Allegation Of Former PM Thaksin Insulting The King 'Not Libellous'

Mr. Sondhi Limthongkul and Ms. Sarocha Pon-Udomsuk

(15 August) The Appeals
Court found 2 Yellowshirts figures not guilty of defamation after former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra sued them for accusing him of insulting the monarchy.

Mr. Thaksin′s lawsuit, filed
through his representing lawyer, names Mr. Sondhi Limthongkul, the owner of ASTV Manager news
publication and the most visible face of the Yellowshirts movements, and Ms. Sarocha Pon-Udomsuk, a
newscaster on ASTV channel, as defendants.

The lawsuit referred to an episode of ASTV
broadcasts in which
Mr. Sondhi cited Mr. Surakiat Sathienthai, a former Deputy Prime Minister in Mr.
Thaksin’s administration, that Mr. Thaksin used hateful rhetoric against the monarchy after he had
been overthrown by a military coup on 19 September 2006.

Mr. Thaksin said in the lawsuit
that the allegation
cause damaged his reputation and
credibility.

The Royal Family is a sensitive issue in Thailand, but political factions often
accuse one another of insulting the monarchy.

Various figures of the Yellowshirts and the
Democrat Party particularly have long history of alleging that Mr. Thaksin and his allies are secret
republicans with a plot to overthrow the monarchy – a charge he has repeatedly denied.

In May
2012, the lower court ruled in Mr. Thaksin′s favour, handing down suspended sentence of 2 years
in prison to both Mr. Sondhi and Ms. Sarocha. The pair was also fined 20,000 baht and forced to
advertise the court ruling in 4 newspapers – including Khaosod – for 3 days.

Mr. Sondhi and
Ms. Sarocha appealed the ruling, and the Appeals Court today explained
that the ASTV episode was taped beyond the date cited in Mr. Thaksin′s
lawsuit (24 August 2007), hence the court cannot find Mr. Sondhi guilty for material on the video.

The court also found Ms. Sarocha not guilty.

The court noted that Mr. Thaksin was engaging
with the Redshirts protesters during their protest outside the residence of the Head of Privy
Council, Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, in April 2009. The protest against Gen. Prem, the court argued,
could amount to display of disrespect against the monarchy, since the position of Privy Councillor
is personally appointed by His Majesty the King.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable that the
defendants would be convinced that Mr. Thaksin harbours a disrespect to the monarchy, according the
Appeals Court ruling.

Mr. Sondhi told our correspondent afterwards that the ruling proves
what he understands about Mr. Thaksin.

On the same day, the Appeals Court also dismissed the
defamation suit filed by Mr. Chamlong Sri-Mueang, another Yellowshirts leader, against Mr. Jatupon
Prompan, which stated that the former Pheu Thai MP had published libellous opinions about him.

The case referred to Mr. Jatupon’s opinion published in Khaosod′s daily newspaper and its
online site on 8 November 2010, in which Mr. Jatupon said that Mr. Chamlong and other Yellowshirts
leaders were resorting to ultra-nationalist rhetoric to creat chaotic situation in Bangkok and pave
way for military intervention.

At the time, Thailand and Cambodia were locked in violent
border dispute over possession of Preah Vihear Temple, while Yellowshirts protesters took to the
street in an attempt to oust the Thaksin-allied government.

The lower court argued that Mr.
Jatupon only criticised Mr. Chamlong and friends to express his personal opinion.

In the
court’s opinion, the phrase, “create chaotic situation … expanding the situation beyond the
government control”, was said on Mr. Jatupon’s opinion that the protest led by Mr. Chamlong was not
appropriate. Meanwhile, the phrase “left a gap for military intervention” was only Mr. Jatupon’s
assumption, the court said.

The Appeals Court today sided with the lower court, dismissing
the lawsuit.