Princess Seeks More Damages in Libel Suit

The Bangkok Post newspaper is publishing a court-ordered statement announcing the outcome of a lawsuit successfully filed against the paper by Prin­cess Norodom Bopha Devi, who the Post implicated in drug smuggling.

The 237-word announcement appeared at the bottom of Page 2 of Sunday’s newspaper. Under the judgment, it is to run in the newspaper and on the Post’s Web site for 15 days.

The court battle, however, is not over. While the court ruled in favor of Princess Bopha Devi in July, it awarded her only about $93,000, plus interest and legal fees, in damages. The princess had asked for $6 million.

On Sept 2, the princess’ law­yers filed an appeal “against the Court’s decision concerning its determination of damages,” ac­cord­ing to a translation of the filing at the Southern Bangkok Civil Court. The appeal asks for the full $6 million.

The appeal comes despite the fact that at the time of the lower court’s decision—handed down on July 2—family members of the princess reported that she was relieved the case was over and exhausted by the long process.

At issue is an editorial published by the Post in July 2000, titled “The New Threat From Cambo­dia,” which cited an un­named anti-drug expert alleging that the princess was suspected of involvement in a heroin-smuggling ring.

The lower court’s ruling stated that the article was untrue and that the newspaper was negligent in failing to verify its content before publication. It acknowledged that the article damaged the reputation of Princess Bopha Devi—daughter of King Noro­dom Sihanouk—but reasoned that its effect was limited, since the English-language Post has a relatively small readership.

The appeal argues that “The widespread and damaging distribution of the…defamatory article did not depend solely on circulation numbers. Rather, it depended on the means of distribution, and on the status, position, and social groups of its readership.”

The newspaper’s readers, while not a large group, include “the worldwide diplomatic corps, and the highest levels in political, business and security arenas,” the appeal states.

In addition, the appeal contends that the article was distributed and discussed at an Asean ministerial meeting that took place in Thailand at the time of the editorial’s publication, making its damages “vastly higher than if it had only been read by ordinary subscribers.”

The appeal also argues that an earlier statement of regret published by the Post “was merely an excuse designed to blame other parties” and not a true apology.

Family members referred inquiries about the appeal to their Bangkok-based lawyers, who could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Addit­ion­al reporting by Yun Samean)


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