A well-known British correspondent with the BBC could face up to five years imprisonment for reporting on a fraud case on the famous resort island of Phuket.
On 23 February 2017, the Provincial Court of Phuket held a deposition hearing on a criminal defamation case against Jonathan Head, the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent. He is also charged under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act.
The British journalist faces charges for a report about two foreign retirees who alleged that they were scammed out of their properties in Phuket by Thai women they married.
The plaintiff in the case is Pratuan Thanarak, a Phuket lawyer who was featured in the BBC report on the case.
The lawyer also accused Ian Rance, one of the two foreign retirees, of criminal defamation.
If proven guilty, they could face up to two years in jail and fines of up to 200,000 baht on the defamation charges. Head could also face up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 baht for allegedly breaching the Computer Crime Act.
Both Head and Rance pleaded not guilty.
Confident that he is innocent, the BBC issued a statement that it will stand by Head, adding that it has trust in Thailand’s judicial system.
The court has also confiscated Head’s passport. Head attempted to appeal the measure claiming that he has to travel at short notice as BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent. The court dismissed his claim.
Jonathan Head, a British BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent (Photo from Head's twitter account)