Police Refuse to Press Charges

5 March 2002
Source: Bangkok Post

Police yesterday decided against pressing lese majeste charges against two Bangkok-based journalists of the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine and senator Somkiat Onwimon.

Sirilak Panbamrungkij, parliament secretary-general, holds up a letter the Far Eastern Economic Review tendered yesterday to apologise for its Jan 10 article. Next to her is David Lyman, the magazine’s lawyer who submitted the letter. _ APICHART JINAKUL

The police decision came only hours after a magazine’s representative submitted a formal apology to the Thai people through Parliament President Uthai Pimchaichon.

Pol Gen Sant Sarutanont, the national police chief, said the magazine’s content and Mr Somkiat’s translation were not considered to be defamatory to the monarchy under article 112 of the Criminal Act.

The article provides for a jail term of 3-15 years against any person who shows disrespect to the monarchy.

Pol Gen Sant said the content and the translation were, however, inappropriate as they referred to the monarchy in an improper way.

He said he has already forwarded the police’s probe report on the case to the Immigration Bureau.

The report would be considered along with the two reporters’ appeals against the bureau’s decision to scrap their visas.

The Immigration Bureau’s view will be forwarded to an Interior Ministry panel in a few days for consideration whether the two should be banned from entering Thailand.

The Immigration Bureau has sche-duled a meeting today to discuss the investigators’ decision.

Shawn W Crispin, Review’s Bangkok Bureau chief, and Rodney Tasker, its long-time journalist, have left the government fuming through their writing in the “Intelligence” column in the magazine’s Jan 10 edition which touched on the relations of the government and the royal palace.

Mr Somkiat translated the article and gave copies of it to fellow upper house members to show whether it was the government or the magazine that was in the wrong.

The two Review reporters have been allowed 30 days to remain in Thailand while their appeals against the Immigration Bureau’s decision to scrap their visas are considered.

“Although the two were cleared of lese majeste charges, they have not been cleared of other offences committed under the immigration and printing laws,” said Pol Gen Sant.

The police chief said the police Special Branch was also studying a special report on Thailand put out by The Economist magazine.

The survey report, entitled A New Order and also touching on the royal family, has been suspended from distribution pending police consideration of its content.

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