UK journo faces jail for car­ry­ing pro­tec­tive gear to Iraq

New Straits Times - - World -

A Bri­tish jour­nal­ist faces up to five years in a Thai jail af­ter he was ar­rested for car­ry­ing a gas mask and plates for a bul­let-proof vest through the main air­port here on his way to cover fight­ing in the Iraqi city of Mo­sul, police con­firmed yes­ter­day.

Tony Cheng, who works for Chi­nese state broad­caster CCTV, was de­tained at Bangkok’s Su­varn­ab­humi Air­port on Mon­day night un­der a law that has been heav­ily crit­i­cised by me­dia groups.

Gas masks and bal­lis­tic vests, which are fre­quently used by re­porters around the world, are clas­si­fied as war weapons in Thai­land and re­quire a li­cence.

Vi­o­lat­ing the 1987 law is pun­ish­able by up to five years in jail.

“A Bri­tish national was ar­rested and charged with il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of war weapons last night at the air­port,” Su­varn­ab­humi air­port po­lice­man Som­chart Ma­neerat said yes­ter­day.

Cheng, who is mar­ried to a Thai national, and Ger­man col­league Flo­rian Wi­tul­ski were on their way to re­port from the wartorn Iraqi city of Mo­sul where troops are bat­tling the Is­lamic State group.

The pair pre­vi­ously re­ported from Mo­sul in March.

Wi­tul­ski was briefly de­tained along­side Cheng, but was later re­leased and has not been charged.

Late Mon­day, Cheng posted a photo on Face­book of the air­port de­ten­tion cell where he was held overnight.

The plates and gas mask were “for use in Mo­sul where IS are well doc­u­mented to be us­ing gas,” he wrote.

“I was un­aware ei­ther of those things were clas­si­fied as ‘ war weapons.”

Me­dia groups have re­peat­edly crit­i­cised the Thai law and say jour­nal­ists should not be pun­ished for car­ry­ing body ar­mour and pro­tec­tive gear in and out of danger­ous zones.

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