THAILAND: Sondhi faces deluge of lese majeste claims

Sondhi and Thai-language daily are accused of libel against the King

Bangkok Post
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul is facing a deluge of police complaints accusing him of lese majeste in a speech he made demanding caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra take responsibility for the collapse of the corporatisation of the national electricity agency. The Thai-language daily Kom Chad Luek, which admits inaccurately reporting his speech, is also the target of complaints. A man named Chucheep Cheewasut and associates filed a complaint with the national police office yesterday. The complaint said Mr Sondhi's address to the anti-Thaksin protest last week implied the King was responsible for the Supreme Administrative Court quashing the two royal decrees on the public listing of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).

National police chief Pol Gen Kowit Wattana responded swiftly by setting up an inquiry headed by his assistant Pol Lt-Gen Chalor Chuwong.

In the South, Muang Satun district chief Chavalit Uthairat filed a similar complaint, saying his action had the support of all district chiefs in the province.

In Kanchanaburi province, Lt-Gen Ruamsak Chaikomin, who had led an anti-Chamlong Srimuang demonstration, filed complaints against Mr Sondhi for alleged lese majeste, treason and illegal assembly.

In Chiang Rai province, Worakarn Thepaval, a member of the Chiang Rai provincial administration organisation, led a protest against Mr Sondhi and then filed another lese majeste complaint.

In Yasothon province, three presidents of tambon administration organisations filed similar complaints.

Mr Sondhi defended his speech, saying he was just using a figure of speech on March 23 in asking whether Mr Thaksin expected the King to "resign" to take responsibility for the failed royal decrees if he himself, as the caretaker prime minister, refused to to show responsibility by resigning.

He said Kom Chad Luek dropped part of the sentence in question, making it appear that he demanded the King abdicate to take responsibility.

The newspaper yesterday ran a frontpage apology to the King.

Mr Sondhi complained the police were being discriminatory because they did nothing when Mr Thaksin made a reference to the King.

"Mr Thaksin would like the King to "whisper in his ear" before he will agree to resign.... No one showed any concern and the police took no action [although] I tried to point out that Thaksin had committed lese majeste," Mr Sondhi said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasat said government officials were gathering records of the People's Alliance for Democracy protests, implying that legal action was planned against speakers.

"We have collected evidence every night on what they have said and what damage they have caused," he said.

The Department of Special Investigation has issued arrest warrants for two Pattani men who are living in Sweden, alleging their website contains lese majeste messages.

Pol Col Yanpol Yangyuen, director of DSI's information and technology crime division, said Abdulrosa Jeh-ngor, 39, and Chipley Putra Jeh-ngor, 22, set up the website from their house in Lund City, Sweden, after their site was shut down. He said Thailand and Sweden have no extradition treaty.