Celeb Anchorman Goes to Jail Over 138-Million Baht Embezzlement

Former news anchorman Sorayuth Suthassanachinda arrives at the Supreme Court on Jan. 21, 2020.

BANGKOK — One of Thailand’s most familiar faces on TVs was sent to prison for eight years on Tuesday after a court rejected his appeal on embezzlement charges.

The verdict against former news anchorman Sorayuth Suthassanachinda, 53, was upheld by the Supreme Court today, though the judges lowered the jail term given by the lower courts from 13 years to six years and 24 months. He was immediately escorted to prison, ending a legal fight that lasted for nearly five years.

Under Thai laws, each month of jail sentence consists of 30 days, while a year of prison term counts as 365 days. Sorayuth did not speak to reporters at the court.

According to the prosecutors, Sorayuth embezzled 138 million baht from state enterprise MCOT by selling more commercial airtime than allowed over a 14-month period on its flagship TV channel, Channel 9.

The case dates back to 2005, when Sorayuth’s company Rai Som hid the extra revenues by paying MCOT employee Pichapa Iamsa-ard more than 600,000 baht to conceal it, prosecutors said.

Top: Sorayuth, right, during his popular news show in 2006.

Although Sorayuth’s firm Rai Som eventually paid 152 million baht in compensation to the channel, that didn’t get investigators to drop the case, and he was found guilty by a court in 2016. The appeal court affirmed the ruling in 2017, though in both cases he was granted a bail release to contest the charges.

In his appeal filed to the Supreme Court, Sorayuth argued that he had done “good deeds for society,” but the judges today rejected it on the grounds that prominent individuals in the society must set example by following the laws.

The former journalist shot to national fame in 2005 when he started a daily show Khui Kui Khao (“Talking and Digging Into the News”). In the show, he went over the top news of the day in a more casual, human format that gave his national audience more clarity.

He later left MCOT for Channel 3, where he continued to host news shows in similar format. At its peak, Sorayuth’s popularity was so immense that the phrase “this story is going on Sorayuth’s show,” was frequently used on social media to describe potentially controversial issues.