Former mayor jailed for forcing reporter to strip

Former mayor jailed for forcing reporter to strip

Premsak Piayura, in white shirt, and his close aide Buathong Lokhan, right, arrive at the court in Phon district of Khon Kaen on Thursday for sentencing. (Photo by Chakkrapan Natanri)
Premsak Piayura, in white shirt, and his close aide Buathong Lokhan, right, arrive at the court in Phon district of Khon Kaen on Thursday for sentencing. (Photo by Chakkrapan Natanri)

KHON KAEN: A local court has sentence former Ban Phai municipality mayor Premsak Piayura to two months in jail without suspension for detaining a journalist who reported his apparent engagement to an underage girl and forcing him to strip.

His close aide Buathong Lokhan was given the same sentence.

They were found guilty of intimidation and public indecency by forcing Korsit Kongchom, then 64, a local reporter for the Daily News, to strip down to his underwear in the mayor's office on July 26, 2016.  Both were later released on bail pending appeal.

Mr Korsit's lawyer Pakan Nopasri said the court intended the prison sentence to be a lesson that well-known local leaders should set a good example for society and not break the law. The court dismissed the defence claim that Mr Korsit had served the interests of a political rival.

Mr Korsit said he was happy with the outcome and the case could serve as an example of the protection of dignity of the mass media.

The Premsak case blew up over media coverage of his suspected engagement to an underage girl in Khon Kaen.

The Daily News published a story on July 26, 2016, featuring a picture of then-mayor Premsak and a young girl with 400,000 baht in cash in front of them at the girl's home.

The photo was taken by Mr Korsit and quickly went viral, circulating online and featured on the front page of the daily, garnering nationwide attention. 

According to the news story, the girl was a Mathayom 5 student, indicating she was only 16 or 17 years old at the time. The photo appeared to be of an engagement ceremony, which drew harsh public comment.

Mr Korsit and four other reporters went to interview Premsak in his office. Premsak had ordered the door locked behind them, had his subordinates collect their mobile phones and cameras, and forced Mr Korsit to strip to his underwear.

The news spread rapidly leading to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha suspending Premsak from duty in August 2016, invoking Section 44 of the interim charter.

Premsak was permanently dismissed from office the folowing year after a disciplinary committee finally ruled against him over his behaviour. His dismissal was signed by Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda, effective May 5, 2017.

Premsak is also a former Khon Kaen MP of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party.

The court on Thursday afternoon released Premsak and Buathong on bail of 120,000 baht each, secured by land title deeds, pending their appeal. 

The court also dismissed Premsak's defamation suit against 10 councillors of the Ban Phai municipality, who spoke out against him on the matter of the young girl and his treatment of the news reporters.

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