Sun, May 05, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Thai leader files lawsuit over online ‘hooker’ comment

AFP, BANGKOK

A lawyer for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has filed a defamation suit against an influential cartoonist, alleging he compared the premier to a prostitute in a Facebook post, Thai police said on Friday.

Chai Rachawat, a cartoonist for a prominent daily newspaper, posted pictures of Yingluck on Tuesday accompanied by the words: “… a prostitute is not an evil person, the hooker only sells [their] body. But an evil woman sells the nation.”

His post apparently took aim at the premier’s appearance at a democracy forum a day earlier in Mongolia where she gave an unusually fiery speech condemning the 2006 overthrow of her brother Thaksin in an army coup.

“A lawyer authorized by the prime minister filed lawsuits against him [Chai] for defamation,” Bangkok Police Colonel Pattarapol Sanitwong Na Ayudhya told reporters.

The lawyer also filed two further claims — one for libel and one under the contentious computer crime act, he added.

Combined, the charges can carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, a second police official said on condition of anonymity.

In her address to the conference in Ulan Bator on Monday, Yingluck decried “anti-democratic forces” in Thailand for toppling her brother — who now lives in self-imposed exile but maintains a deep influence over Thai politics.

“Thailand lost track and the people spent almost a decade to regain their democratic freedom ... Thailand lost international credibility,” she said, adding that her government, elected in a landslide in 2011, was also being undermined by those same unnamed forces.

Her speech caused uproar in the bitterly politically divided kingdom, with rival academics and senators demanding the premier swiftly apologize for her comments.

A lawmaker from Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party condemned the cartoonist’s post as “a violation of women’s rights and insult to women” that defamed the premier.

“Chai Rachawat’s defamatory comment calling the country’s leader a whore is totally unacceptable,” MP Jarupan Kuldiloke said in a statement on behalf of the party’s female lawmakers.

Bangkok police said they will investigate the allegations made against Chai Rachawat — whose real name is Somchai Katunyutanan — before deciding whether to press charges.

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