The Criminal Court yesterday (8 November) dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Prachatai by Sondhi Limthongkul, former leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy and founder of ASTV media group, who claimed that Prachatai misrepresented his views and implied that he supported a military coup.
Sondhi filed a criminal defamation lawsuit against the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM), which runs the Prachatai online newspaper, and Prachatai’s editor-in-chief Tewarit Maneechai, after Prachatai re-published a post from Sondhi’s Facebook page on its Thai-language site.
Sondhi claimed that the use of the headline ‘Sondhi analyses 13 challenging games of the Move Forward Party, says coup is last resort’ led the general public and his followers to misunderstand that he supports a military coup because it does not say that he was talking about an “illegitimate coup.”
Other outlets also re-published the post, including The Standard, TNews, and Dailynews Online. The three outlets removed the piece from their website and issued apologies after Sondhi threatened to sue them.
Yesterday (8 November), the Criminal Court dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the post is reproduced in full in the body of the article and included the phrase “illegitimate coup.” Because of this, the article does not constitute an accusation against Sondhi and therefore not defamatory.
Sondhi was a founder of the royalist “Yellow Shirt” movement. Its protests in 2005 and 2006 helped to trigger the 2006 military coup which forced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra out of office. Yellow Shirt protests in 2013 and 2014 also set the stage for the 2014 coup which ended the government of Thaksin’s sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.