Thai court sentences anti-Thaksin leader two years in jail
2007-03-29 14:45:25

Sonti&Police -

BANGKOK, March 29 (Xinhua) — Thai Criminal Court on
Thursday sentenced Sonthi Limthongkul, owner of news group The Manager
and a main leader of anti-Thaksin group, to two years in jail on libel

    The court also ruled that Sonthi, a
strong critic against the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra,
served the jail term immediately.

    Phumtham Vejjayachai, former deputy
secretary of Thai Rak Thai Party, sued Sonthi for making libelous
statement against him during Sonthi’s television talk show in Udon
Thani in 2005.

    The court found that Sonthi is
guilty of the charge, sentencing him to two years in the prison. Sonthi
is also ordered to pay compensation to Phumtham.

    Sonthi, an anti- former government
and present government activist, launched diction attacks at Thai
politics on his daily TV talk show since late 2005. He also organized
dozens of rallies against Thaksin since early 2006 until the military
coup last September.

THAILAND: Media mogul receives two-year jail sentence for defamation

New York, March 30, 2007—The
Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the two year prison
term on criminal defamation charges handed down to firebrand and
Manager Media Group founder Sondhi Limthongkul, who is appealing the
sentence and remains free on bail.

A Bangkok criminal court on Thursday sentenced Sondhi in relation to comments he made on November 25, 2005 on his popular Muang Thai Rai Supda
television talk show which accused former Deputy Transport Minister
Phumtham Wechayachai of disloyalty to the monarch. During that
particular broadcast he also linked Phumtham to the anti-royal Web site, which is hosted in Sweden and currently blocked in Thailand, according to CPJ research.

The court ruled that Sondhi could not substantiate his accusations
against Phumtham and ordered his company to pay a fine of 200,000 baht
(US$6,000) and to destroy all VCD and DVD copies of the show. Sondhi
was released on 200,000 baht bail and told local media that he planned
to appeal the verdict. The court also dropped the same charges against
eight other Manager Media Group-related defendants in the case.

“The prison term handed down to Sondhi Limthongkul shows the pressing
need for Thailand to abolish criminal defamation statutes and to revise
its criminal code to better protect press freedom,” said CPJ Executive
Editor Joel Simon.

The role of the king became an issue in last year’s standoff between an
anti-government protest group led by Sondhi and Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, who was ousted on September 19 in a bloodless military
coup. Thailand imposes possible jail terms of up to 20 years for
offenses towards the crown.

Sondhi’s talk shows, highly critical of the government, that are
broadcast over his ASTV satellite television station, were wildly
popular in the run-up to last September’s military coup. In response,
Thaksin and his political associates filed a string of over 50
defamation suits against Sondhi, including one civil suit in which the
former premier demanded over US$12.5 million in monetary damages.

Sondhi told CPJ before yesterday’s verdict that the ruling military
junta last month cancelled a television news program he produced for
state-run Channel 11 after he criticized the interim government’s
financial and economic policies on air.

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