Move Forward Party’s Rakchanok Srinok triumphs over defamation suit. Bangkok court deems her comments honest criticism against media figures Anchalee Phairirak and Kanok Rattawongsakul. The ruling is seen as a win for media freedom.
A Move Forward MP has successfully fended off a defamation suit by two former news media hosts. After the ruling was handed down in Bangkok on Monday, Ms Rakchanok Srinok heralded it as a positive step towards a healthier media environment in Thailand. Meanwhile, the MP’s status is still in the balance after her appeal against an Article 112 conviction in December.
In what is seen as a significant ruling, on Monday, the North Bangkok Provincial Court dismissed a defamation case against a Move Forward Party MP.
The proceedings were filed by former Top News channel hosts, Anchalee Phairirak and Kanok Rattawongsakul.
In its ruling, the court said comments made by MP Rakchanok Srinok, known as ‘Ice Rakchanok,’ were, in short, honest criticism. In conclusion, the judgement decided that they did not constitute defamation.
Basis for the case was crude comments made by the Move Forward MP before her election to parliament at a political rally on March 6 2021 about the media
The case, based on Section 326 of the Criminal Code, revolved around an incident on March 6, 2021. The plaintiffs alleged Ms Rakchanok made false statements against them during a political rally.
The court, while acknowledging some vulgarity, deemed it as honest criticism, absolving Rakchanok of defamation charges. Furthermore, the court noted that the plaintiffs, as media presenters and journalists were also public figures
Rakchanok expressed her views after the verdict. She explained: ‘The court ruled to dismiss the case. It was an honest criticism.’
The plaintiffs had sought damages of ฿10 million each, but since no criminal offence was found, the court dismissed the civil damages claim.
MP extolls the importance of a robust media
The MP emphasised her role as a citizen. She called for an honest and open media environment. ‘The media is crucial for a democratic system.’
‘If not honest, it creates legitimacy for the state to use violence.’ She urged the media to present news honestly and called for media freedom in a democratic society.
Regarding future actions on media freedom, Rakchanok mentioned ongoing efforts, intending to use this case as a guideline. She clarified her stance on lawsuits
‘Since becoming an MP, I planned not to sue people or the media. We don’t want to use the state’s silencing methods.’ Moreover, she highlighted her own predicament.
Ice Rakchanok still has a prison term for an Article 112 conviction hanging over her since December 13 2023. Her freedom and status as an MP are in the balance
In December 2023, Ms Rakchanok was sentenced to six years imprisonment without parole by the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
Before this, the court convicted her on an Article 112 or lèse-majesté charge.
Afterwards, she successfully applied for and obtained bail. She walked free pending an appeal. Significantly, this also ensured that her status as an MP remained intact.
Under Thai law, once a warrant is issued committing an MP to prison, their status as a member of parliament is void.
Supported by Move Forward Party members
On December 13 last, Ms Rakchanok was accompanied to court by Move Forward Party members including party leader Chaithawat Tulathon.
Similarly, on Monday, the MP was also accompanied by party members. They were ready to support a bail application if the case went against her. However, after the verdict, a delighted Rakchanok took to Facebook.
She announced the court’s decision and expressed gratitude to supporters. The post also acknowledged those who stood by her for bail.
The ruling brings relief to the MP, who sees it as a step towards media freedom and justice.