6 June 2024

Former Transport Minister Suthep Thaugsuban filed a defamation lawsuit with the Criminal Court today, against opposition chief whip Suthin Klangsaeng, for implicating him incausing 26 billion baht in damage to the state over the termination of the contract for the Hopewell elevated rail project.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Suthep told the media at the court that he had to file the defamation suit against the Pheu Thai MP to protect his name after the MP, speaking during the censure debate in parliament on Wednesday, accused Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of helping Suthep to avoid accountability by deliberately delaying the case until the statute of limitations has expired.

Suthep claimed that the decision to terminate the contract had the consent of the Office of the Attorney-General and relevant agencies, after the project’s owner, Hopewell Company, could not fulfil the contract and repeatedly asked for a review of the terms, which was rejected.

The Supreme Administrative Court, in July 2020, ordered the Thai Transport Ministry and the State Railway of Thailand to pay the Hong Kong-based company 24 billion baht in compensation for the 1998 cancellation of the 80 billion baht project.

Construction was halted in 1997, when Thailand and several other Asian countries were struck by the “tom yum gung” Asian financial crisis, with only 10% of the project complete.

Commenting on Suthep’s lawsuit, House Speaker Chuan Leekpai warned MPs not to refer to outsiders in a way which could be deemed to be damaging during their speeches, because they have no chance to defend themselves in parliament.

He said that, even if MPs are immune from litigation for their remarks made in parliament, there are regulations they must still observe.