Former Thai PM sentenced to jail for defamation

Thailand’s Court of Appeals confirmed a two-year jail term for defamation on former prime minister Samak Sundaravej, who stepped down earlier this month after another court found him guilty of a conflict of interest.

A judge reading the verdict on Thursday said there was no reason to suspend jail terms handed down by the Criminal Court, which had found Samak and co-defendant Dusit Siriwan guilty of defaming a former deputy governor of Bangkok in 2006.

“After considering what the defendants have done, there is no reason to withhold their penalty,” the judge said.

Samak showed no emotion when the verdict was announced and slipped out of court through a side door, avoiding the hundreds of journalists waiting at the main gate.

He was freed on 200 000 baht ($6 000) bail while waiting for a decision on an appeal request, lawyer Prachum Thongmee told reporters.

“We are trying to get permission from either the court or the Attorney General to appeal to the Supreme Court within the legal window of 30 days,” Prachum said.

Samak is still a member of Parliament, so parliamentary privilege should allow him to stay out of jail until the end of the House of Representatives session in November.

The lawsuit was a crucial factor behind the decision of many MPs in the ruling People Power Party to ask Samak, their party leader, not to run for prime minister again after he was forced to step down.

Plaintiff Samart Rachapolrasit, who was the subject of slanderous remarks by Samak in two TV shows, said he would also seek 100-million baht ($3-million) compensation from Samak in the Civil Court.—Reuters

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