BP has already blogged on Yingluck’s speech in Mongolia and the insult directed at her (as made clear in this post it was directed at her) by the Thai Rath cartoonist who stated that Yingluck is an evil woman who sells the country, but also implied she is worse than a whore.
The issue was not over as Yingluck told her lawyers to file a complaint. The Nation:
The lawyers filed the complaint against the cartoonist at Dusit police station on Friday afternoon.
They charged Chai with three counts – insulting an official during an operation, defaming another person via publicity and violating the Computerrelated Crime Act, which prohibits posting defamatory comments against others on Internet
BP: BP has long viewed that such criminal defamation suits are a bad, and sometimes stupid, idea – see here and here. BP is also strongly opposed to defamation being criminal regardless of who is being sued – see here and here.
On all levels, this lawsuit is politically a very bad idea:
1. Most people are unknown to wider society and when the are defamed publicly the opinions that people have of that person, particularly those who didn’t know them before, will be formed. One of the purposes of defamation law is to set the record straight i.e. to correct the wrong. For public figures, the situation is not the same. Many people have already formed an opinion of someone who is so prominent. Yes, some attacks can hurt people’s reputation, but many of the attacks against Yingluck haven’t and have backfired? If anything, the insults directed at Yingluck over the past few years have not hurt her popularity. Interestingly, Chalerm, of all people, recognized this as per this tweet from Veena of The Nation:
Chalerm, on YL being attacked, The more she is attacked, the more popular she would be.
BP: Would agree to the extent that the attacks are insults particularly directly or indirectly stating that Yingluck is a slut/less than wholesome women – see here, here, and (to a much lesser extent) here. The best example of this was last year when the Democrats suffered a drop – it was a short drop – in public support and this coincided with attacks on Yingluck by some Democrats implying that Yingluck was having an extra-marital affair. Yingluck didn’t respond at all at the time which BP viewed infuriated some critics and led them to increase the suggestions of an affair until they eventually gave up because of the political fall-out of the comments. As noted in the post at the time:
Sometimes, silence makes more political sense. One could easily say that Obama could have silenced critics of him not being born in the US earlier by releasing the long-form birth certificate earlier, but by delaying he allowed the crazies to come out and this became a welcome distraction as it made the other side look bad.
BP: Of course, the birth certificate analogy doesn’t work completely as Obama can laugh about that, but in a country like Thailand (despite the large prostitution industry) which is still very conservative when it comes to sex, it wouldn’t be possible for Yingluck to laugh at it so silence/ignoring it would be the best policy. Of course, ignoring it completely may be difficult as reporters would likely ask questions, but there are ways to respond without filing a lawsuit.
2. The lawsuit – aside from what Anudith has said (that is for a later post) – also diverted attention away from the cartoonist. As BP stated in 2007, the cartoonist, Chai Ratchawatr, is (or perhaps, “had been”) the most influential cartoonist but as Thai politics has become more polarized BP is no longer sure it is the case. Interestingly, back in 2009, his neutrality was being raised in an article in The Nation when the Democrats filed a complaint against Thai Rath‘s other cartoonist:
In a press conference on Sunday, Satit said Sia’s cartoons were clearly biased against the PM and the Democrat Party.
“Sia did not exercise media ethics and professionalism in his work. He did not offer a professional, honest criticism or offer his opinions in a creative manner so it would lead to a straightforward consumption of news. He did not use his intellect either at a time when the country is facing problems,” he said. “I ask for Sia to be fair, unbiased, professional, ethical and work within media standards.”
He said he would put forward a compilation of pieces done by Sia when he filed complaint with the National Press Council of Thailand.
However, his remarks did not stop Sia from expressing his opinion. Yesterday’s cartoon showed Abhisit sitting in his chair with the messages “it is time a standard label was attached to the chair” and “muzzling the media means muzzling the people” in the background. And as usual, there is a cobra wound around Abhisit’s neck.
Actually, some Thai Rath fans say the newspaper’s cartoons are neutral and balanced by the work of another cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan or “Chai Ratchawat”.
Chai was criticised by some as supporting the Democrat Party, something he denied. He challenged his fans to find a cartoon done by him that cheered the Democrats, adding that he could easily find one that openly criticised them.
BP: Despite the denials, it was becoming clear at that point that Sia was on one side of the political ledger and Chai on the opposite. Nevertheless, with Chai’s Facebook post it has become some obvious to the point that his cartoons will be seen by some through through the lens of the insult. Sure those on his side of the political divide will cheer on future cartoons that are critical of the government, but independent/swing voters remember the insult when looking at his cartoons (although do think the lawsuit negates this effect somewhat). The insult hurt Chai’s influence with the broader Thai public much more than it hurt Yingluck.
3. Aside from the defamation lawsuits, other complaints have been filed against Chai by the PM’s lawyers including breaching the Computer Crimes Act. This is serious overkill. We can start to draw comparisons with Thaksin and his numerous lawsuits and other actions against the media. The spectre of Thaksin will always be there but Yingluck’s mainly non-confrontational approach and lack of similar lawsuits meant it was clear that Yingluck was taking a different approach with the press. The lawsuit changes that and will hurt Yingluck more than it will ever hurt Chai.
Yingluck should drop the lawsuit..