UPDATE (Thailand): Update on libel suit against media-reform activist Ms Supinya


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-62-2004
ISSUES: Freedom of expression,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission provides you the updated information below regarding the libel case filed by media conglomerate Shin Corp against a media-reform activist Ms Supinya Klangnarong and the Thai Post. Ms Supinya, Secretary General of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), was sued by Shin Corp after she observed that Shin Corp’s profits have skyrocketed since Mr Thaksin Shinawatra became Prime Minister in her article published in Thai Post on 16 July 2003. (See further: UA-73-2004)

1. On 6 September 2004, the Criminal Court scheduled the first hearing into this libel suit for 19 July 2005 which indicates that the case will start after the next general election scheduled in early 2005. On 22 June 2004, the Criminal Court had previously decided to let the suit against Ms Supinya. (See further: UP-31-2004)

A delay would politically benefit Prime Minster Thaksin, as the anticipated hearings could strew potentially damaging information and explode side issues such as the defendant’s call for him to take the stand.

2. Meantime, Shin Corp has also filed a Bt 400 million libel suit in Civil Court against Ms Supinya and the Thai Post on 24 August 2004, after winning Criminal Court approval. Shin Corp has claimed financial institutions downgraded its creditworthiness and that its credibility in the stock market was affected as a result of her comments in the article.

After learning the news, the CPMR said, “If society allows powerful political and business groups to take legal action against social watchdogs over acts in the interest of the public, no one else will dare to express his opinion, speak the truth or criticize anything.”

On 11 October 2004, the Civil Court decided that the trial of this case would begin after the Criminal Court decides its case. The Civil Court said that after the ruling on the criminal case is made, both parties would report the judgment to the court within 45 days and the court would then schedule the start of a hearing.

The AHRC welcomes the sensible decision of the Civil Court regarding Ms Supinya’s case. However, the charges against her and the Thai Post still remain. The AHRC urges everyone to continue to work for these cases to be dropped. Sample letter and contact addresses of Thai authorities can be seen in our previous urgent appeal on this matter (UA-73-2004). We kindly ask you to amend the sample letter demanding that all charges in both criminal and civil suits against Ms Supinya and the Thai Post must be dropped.

The AHRC also notices with grave concern that criminal defamation and civil defamation have been increasingly used by the government authorities in several Asian countries in order to repress basic rights of free expression and publication. Under the circumstances, this case is very important for the people of Thailand at a time that many of their basic human rights are under threat.

When you write a letter to the Thai authorities, please also urge them to take active steps to abolish these offensive legal provisions without delay. (See detailed information:?AS-32-2004: Thailand’s obsolete criminal defamation law must be scrapped)

The CPMR has opened a bank account to raise fund for Ms Supinya’s legal costs. People interested in joining their fight to defend the right of expression in Thailand can wire money to:

Account name: Supinya Klangnarong and/or Bhibhop Thongchai and/or Pittaya Wongkul
Savings account number: 075-232433-6 
Bank: Siam Commercial Bank, Ratchadaphisek Road II branch.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-62-2004
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Freedom of expression,