Testimony has started in a criminal defamation lawsuit the Thai navy has filed against a small news website over a report it posted alleging naval forces accepted money to abet or turn a blind eye to the trafficking of refugees from Myanmar.

The Australian editor of the Phuketwan website, Alan Morison, and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathien could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty of defamation and violating the Computer Crime Act by publishing the article online.

The case has drawn criticism from human rights and press freedom groups around the world.

Foreign governments and rights groups have long accused Thai authorities of collusion in the trafficking industry, but police, military and government officials have denied the allegations.