Source: The Nation
The historic courtroom battle between the business empire controlled by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s family and young activist Supinya Klangnarong could take place after the next general election.
The Criminal Court yesterday scheduled for July 19 the first hearing into the libel lawsuit filed by telecom giant Shin Corp – which is controlled by the Shinawatra family against mediareform activist Supinya and the Thai Post newspaper.
Civil Court judges will decide next month whether to accept a related suit demanding Bt400 million in compensation from the defendants as well as when possible hearings would take place.
Politically, a delay would benefit Thaksin, as the muchanticipated hearings could be strewn with potentially damaging information as well as explosive side issues, such as the defendants’ call for him to take the stand.
The Criminal Court yesterday said it would take four hearings to hear evidence from 10 prosecution witnesses and about 15 hearings to hear evidence for the defendants’ 50 witnesses.
Supinya’s lawyer, Nakhon Chompoochat, vowed to seek the court’s permission to summon Prime Minister Thaksin, his wife Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra and their children. “We want the premier and his family members to testify on affairs relating to conflicts of interests,” Nakhon said.
The defendants are Supinya, secretarygeneral of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform, Thai Journal Group Co, and Thai Post newspaper’s Roj Ngarmman, Kannikar Wiriyakul and Thavisin Sathitrattanacheewin.
Supinya’s remarks about links between Shin Corp and Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party, which were published by Thai Post, sparked the Bt400million defamation lawsuit.
The defendants yesterday told the court that the remarks were made public in good faith and to keep conflicts of interest in check. “I will fight to the end,” Supinya said, adding that she has received support from many parties.
Senator Nirun Pitakwatchara used his position to secure Supinya’s release on bail pending the trial.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based independent organisation dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, gave Bt400,000 to finance her legal battle. The CPJ also sent one of its lawyers, Robert D Balin, to provide Supinya with legal advice.
A number of foreign journalists covered Supinya’s legal fight at the Criminal Court yesterday.
Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance earlier expressed concern over the Criminal Court’s decision to accept Shin Corp’s libel suit and raised questions over what it described as an unreasonably high compensation claim.
The media community as well as academics have rallied around Supinya and Thai Post. Shin Corp has also been warned that its lawsuits could backfire badly like an American fast food company’s libel case against animal right activists. The fast food case saw the company “put on trial” and suffering from bad publicity throughout the legal proceedings.
People interested in helping Supinya with her legal costs can wire money to:
Account name: Supinya Klangnarong and/or Pipop Thongchai and/or Pittaya Wongkul.
Savings account number: 0752324336.
Bank: Siam Commercial Bank, Ratchadaphisek II branch