Influential people, criminal defamation, and a foreign reporter: Thai NIA director’s Ph.D revoked
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Influential people, criminal defamation, and a foreign reporter: Thai NIA director’s Ph.D revoked

In September 2011, BP blogged on Erika Fry, a former investigative reporter for the Bangkok Post, and the story of her departure from Thailand.  She had then just written an article for the Columbia Journalism Review entitled “Escape From Thailand“. Erika’s CJR article was about her time at the Bangkok Post and in particular an article she had written about the director of the National Innovation Agency’s Ph.D dissertation. The article detailed plagiarism in the dissertation (would love to link to the Bangkok Post article, but the Bangkok Post removed it from the site).

From Erika’s article for CJR:

I was charged with criminal defamation, a consequence of reporting in the Bangkok Post that a Thai official had been accused of plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation on organic asparagus.

The author of the dissertation was a man named Supachai [Lorlowhakarn]. He was director of the National Innovation Agency. He had completed the dissertation for a Ph.D. program at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand’s esteemed royal university, under the tutelage of an adviser named Wichai who had received NIA funding for a much-disputed herbal product that he claims enhances breast growth.

[then the conclusion] Yet what is most infuriating is that nothing has changed, other than I now sit across the ocean from Thailand, unable to return. Supachai is still a “doctor” and still has his job. Pattnapong and the Post still pretend to stand by their reporters. Thailand’s draconian defamation laws, and a justice system that is routinely manipulated by people of power and influence, remains intact, making the pursuit of honest journalism there extremely difficult if not impossible. I feel only lucky, in that I had the luxury Thai journalists do not — I had somewhere to run.

BP: In the end, Erika clearly felt she couldn’t trust the Thai judicial system and her then employer.

But now we have an update to the story. Today, Matichon reports that Supachai is no longer a doctor. Chulalongkorn University has revoked his dissertation. The article quotes the Rector as stating that they received a report of plagiarism. The Rector states that they considered the investigative report and found that the thesis was not in line with university regulations and there had been a violation of academic ethics. Supachai is interviewed and doesn’t believe it has happened (ไม่เชื่อว่าจะมีการแถลงถอดถอนปริญญาเอกในทันทีทันใด) as he was not informed in advance.

Well-known journalist and, in more recent years, blogger Andrew Drummond has had his own problem with the Bangkok Post after a criminal defamation suit was filed against him (he comments on those in the comments section in Erika’s article at CJR). Andrew also blogged about Supachai’s case back in April stating that the case had received further attention:

A  newspaper story about how the director of Thailand’s ‘National Innovation Agency’ allegedly plagiarised his PhD thesis and an academic paper about organic asparagus production from other academics, has been given new life in the British’Times Higher Educational‘ this week.

In a story of intrigue, machiavellian legal cases, and journalistic ethics, Britain’s most prestigious higher education magazine, formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement is asking why nothing has been done.

The magazine says that concerns continue to be raised into why Chulalongkorn University has failed to take any action against Supachai Lorlowhakarn,  Director of the NIA, who has been accused of plagiarising both his PhD thesis and an NIA sponsored academic paper about organic asparagus production.

BP: Andrew had quite a bit more to say. After seemingly very slow progress in investigating the case and only a few months after the Times Higher Educational article, the Ph.D has been revoked.* Chulalongkorn can now say they have taken action (even if it took years) and things will revert to normal…

h/t to @Thai_Talk for the Matichon article

*A mere coincidence?