May 30, 2017 / 8:11 AM / 3 months ago

CORRECTED-British journalist carrying flak jacket plates charged with arms possession in Bangkok

(Corrects to say Witulski was released without bail, paragraph 9)

BANGKOK, May 30 (Reuters) - A British journalist was charged with arms possession on Tuesday after he was arrested at a Thai airport for checking in flak jacket plates and gas masks, standard equipment for media heading into war zones and other hostile environments.

Anthony Cheng, 46, was detained at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday along with Florian Witulski, a German freelance journalist, before he could board a flight to Iraq via Turkey for an assignment for China-based broadcaster CCTV English.

Thailand's Arms Control Act stipulates that gas masks and ballistic vests are war weapons and those carrying them need a licence.

In August 2015, a Hong Kong photojournalist was arrested at the same airport for carrying body armour and a helmet. Charges were later dropped.

Cheng was carrying three gas masks and four plates for safety vests, said Somchart Maneerat, a police investigator.

"He faces charge of unlicensed possession of war weapons," Somchart told Reuters.

Cheng faces up to five years in prison if he is found guilty, Somchart added.

A lawyer for Cheng said he had requested bail.

Witulski, 31, was also detained on Monday night but released on Tuesday.

Witulski told Reuters they were not aware that licences were required for the safety gear.

"The plates were loose and were taken as check-in baggage as we have done before many times," Witulski told Reuters, adding that he and Cheng had travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan several times and taken plates with them without being stopped by Thai authorities. ($1 = 34.15 baht) (Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Amy Sawitta Lefevre, and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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