MN Daily alum stuck overseas in Thailand

Katie Bogensberger

A former Minnesota Daily photographer, Hok Chun Anthony Kwan, was detained Aug. 23 in Thailand for carrying body armor in his luggage.
 
Kwan, who studied aerospace engineering at the University of Minnesota, was in Bangkok covering a recent bombing when Thai authorities arrested him at Suvarnabhumi Airport after they found body armor in his luggage. He was charged with possession of illegal weapons and could face up to five years in prison, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
 
Thailand’s 1987 Arms Control Act prohibits the possession of military equipment. Kwan was released on bail on Aug. 24, but he is not permitted to leave the country, according to FreeKwan.org, a website former  Daily employees started. CPJ reported that authorities ordered him to report to court every 12 days for up to 48 days.
 
Jane Kirtley, University media law professor, said Thailand has previously reacted harshly to journalists.
 
She said Thailand’s government could be using Kwan as an example to other journalists of the country’s consequences to those disrespecting the government. 
 
Kwan, employed by Hong Kong-based Initium Media Technology, was covering the Aug. 17 Bangkok bombing that left 20 dead at a religious shrine. He was traveling to Hong Kong when he was arrested.
 
In 2010, two journalists who were not wearing body armor were shot dead in Bangkok, FreeKwan.org reports.
 
Kwan has been a photographer for several years. According to his personal website, he decided he wanted to be a photographer during his time at the Minnesota Daily. Mark
Vancleave, a 2013 journalism graduate, worked with Kwan at the Daily for two years and said he was a close friend outside of work. He said Kwan was a “high-energy guy.” 
 
“He is really good at working with people especially in awkward situations, which is beneficial being a photographer,” Vancleave said.
 
According to his personal site, Kwan was studying engineering when he decided to join the school’s newspaper. Kwan had no intentions of becoming a photojournalist, but his interest grew into a passion while working at the Daily.
 
Vancleave said Kwan’s last semester at the University was fall 2012.
 
Jules Ameel, a 2011 University journalism graduate, said he hired Kwan in 2011.
 
“Anthony took every possible story he could get his hands onto,” Ameel said. 
 
Vancleave and Ameel both said the Daily was a huge part of Kwan’s life at the University. 
 
Kwan’s friends and colleagues created FreeKwan.org to increase awareness of his situation in hopes the Thai government drops its case and allows him to return home safely.
 
“Journalists shouldn’t be imprisoned for protecting themselves when working in a harsh environment,” Ameel said.