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For the first time in its five-decade history, the whole board of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) has been accused of committing lese majeste, a crime with a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.


Laksana Kornsilpa, 57, a translator and a critic of ousted and convicted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra filed a lese majeste complaint against the 13-member board at Lumpini police station on Tuesday night.

Laksana was quoted on ASTV Manager website as claiming the board's decision to sell DVD copies of Jakrapob Penkair's controversial speech at the club back in 2007 constituted an act of lese majeste.

She alleged that the whole board "may be acting in an organised fashion and the goal may be to undermine the credibility of the high institution of Thailand".

ASTV Manager daily also quoted Laksana as saying some major local newspapers may also part of a movement to undermine the monarchy.

FCCT president Marwaan Macan-Markar said the board members have decided not to give separate interviews. It issued a statement saying: "The FCCT will cooperate with such an inquiry [by the police]."

The board, includes three British nationals including the BBC's Bangkok correspondent Jonathan Head, three American nationals, including two working for Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, an Australian national and a Thai news reader for Channel 3, Karuna Buakamsri.

Social critic and lese majeste case defendant Sulak Sivaraksa, reacting to the news, told The Nation yesterday that "the problem of [abusing] lese majeste law is now utterly messy".

"The fact that leading world intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and others have petitioned to [PM] Abhisit [Vejjajiva to reform the law] is a testimony to it. If we let it go on like this it will get even messier. It's time for the government to do something."

A source within the FCCT, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was "surprised" at the latest allegation, which came after two years of the speech being made, adding that "it places Thailand in a very poor light".

DVDs were set up largely for club members who missed interesting talks and sales are restricted solely for FCCT members. Few copies of the Jakrapob talk are understood to have been sold because a manuscript of his talk circulated in Bangkok shortly after he was charged, and the video can be downloaded free from some websites.

In the comments' section on ASTV Manager's website, most posters expressed support for Laksana and praised her for the move.

One said: "Put them in jail for 99 years."

Another asked the site to post a picture of Jonathan Head so the person could attack him if he or she ran into him.


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