Thai caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has filed criminal and civil defamation suits against the opposition Democrat Party and three newspaper editors, and is seeking 800-million-baht (around US$20 million) in damages. The Thai leader said he was libeled by Democrat Party spokesman Thepthai Senpong when the latter suggested that Thaksin is clinging to power.
Thaksin has been running government in caretaker capacity ever since the controversial polls in April failed to award his ruling Thai Rak Thai Party legitimate parliamentary mandate to convene a new government, despite the 60 per cent majority of the votes it has won. The entire process was stymied by an opposition boycott of the elections and accusations of irregularities. The political deadlock that ensued prompted the Thai king to intervene, and call for a judicial review of the whole election process. Thaksin was then forced to forego the premiership.
Nonetheless, Thaksin has remained caretaker prime minister since the elections, and there is still no clear timetable as to when a new round of elections will actually set in place a more permanent government. Meanwhile, he is said to be testing the waters for another run to head government.
The criminal complaint filed in court listed Thenpai and the Democrat Party itself as key defendants. The writ said that in the Thai-language dailies of “Matichon”, “Khao Sod” and “Daily News”, Thepthai had compared Thaksin to a wandering spirit desperately to get back into a body.
The civil case names editors of the three newspapers as co-defendants.
The English-language daily, “The Nation”, reported on 15 June that the Criminal Court had scheduled a hearing on the complaint for 30 October. The civil litigation will depend on whether or not the court finds just cause to pursue the criminal case.
Thaksin is notorious for trying to wield defamation suits and outrageous demands for civil damages to intimidate his critics and to stifle dissent. In the past two years, he and his interests–represented largely by his family’s holdings in the Shin Corp. conglomerate–had filed no less than six defamation complaints seeking billions of baht in damages. All those past cases have since either been pulled or defeated in court.