Yingluck ends defamation case against Democrat trio

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut (left), Sirichoke Sopha (centre) and Thepthai Senapong of the Democrat Party address a news conference in February 2012 at which they were accused of making defamatory comments about a meeting then-PM Yingluck Shinawatra held with businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok. (Post File Photo)

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has withdrawn her case against three former Democrat Party MPs accused of defaming her in 2012 with implicitly sexual remarks.

Her decision comes days before the case reaches its final stage. The Supreme Court was scheduled to deliver its ruling on Oct 19 in the case involving Thepthai Senapong, Chavanont Intarakomalyasut, a former list MP, and Sirichok Sopha, former MP for Songkhla.

If the high court had upheld earlier convictions, the trio could have faced long bans from politics.

The three defendants lost earlier rounds in the Criminal Court and the Appeal Court. The lower court in August 2015 found the trio guilty of defamation and sentenced them to one year in jail, suspended for two years. The Appeal Court in September 2016 upheld the conviction and sentence.

A source close to Yingluck said that on Monday she had instructed her lawyer, Sommai Kusap, to withdraw her decision to pursue the case to the Supreme Court. The decision was based on grounds that their political careers could come to a permanent or temporary end if the Supreme Court finds them guilty, the source added. It will effectively mean the lawsuit against them ends.

The case dates back to February 2012, shortly after Yingluck held a private meeting with some businessmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok. Parliament happened to be sitting that day and her absence was noted by many people.

Mr Thepthai, Mr Chavanont and Mr Sirichok on Feb 10 and Feb 15 made some pointed comments about the meeting on the Sai Lor Fa television programme on the Democrat-affiliated Bluesky Channel.

They said their intention was to inform viewers that Yingluck broke the parliamentary code of conduct by going to the meeting instead of attending a House sitting.

However, the Appeal Court said all three men used words and phrases that could have tarnished the former premier’s reputation and their presentation of the story appeared to mislead viewers.

Mr Sirichok wrote an open letter released on Friday saying he and his two colleagues agreed to the sentence delivered by the two courts. The letter said they had repented and aplogised to the former prime minister for the offending remarks.

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