Lorlowhakarn, who in June had his PhD degree revoked by Chulalongkorn University for gross plagiarism, had his jail sentence suspended for just one year and was fined 6000 baht (£121.58p) – the cost of a reasonable night out in Bangkok.
The prosecution was brought in 2009 by Mr Wyn Ellis, a British agricultural consultant based in Thailand, in relation to alleged changes made to his contract as a consultant to NIA in 2006-2007.
The court came to its conclusion on Wednesday August 8th. The full judgment has not yet been published.
Supachai retains his position as NIA Director. Permanent Secretary Pornchai Rujiprapa and Minister Plodprasop Suraswadee have previously issued supporting statements to the Thai-language media over his plagiarism.
Whilst acknowledging the undeniable impact of Supachai’s actions on the NIA’s image and international credibility, they insisted that it was a ‘personal matter’, unrelated to the performance of the NIA Director’s duties.
The changes in the contracts came to light when Supachai filed criminal defamation charges against Mr Ellis in October 2008 at Pathumwan and Dusit District Courts, Bangkok, in relation to Ellis’ allegations of academic plagiarism of his work by Supachai in his PhD thesis.
Supachai submitted to both courts copies of Ellis’ NIA employment contracts. Ellis claimed that these had been systematically altered to remove key responsibilities and reduce the term of his final contract with NIA from 6 months to 3 months.
Whilst Supachai claimed that the contract duration had been reduced by mutual consent after signature of the 6-month contract, Ellis denied any such agreement, arguing that having already signed the 6-month contract with NIA, he would have had no reason to accept such a change.
Mr Ellis claimed that the contracts were changed only after the allegations of plagiarism and violation of copyright were brought, in an attempt to minimize his role at NIA and undermine his claims to authorship of the research, which subsequently turned up ‘word-for-word’ in Supachai’s PhD thesis.
The verdict also pointed to other potential criminal violations, ruling that (a) an official NIA memo submitted by Supachai as evidence had been fabricated retrospectively, and (b) criticizing the ‘reliability’ of other NIA staff who testified on Supachai’s behalf.
The verdict also dismissed the testimony of a witness from the Forensic Science Department, National Police Headquarters, who testified on Supachai’s behalf to the authenticity of Ellis’ signature. The verdict is subject to appeal.
In a separate development it is reported that the National Anti-Corruption Commission has set up an investigating panel in relation to allegations of use of State funds for personal benefit by Supachai.
Mr Ellis welcomed the latest verdict, but declined to comment further.
The row between Ellis and Lorlowhakarn over the copying of Ellis work was first exposed by American reporter Erika Fry in the ‘Bangkok Post’. But Erika fled Thailand while on bail on a charge of libel after she lost trust and confidence in the newspaper’s executives, who wanted her to be a witness against her informant Ellis himself.
Ironically the ‘Bangkok Post’ publishes under the logo ‘The newspaper you can trust’.
In the Columbia Journalism Review, where she became Assistant Editor she stated the reasons why she left Thailand.