16 May 2017

The Nation

The Nation

Myanmar Pongpipat, a Thai mining company, has filed a defamation lawsuit against The Nation and one of its journalists, Pratch Rujivanarom. The newspaper published an article by Pratch on 1st March (headlined “Thai mine ‘destroyed Myanmar water sources’”), quoting local residents who claim that the company’s Heinda tin mine has polluted the Myaung Pyo River in Myanmar.

The article appeared to endorse the claims, which it presented as facts rather than allegations: “Tailings from the mine have drained directly into the river for many years, clogging it with a large amount of sediment and contaminating the village’s water sources with heavy metals from the mine.” Also, it didn’t include a statement from the mining company, and there is no indication that the journalist even contacted the company before publication.

The Bangkok Post newspaper’s Spectrum supplement ran a cover story on the mine on 19th March. The Spectrum article also quoted residents complaining about the mine’s impact, though unlike The Nation it distanced itself from the claims, treating them as allegations rather than facts. Also in contrast to The Nation, Spectrum included a lengthy statement from the MPC managing director, who “rejected accusations that the company had caused the water contamination.”

The company’s lawsuit against Pratch and The Nation accuses them of defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act, as the article was also published on the newspaper’s website. (Defamation, like lèse-majesté, is a criminal offence in Thailand.) Last year, the Tungkum mining company lost a defamation case against Thai PBS for reporting that a mine had caused water pollution in Loei, Thailand.