Ultra-royalists attack activists, citizen journalists

Members of ultra-royalist groups attacked activists and citizen journalists during a gathering in the Siam shopping district on Saturday (10 February), injuring 10 activists, 2 citizen journalists, and another person observing the gathering.

Tantawan Tuatulanon

The incident took place at the exit from the Siam BTS station next to Siam Paragon shopping mall, while activist Tantawan Tuatulanon was reading a statement about a video clip released on 4 February, which showed an argument with a police officer blocking the road during a royal motorcade.

As she was reading out her statement, members of several ultra-royalist groups climbed over metal fences that Siam Paragon employees had placed to block the BTS station exit and attacked the activists. Police officers stationed in the area attempted to defuse the situation by removing the activists from the scene. Initially, they were taken inside the BTS station, before being taken in a police van to the nearby Pathumwan Police Station.

10 activists were injured, and have decided to press charges against their attackers. Napatsorn Boonree, a regular protest-goer who was observing the gathering, was also injured.

Paradorn Ketphuak (right) before being attacked.

Citizen journalists Paradorn Ketphuak and Chen Chiwobancha were also attacked while livestreaming the incident. Paradorn said objects were thrown at them while they were walking around the area to see whether any activist was still around. He was then attacked by two royalist group members while at the Siam BTS station. He said that he was slapped in the face, breaking his glasses, and that one also hit his phone, knocking it to the ground. 

Paradorn said that Wasan Tongmontho, leader of the Blue Blood Warriors group, pushed him to the ground and held him down with his knees. Paradorn called for help from nearby police officers who then took him away from the police station.

Paradorn is pressing charges against his attackers for assault and destruction of property. He said that members of the ultra-royalist group the People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy previously attacked him while he was livestreaming at a protest in front of the Criminal Court, but there has been no progress in the complaint he filed against them.

Citizen journalist Chen Chiwobancha was attacked by a royalist group member while livestreaming the incident.

Meanwhile, Chen said he was standing behind the ticket gate at the BTS station. Anon Klinkaew, leader of the People’s Centre to Protect the Monarchy, threw a bottle at him and climbed over the ticket gate. Chen said that an officer stopped Anon from punching him while holding him by his collar. However, he was then punched to the ground and kicked by another person. He is also pressing charges for assault.

Members of the group also threatened a Prachatai reporter filming the incident in an attempt to intimidate him into stopping the recording.

At least 3 members of the royalist groups were also injured. Wasan was hit in the head and arm, possibly with a baton carried by an activist who was blocking him from getting close to Tantawan.

Wasan Tongmonto being restrained by police officers and an observer

At Pathumwan Police Station, Tantawan told reporters that she apologized for driving carelessly, but noted that every citizen has the right to raise questions about royal motorcades. She showed a picture of the poll she conducted 2 years ago on whether people face trouble from royal motorcades, and asked why dissidents are still prosecuted in a democratic country.

“Is our country really democratic? I want to ask the adults in this country, and I don’t know how they are going to answer me. Are they going to answer by slapping me with more charges? Will they put me in jail again?” said Tantawan.

Tantawan said that she wanted no violence and only wanted to make her statement. She said she was punched in the head and her hair was pulled, while another activist named Khatatorn was put in a chokehold and punched repeatedly. She said that, although an activist was seen in a video clip hitting Wasan with a baton, it was in self-defence, since Khatatorn was attacked first and everyone else was helping him and trying to defend themselves.

Khatatorn said he saw the royalist group members walking towards Tantawan and tried to tell them that the event was over and they were about to leave. Instead, he was put in a chokehold and punched.

15-year-old activist Thanalop Phalanchai also said someone yanked at her hair and collar because she tried to help another activist being attacked.

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