Jaa's Management Responds To Threatened Lawsuit: "Thailand abolished slavery many years ago."

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Yesterday Twitch reported on a new conference in Thailand in which Sahamongkol head Sia Jiang, Ong Bak director Prachya Pinkaew and fight choreographer Panna Rittikrai appeared before Thai press, stated that Tony Jaa was under a new ten year contract with Sahamongkol, that he had breached said contract by signing on for a role in Fast And Furious 7 without their permission, and that they intended to sue if this was not rectified immediately. Later in the day we received word from Jaa's management saying not true, there is no contract in place. Here's the complete statement:

As Tony Jaa's manager I am posting this in his behalf. Tony has always had the greatest respect for Sahamongkol and the people behind Sahamongkol. He is therefore saddened and disappointed to see their recent press statements. The article that Twitch has quoted appeared in the Bangkok Post and was based solely on Sahamongkol's public comments. Sahamongkol's public assertions regarding Tony and his purported contract with them are not factual. Tony Jaa does not have a new contract with Sahamongkol nor did he extend his prior relationship with them. The matter was studied quite carefully and Tony Jaa is free to pursue any acting jobs which he wishes to undertake. Sahamongkol may make a complaint in a competent legal forum with proper jurisdiction if they feel they have such a claim. Assuming that such a claim would be heard; We would be more than pleased to follow the ruling of any competent legal authority. It should be noted that Thailand abolished slavery many years ago, and Thai courts consider provable damages in labor contract disputes, and nothing more than that. Tony is looking forward to his role in Fast and Furious 7 as well as a number of other films. He does not require permission from anyone to act in these films, except possibly his wife and daughter.
Michael Selby

Around the Internet:
  • ricksomchai

    Wow I cant understand TYG2 is coming out so Sahamongkol wants to paint him as a bad guy, not very smart IMO many Thai dont understand this from a business point of view, this could effect ticket sales. They should milk it for all they can, what are they doing... sounds to me like Jaa is set on going Hollywood, if all goes well that puts Thailand in the spotlight of the entire globe, much like Chan and Li did for China, why would you ever try to stop such a thing..... in the end Sahamongkol is the one looking bad here, there are other stars they can lean on Deaw Chupong, Jeeja Yanin even Kazu Tang,...

  • Scott Dorian Dancer

    slavery come in to play when someone else has control of what projects he can work in. it sounds like they should have read the fine print and not signed that deal. good thing is hes still going to be able to do fast 7.

  • OH SNAP! Go Jaa!

  • Dave Baxter

    Okay, so it's definitely sounding like there is no such contract and Sahamongkol is simply trying to avoid legal actions because they don't have a leg to stand on. Argh. No sad that it's come to this. Especially with people I normally respect like Panna and Pankeaw, though it's possible they're being pushed hard by Sahamongkol to say what he wants them to say. But still, if Jaa can fight back, they could, too.

  • Mike

    You wouldn't think that a contract dispute that revolved entirely on whether a contract even existed would take very long to sort out.

  • Marcel Samson

    What has slavery got to do with anything?

  • Goldie_Hawn_Golden_Shower

    I'm guessing slave labors in Thailand?

  • Marcel Samson

    How is this situation different from any other issue with an exclusive / binding contract. The story isn't about them slaving away Jaa, it's about him supposedly breaching an exclusive contract they had. Doesn't matter if it's true or not, I don't see this having anything to do with slavery.

  • Dave Baxter

    I think it is worth discussing, now and in the future as these kinds of cultural ideal tend to develop and evolve, whether an "Exclusive" contract is something we feel is morally justified in modern society. It's one thing to have a scheduling conflict with an established contract (which is simply prioritizing in order of commitment), it's another to be "Exclusively" the property of a corporation or person. The fact that this is no different from an exclusive / binding contract anywhere else helps spotlight the issue rather than dismiss it.

    While Hollywood has mostly done away with these kinds of contracts (it's switched to X number of picture deals, but the director/writer/performer is free to pursue anything else in-between) these kinds of contract are alive and well elsewhere, like at Marvel and DC where writers and artists have "exclusivity" contracts that disallow them from working on anything else anywhere else.

  • Marcel Samson

    You do forget that slavery involves involuntary having to do labor. Should Jaa have commited to such a 10 year old contract, he CHOSE to do so. Plus he gets paid. Jaa's manager mentioning slavery is just a cheap tactic, if you ask me. Again, I'm not saying he isn't right about Jaa not having said contract, but he should have left out the part about slavery, it was unnecessary and cheap.

  • Dave Baxter

    I'm not misunderstanding your statement, Marcel, but I am disagreeing with it, wholly. Choice to become a slave should not exist in a free society. If such choice exists, there is always the question of coercion, possible ignorance on the "choosers" part, also desperation - people can be taken advantage of due to their situations, state of mind, etc. For this reason, there should never be the possibility to own another human being. Ever. In any way. The idea that anyone "freely chose to become a slave" is so wrought with paradoxes and dismisses so many nuances of actual human behavior and rationality that it's a meaningless statement.

