Police said Wednesday they were investigating a bomb attack at the home of a finance newspaper editor, which came just hours after a colleague at the same news outlet received a death threat to his children.
The two editors work at Thunhoon, a daily news outlet that covers the financial sector and stock market happenings. Police have yet to name any suspects or their motives. The newspaper management and the Thai Journalists Association condemned the twin attacks as a brazen assault on the press.
“The two incidents were acts that severely infringe on freedom of the press … through means of intimidation and criminality,” the association said in its statement. It added, “Threats to media freedom equal threats to the public’s freedom of information. They also affect Thailand’s reputation in the eyes of the world.”
The Thai Journalists Association called upon the national police force to bring those responsible to justice to “make an example” that would deter similar attacks on the press in the future.
Media reports say the first sign of troubles began on 18 July, when Thunhoon newspaper editor Chalermchai Sirinanthawitthaya received a package at his office from an unknown sender. Inside, Chalermchai found photos of his two young children, along with two bullets of unidentified caliber.
The box also contained a brief note: “I give you seven days,” using the Thai terms gu and mueng, pronouns that denote hostility.
Hours later, in the early morning of 19 July, three homemade explosives were tossed into the home of another Thunhoon editor, Boonmee On-nom. No one was injured. CCTV footage shows two men on a motorcycle throwing the bombs into the residence before fleeing the scene.
“In nearly 20 years, I've never experienced anything like this,” Boonmee said in an interview with Daily News.
Nonthaburi province deputy police commander Phumithat Kositwanichapong told reporters on Wednesday that officers have collected forensic evidence at the scene and security camera footage in the area in a bid to identify the perpetrators.
In the meantime, Police Col. Phumithat said, local police will conduct patrols in the neighbourhood of the editor’s home to prevent any further incident.
Boonmee said he believed the attacks on him and his colleague were a result of their frank reporting on the stock market and business developments. He declined to make any guesses about who might have been responsible.
“In the past month or so, many companies have seen their stock prices fluctuate a lot, and stock prices have been falling dramatically. So we at Thunhoon newspaper report the facts to warn the investors,” the editor said. “I don't know who or which group would lose out from our news about the stock prices.”
He also expressed surprise that he was subject to what many Thai media workers have regarded as a thing of the past. While it was common for newspaper editors and journalists decades ago to face risks of bomb attacks and death threats targeting their offices or their homes, such tactics of intimidation are nearly unheard of in recent years.
“There shouldn’t be this kind of thing in my time,” Boonmee said. “I want this incident to be the last of its kind in Thailand’s media industry. I don’t want it to happen again to any of my colleagues.”
In its statement, the Thai Journalists Association said any individual who believed they were targeted unfairly by the media should pursue redress through legal channels or file complaints to the press ethics watchdog groups, instead of resorting to violence and intimidation against the media.
Sporadic cases of physical assault, harassment and legal repercussions have marred Thailand’s media landscape for the past year.
On 30 January 2023, a 69-year-old editor of a local newspaper in Phetchabun province was beaten with a large metal pole on his way to work, just days after he investigated reports of illegal gambling dens in the province. A month later, two reporters investigating a fatal accident at a construction site in Phetchaburi were mobbed by unidentified individuals, who tried to confiscate the journalists’ phones.
For several weeks in April, police officers also conducted around-the-clock surveillance on a news photographer at his home for unknown reasons; the photojournalist believes the authorities were harassing him for his prolific reports on political protests.