Reports of staffer’s ‘overwork death’ at True-owned TV station removed 

A Facebook page said it deleted two posts about a TV station staffer who reportedly died from overwork because it feared a lawsuit from the news agency, which is owned by one of the richest conglomerates in Thailand.

A photo Sarawut Srisawat's desk posted by Jor Dub Facebook page, a place where he died.

The team behind the page “Jor Dub,” which first broke the news on Sunday about Sarawut Srisawat’s death at the office of TNN news station, said on Tuesday night that a representative from the news outlet complained of inaccuracies in the posts. Prior to his death, Sarawut was forced by his supervisors to work almost non-stop for weeks despite his failing health, according to his peers and colleagues. He was 44. 

His death ignited outrage and conversations online about unfair treatment and labour law violations in the media industry, especially in the digital TV business, where competition is fierce and news crews often work overtime with little or no compensation pay. 

“We agreed to delete the posts for very straightforward reasons,” the “Jor Dub” page wrote: “1. We are afraid of being sued (we admit to it without any shame); and 2. We have already achieved our objective, which is to be the voice of the person who died.” 

The page routinely publishes commentary on ethics and working conditions in the media industry. It was also the first source to write about Sarawut’s demise. According to one of the posts, which were now deleted, Sarawut worked as a senior manager in charge of programme schedules at TNN, but his workload soon overwhelmed him as he had to juggle multiple roles per orders from the executives. 

Jor Dub also wrote that Sarawut, or “Bird” as his colleagues knew him, was last seen slumping over his desk on Friday night. When a housekeeper visited the newsroom on Saturday and tried to wake him, she realised that Sarawut was dead.  

“He worked overtime everyday. And he worked more than 5 days per week, on some weeks he even worked 7 days straight. As this stretched on, his body couldn’t take it, and he fell sick,” the post said.

“But when he was on sick leave for two days, he was called to hurry back to work and set up news programs schedules. Is this a TV station or a sweatshop?”

In a letter sent to Jor Dub, the channel argued that Sarawut was never forced to work overtime against his will. It also said there were more staff members at hand to assist Sarawut. 

“There was no prohibition on taking leave days. The work from home policy was also in place on that day,” part of the letter said. “The employee did not inform the supervisor about his illness or ask for a leave day. He reported for duty as normal. Based on our inquiry, the supervisor did not request him to come to office per any special case.”

The statement also threatened to take unspecified action against the Facebook page if it did not delete what the company described as “false information.” 

TNN is owned by True corporation, a telecommunication arm of the CP Group, one of the most powerful conglomerates in Thailand. The Chearavanont family, which owns the group, is consistently ranked as the kingdom’s wealthiest business clan. 

Business entities affiliated with the CP Group are known for their efforts to protect their brand reputation, asking media agencies to delete their news reports and filing lawsuits against detractors. 

In another post by Jor Dub, which was also deleted, Jor Dub published a photo showing a bag of medications at Sarawut’s desk and wrote that his health was deteriorating from the overwork to the point that he was heard complaining to his colleagues, “Do I have to die first before they find people to help me out?” 
The page went on to describe Sarawut as a polite and gentle man who did not like to argue with people around him. “It might be because of his character that the bosses never cared about him and kept throwing more work his way,” the page said. 

Testimonies shared online by those who said they knew Sarawut collaborated with Jor Dub’s account. 

“I've been hit in the guts since yesterday after hearing the news,” former TNN employee Sukanya Pongnumkun wrote. “Throughout the 10 years I knew him, he always worked hard. He was always sitting at his desk, setting program schedules. The bosses never assigned anyone to help him.”

In the post, which was later deleted without explanation, Sukanya also wrote that Sarawut was given a “C” evaluation by his company, even though he worked through weekends and holidays. 

“And after his death, I’ve heard that the executives had ordered the staff to delete videos about his demise. Why?” she asked. 

Another ex-journalist at TNN, Sakchai Pruedthipak, called on the authorities, including the National Telecommunication and Broadcasting Commission, or NBTC, to look into the circumstances that led to Sarawut’s death. 

“This case clearly shows that no matter how much low level employees like Bird tried to shout, their voices never reached the ears of the executives,” wrote Sakchai, who now serves as a board member of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association. “Low level employees like Bird are left behind under the piles of their work. If they can endure it, they have to endure it. If they can’t, they have to quit, or die like Bird.”

The Thai Journalists Association likewise urged the authorities, including the Ministry of Labour and the NBTC, which oversees TV operating licences, to look into Sarawut’s plight and see whether labour laws were strictly followed by TNN. 

TNN only acknowledged Sarawut’s death only on Monday, two days after he was found dead inside his newsroom and a day after Jor Dub broke the news on social media, raising uproar among journalists and media watchdogs. 

In a statement, which was released as an internal memo to its staff, TNN said Sarawut died from heart failure, but did not elaborate on his condition or address allegations that overwork contributed to his death. 

TNN also said it will pay Sarawut’s family a compensation of 24 months salary. Sakchai noted that the amount falls well below the bar required by the labour law, which states that compensation for work-related deaths must be based on 70 percent of the employee’s salary for 10 years.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said on Tuesday that he has ordered an inquiry into TNN’s operations, including whether TNN forced Sarawut to work overtime against his will. Officials will also ensure that Sarawut’s family receives fair compensation as indicated by the law, Suchart said. 

Under the labour law, overtime and holiday work cannot exceed 36 hours per week. Employers who violate the law face up to 100,000 baht and a prison term of six months. 


Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”