By this point, I was feeling less good. I questioned Ronnachai’s competence. Besides the unsuccessful appeals and various abnormalities with my case, Pattnapong once boasted to me that the company had chosen Ronnachai because he had given them a great deal. A lawyer I knew told me Ronnachai hadn’t won a single case for the Post. He also spoke little English, and granted, the burden should fall on me to speak Thai, this was nonetheless troubling given that the story and many of the documents it was based on were in English.
About this time, I learned I had been accepted into Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for the academic year that began in August 2010. I also learned my trial was scheduled to begin November 1. And then, just a few days later, I learned that Pattnapong had negotiated himself out of criminal charges, and that it would just be me and Wyn Ellis on trial.
I discovered this only by chance, when I tried to access my article online. It was no longer there. I confronted the editors about it, and Pattnapong told me it must be a technical glitch. I didn’t believe him, and had a colleague contact Ronnachai, who admitted that a deal had been made. I asked for an explanation, which Pattnapong provided in a confrontation-dodging, typed letter he sent by courier, third floor to fourth floor. He wrote that Supachai had threatened to file separate charges for the online version of the story, and so really he was saving the company from more trouble. He assured me the company was standing by the story, and promised that Supachai would drop the case against me as soon as I testified in court. Given the course of events and the fact that Supachai would not allow me to merely testify as a witness, rather than a defendant, I found this information hard to trust. I also learned that Ronnachai had been spreading preposterous lies about me, alleging to others that I had placed phone calls from the Post newsroom to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which oversees Supachai’s agency, demanding he be fired.
I wondered if all this had something to do with Ronnachai and Pattnapong trying to protect themselves. Both, at least theoretically, had approved the story before it was published. Or it may have been politics. Supachai worked under the ruling Democrat government, and was supported by a number of its big financial backers. The Post was run by the cousin of the prime minister, and owned by one of the major financial backers of the Democrat party. Or maybe it was just a matter of money exchanged, as is often the case in Thailand. Or complications created by gaps in culture and age; I sometimes got the sense that Ronnachai and Pattnapong didn’t know what to make of me, whether because of my foreignness or youth or both, and didn’t completely trust my version of events. Clearly, I had trust issues with them, too.
Whatever their reasons, I was left particularly vulnerable, since my legal status depended on my work permit, which the Post controlled. Had I been fired, theoretically I could have been sent to the Immigration Detention Center, a sad, worse-than-prison sort of place where they hold destitute foreigners and asylum seekers, sometimes for years.