Editor sued local English daily for unfair dismissal

21 December 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

On 20 December, a former senior editor of Bangkok’s English daily, “Bangkok Post”, sued the newspaper for unfairly sacking him in August following a publication in the newspaper’s front page of “ flawed” report he was responsible for about cracks in the runway of Thailand’s new international airport.

Sermsuk Kasitipradit filed the lawsuit with Labor Court Post against Post Publishing PLC, the publisher of Bangkok Post, as the first defendant, the company’s deputy chief executive officer David Armstrong as second defendant and the company’s providence fund committee as third defendant. He also demanded Bt13 million (about US$317,000) in damages and reinstatement to his job.

Sermsuk was one of the editors responsible for the 9 August front-page story alleging there were severe cracks at touchdown points on the Suvarnabhumi airport runway. It quoted an anonymous source as saying American experts brought in by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra recommended the reconstruction of the runway.

The paper was forced to issue a retraction and an apology after the report
was found to be wrong. Despite the paper’s quick retraction, on 15 August
the Airport of Thailand and the New Bangkok International Airport filed a
criminal libel suit against the paper and its chief editor and threatened it
with a civil libel suit.

But Sermsuk’s lawyer Nakorn Chompochart said the dismissal of his client violated his employment contract because Sermsuk did not commit any thing wrong. The other local English daily, “The Nation”, in its 21 December edition quoted Nakorn as saying, the decision to publish the “ flawed” report was the newspaper’s editorial judgement.

The lawsuit writ said Armstrong, who was named as co-defendant in the lawsuit signed the 29 August dismissal letter by ignoring a recommendation made by the paper’s internal disciplinary committee that the two editors’ salaries be frozen and their annual bonus withheld.

In his lawsuit, Sermsuk revealed the identity of his source, which he earlier withheld, as Sawang Virameteekul who is a cousin of ruling Party Thai Rak Thai co-founder. Sawang never returned Sermsuk’s calls when the later attempted to contact him to prove the existence of the source of information about the cracks in the airport’s runway.

Sermsuk earlier told the press that the leaking of information about the runway cracks was part of a conspiracy to discredit him and pressured the newspaper to get ride of him as he has been critical of the government. He went on the record to say there have been serious interference at Bangkok Post’s editorial policy by the Post management and outsiders in the government.

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