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Pattaya Daily News

23 April 2008 :: 15:04:33 pm 3862

Thai Academic Plays David to Tesco’s Goliath

Giant, multinational supermarket chain, Tesco, is currently trying to suppress revelations concerning the chain‘s aggressive expansion policy in Thailand by serving libel writs on three Thai writers, according to a report yesterday, April 22, 2008, in the UK‘s Guardian Newspaper.
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Thailand, the 23rd of April 2008 [Pattaya Daily News]: Kamol Kamoltrakul, Thai economist, academic, prolific business writer and researcher, one of the three being sued, accepted an invitation from the free speech body, Index on Censorship, to go to London to plead his case on April 21. Last year, He had apparently revealed in an article in a Bangkok business paper that the majority of Tesco’s profits from Thailand find their way back to the UK, ostensibly “because of the complexity of accounting which can deduct a lot of expenses and show low profit”. Kamol also mistakenly claimed that “37% of Tesco’s income comes from Thailand; a statement that exaggerated the figure, which should have read 3.7%. Kamol, also drew attention to the fact the local Thai company paid large royalties to the parent company for the use of the name, Tesco. Tesco, however, justified this practice saying that this was “for the provision of know-how and the use of brand and trademarks” and that it complied with both tax laws and was acceptable to both UK and Thai tax authorities.

Tesco has been criticised both at home in the UK and abroad for the threat it poses to the livelihoods of small business operators; in the UK there is even a anti-Tesco website, Tescopoly.com, and a campaigning book, Tescopoly: How One Shop Came Out on Top. Kamol’s main criticism was that Thailand should impose regulations like other South-East Asian countries, “to control the expansion of foreign-owned retail superstores in order to protect small local retailers”. Many Thai shoppers respond to the novelty of Western supermarkets, seeing them as more convenient and progressive; a fact that gives Tesco “the upper hand in Thailand,” according to Kamol.

Tesco defended its stance, justifying the libel writs on the three Thais, saying “In Thailand Tesco Lotus has been seriously defamed in a sustained and malicious campaign over a number of months.” Tesco claimed that this campaign had been one of misinformation.

If Kamol loses the case, he stands to lose his house and be thrown out on the street. However, Index on Censorship were quick to give their support to Kamol. Their Article 19 stated: “We condemn Tesco’s tactic of issuing defamation writs against those who dare to criticise its aggressive expansion plans in Thailand.”

The Guardian, too, has had a libel and “malicious falsehood” writ against it by Tesco in the UK, following what Tesco said were mistakes in a piece about Tesco tax avoidance practices written by two Guardian journalists, despite the fact that Tesco had warned them that the information was false. However, when the Guardian was offered the choice of going to press or dropping the piece, the Guardian went ahead.

The Thai writers also have had the weight of Britain’s journalists thrown behind them. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is asking its 40,000 journalists to write to the chairman of Tesco and MPs over the libel claims. Jeremy Dear, the NUJ general secretary, the Guardian reported, apparently said: “Tesco’s bid to silence its critics should be vigorously opposed by all those who believe in freedom of expression. In addition, the International Federation of Journalists is adding further support to the NUJ action. IFJ general secretary, Aidan White, said: “Tesco is displaying an extraordinary amount of intolerance over what is legitimate journalistic scrutiny. Tesco, however, justified its position, declaring “Tesco does not have a policy of using legal action to silence its critics. The ongoing cases in Thailand and the UK are entirely unrelated. The right to free speech does not of course imply the right to defame us.”

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Business News

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