A Hong Kong photojournalist was officially charged by Thai authorities on Monday, accused of smuggling a bulletproof vest in his luggage.
Anthony Kwan, who works for news website Initium Media, will be tried under Thailand’s 1987 Arms Control Act which prohibits the possession of any military equipment without a license, Apple Daily reports.
If convicted, Kwan faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Kwan, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in the Samut Prakan provincial court near Bangkok, was granted bail and barred from leaving the country.
Hearing is set for Nov. 16.
Kwan had traveled to Thailand to cover the aftermath of the Aug. 17 blast at a central Bangkok shrine which killed more than two dozen people including two Hong Kong tourists.
Airport police stopped him from boarding his flight to Hong Kong after the vest was found in his luggage.
On Monday, Initium Media and three journalist groups — Hong Kong Press Photographers’ Association (HKPPA), Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club – protested outside the Thai consulate general in Hong Kong to demand charges against Kwan be dropped.
They also asked the Thai authorities to immediately release him.
Initium Media executive chief editor Annie Zhang Jieping said a bulletproof vest is a precaution after reporters were shot dead during the Thai protests in 2010.
HKPPA vice president Ho Ka-tat said he was shocked by Kwan’s arrest and indictment.
He defended the use of bulletproof vests to protect frontline journalists on dangerous assignments.
Ho urged the Hong Kong government and the central authorities in Beijing to press Thailand on Kwan’s behalf.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said it was the first time she had heard about the case.
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