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Originally published in Thai by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
Graphics by Shin Egkantrong

Ever since he started investigating corruption among high-ranking members of the NCPO, Ekachai Hongkangwan, democracy activist and former lèse majesté (Article 112) defendant has become one of the top names often reported suffering threats and attacks. Just since the start of 2019, Ekachai has been physically harassed, had his property destroyed and been legally sued 3 times in 1 week.


Again, Ekkachai gets hit in the head

- Protest leader assaulted, Ekkachai's car torched again after campaign to impeach ECT

The torching of Ekachai’s private car in the middle of the night has especially shaken the feelings of those keeping an eye on rights violations, since this violence is not only aimed at instilling fear within an individual but may also affect the lives and property of others in the vicinity. The culprit has still not been caught and brought to justice to this day.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights compiled information on the attacks and threats against Ekachai Hongkangwan as part of its monitoring of violations of the political rights of the people in the middle of society’s silence towards violence against political activists.

1. Detention in an undisclosed location

The first threats Ekachai had to face can be traced back to 24 October 2017 when he was detained by police and military officers in a certain resort in Kanchanaburi province after he posted on his Facebook account that he was going to wear a red shirt on 26 October 2017. Officers claimed that Ekachai was taken to another province to maintain peace and order during the royal funeral of King Bhumibol. He was detained for 5 days during which time no one was able to visit him.

When he returned from that mystery resort, he went back to the military to ask for a copy of the agreement not  to be involved in political movements that he had signed as a condition of being freed, because Ekachai wanted to file a lawsuit over his detention. But according to Ekachai, not only did he not receive a copy of the agreement, the officer tore it up.

A similar event but different in time and place took place early in the morning of 16 April 2018, when Ekachai and his friends were on their way to participate in a traditional “show of respect” ceremony for Gen Prawit Wongsuwan at Government House. Plain-clothes police officers went to his house. When he came out to wait for the bus at the bus stop, the police immediately took him away. Later investigations established that he was taken to the Metropolitan Police Division 4 together with Chokchai Paibulratchata, a friend who was traveling with him.

An investigation by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights found that the officers did not declare under what power they were acting in this detention. They forced Chokchai to lie on the footpath then separated the two and put them into vehicles belonging to Chokchai Police Station for the drive to Metropolitan Police Division 4. While on the way, the police covered Chokchai’s head and pushed him onto the car seat and confiscated his phone.

This was no different from the previous detention. The officers prepared an agreement but Ekachai refused to sign it. At around 11.00 am of the same day they were released from Metropolitan Police Division 4 before the officers returned both their phones . But photos that Chokchai had taken when the incident occurred had disappeared from his phone.

From this point on there was an important change. Activities to hold the NCPO government accountable now risked threats in many different forms.

2.  Intimidation brought to your door

The threats seemed to be getting closer and closer to Ekachai. In an incident on 6 July 2018 at around 11.40 am, a group of 18 university students using the name New Generation for Society Group held up protest signs and read a statement opposing and condemning his actions in criticising the army’s mission in rescuing the victims stuck in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave for many weeks.

The group that had gathered in front of his house that day brought up his criticism, saying “Ekachai’s criticism has a political aim and destroyed the morale of serving officers” as Ekachai walked out of his house to respond to the protestors. The incident on that day ended with the protestors dispersing and police officers telling Ekachai that the core members had been fined. This is the only progress in this case.

The threats became scarier when someone broke into his house and destroyed his possessions.

At around 2 o’clock in the morning of 26 January 2019, a man wearing a jacket, long trousers and a cap, holding a bottle assumed to contain a flammable liquid, walked to Ekachai’s private car before starting a fire. Fortunately, the fire died out in a few minutes, causing only a black spot on the car and damaging the rubber in the left door. Even with CCTV footage, it was impossible to identify the assailant.

Ekachai revealed that in his street, many people would normally pass by, so he doesn’t know if there was anyone who came to take a look. He only found out about the incident on 27 January since he didn’t go out at all on the 26, only to open the steel gates in front of the house in the morning and evening. Ekachai reported the incident to Latphrao Police Station and forensic police officers examined the car and collected soot for further investigation.

Torching his car reflects a pattern of violence against Ekachai where it is impossible to estimate just how far the violence will reach.

3. Vigilantes in public

Physical harassment is the most frequent kind of threat against Ekachai. It first started when there was a wave of corruption in the NCPO government in March 2018 and Ekachai and his friends went to hand in a submission to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and participate in a symbolic activity of lighting 36 incense sticks to chase out evil so that the NACC would expedite the case of Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s expensive watches. However, he was taken away by officers and wounded on the finger. It was alleged that he had not requested permission for the activity

Again, he participated in an activity in front of the Royal Thai Army Headquarters. A person claiming to hold different political beliefs named Ritthikrai Chaiwansat physically attacked Ekachai when he tried to give a watch to Gen Prawit Wongsuwan in the midst of the scandal of the many expensive watches in the Deputy Prime Minister’s possession.

“Three men around 20-30 years old attacked me on the way home”

This is a message Ekachai posted on his public Facebook account. On 22 August 2018 at 12.00 noon, at the entrance to his street, a man tried to hit him in the face with a wooden plank. Ekachai used his arm to block the attack and got injured. The incident was seen by many people in the street, but no one helped him.

This happened after he had participated in an activity at Government House. Ekachai got off the bus and first noticed two men on a motorcycle waiting in front of the car repair shop at the entrance to his street. He saw them looking at him strangely. He thought that it was suspicious but chose to continue walking towards his house. When he turned into the street and was near his house, someone yelled out “Ekachai”.

He turned around and saw 2 men on a motorcycle following him. One of them hit Ekachai on the leg with a helmet. During this attack, a third man appeared but Ekachai doesn’t know where he came from. The third man hit him 4-5 times with a wooden plank while the other two stood watching. That time, the assailant hit him until the plank fell from his grasp. He tried to pick it up again, but Ekachai rushed into his house. The three did not follow him in.

We can see that the number of people attacking Ekachai increased from 1 to 3. The most recent violence involved 4 people. This happened after Ekachai participated in a “no election postponement” campaign on 19 January 2019.

The story started when he and 2 of his activist friends met a man claiming to be a plain-clothes officer from the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) who invited them to dinner in Tani Road, Bang Lamphu, not too far from the protest.

Ekachai felt suspicious and distrustful and did not talk to him, then they ate and headed home.

Just a few minutes after dinner with the security officer, while he and his friends were walking back to their cars, 4 men wearing full-face helmets riding 2 motorcycles appeared. Three of them got off and attacked Ekachai and his friends while 1 acted as look-out.

Luckily, a group of Chinese tourists came to help while the assailants were attacking them. The attackers threatened them saying, “I have a gun, I’ll f*cking shoot.”

Ekachai thinks the tourists didn’t understood what the attacker said so they did not get scared and continued to help them until the 4 attackers ran away.

He reported the incident to Chana Songkhram Police Station and received treatment for his wounds at Vajira Hospital. But after treating him, the doctor would not issue a medical certificate even though he told the doctor that he was going to use it in court to ask for a postponement of his trial the next day and also for the police report. The doctor said that they were only small wounds.


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