DEFAMATION LAWSUITS: Luangta Bua escapes PM's legal wrath
October 11 , 2005 - In a bizarre legal move, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will sue Man-ager newspaper today for Bt500 million for publishing strongly-worded comments by Luangta Maha Bua, but he will exclude the popular monk from the lawsuit to avoid a public backlash.
Thana Benjathikul, Thaksin's lawyer, said yesterday that Luangta Maha Bua would be excluded from the suit to avoid criticism from the monk's followers throughout the country.
"I don't think we should sue Luangta Bua. If he were not a monk, we would have taken legal action against him," he said.
But he did note that monks are not immune to legal action.
Sombat Wongkamhaeng, secretary-general of the Law Society of Thailand, said yesterday that an aggrieved party has the right to sue anyone deemed to have caused damage, and exclude anyone from the suit.
"This can't be regarded as unfair treatment," he said.
Thana said the lawsuit, the second in a week involving media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul, was aimed at protecting the PM's reputation, not to gag the outspoken journalist and his Manager media group.
He said Thaksin assigned him to file libel, criminal and civil suits today against the Manager newspaper, its publisher, and the manager of the media group's business restructuring plan.
The civil lawsuit would demand Bt500 million in compensation.
The suits were in response to an article in the newspaper's September 27 edition, which cited strongly-worded comments by Luangta Maha Bua against the prime minister.
The lawyer denied Thaksin's legal action was an attempt at persecuting the outspoken newspaper.
"This is an exercise of an individual's right to protect his reputation and privacy. The newspaper did not criticise the prime minister fairly as a public official, but rather it took him to task personally, using harsh words, which was damaging to him," Thana said.
On October 3, Thaksin filed two libel suits against Sondhi, who was once a staunch supporter of the premier, demanding Bt500 million in damages.
In his criminal lawsuit, Thaksin named Sondhi and Sarocha Porn-udomsak, co-host of the weekly political talk show "Muang Thai Rai Sapda" (Thailand Weekly), as co-defendants.
Thaksin also filed a civil case against Sondhi, Sarocha and Thai Day Dot Com Co, which produces "Thailand Weekly", for an infringement relating to the alleged libel. The plaintiff demanded Bt500 million in compensation, plus annual interest of 7.5 per cent.