23 September 1997


Legal action threatened against newspaper

Incident details

legal action

(ISAI/IFEX) - On 22 September 1997, the Special Branch of the
military threatened to take legal action against the "Thai Post"
daily, claiming a headline referring to the crash of one of the
helicopters transporting the Queen of Thailand's entourage was

The headline in the 21 September edition of the "Thai Post" read:
"Lightning and overload take lives of four thanpuyings", citing
the probable causes for the accident which killed fourteen
ranking courtiers, including four senior ladies-in-waiting, and
injured seven. So far, there has been no official announcement of
the cause of the crash.

Special Branch Commissioner Pol. Lt. Gen. Piya Jiemchaisri said
that the Special Branch would recommend that police seek a court
ruling on the newspaper on the charge of making unsubstantiated
reports. Pol. Maj. Gen. Siripong Saptanon, commander of the Legal
Division, said that although the police can no longer order the
closure of newspapers, it is empowered to petition the court to
punish the press for professional misconduct. The penalty could
range from an injunction to stop publication of defamatory
stories to a permanent closure, he said.

Jiemchaisri said that the Special Branch and the Legal Division
would soon jointly submit their findings on the "Thai Post"
report concerning the helicopter crash.

Although the degree of misconduct by the newspaper is still
unclear, it had committed a legal wrongdoing which warranted
legal action harsher than a warning, Jiemchaisri said. He
declined to speculate further about the punishment that police
would seek from the court, saying the matter would be elaborated
later by the police director general. However, according to
police sources, the newspaper could either face a relatively
light charge of publishing defamatory reports or a much harsher
allegation of treason for publishing damaging reports to the

If convicted on either of the two possible charges, the courts
can order a review of the newspaper's publishing licence in
addition to handing down normal sentencing on the charges.

The "Thai Post" is known to be sharply critical of the
government, often publishing headlines with acidic and harsh
words against Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiuydh.


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