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05BANGKOK4723 TRIAL BEGINS IN LIBEL CASE FOR RESPECTED THAI MEDIA ADVOCATE

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“37095”,”7/22/2005 9:46″,”05BANGKOK4723″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“04BANGKOK6316|04BANGKOK8272|05BANGKOK3522”,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004723

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KPAO, PINS, PROP, TH, Media/Freedom of the Press, HUMAN RIGHTS

SUBJECT: TRIAL BEGINS IN LIBEL CASE FOR RESPECTED THAI

MEDIA ADVOCATE

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 03522

B. 04 BANGKOK 08272

C. 04 BANGKOK 06316

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission, Alex A. Arvizu, Reason 1.4 (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. On July 19, witnesses for the prosecution

began their arguments in the case of Shincorp versus Thai

media activist Supinya Klangnarong. Supinya is being sued

for libel over comments that she made in a 2003 interview

with the Thai Post. Supinya told Poloffs she was

disappointed that her case had barely registered with the

Thai media and general public. Supinya expressed concern

that her case, and that of community radio broadcaster

Anchalee Paireerak, represented renewed pressure from the RTG

against freedom of the press, including web-based media. END

SUMMARY

 

2. (SBU) On July 19, witnesses for the prosecution began

their arguments in the case of Shincorp versus Thai media

activist Supinya Klangnarong. Supinya is being sued for

libel over comments she made in a 2003 interview with the

Thai-language daily newspaper \”Thai Post.\” Poloffs met with

Supinya on July 15 to discuss her case. In the article in

question, which was printed under a column called \”Freedom of

Thought,\” Supinya stated that Shincorp, which is owned by

the family of PM Thaksin Shinawatra, had experienced

skyrocketing profits since the Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) took

office. She also said that the Prime Minister had instituted

policies which benefited the company, and that Shincorp,s

added income will financially strengthen the Thai Rak Thai

party. Shincorp, she said, had received concessions from

state agencies, which allowed the company to maintain its

wealth \”forever.\” While her remarks might be construed as

controversial, they were not generally regarded here as

either libelous or particularly inflammatory.

 

3. (C) Supinya told Poloffs that approximately fifty

prominent freedom of the press advocates from around the

world would appear at her trial as defense witnesses. She

was hopeful that this could tilt the outcome of the case in

her favor. The names of the foreign witnesses were not being

made public in order to ensure that they would not have any

problems entering or leaving the country.

 

DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE THAI MEDIA

 

4. (U) In marked contrast to the publicity her case has

attracted abroad, Supinya expressed disappointment that the

Thai press has expressed little interest in covering her

story. As Secretary-General of the local NGO Campaign for

Popular Media Reform, Supinya has dedicated much of her time

and energy to fight for a free press in Thailand, and she was

surprised that the Thai media had not rallied behind her in a

big way.

 

5. (SBU) Witnesses are scheduled to testify through

October, and Supinya is hopeful that the judges will make a

decision before the end of the year. However, the trial

could easily continue into early 2006. Supinya seemed

resolved to continuing fighting the case, but the case has

clearly taken a toll on her physically and emotionally. She

noted that it was now much harder for her to speak out freely

on issues of press freedom, and that if she was found guilty,

having a criminal record could reduce her room for maneuver

in future human rights activities, as well as complicate her

personal and professional life.

 

A NEW DRIVE TO RESTRICT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS?

 

6. (C) Supinya also expressed concern for the case of

Anchalee Paireerak. Ms. Anchalee, a prominent government

critic, had her website and radio show shut down by Thai

authorities in mid-June, based on some legal technicalities.

She has since reported that she has received physically

threatening phone calls, and has been followed by uniformed

police. By contrast, Supinya stated that she has received no

physical threats of any kind, but that she worries that their

two cases are part of drive on the part of the RTG to

restrict criticism of the government by keeping a tighter

leash on the press.

 

7. (C) COMMENT: How the court will ultimately rule is an

open question. One precedent was set in December 2004 when

the Criminal Court dropped libel charges filed by eight

Constitutional Court judges (Ref B) against another

government critic, in a case that received far more publicity

and government scrutiny than Supinya,s. Shincorp seems

determined to pursue these David-vs.-Goliath libel cases

despite the attendant negative publicity, and despite some

judicial setbacks like December 2004. Even then, although

the Criminal Court threw out the Constitutional Court\’s case,

they still found the defendant in contempt of court. This

was widely seen as an effort to \”satisfy\” both sides. END

COMMENT

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:41 am

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