JULY 2005
Posted: August 18, 2005

Matichon, Prachachart Tooragit

A Thai company with ties to a former government official filed criminal defamation complaints seeking massive damages from two daily newspapers owned by the Matichon media company.

Picnic Corp. is seeking 10 billion baht (US$240 million) in damages in a July 18 complaint against the daily Matichon newspaper. Just days before, Picnic filed a complaint seeking 5 billion baht (US$120.5 million) against Matichon’s business daily, Prachachart Tooragit.

The 10 billion baht petition represents the largest such complaint ever filed against a Thai newspaper, analysts say. Picnic is also seeking a punitive court injunction against Matichon editors that would prevent them from working in journalism for a five-year period.

Picnic Corp, a cooking gas company owned and managed by the family of former Deputy Commerce Minister Suriya Lapwisuthisin, alleges that several Matichon reports concerning a recent financial scandal at the company were inaccurate and contributed to a decline in its share price. The publicly listed company faces a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into possible accounting fraud.

A Matichon editor in Bangkok told CPJ that the newspapers stand by the accuracy of their recent reporting about the company. Preliminary hearings are scheduled to begin in Bangkok on September 17, 2005.

The cases are in line with a troubling trend toward greater litigiousness against journalists in Thailand. In recent years, Thai corporations have filed a string of civil and criminal libel complaints against newspapers and commentators that have remarked critically on their business activities.