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Thai authorities have released two photojournalists who had been facing deportation after re-entering the country from neighbouring Burma said Tuesday.
Belgian Pascal Schatteman and John Sanlin, a Burmese passport holder, were detained Thursday in the border town of Mae Sot after returning to Thailand from eastern Burma, where they reported on clashes between rebels and troops.
“The two journalists were released on Sunday, and they can stay in Thailand until their tourist visas expire,” said Lieutenant Colonel Peuan Duangjina at the immigration office in Tak province, where the men were arrested.
The men’s passports were returned to them Tuesday, he added. Thailand had initially said they would be deported, drawing criticism from a media rights group as Sanlin faced returning to Burma, which is known for giving lengthy prison sentences to reporters working for unofficial media.
Thailand should “take into consideration the prospect that Sanlin will suffer severe reprisals if he is forcibly returned” to his country, said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Sanlin, who according to CPJ has previously provided video footage to Al Jazeera and France 24, told the group he feared reprisals if he was deported to Burma.
CPJ lists Burma as the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists, with at least 13 in prison.