Thai prime minister accuses newspaper publisher of libel

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is suing two prominent media figures for defamation, demanding millions of dollars over their remarks about Thaksin nominating an acting head for the country's influential Buddhist clergy.

The suit is the latest step in what critics say is Thaksin's attempt to subdue Thailand's media, long hailed as being among the most free and open in Asia.

Thaksin, asked by reporters about the suit _ in which he's asking for 500 million baht (US$12.2 million; Ђ10.2 million) in damages _ said Monday that "It's not a big deal."

Other Thai prime ministers have sued for defamation, but Thaksin's claim appears to be the highest ever asked by a leader in the country.

The suit was filed Friday in Bangkok Civil Court against newspaper publisher Sondhi Limthongkul and Sarocha Porn-udomsak, co-hosts of the now-canceled "Thailand Weekly" news and commentary TV show.

Thaksin's lawyer, Thana Benchathikul, said the suit was being filed because Sondhi's remarks about Thaksin's nomination of an acting Buddhist Supreme Patriarch could harm the prime minister's reputation with the public. AM

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