Thailand: “Crusading Media Mogul Jailed For Publishing Nonexistent Facts”

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Gratuitious argumentum ad Nazium (creative synergies with Buddhist visions of Hell): Sondhi-powered anti-Thaksin rally, March 2006

“Newspapers are like revolvers: You keep them around so you can pull them out when it’s time to open fire.” — Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombian media owner; see “A Newspaper is Like a Gun”: Armed Media Monopolist No. 47

Though Limthongkul was not affiliated with the coup, he had been personally affected by the government when his television show was cancelled due to his criticism of the prime minister. –The Daily Bruin (UCLA)

On February 4 of last year, Thaksin said he would resign if His Majesty whispered in his ear. That evening, Sondhi thundered from his rally stage, “Where is the army? This talk is enough to bring [Thaksin] to the execution post.” The Nation (Bangkok)

Thai media magnate jailed for libeling ex-premier Thaksin (Monsters and Critics).

See also

Bangkok – A feisty Thai media magnate was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for libeling exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, two days after a pro-Thaksin party won the most seats in a parliamentary election.

The “Finland conspiracy” has been officially declared a gabbling ratfink.

Sondhi Limthongkul, owner of the Manager newspaper and founder of the defunct Asia Times, had been sued for claiming, through his newspapers, that Thaksin had plotted to overthrow the Thai monarchy.

The Manager was a Time-Mirror distribution partner for the International Herald Tribune.

A series of articles in the Manager Daily claimed in May 2006 that Thaksin had conspired with former student leaders, during meetings in Finland, to establish a democratic republic.

Thaksin hotly denied he is either a democrat or a republican.

Thaksin fiercely denied the allegations and sued. Sondhi claimed Thaksin was attempting to silence the press.

Criminal libel, especially where it leads to jail terms, is not a pretty sight or a terribly good symptom of democratic health, as many foreign observers point out:

The newspaper’s publisher, Khunthong Lorseriwanich, was sentenced to two years in jail and fined 40,000 baht (1,186 dollars) by the same court.

Surprising?

Sondhi’s tough sentence came as a surprise in a country where political opponents frequently fling around libel suits and counter suits. Although lese majesté is taken very seriously in Thailand, Sondhi would normally be expected to wriggle free of a prison sentence.

Lese majesté?

Le crime de lèse-majesté est une notion juridique mal définie qui a évolué dans le temps, recouvrant différentes qualifications juridiques. Pour l’essentiel, il était relié aux atteintes au souverain, quel qu’il soit (le peuple, un monarque, un principe fondateur, etc.), et aux signes de sa majesté (objets, décisions, personnes y compris leurs représentants, etc.)

Sondhi screamed for the army to rise from the barracks and lead a purified nation back to freedom — and while they were at it, line Thaksin up against the wall and shoot his sorry ass.

They obliged him by censoring the press and Internet and having the rump legislature vote them emergency powers to do things like suspend habeas corpus at their discretion. He is beginning to look more and more like a Thai Carlos Lacerda every day.

The court decision came two days after the military leaders that Sondhi praised for overthrowing Thaksin in a September 19, 2006 coup were rebuffed in a national election that saw Thaksin’s proxy, the People Power Party, gain the most parliamentary seats. The party is expected to form a coalition government early next year.

Reuters roundup today:

Despite the assurance by the military junta that there will not be another coup, one could still happen, Chulalongkorn University military affairs expert Surachart Bamrungrak said (THE NATION)

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