Yingluck sets conditions for Democrat trio to end defamation case

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. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has demanded three Democrat Party members keep their apology statement on Facebook until the day the Supreme Court reads out the final ruling.

The former prime minister sued Thepthai Senapong, Chavanont Intarakomalyasut and Sirichok Sopha in 2014 for defaming her with remarks aired on the Sai Lor Fa television programme on the Democrat-affiliated Bluesky channel on Feb 10 and 15, 2012 about her visit to the Four Seasons Hotel for a private meeting earlier that month.

The Criminal Court sentenced the three former MPs to one year in jail, suspended for two years, and a fine of 50,000 baht. The Appeal Court upheld the ruling in 2016. The Supreme Court ordered them to meet on Oct 19 for the final reading.

On Friday, Mr Sirichok posted an open letter on behalf of the three apologising Yingluck for their behaviour on his Leky Sopha Facebook account. 

Their uncharacteristic move initially surprised everyone since they had always been vocal critics of the Shinawatra family. Later, speculation was rife they did so because at stake was their political career. If the Supreme Court hands down a jail term, they will not be able to run as MPs under the Section 98 of the 2017 constitution, which bans those imprisoned by a final court ruling from running 10 years after they have served time.

The latest image of former fugitive prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra at an unknown location is released to her social media outlets. (Photo from @Y.Shinawatra Facebook account)

However, Mr Sirichok took down the post a few hours later, drawing criticism and scepticism about their sincerity.

The former Songkhla MP put back the statement on his Facebook on Saturday.

“To appease everybody, I have decided to re-post the letter. The reason that I removed it because this is my personal account created only to keep in touch with friends, with no intention for political and other issues,” he wrote.

Former Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader Korkaew Pikulthong said on Sunday Mr Sirichok’s flip-flop stance demonstrated the insincerity of the three defendants.

On Monday, Yingluck’s lawyers, Norrawit Larlaeng and Sommai Kusap met the three Democrat politicians to work out the deal.

Mr Norrawit said Yingluck had accepted their apology and had no intention to see their families suffer from the consequences. But they have to keep the apology letter posted until Oct 19 to show the former prime minister their sincerity.

The decision to withdraw the case from Supreme Court will be discussed and a request filed before Oct 19, he added.

Mr Norrawit said after the request was filed, the Supreme Court would likely delay the reading of the final ruling and decided whether to read it on a later date or comply with the request. 

Earlier, Mr Sirichok, Mr Chavanond and Mr Thepthai had contacted Pheu Thai member Watana Muangsook to send their message to Yingluck that they were ready to apologise in public in exchange for the case’s withdrawal, according to Mr Norrawit.

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