Former Bangkok Post reporter scores court win over ex-employer

Former Bangkok Post reporter scores court win over ex-employer
Sermsuk hopes verdict stems tide of political interference.
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

THE Bangkok Post's ex-chief reporter for military and security affairs, Sermsuk Kasitipradit, yesterday proclaimed victory after the Supreme Court ruled that the newspaper had unfairly dismissed him over his report in 2005 about cracks on the new Suvarnabhumi Airport's runway.

Sermsuk had earlier taken Post Publishing Plc, publisher of the Bangkok Post, the paper's former editor David Armstrong and the board of the newspaper's provident fund to the Central Labour Court after claiming his employment was unfairly terminated on August 29 2005, when the paper accused him of negligence in his reporting that caused damage to the company.

Sermsuk had asked the court to order the Bangkok Post to reinstate him at a salary no less than the amount he earned when dismissed. He also wanted the defendants to pay him Bt8 million ($320,000) in lost income and Bt5 million for damaging his honour plus 7.5 per cent annual interest. He had also sought the newspaper's provident fund to pay him an employer contribution of Bt623,700 plus interest.

The court ruled on July 24, 2007 that the company had dismissed him unfairly and ordered it to reinstate him with a salary not less than what he earned when he was dismissed. The court also ordered the company's provident fund to pay the employer's contribution plus interest. The court dropped the other charges and acquitted Armstrong of the charges.

Both the plaintiff and the defendants appealed against the ruling in the higher court.

The Supreme Court ruled that since Sermsuk and his former employee could no longer work together, the defendants must pay compensation to the plaintiff for ending his employment unfairly in accordance with Article 49 of the Labour Courts and Labour Court Procedures and the Establishment of the Labour Court Act.

The court ordered the Central Labour Court to determine the amount of compensation Sermsuk should receive.

The Central Labour Court scheduled July 17 as the date to decide the amount, which would be based on Sermsuk's age when he was dismissed, which was 50 years old, his 22 years of service to the paper and the troubles he went through following his dismissal.

Sermsuk, who is now the editor of Digital News TV, said he was overwhelmed by the court's ruling and was happy that his court struggle had set the norms for the media.

"What happened to me should not happen to others in this field. This is very important. From now on, capitalists must not fire journalists on the order of the political sector,'' he said.

"Thanks to the justice system. I have fought this case for 10 years. The Bangkok Post offered me Bt3 million but I think it was not right,'' he said.

He said he gave the Bangkok Post 22 years of service without a tainted record. "So I was shocked by what happened to me that day,'' he said.

He insisted that he was dismissed because of political interference. "A reporter during the Thaksin government testified in court that politics was behind my dismissal,'' he said.

Nakhon Chompuchat, Sermsuk's lawyer, said that apart from the compensation, the provident fund had to pay the employer contribution to Sermsuk in accordance with the lower court ruling.

Supporters of Sermsuk showed up to provide him and his family with moral support yesterday, including former Army chief adviser General Bunlert Kaewprasit, who testified as a plaintiff witness.

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