    People would only ever chose such a state due to ignorance, desperation, coercion, misplaced trust., etc. Scientology and cults in general are perfect examples of this in action. By your logic, we should allow any kind of currently illegal activity simply because someone can be convinced to sign a contract allowing for it. Things like fraud however prove the fallacy of this: "fraud" is often committed with a contract allowing for the fraud to take place, and the victim having been convinced to sign off on it. But fraud is nevertheless illegal and the contract is therefore illegal. There's also the comparison that victims of domestic abuse "choose" to stay with their victimizer due to basic human fallabilities. That doesn't make it not a problem, or the ongoing assault any less illegal.

    That fact that we outlaw slavery but allow the practice of it by another name via a business contract is something that needs to be considered.

  • Marcel Samson

    I understand your point. I do take notice to the fact that you seem to think I'm implying that Jaa chose to become a slave. I never meant anything like that, as I said, this to me has absolutely nothing to do with slavery. Do you really believe that we have to feel sorry for moviestars to sign an exclusive contract which will in turn make them an enormous amount of money, often not in any way comparable to regular people working their asses of? They choose to do so, usually not because of desperation, ignorance, but most probably for monetary gain (trying to be nice here, but I do mean: because of greed). While I think your argument is very valid for probably a whole lot of other scenarios, but to me that doesn't include Tony Jaa. He's not being hold in a cell and made to do hard labor, with fear of horrible punishment, his family isn't held hostage or anything like that. To compare this to slavery is quite frankly a little insulting to real victims of slavery.

    You think contracts that keep a soccer player from FC Barcelona from playing for Real Madrid are the same as being forced into slavery?

    And to be honest, I don't think it's fair to just flat out blame ignorance on anyone else than the one being ignorant.

  • Dave Baxter

    Just to clarify: again, I do understand your point - that you think "slavery" is a poor comparison here. But again, I'm wholly disagreeing with that point. I think it is an apt comparison, and therefore saying that this isn't slavery because someone had the choice to enter into a contract that some of us DO think is comparable, at least in some ways, to slavery, is like arguing that choice to enter into a slave-like situation is what makes it not like slavery. And that is like saying Jaa chose to become a slave and therefore is not a slave.

    Re: soccer player scenario, this is a scheduling issue - it's not feasible to play on two teams at once - who knows who will lose or win and who will play who next? - and therefore it's ruled that a single player cannot. In entertainment industries, this is similar - you can't prioritize other projects over the already contracted ones. But you can do other projects IF they do not conflict. If something happens and a conflict arises, the earlier contract takes precedence and actors have to drop out of other projects, which happens all the time. This is honoring a contract.

    Being forced to not be able to do particular things regardless of conflict, is another matter entirely. That would be like saying a soccer player couldn't also do a winter sport. At that point, the person themselves becomes property via a contract, and that's troubling.

    Re: ignorance, no one is to blame for a person's IGNORANCE but the person themselves, sure. But ignorance does not give anyone else the right to take advantage of said ignorance. All laws are basically this: they prohibit the stronger, more experienced, more resourceful from using their leverage to exploit those weaker and less advantaged. Experience often is what combats ignorance. Laws are there to help minimize the damage to any individual until they have the chance to gain experience and learn.

  • Qinlong

    I agree completely. The slavery image used here is frankly insulting to people who actually suffer of the real slavery in all its ugliness. This is just about binding contract vs. freelance work. Now since there's no such contract, Sahamongkol's tactic is indeed pretty shitty and dishonest. It actually sounds very close to the Lo Wei/Jackie Chan story.

  • Dave Baxter

    The slavery image here is one of lingering past sins in parts of the world where it's technically been abolished, but many elements of its practice have not been abandoned. And when we start to fall back on bad practices, it's still something that needs to be challenged. The fact that there are more intense, embedded, and horrific variations in other parts of the world in no way lessens our own need to keep our own houses in order.

  • Qinlong

    I know slavery is unfortunately still very much alive under many forms, but really in this case you'd have to take a very , very loose definition of the word to apply it to a case of a well-paid movie star being bullied by a film company.

  • Dave Baxter

    Also, it should be noted that forced labor isn't the only definition of slavery. Being treated like property, is very close to bonded (debt) or chattel slavery, which are the more prevalent forms of slavery in the modern world. Exclusive contracts like the one Sahamongkol gets their performers to sign, is very much a mix of those two.

  • The point management is making is that Jaa DOESN'T have a contract and yet Sahamongkol is trying to force him to work under their control anyway. He chose NOT to re-sign with the company and yet they're trying to create a situation where he can work with nobody but them. So, yeah, the entire point is that they're trying to force him to 'involuntarily do labor'. It's an intentionally strong comparison, sure, but the allegory holds.

  • Awesome-mania

    He had to name his daughter Nin, right?

  • lihilaszlo

    Epic reply, mind you.

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