Colombian Model Accused of Defamation by Top Thai Agency

Colombian model Diego Fernando Gonzalez Rojas, 32, is taken to Bangkok’s Criminal Court Sunday where he was released on bail.

BANGKOK — A Colombian model was charged Sunday with defamation and spreading false information under the Computer Crime Act for alleging online that a top modeling agency mistreats its models.

Both criminal and civil counts were filed against Diego Fernando Gonzalez Rojas over emails and Facebook posts from November and December in which he reached out to other models mistreated by Elite Model Management.

Company owner Kitti Prateepnatsiri filed a complaint with police saying the information spread online by the 32-year-old man, who he insists he has never met, was false.

“He refused to answer police questions,” Anuchit Thaweephrom of the Technology Crime Suppression Division said Monday morning.

The Colombian national was released Sunday afternoon on a 200,000 baht bond and barred from leaving the country.

In addition to violating the Computer Crime Act, he was also accused of defaming others and working illegally, both criminal matters in Thailand.

Although it’s been widely reported that Gonzalez Rojas was working without a permit from the Labor Ministry, Anuchit said he was unaware of his legal status.

In Facebook posts and emails sent to several people, Gonzalez Rojas said he wanted to help others facing the same problems working with Elite Model Management. He alleged the company failed to pay models, threatened and deceived them into handing over important personal documents, pressured them to attend parties and rarely provided quality assignments, according to translations of his messages provided by police.

Gonzalez Rojas encouraged other affected models to contact him unless, as police said he wrote, they were satisfied by merely going to free parties with alcohol and drugs.

“The owner of the agency said all the alleged information was untrue and defamed his reputation,” police Capt. Anuchit said.

Elite Model Management owner Kitti on Tuesday said that he neither knew nor worked with Gonzalez Rojas. He said someone with a stake in the modeling industry and affected by a crackdown on foreign models must be behind the Colombian’s complaints.

“Otherwise who have paid the 200,000 baht bail for him?” Kitti said.

He insisted his company was able to present all the required legal documents for its foreign models when the Ministry of Labor visited their offices in January in response to Gonzalez Rojas’ allegations.

Kitti, also the founder of the Thai Modeling Industry and Agencies Association, played a prominent role in a campaign against illegal foreign models launched by the Ministry of Labor in December.

Although it’s difficult to imagine the scope of the actual problem, the Immigration Bureau has also taken up the campaign, plastering its offices with posters warning would-be foreign models of the penalties for working illegally.

The Labor Ministry has said the campaign is intended to crack down on foreign models working illegally because they not only steal jobs from Thai models but are also linked to human trafficking and child labor abuses.

Update: This story has been updated May 10 with comments from Elite Modeling Management owner Kitti Prateepnatsiri.