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‘Death threats’ in Thailand for UK whistleblower

Wyn Ellis, who made a plagiarism claim against an official, has received menacing calls

Attack on Wyn Ellis' car

Source: YouTube

Caught on camera: image of an attack on Wyn Ellis’ car by unknown assailants

A British scientist who accused a Thai government official of plagiarism has reported receiving death and kidnapping threats.

Wyn Ellis, a consultant with the United Nations Environmental Programme who has lived and worked in Thailand for 28 years, has claimed that beginning on 8 August he was subjected to 250 calls from two unknown men over four days.

The agricultural consultant told Times Higher Education that in the first call a man said he was waiting outside Dr Ellis’ home to kidnap him and his wife and to kill them both.

“He said ‘You know what you’ve done – you’ve caused a lot of trouble and you know what you’ve got to do to stop it’, but he would not give details,” Dr Ellis said.

The researcher, who said he was being protected by a Thai police unit, has since filed reports with a local police station and the Thai police Crime Suppression Division.

Dr Ellis was the original source of allegations that Supachai Lorlowhakarn, director of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency, plagiarised material that appeared in his 2008 PhD thesis.

Mr Lorlowhakarn’s doctorate was rescinded by Chulalongkorn University last year after an earlier investigation by the institution concluded that 80 per cent of Mr Lorlowhakarn’s thesis had been plagiarised from various sources, including a UN report co-authored by Dr Ellis.

Dr Ellis said that over the past five years he had been subject to several civil and criminal libel lawsuits and police complaint actions filed by Mr Lorlowhakarn and public prosecutors. To date, all the legal actions have been withdrawn or dismissed, or Dr Ellis has been found not guilty. However, four remain subject to appeal, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lorlowhakarn, who remains in post at the agency, was last year found guilty of criminal forgery, a ruling he is appealing against.

Dr Ellis told THE that the death threats were the latest escalation in years of surveillance and harassment that had included an investigation of his tax affairs and raids of his home by immigration officials. He was also bombarded with rocks by motorcycle-riding assailants as he drove to a court hearing in 2011, an incident captured by CCTV cameras.

There is no evidence to connect Mr Lorlowhakarn with any of the threats or attacks.

Given his success to date in court cases, and having recently obtained his own PhD, Dr Ellis said that life should now be good.

“But for some reason, after continuing surveillance of my home over the past few months, things have taken a sinister turn,” he said.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Thanks for publicizing this. Since then, the intimidation has escalated. Following the death threats reported by THE (300 calls so far...) the guard at my housing estate reported an attempted grenade attack by a gang of motorcyclists. They showed the guard several bags of ‘ping-pong’ grenades and made a threat against the guard’s life. 'You want to die instead of that ‘farang’ [foreigner]?' Thank goodness the guard had the courage to stop them from passing through. Having spent 28 happy years doing what I can to support agricultural development in Thailand, I am naturally dismayed but undeterred by these events, which represent an escalation of the harassment I have endured over the past 5 years.
    Clearly, someone influential has a lot to lose, and will stoop to the most cowardly depths to prevail. The British Embassy in Bangkok has seen the evidence and agreed there are grounds to suggest involvement of State officials. I have therefore asked for the Embassy’s intervention.

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  • On the academic front, I have for 3 years demanded retraction of a paper by Supachai and his academic advisers, on which his (now-cancelled) PhD thesis was based. The paper was published in the Thai Journal of Agricultural Science, which has repeatedly refused to retract the paper immediately, despite the evidence of plagiarism, revocation of the PhD degree and a Final Notice of copyright violation by Wageningen Academic Publishers. Although TJAS’ Editor-in-Chief told THE last year following the revocation of Supachai’s thesis that the paper will ‘probably’ be rescinded, regrettably this did not happen. He later insisted that he would only act following a ‘court verdict’ proving fraud. Such a demand (apart from the prohibitive legal cost) would guarantee a delay of 5-8 years for justice to be done.

    My requests to Prof Supot Hannongbua, Dean of the Faculty of Science at Chulalongkorn University, and Assoc Prof Somkiat Piyatiratitivorakula (one of Supachai’s two co-authors and academic co-advisor) have met with silence. Neither has so far returned my calls or replied to email requests for action. Researchers have the right to expect universities such as Chulalongkorn and international SCOPUS-indexed journals to hold themselves to higher academic and governance standards.

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