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Combatting SLAPP Threats: Chulalongkorn University Seminar Highlights Legal Battles Against Thailand’s Public Servants

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In an enthralling gathering at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Law, a room brimmed with the sharp minds of legal experts and activists, an air of concern was palpable. The focal point? A controversial lawsuit lodged against Prof Emeritus Pirongrong Ramasoota, a distinguished commissioner at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), by the telecommunications giant, True Digital Group. This case stirred a hotbed of discussions, unraveling fears that it might be a harbinger of a menacing trend: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, as they’re ominously termed.

This subject, dissected meticulously during the seminar, unveils lawsuits as a tool wielded to quash dissent and silence the voices of critique. Asst Prof Kanpirom Komalarajun, a beacon of knowledge at Chulalongkorn University, pointed out the alarming frequency with which government officials become ensnared in these legal battles, often orchestrated in distant lands, wreaking havoc on their duties and livelihoods. “The law, imagined as a sanctuary for the oppressed, is being twisted into a weapon of intimidation by corporations,” she lamented, referencing the notorious Section 157 of the Criminal Code targeting dereliction of duty.

Itthaboon Onwongsa, a vigilant defender from the Office of Thai Consumer Council, highlighted the sinister use of SLAPP cases to muzzle those daring to whistle on corruption or champion the public cause. The mere act of being dragged into the corridors of the Criminal Court can tarnish reputations, making pariahs out of the accused, irrespective of the trial’s outcome.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, a warrior in her own right against SLAPP cases and co-founder of the Foundation of Internet and Civic Culture, unraveled the complexities of alleging “corruption and misconduct” against state officers. Without concrete evidence, these accusations become a perilous battlefield for the accused to navigate. “The floodgates, once opened to criminalize dissatisfaction, could drown the very essence of governmental functionality,” she cautioned.

This discourse finds its echo in the predicament faced by Prof Pirongrong, targeted by True Digital Group, which lays a besiege on her professional integrity, demanding her suspension. The underlying fear- that her capacity to adjudicate unbiasedly on company-related matters might be compromised. The veil of secrecy surrounding the details only adds to the intrigue.

Prof Twekiat Menakanist, with the wisdom of a former Constitutional Court justice, shed light on the fragile equilibrium of the seven-member NBTC, recalling a past incident where a tie-breaker vote stirred controversy. This shadow of past events lends gravity to the current situation.

Delving deeper, Asst Prof Vorapol Malsukhum of Thammasat University proposed a balanced approach, advocating for a thorough assessment based on four pillars before any decision on suspending a sued official is made. His assertion underscores the importance of protecting the integrity of state functions without succumbing to impulsive prejudgments.

The gathering wasn’t just a venue for articulating concerns but also a crucible for forging solutions. Asst Prof Kanpirom envisaged a legal landscape where private entities are restrained from directly launching criminal lawsuits against government officials, promoting a partnership with state attorneys for such endeavors. Echoing this sentiment, Ms. Sarinee championed for a reformation of the legal process, encouraging preliminary administrative appeals and demanding transparency in legal disputes involving the public interest.

Titled “Government Officials and Being Sued in Criminal Cases,” this seminar wasn’t merely an academic rendezvous, but a clarion call to safeguard the sanctity of public service against the chilling effects of SLAPPs. It stands as a testament to the undying spirit of dialogue, debate, and the quest for justice in the face of daunting adversities.


  1. FreethinkerJane May 4, 2024

    Interesting read! It’s disturbing how SLAPP lawsuits are essentially gag orders against critics. Companies shouldn’t be able to silence opposition this easily.

    • LegalEagle44 May 4, 2024

      While I understand the concern, it’s important to consider that companies have a right to protect their interests too. It’s not all black and white.

      • GreenActivist May 4, 2024

        Protection of interest shouldn’t come at the cost of suppressing free speech though. There needs to be a balance.

    • SkepticalSam May 4, 2024

      But aren’t most of these SLAPP cases thrown out for being meritless? Seems like a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

      • FreethinkerJane May 4, 2024

        The issue is, even if they’re thrown out eventually, the process itself can be punishing. Legal fees, stress, public smearing, etc. It’s the process that silences people.

  2. TechGuy May 4, 2024

    The telecom sector seems particularly prone to this. The case against Prof Pirongrong might set a concerning precedent for how corporate power can influence public institutions.

  3. CivicDuty May 4, 2024

    Most people miss the point about what’s really at stake here. It’s not just about one case, it’s about the integrity of our public institutions and the brittle nature of our freedoms against corporate overlords.

    • MarketMaven May 4, 2024

      Corporate overlords? That’s a bit dramatic. Companies operate within the legal frameworks that exist. If you don’t like it, change the laws.

      • PolicyWonk May 4, 2024

        Changing laws is easier said than done, especially when corporations have significant influence over policymakers. It’s a vicious cycle.

  4. Joe May 4, 2024

    This sounds a lot like bullying but with legal paperwork. Scary stuff.

  5. TruthSeeker May 4, 2024

    Does anyone else think this might just be a way to distract people from the real issues within the NBTC and government inefficiencies? Maybe it’s not just about SLAPPs.

    • ConspiracyKen May 4, 2024

      Absolutely. It’s always about misdirection. People focus on this lawsuit while the real corruption gets swept under the rug.

      • RationalMind May 4, 2024

        Corruption aside, we can’t afford to ignore the use of lawsuits as suppression tools. It’s a significant issue on its own.

  6. LegalLass May 4, 2024

    The seminar’s solution proposals are intriguing. Legal safeguards against directly launching criminal lawsuits by private entities could be a game changer if implemented correctly.

    • RealistRaj May 4, 2024

      True, but the devil’s always in the details. Implementation and enforcement of such laws would be the real challenge.

  7. AnnieLaw May 4, 2024

    I wonder how many of these SLAPP cases are an abuse of the legal system versus a legitimate grievance. There should be a way to differentiate.

    • JustWondering May 4, 2024

      That’s the million-dollar question. The problem is, just the act of fighting the case, legitimate or not, can ruin lives.

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