25 July 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Picnic Corporation, the cooking gas conglomerate, has sued for libel Matichon Plc, a leading Thai media company and demanded clipping compensation worth a total of 3.75 billion dollars (Bht15 billion), the single biggest amount of fine ever filed against local media.
The criminal lawsuits, separately filed with Criminal Court of Southern Bangkok on 15 and 18 July, alleged that a series of articles published in the company’s sister newspapers, “Matichon” and “Prachachart Thurakit”, tarnished the company’s credibility and caused a drop in its share prices.
Picnic Corp. also sought court junction to suspend the newspapers from practicing journalism for five years for “repeatedly committing such libel act and damaging the country’s economy”.
On 25 July, the company’s lawyer Sukit Poonsrikasem was quoted in a local daily, “Post Today”, as saying that Picnic Corp. has sought this action in order to arrest on-going negative reports about the company. The embattled company, whose major shareholders were akin to former deputy commerce minister Suriya Lapwisuthisin was being investigated for stock-related offenses.
Sukit hinted the company wanted the Matichon Plc to admit their news reports was erratic, more than the full amount of damage compensation as claimed.
The court has agreed to consider both cases for review and will convene a preliminary hearing on Sept 19.
The Picnic’s lawsuits came as a landmark trial was set to began on another criminal lawsuit filed against media activist Supinya Klangnarong and Thai Post by Shin Corp, the media and telecom operator closely linked to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s family members.
Shincorp, which also demanded 10 million dollar (Bht400 million) in compensation in a separate civil suit against the same defendants alleged that Supinya’s remarks that the company’s profits spiked under Thaksin’s administration was untrue.
On 18 July, Picnic Corp executives filed the lawsuit with Criminal Court of Southern Bangkok against the Matichon Plc, its six board members, as well as an editor and deputy editor of the Matichon daily newspaper. They are seeking US$2.5 billion (Bht10 billion) in compensation on behalf of the plaintiffs for asserting in news reports that Picnic executives cooked the books.
In an article published on June 6, the newspaper alleged that Picnic Corp. engaged in splitting its stocks twice and of rewarding politicians with shares in the company. The suit charged that all these allegations were untrue and were therefore libelous.
Earlier on 15 July, Picnic Corp executives filed s criminal libel suit with the same court against Thawee Meengern, the editor publisher of Prachachat Turakit newspaper. They are seeking US$1.25 billion (Bht5 billion) in compensation for damage allegedly caused by an erratic article in Prachachart Thurakij’s 11-13 July edition for suggesting that Picnic Corp.’s drop in its credibility has caused creditor banks to discontinue its short-term credit lending and investors to dump the company’s stocks.