UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — Thai police are investigating a report that a CNN crew inappropriately entered the day care center while reporting on the aftermath of the massacre in the building that left more than 20 preschoolers dead, authorities said Sunday.
Danaichok Boonsom, head of the local township administration, told reporters that he had submitted his report alleging unauthorized entry onto the government property and that police were investigating.
“Let the legal process run its course, I don’t want to disclose all the details,” he said as he left the Na Klang district police station in northeastern Thailand. “Let the police do their work investigating.”
Authorities began looking into the incident after a Thai reporter posted an image on social media of two members of the crew leaving the scene, with one climbing over the low wall and fence around the compound, over police tape, and the other already outside.
CNN tweeted that the crew had entered the premises when the police cordon had been removed from the center, and were told by three public health officials exiting the building that they could film inside.
“The team gathered footage inside the center for around 15 minutes, then left,” CNN said in its tweet. “During this time, the cordon had been set back in place, so the team needed to climb over the fence at the center to leave.”
The tweet came in response to criticism from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, which said it was “dismayed” by CNN’s coverage and the decision to film the crime scene inside.
“This was unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting,” the FCCT said.
The Thai Journalists’ Association criticized CNN’s actions as “unethical” and “insensitive,” and called for an internal company investigation of the incident in addition to the official Thai probe.
In a later statement, CNN International’s executive vice president and general manager Mike McCarthy reiterated that his reporters sought permission to enter the building but the team “now understands that these officials were not authorized to grant this permission,” adding that it was “never their intention to contravene any rules.”
He said CNN had ceased broadcasting the report and had removed the video from its website.
“We deeply regret any distress or offense our report may have caused, and for any inconvenience to the police at such a distressing time for the country,” he said in the statement tweeted by CNN.
Deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn said the two journalists entered Thailand on tourist visas, which had now been revoked. He said they had been detained pending their expulsion from the country, but refused to provide further details.
Surachate later told reporters that the investigation was not yet concluded, but it appeared the crew had been waved in to the center and believed they had permission to enter, making it likely they would only be fined for working while on a tourist visa and sent home.
In the attack Thursday, police said 36 people, 24 of them children, were killed by a former police officer who was fired earlier this year on drug charges and had been due in court on Friday.
As Thailand’s worst such massacre ever, the attack drew widespread international media attention to the small town of Uthai Sawan in the country’s rural northeast. By Sunday, few remained but a large number of Thai media continued to report from the scene.