Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tesco Lotus sues 2 Thai citizens rights advocates

This is outrageous. Thailand's legal system is such that it is relatively easy for corporations to bully domestic critics. Companies will threaten defamation lawsuits against consumer advocates, unhappy customers who talk, critics of corporate behavior.# Moreover, Thai courts often appear to favor the rich. It disgusts me to think a British company would attempt to take advantage of this situation.

Well it's guns away for British retailer Tesco. Tesco Lotus is the Thai equivalent of WalMart, the giant box-store retailer. The same kinds of concerns citizens groups in the US, Germany, Japan, and other countries have raised regarding WalMart also pertain to Tesco in Thailand. Tesco has launched two lawsuits in the past week against Thai citizen-critics.

The first shot
One lawsuit is against Kamol Kamoltrakul, a Thai journalist and academic who "commented about Tesco's plans for expansion." Bloomberg reports:
``It's intimidation of journalist's freedom of expression,'' said Kamol in a telephone interview. ``I'm not against Tesco; my concern is that its expansion may affect communities and their way of life.''
The second shot
Another lawsuit targets Jit Siratranont , a former politician who now heads the Thai Chamber of Commerce, who recently spoke out against Tesco. In a speech to activists at Bangkok's Kasetsart University in November 2007 Jit Siratranont said:
The aggressive policy of expanding business in Thailand, not only in the big cities but also in the districts and sub-districts, is a contentious issue. The large-scale expansion of the big retailers must be exercised with great care - not too aggressively and too rapidly - to reduce the potential tension, which could lead to serious conflict. There is also the need for the small retail traders to adjust to changes. Tesco Lotus must take all of this into account.**
Concerning remarks made by Jit Siratranont, The Guardian ** reports:

He said the growth came at the expense of Thailand's "mom-and-pop" small retailers which could not compete with the company's superstores and hypermarkets that total more than 370 outlets across the country. In the speech he mistakenly said that Tesco Lotus contributed 37% of the company's global revenues, an error Kamol also made in his column in BangkokBizNews last October.

Both concede their error. But it was raised in the writ served on Jit, as well as the civil libel writ Kamol received last month. Kamol's allegation that Tesco Lotus used complex accounting structures to repatriate revenues to the UK parent to minimise its Thai tax bill was also highlighted. "I think the main purpose of this is not to get my money - I don't have any - but to keep me quiet," said Kamol, an economics lecturer at Bangkok's Assumption University. "They're trying to intimidate me."

Jit echoed the view that Tesco Lotus was employing scare tactics to shut him up. But with the Thai Chamber of Commerce's backing he refuses to be quiet, and is adamant that Tesco Lotus has failed to show how he damaged its business or reputation. "Tesco Lotus picks on weaker people like myself to create fear," said Jit. "They want me to be afraid so I can't sleep at night. But I'm not worried. The chamber of commerce committee supports me on this."

Thailand's legal system is vulnerable to manipulation by corporate interests; laws favor companies over citizens groups; in fact, it is just plain risky to publicly criticize a business in Thailand. That's all the more reason why the two recent lawsuits filed by Tesco are the height of corporate irresponsibly. Tesco is behaving like a bully. If Tesco does not drop these lawsuits, this blogger will join calls for a worldwide consumer boycott of the British retailer.

# Sometimes the government pay for company's "dirty work" because Thailand has something called "criminal civil liability." That means the government can take you to court for something you allegedly said about another person -- a big waste of taxpayers' money, as Bangkok Pundit notes here.
* h/t ThaiVisa
** The Guardian is also being sued by the British retailing giant.


  1. I agree that Tesco as a company should not rise any legal cases if there is no basis for such. But in the same breath, I do think that Tesco is also facing a lot of objections from small businesses and illegal attacks against it. And instead I think it is the small thai dealers and the big thai delears that are protected in Thailand.

    On different topic, Thailand is one of the countries that definetly need a reform in retail. Instead of having only those expensive, many times unhygienic small biz and huge Tesco and Thai supermarkets, there is a lot of improvement in retail biz in sizes between these two. It is consumers benefit also to "get rid" of these corner stores by mum and paps. It saves money and it is more healthy and safe to have bigger and different sizes of retail units and multiple retail chains competing against eachothers.


    mr. k

  2. I've just mentioned this on my blog. Because of Tesco's lawsuit, I won't shop there anymore. I'm now shopping at Carrefour and Big C and telling my friends to do the same.

  3. I don't know if you have sort this out already? But as a Thai person,I'm very angry that fa-rang company come to our country, selling junk to us, try to make us fat as they are and most important of all why our goverment can't see that they try to take the money out of our country. I live here I know how they did to our food, 10% chicken meat( chicken skins more like it)in ready meal, the rest just junk that we don't know what exactly. suing us Thai people, on our land? totally disrespected! I really hate them now, I really do. They need to get out, go and never come back! We thai people survived the hardship and war and so what! what make they think we can't live without. Damn! sorry I'm just very angry about this. I need to get back soon myself, hate it here.

  4. Tesco Lotus sells pirated sony playstation and nintendo wii games! haha take that Tesco Lotus, lets see a lawsuit on you, a big one.


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