Defamation Laws In Thailand
Chapter 3 Sections 326 up to 333 of the Thai Criminal Code classifies defamation as a crime. However, there are two kinds of defamation in Thailand:
1) Simple defamation (Section 326) — “Whoever imputes anything, to the other person before a third person, in a manner likely to impair the reputation of such other person or to expose such other person to be hated or scorned.”
2) Libel (Section 328) — “If the offense of defamation is committed by means of document publication, drawing, painting, cinematography, film, picture or letters made visible by any means, or any other recording instruments, recording picture or letters, or by broadcasting or spreading picture, or by propagation by any other means.”
Thailand Defamation: Punishments & Truth as a Defense
Penalty for defamation constitutes imprisonment ranging from one year (Section 326) to two years (Section 328). However, the Thai Penal Code stipulates that any person making a statement “in good faith by way of fair comment on any person or thing subjected to public criticism” shall not be guilty of defamation. Moreover, if defendants can prove that a statement is true, they won’t be subjected to punishment for said statement. That said, truth is not considered a valid defense if the statement is personal in nature because such proof will not benefit the public.
Civil defamation in Thailand is defined under the Thai Civil and Commercial Code as follows:
“[Section 423] A person who, contrary to the truth, asserts or circulates as a fact that which injurious to the reputation or the credit of another or his earnings or prosperity in any other manner, shall compensate the other for any damage arising therefrom, even if he does not know of its untruth, provided he ought to know it.”
“A person who makes a communication the untruth of which is unknown to him, does not thereby render himself liable to make compensation, if he or the receiver of the communication has a rightful interest in it.”
Defamation Statute of Limitations in Thailand
The claim for damages under Section 448 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code must be filed within one year from the day of the wrongful act and the person bound to make compensation became known to the injured person, or ten years from the day when the wrongful act was committed.
In Thailand, by virtue of the Press Registration Act A.D. 2007, newspaper editors and publishers are relieved from liability for the offense of defamation, which leaves the author to bear responsibility. Newspapers in Thailand are more prone to violation of defamation than in television and radio broadcasting since most of the print media are privately owned, while the broadcasting industry is mostly State owned.
Lese Majeste Defamation Laws in Thailand
Thailand is careful in disseminating news about the royal family as the country takes their “Lese majeste” law seriously. Thai newspapers, and radio and television stations have rarely been charged with the offense of lese majeste as these usually follow rules in covering news of the royal family, avoiding any reporting of sensitive matters. Lese Majeste is classified as an Offense Relating to the Security of the Kingdom under the Thai Penal Code. Such violation constitutes imprisonment of three to fifteen years.
Thailand’s Computer Crime Act
Online defamation in Thailand is closely monitored thanks to their Computer Crimes Act. In short, the Computer Crimes Act makes liable both the author of “unlawful data” in addition to the website operators. If you delete the material, it doesn’t matter. If someone sees the illicit statements — even if they were only up for 2 hours — its actionable. As such, it’s illegal to post any kind of defamatory material online in Thailand.
May 2013 Update: Things are heating up in Thailand when it comes to defamation law. Via Facebook, a well-known cartoonist published unflattering comments about officials. He is now facing criminal defamation charges. The incident has also sparked riots against the media. International watchdogs are not impressed with the current climate of Thai defamation law.