BANGKOK — A spokesman for the national police on Monday confirmed that a Belgian journalist was detained ahead of his interview with an anti-government activist last week.
Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said officers from the immigration bureau and Special Branch Police took Kris Janssens, a Belgian freelance reporter, to custody on Thursday morning for questioning. Krissana said Janssens was later released without charges.
“We escorted him away for inquiries because our intel suggested that he might have been a threat to national security,” Krissana said. He declined to elaborate.
The spokesman also insisted that the interrogation was a normal protocol and was not a violation of press freedom.
“It’s a normal practice for the immigration bureau to detain foreigners who do not act in accordance with the immigration act,” Krissana said.
Kris was reportedly approached by undercover police close to the hotel where he was staying and taken to the Immigration Bureau’s headquarters on Soi Suan Phlu.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) said in a Friday statement that Kris was advised by his interrogators not to go ahead with his plan to interview activist Anurak “Ford” Jeantawanich prior to his release.
The club also described the incident an act of “deeply disturbing” intimidation on foreign journalists, though Krissana disagreed.
“If there’s really been an intimidation, he should have filed a complaint by now,” the spokesman said. “I can assure you that he has been released without any charges.”
News of Kris’ detention surfaced when Anurak posted about it on Thursday morning, saying that he has lost contact with his would-be interviewer. The news was later confirmed by the FCCT.
Although Col. Krissana said he doesn’t know the reporter’s current whereabouts, Anurak said Kris is still safe in the country.
“I don’t know what makes officials think he [Kris] is causing trouble,” Anurak said over the phone. “But it’s strange that after the news broke, I haven’t heard a word from the authorities.”
Media freedom in Thailand took a plunge after the military seized power in 2014, according to multiple reports published by domestic and international watchdogs.
A 2019 report by Reporters Without Border identified Thailand’s press freedom as a “difficult situation,” while the US-sponsored Freedom House listed the country in its “Not Free” category.