A British academic, who took on the cheating boss of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency, has won a five year court battle which has now paved the way for prosecutions for corruption.

Dr. Wyn Ellis from Swansea, who is in a witness protection programme, was today celebrating a victory in Thailand’s highest court – the Supreme Court which ruled on May 16th that he was acting in the public interest when he revealed that his Thai boss had plagiarized his work to gain a doctorate.

Not only that the court ruled that the plaintiff Supachai Lorlowhakarn not the defendant Dr Ellis, an agriculturalist, should be the one under investigation.

Lorlowhakarn Director of the National Innovation Agency had in fact stolen Dr. Wyn’s research on organic asparagus for his PhD at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. Dr. Wyn has carried out the research while working for a United Nations agency. The work was then copied by the NIA.

Lorlowhakarn has since been stripped of his degree and convicted of forgery – but in the meantime he took nine cases of criminal libel against the Welsh academic who now works for the United Nations again.

It has been several years of hell for Mr. Ellis who has had rocks thrown at his car and people trailing him who appear to have been connected to the NIA.

In the Supreme Court case Supachai accused Ellis of giving interviews to journalists at the Thai-language Thai Rath and Matichon newspapers, which had reported on the emerging scandal.

Supachai not only demanded Baht 300,000 (US$10,000) in civil damages but also asked the court to ban Dr Ellis altogether from speaking to anyone about Supachai’s PhD thesis.

Supachai denied plagiarizing his thesis,  but admitted to the court that as NIA Director, he had approved his own request to use an NIA-commissioned study on organic asparagus as part of his PhD thesis- rather than doing the research himself.

On 5 August 2010, Dusit District Court dismissed Supachai’s case, noting that he had not even called the journalists concerned to testify. The verdict affirmed Ellis’ right to defend his own legitimate interests following the failure of the NIA, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Chulalongkorn University to investigate his allegations of plagiarism and copyright violation by NIA. The Court also ruled that Dr Ellis had acted in the public interest.

NIA – running intellectual property management!!

The verdict also ruled that Supachai had caused damage to the State by wrongfully using NIA’s asparagus report as part of his PhD thesis, and by using government time to study at Chulalongkorn without permission. The court recommended that Supachai be placed under investigation.

Commenting on the case, Dr Ellis said, “I’m grateful to the court for highlighting the right of every citizen to criticize and expose wrongdoing by State officials. Fraudsters and cheats must be named and shamed. The case also highlights how influential figures abuse the defamation laws in an attempt to use the courts to silence any criticism. After filing this case, the Thai media fell completely silent until June 2012 when Chula finally stripped Supachai of his PhD.”

Above just one of the attacks on Dr. Ellis

The Thai Supreme Court backed the decision of the lower court (Black Case 526/2552)  and ruled that it did not have any merit for further consideration.

Supachai could now face multiple charges of corruption, perjury, misconduct in office and of course multiple countersuits for damages.

As a result security has been stepped up for Dr. Ellis.

This case is probably also one of the most shameful in Thailand’s recent media history. Dr. Ellis originally contacted the Bangkok Post newspaper about the story and a young American journalist Erika Fry took up the case.

The Bangkok Post published the story of Supachai’s plagiarism  but when he took legal action the newspapers executives caved in,  took the story off the internet and left Dr. Ellis to fight the case himself.

Erika Fry, who was also charged, fled Thailand while on bail having, she said, completely lost confidence and trust in those in charge at the Bangkok Post.  She later wrote about her experience for the Columbia Journalism Review . Pichai Chuensuksawdi, Group Editor-in-Chief of the Bangkok Post issued a denial in the Thai  ‘Media Monitor’ 

Today Erika works as a journalist on Fortune magazine.

About the Author

Andrew Drummond

Andrew Drummond is a British independent journalist and occasional television documentary maker. He is a former Fleet Street, London, journalist having worked at the Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Observer and The Times.

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