Consumer magazine criticized for insensitive column about Da Torpedo’s health

Readers have sent e-mails to Smart Buy magazine, criticizing a column written by a dentist who talks of Da Torpedo’s molar abscess as bad karma resulting from speaking ill of the monarchy.

In her e-mail to the editor of the magazine on 6 Jan, Kulthida Samaphutthi expressed her disappointment at a column by dentist Nithima Sermsutheeanuwat which appeared in the magazine’s December 2009 issue.  She found the writer’s comments biased and lacking in medical ethics.

She was also disappointed with the editorial staff for the lack of sensitivity in publishing the piece in a magazine which has been devoted to protecting the rights of the people. 

She asked if the columnist and the editorial staff considered that a callous comment on Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul’s health was acceptable because she had been convicted for lèse majesté.

Daranee has been suffering from a molar abscess, and has appealed to the court for temporary release to receive treatment.  The court, however, has never heeded the request by the ‘outspoken woman’, a term used by Nithima to refer to Daranee without mentioning the real name even once throughout the article, Kulthida said.

Kulthida witnessed the illness of Daranee at first hand when, as a Bangkok Post reporter, she had an interview with her at the Khlong Prem Prison in 2009.  The interview was almost a failure, because apart from the time constraints of visiting inmates in prison and the noisy environment in the visiting rooms where everyone has to shout, Daranee could hardly move her jaw to speak.

A Prachatai report in late Dec 2009 said that Daranee could only drink milk.  Daranee’s health seemed worse than when she did the interview, Kulthida said.

So an article by a dentist about her molar abscess was a source she, as a reporter, could not miss.

‘Recently, an outspoken, plump, middle-aged woman who was prosecuted for lèse majesté requested temporary release, because of a serious molar abscess.  […]  The Court dismissed the request,’ Kulthida quoted the Smart Buy article.

According to Kulthida, the doctor then explained about the disease, saying that it was hard to treat. Normally, doctors would only try to alleviate the pain by prescribing pain killers or anti-inflammatory medicine, or installing a dental guard to reduce teeth grinding when sleeping, or using a muscle relaxant spray. 

‘Molar abscesses mostly result from personal habits such as grinding one’s teeth or psychological abnormalities, including mental stress.  So they are difficult to treat.  Dentists would normally suggest that patients lessen their mental stress by observing the Buddhist precepts, taking a retreat and meditating,’ the dentist said in her article.

Kulthida took notice of the ‘psychological abnormalities’, and her bad feeling about the article grew when Nithima said in the article that, ‘the court’s rejection of Daranee’s request for temporary release was sensible as her illness is incurable, even if she was granted temporary release.’

Kulthida came to feel really compelled to write to the magazine when the dentist went on to conclude in her last paragraph: 

‘The illness of this outspoken woman also possibly results from her own bad deeds.  She cannot escape the law of karma.  Mental stress results in physical stress.  Bearing this severe karma in her mind, she unconsciously grinds her teeth even more, both when awake and asleep.  So she cannot open her mouth, cannot eat, and cannot speak.  She is in pain like hell.  Besides wearing a dental guard to lessen the pain, she has to redeem her karma through observing physical, verbal, and mental purity, repenting, praying for a royal pardon, practicing dharma, and meditating in honour of His Majesty.  After these merits have been made, her illness should get better and better.’

Kulthida said that all patients had the right to medical treatment, and rejected Nithima’s claim that Daranee’s temporary release was not necessary, as her illness was incurable anyway.

She criticized Nithima for overstepping the role of a columnist, and being didactic.

She called on the editorial staff to be more careful.  She said she did not wish the magazine to be apolitical or politically neutral, but wanted to read constructive pieces in the magazine.

And she hoped that Nithima would be more considerate and sympathetic to all patients, whether they be convicts, or red or yellow shirts.

Another reader, Pipob Udomittipong, criticized Nithima for lacking understanding about human rights. He cited the internationally accepted rights of all people, including convicts, to medical treatment.

As a subscriber of the magazine, he felt sorry for such a narrow-minded attitude towards human rights.  If the editorial staff do not address this issue properly, he will cancel his subscription, he said.

Smart Buy magazine belongs to the Foundation for Consumers (



Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address:, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”