A British journalist based in Thailand believes he may be the most sued journalist in the world because of the "foreign crooks" he says are "abusing Thailand’s ill-conceived libel and Computer Crime Act laws” to silence him.
My name is Andrew Drummond and I think I may be the most sued journalist in living history. In all over the last 12 months I have either won outright or had dismissed 11 out of 12 libel cases brought against me. I have another eight to go.
In England and Wales in 2011 there were 28 recorded libel cases.
In Thailand I am getting nearer and nearer to the total of all cases in Britain for one year and I am just one journalist. I have been a journalist for over 40 years. The first 20 in Britain where despite working for the gutsiest newspapers I was never ever taken near a libel court. The last 20 or so I have been here in Thailand as correspondent for the Observer, The Times and the London Evening Standard.
Who is suing me? Three people who I have exposed for cheating other foreigners in Thailand.
I am providing a public service, but in Thailand the libel laws are built around protecting those who might do us harm. These people have cheated Thais too and launched vicious attacks on my Thai friends who help me.
My first plaintiff or accuser is an American who lied when he came to Thailand and opened up a law firm. He was not a lawyer – I exposed that – and in the United States he was exposed in a major investigation conducted by a daily newspaper there, which in black and white described him as a person of myriad lies.
This man has a judgment against him for US$72,000 for selling bogus share stock and was also being chased for another $80,000 when he arrived in Thailand. He was also accused of sexual harassment and had several complaints of assaults on women against him.
But here in Thailand, where truth is a sought after commodity, he founded his own newspaper, had himself photographed with top police and local dignitaries and two years ago had the gall to splash across its front page his name with the description ’14 years in service to the King of Thailand’.
The first plaintiff is currently in court in Thailand charged with extortion along with his Thai common law wife. They are accused of attempting to blackmail a health clinic out of seven million baht on pain of a police raid and bad publicity in their newspaper.
The second plaintiff is a well-known criminal. He is a Briton, who while in Australia refused to return to Scotland to face an arrest warrant for fraud on the Royal Bank of Scotland. He was then refused residency of Australia because the Deputy President of the Australian Appeals Tribunal, which deals with immigration issues said he was ‘not a person of good character’
And shortly afterwards he was arrested and charged with stealing over AUS$400,000 from his employers and jailed for six years. This man should not even be in Thailand for two reasons under the Immigration Act
(1) Because he has been refused residency of another country
(2) Because he has been jailed for serious offences.
But here in Thailand this man has been made welcome, has been able to freely run around the courts pretending to be a British barrister, and amazingly he has even been able to address the courts as an ‘attorney in fact’.
I exposed that too in the British press and on my website (he sued and lost). This man is currently in court for cheating an American woman out of US$300,000 for his legal services. But despite his history of running away from both the Scottish and Australian authorities he has been given bail.
My third accuser is a friend and business associate of plaintiffs one and two. Who is he? Well he was the former owner of a brothel in Melbourne.
On my website I called him in English a pimp and so did a reader. There is no single other word in the English language to describe him. He won because pimp was translated as a maeng-da (horseshoe crab) something nobody will understand at all in the English language, but which is libelous in Thai. The judge said I had written nothing wrong, but a poster to my site had, and found me guilty.
I am being judged on stories in English by people who do not know the language.
Now this former brothel keeper is further suing me over an article in a British newspaper which was merely the reporting of a trial in which he was described as an aide to a mafia like figure. Under British law this is absolutely right and proper that I should report this case. But in Thailand I actually have to go and answer libel charges.
My opponents continually boast that I will run out of money long before they do. That is their game. I have had to pay up to £3000 (150,000 baht) a month on these cases – and of course half the time I cannot do my job. These foreigners know how to play the Thai court system and they can get the cases delayed to prolong my time and increase my costs. They have boasted on the internet about what they are doing and the courts are willing if unknowing collaborators.
I am a single father looking after three Thai children, aged six, four and two. As a foreign correspondent I have been stopped from working by the Pattaya Court which in its infinite wisdom, having received a malicious letter from a plaintiff, has stopped me leaving the country to do my job as they had judged I was a flight risk. Run away from my children?
That was one of the many cases of which I was found not guilty and the order has been revoked.
So much for the freedom of the press. I have even had to withdraw my children from a private school. And I have had to give my work to other journalists.
It is a very scary situation not being able to work, looking after three children, having no cash at hand and having to find 100,000 baht just for a bail on a case, which the court clearly does not understand.
The only reason why I am not in jail today is because thankfully members of the public who can see I am doing good have come to my aid with donations.
I will continue to fight. I hope good Thai people will also see that what I am doing is right.
But I desperately need help to fight and survive the next few months so I can finally get these people into court themselves and pay for the damage they have done.
I, (we – my supporters) have come so far, fought so many battles and one, it would be tragic to lose at this state.
Unlike in the developed world, libel in Thailand can be charged as a criminal offence. Anybody with money can make a complaint. When the case first goes to court the defendant is not allowed to speak up for himself. Only his lawyer can ask questions, but he cannot produce witnesses.
In this way many of these cases are accepted. In Thailand there is no presumption of innocence. Thailand also has the Computer Crime Act, which was created for national security, but is now also being used to control journalists. So if stories are also on the internet the plaintiff will bring a double charge.
That means in each case the defendant will have to pay 100,000 baht bail, innocent or otherwise. The plaintiff can also ask that the court bar the defendant from leaving the country. This has happened to me in a case in which I was found not guilty…but it took nine months to hear.
Now all the plaintiff need to do is bring several cases to break the defendant financially. If they keep delaying the cases they can double the defendants’ legal fees, and they can also take charges out in a distant court. (Two plaintiffs have now moved to Koh Samui). They can also keep requesting I do not leave the country.
None of the cases outstanding against me are serious and one case has actually been accepted in the Pattaya Court based only on a picture (none of the words of the story were translated or complained about by the plaintiff).
Two of the plaintiffs who have taken charges out against me are in the criminal and civil courts accused of massive rip offs to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. So they may well have the cash. Thus the only way to stop them is survive and fight or go to jail.