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Yingluck Sues Thai Rath Cartoonist For Defamation

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Yingluck sues Thai Rath cartoonist for defamation




May 3, 2013 5:26 pm

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's lawyers on Friday seek legal action against Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat for comparing the premier to a prostitute.

The lawyers filed the complaint against the cartoonist at Dusit police station on Friday afternoon.

Chai, whose real name is Somchai Katanyutanan, posted photos of Yingluck in Mongolia and at a Thai parliamentary meeting and posted the message:

"Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their bodies, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country."

During her speech at the 7th Ministerial Conference on the International Democracies, Yingluck denounced the 2006 coup and attacked Thailand's independent organisations. She also talked about the suffering her family, the government of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as slain red shirts had to endure following the coup and political violence in the country.

PM's Secretary General Suranan Vejjajiva said that while Yingluck was ready to listen to criticism, critics should be careful not to use inappropriate wording.

Suranan said the cartoonist not only insulted the prime minister but through his action was also looking down on women.

Pheu Thai Party female MPs led by Sunee Luangwichit and Yaowanit Piengket held a press conference condemning his action as professionally unscrupulous and unethical.

They called Chai's comment irresponsible and they called for an apology. They would also petition the Thai Journalists Association as well as related agencies to take action.

"Pheu Thai Party Women MPs regard Chai's message as a violation of women’s rights and a insult to women. On one hand, it accuses women of being whores who sell their bodies. Although the message does not refer to a specific person, it reflects the opinion of the author and this is insulting to the female gender. As women and men have equal rights, this kind of comment is very inappropriate and is a serious violation of his professional ethics," they said in the statement.


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"Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their bodies, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country."

True Comment in my mind, and surprising that Thai Rath published it since TR proclaims to be the "Voice of the People" editorial .

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Free speech under threat



It is hardly unprecedented, but it has been a while since a forum on democracy unleashed such a great anti-democratic blowback.


The forum was last week in Ulan Bator, where Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made an unusual analysis of the state of democracy in Thailand. Her words and her manner drew criticism that reached harsh and patently offensive levels. And then things got worse.


The tipping point was an unfortunate Facebook post by Somchai Katanyutanan, better known as "Chai Ratchawat", a cartoonist for the Thai Rath newspaper. The post compared prostitutes (favourably) with "an evil woman [who] sells the nation". This nastiness, offensive on several levels, spurred a protest by women in red shirts.


Then Ms Yingluck responded, and moved what had been a democratic discussion about her speech to non-democratic grounds. She filed a criminal lawsuit against the cartoonist, charging defamation. It is difficult to understand why she made such a decision.


After a speech that accused the elites of preventing democracy, the prime minister herself provided proof that the free speech part of democracy, at least, does not exist. Her lawsuit is an attempt to block it.


It does not seem as if she can win the case. Apart from the wording making it very difficult for Ms Yingluck to win her case in court, Mr Somchai's post is so offensive, so exaggerated, so over the top, that it can't really defame the premier.


This is why the sinister and intimidating threats from the Pheu Thai Party and red-shirt supporters are so dangerous. Last weekend, the governing Pheu Thai "requested" that the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) monitor broadcasters who might be insulting the national leader. The party wants the NBTC to take action if it hears "inappropriate or libellous" words.


Remarks, either written or spoken, like Mr Somchai's post may be offensive, but libel and defamation are not decided in the offices of the state-controlled broadcasting regulator. And wise people across the political spectrum should be extremely offended by the suggestion that punishment is required against someone for insulting the head of the government.


We have seen all this before, of course, from Ms Yingluck's big brother and others. Thaksin infamously threatened and filed defamation suits to try to stifle critics.


But last week, just when it appeared Ms Yingluck had inherited Thaksin's combination of a thin skin and misuse of the justice system, the Democrat Party showed its own true colours about freedom of speech.


The Democrats announced their own criminal charges against Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul. He allegedly defamed the Democrats by calling their 2008-2011 regime a "non-elected government".


They said Mr Surapong lied and slurred the former Democrat government _ and that was the free speech part. Unfortunately, it was followed by the threat of a lawsuit.


The prime minister and now the Democrats are making a mockery of free speech. The answer to offensive speech, including lies, is not the criminal courts, threats of prison time and the chilling hand of the dictator.


The answer to this problem, simply, is more free speech. If Ms Yingluck and the Democrats hate what people say and write about them, then tell us all why that is.




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