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Cartoon furore

PM files lawsuit against Chai

Female MPs from Pheu Thai Party hold a press conference yesterday condemning Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat for his Facebook post about Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Female MPs from Pheu Thai Party hold a press conference yesterday condemning Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat for his Facebook post about Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Cartoonist charged on three counts; Pheu Thai women MPs say he attacked womankind as a whole

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday had her lawyers file a defamation lawsuit against Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat for comparing her to a prostitute.

Her lawyers also filed a police complaint against the cartoonist at the Dusit Police Station yesterday.

They charged Chai with three counts - insulting an official during an official event, defaming another person via publicity and violating the Computer-related Crimes Act, which prohibits posting defamatory comments against others on the Internet.

This is the first time for a Thai premier to sue someone for posting on the social media.

Chai, whose real name is Somchai Katanyutanan, posted photographs of Yingluck delivering a speech in Mongolia with the caption: "Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their body, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country."

In her speech at the 7th Ministerial Conference on the International Democracies, Yingluck denounced the 2006 coup and attacked Thailand's independent organisations.

PM's Secretary-General Suranan Vejjajiva said yesterday that the prime minister was willing to listen to criticism, but critics should be careful not to use inappropriate words.

He added that the cartoonist did not just insult Yingluck, he also insulted women in general.

"Criticism should focus on the prime minister's speech instead of attacking her sex or comparing her to prostitutes. This critic looked down upon women who are forced to work in that profession ... It is extremely inappropriate to say the prime minister is worse than those women," Suranan said.

Also yesterday, a group of female Pheu Thai MPs, led by Sunee Luangwichit and Yaowanit Piengket, held a press conference to condemn Chai Ratchawat, saying he was professionally unscrupulous and unethical.

They said Chai's comment was irresponsible and demanded that he apologise. They also threatened to call on the Thai Journalists Association and other related agencies to take action.

"Pheu Thai's women MPs regard Chai's message as a violation of women's rights. His comment accuses women of being whores who sell their bodies. Though the message does not refer to a specific person, it reflects the opinion of the author, which is insulting to the female sex. Since women and men have equal rights, this sort of comment is very inappropriate and a serious violation of professional ethics," they said in a statement.

"Calling the prime minister a bad woman who is selling her country is a distortion of the truth and causes serious damage to her as the country's leader. It is downright disrespectful," the group said.

MP Jarupan Kuldiloke said the group was not attacking the mainstream media because there was no misconduct on their part.

Yesterday, Chai posted a Facebook message saying he had received gifts and moral support from his friends and supporters, some of whom had also offered to put him up for safety. He thanked his supporters, adding that he would never change his stance.

Meanwhile, at a seminar marking the World Press Freedom Day yesterday, Chaiwat Satha-Anand, director of Thammasat University's Peace Information Centre, said it was important that people refer to others respectfully.

"[The media] should be sharp, so sharp and witty that criticism is welcomed by the target," he said, though he did not specify if he was speaking about Chai. He went on to advise groups and media from different camps to also learn to empathise with the other side.

"Now that the red shirts are protesting against Chai, I'd like to see [red-shirt TV channel] Asia Update say something in his defence too," he said.




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