Abhisit sues Sukampol for defamation
Defence Minister Sukampol Suwannathat's allegation that Opposition Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva evaded his mandatory military conscription has given rise to new legal procedures.Abhisit yesterday instructed his legal team to launch court action against the minister for defamation.
"I believe Sukampol has been under political pressure to frame me, hence I have no choice but to take legal action," the Democrat leader said after Sukampol held a press conference to attack him publicly in connection with his military conscription in 1987.
Abhisit went on to say that he had repeatedly pointed out that he did not report for his military duty because at the time he was applying for and subsequently got a teaching job at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.
He said he had also provided all the relevant documents needed to prove the waiver of his military duty, adding that the Defence Ministry did not have any fresh evidence to change the 1999 outcome of a military investigation into his records.
Sukampol had cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents on Abhisit's Army reserve status, which were used as credentials for him teaching at the academy in lieu of conscription. He said the ministry would take necessary steps to nullify the appointment, subsequently stripping Abhisit of his sub-lieutenant's rank and demanding that he pay back all the money he earned from the job.
Democrat MP Sirichok Sopha said he was disappointed that Sukampol needed to skew the facts to smear Abhisit.
"Sukampol took so many documents to display at the press conference, but he had nothing new to say on the case," he said.
Sirichok advised Sukampol to do two things - prepare his defence on libel and hand his defence portfolio to red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan, whose remarks he has been parroting.
He added that the defence minister had no justification to question the authenticity of Abhisit's reserve status, adding that the case had been closed after no signs of wrongdoing were discovered in regard to the conscription or the teaching job at the academy.
The document, questioned by Sukampol, is known as the Sor Dor 9, which was issued to verify Abhisit's reserve status, he said, adding that this document was issued instead of the original copy, which the Army had misplaced. In addition, the conscription officer in charge at the time had gone to great lengths to notarise the document as a replacement for the misplaced or destroyed copy.
He said he could not understand how Sukampol could allege that a document notarised by the Army could be unlawful.
At yesterday's press conference, Sukampol alleged that Abhisit had used two falsified documents to secure a teaching post at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.
However, this incident took place 25 years ago and even Sukampol, who is insisting that the case be officially investigated, has admitted that he does not know if the legal statutory limit has expired in this case. Even for homicide the statutory limit is 20 years in Thailand.
Sukampol also insisted that there were no political motives behind him holding the press conference and that it had not been held to coincide with the ongoing defamation battle between Abhisit and Jatuporn.
Sukampol also said it was unclear whether Abhisit had falsified these documents himself or if someone else had done it for him. The documents in question include one allowing Abhisit to defer his compulsory military conscription and another showing that he was registered with the reserved forces.
The defence minister said it was now up to the ombudsman to look into the matter and take whatever action he deems appropriate. Sukampol later publicly took photographs of all the documents put on display.
Although the minister insists that it is not political, he began attacking Abhisit for taking more than 200 days of leave while he was a lecturer at the military academy in 1988, when he was only entitled to no more than 70 days off a year. "Did he really love the military? He only worked for a few days."
A highly placed source at the Defence Ministry told The Nation that it was not uncommon for the son of an influential person to have such documents forged for him.
"Actually it's rather normal for Thai men who have influential fathers," the senior Army officer said, adding that he felt sorry for Abhisit because nobody would have heard about or even bothered about these documents if he had not entered politics.