The Mae Sot Immigration office in Thailand freed John San Lin, a Burmese freelance journalist, and his colleague Pascal Schatterman, a Belgian national, on the evening of 24 January 201, after they paid a fine of THB500 (US$16).
The pair were fined for violating the Immigration Act and were released soon after, John San Lin told Mizzima.
They were detained on 20 January 2011 in Mae Sot after returning to Thailand from Burma, where they reported on fighting between Burmese junta troops and a breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and its impact on local civilians.
Thai authorities had earlier been set to deport the two journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Thai authorities confiscated the journalists' video footage which included ‘images of internally displaced people suffering from severe deprivation in the remote conflict zone’.
San Lin has worked for Al Jazeera and France 24 and several other news agencies while covering the Southeast Asia region.
In a chance meeting in Mae Sot last week, San Lin told Mizzima that he had come to the border to cover the conflict and was deeply moved by the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between the Burmese military and other forces.
According to the CPJ on 21 January, a Thai court first sentenced San Lin and Schatterman to one-year prison terms, a THB500 fine, but ruled that both men could stay in Thailand because neither had been convicted of a prior immigration related offence.
The CPJ says, however, that both men were taken back into custody and told they ‘would be deported to their respective countries in the next day or two’ after Thai Immigration police intervened with the judge.
Mizzima News (http://www.mizzima.com/) is a news organization headquartered in New Delhi, India, run by exiled Burmese journalists. A SEAPA partner, it aims to promote awareness about the situation in Burma and promote democracy and freedom of expression in the country.