in about 6 weeks time.
      Pathetic. Truly pathetic .
      Rather like your comment.

    2. To answer your question, Boob, the journo in this case was carrying the equipment in his hand luggage.
      You could have found out that fact for yourself with a modicum of research.
      Even the Chief Executive of HK, the unimpressive Mr. Leung Chun-ying, has apparently approached the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs & asked them to take up the case with the Thai authorities.
      The journo has Canadian & HK citizenship.
      There – that wasn't difficult, was it?

  4. Wow, Mr. Booby, you really are an apologist for the system aren't you? I, for one, am not saying that the bombing case could, or should, be solved within the first 48 hours.
    What I, and Stickman, are saying is that the way the case is handled within the first 48 hrs is crucial to the investigation.
    The fact that important forensic evidence was not found and seized at the scene of the bombing is indicative of the unprofessional way the Thai authorities set about investigating the case.
    You ask the relevance of my pointing out the fact that a Westerner who was questioned is a model who is resident in Bangkok.
    Simply to "flesh out" the fact that someone with nothing more than a passing resemblance to a suspect was identified by "the mob" as a suspect.
    I believe that the fact he is a foreigner gives credence to the Thai authorities' party line that the culprit must be a foreigner, as no Thai could have committed such a heinous crime.
    Your facetious comments about Stickman have not gone unnoticed.

  5. We are talking about equipment not weaponry. There is a big difference between military equipment and military weapons. Many people wear military boots or use military gear for hiking like canteens and compasses etc. This is where Thailand has no consistency when enforcing the law. Technically this guy might have broken the law but his intent was innocent. In Thai there is a saying 'riding an elephant to hunt grasshoppers' and this is what has happened here. Confiscate it or whatever but putting him in jail? They can't find those boilers rooms though can they?

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