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With tensions running high over the possibility of a protest being staged when HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited Nakhon Sawan Province on 7 February, a police officer allegedly slapped a young man and forced him to sit down for the passing royal motorcade.

A date-stamped video clip of the incident was posted by an activist, Phimchanok Jaihong. The Nakhon Sawan Provincial Cultural Office confirmed that HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited Wat Sri Utum Phon in the Muang Nakhon Sawan District on 7 February.

In the video, a police officer can be seen trying to make the individual he allegedly hit sit down as the motorcade passes. In an exchange of words, the policeman can be heard challenging him to file a complaint. The young man, in turn can be heard daring the police officer to give him a drug test.

The youth in the video, an eighteen-year old named Tom (a pseudonym) told Prachatai that he had just left his friend’s house to go home and did not know that there would be the royal motorcade. Stopped by the police, he asked permission to continue home.

“I didn’t know that there was a [royal] motorcade. I was trying to leave but the police wouldn’t let me. I told him politely that I did not want to wait, that I wanted to go home and would cut through the temple. He didn’t answer; he just slapped me.”

After the motorcade passed, he was allowed to leave. Later, his mother told him that the police called her, asking him to go to Nakhon Sawan Municipal Police Station to report the incident so that they could investigate it. Tom went the next day.

However, at the police station, the police informed him that they were unable to identify the police officer in the video. They added that police from 9 provinces came to provide security on that day.

When Prachatai contacted the Nakhon Sawan police station on Wednesday to make inquiries, the station’s public relations officer said that his shift was ending and he had no knowledge of the incident. He also did not refer to other officers who might have knowledge of the incident, saying that he did not know exactly who they were.

Tom said that the incident took place close by Wat Sukot. Upon searching on Google Map with the landscape of note as shown in the video. It is possible that the incident took place at Suwanvitee 53 Alley, Sawanvitee Road, close by the provincial attorney lodging and the government office.

Stringent preparations for royal motorcades

Tom said he could not understand why the police officer treated him so harshly. His family was also stunned.

“[My parents] were shocked that I was slapped in the face. They’ve never hit me in the face. People in the family, my mom, my dad never hit my face. That someone did, that a policeman did  … they were upset.

“I just don’t understand. If he was worried about the royal motorcade, why didn’t he tell me to leave, have me go wait inside the temple? He didn’t say anything to me. He hit my face for no reason. Why did he need to hit me repeatedly? And the way he talked … it was like having a conversation with a terrorist,” said Tom.

Since the 2014 coup, police monitoring of activists in advance of royal visits has been frequent. Activists in Northern Thailand have reported such monitoring on a number of occasions.

Thai Lawyers for Human rights (TLHR) reports that members of a vocational school student network in the province were visited by police officers several times in early February.  They were reportedly also threatened by the police. On Monday (7 February 2022), a student activist, Phimchanok Jaihong, posted on Facebook that around 14 – 15 plainclothes officers went to her house.

On the same day, the police also halted activists from Draconis Revolution Group from welcoming the motorcade. They had prepared a cloth banner with the message ‘Long live the Princess’, a common expression used for greeting visiting royals. 

On 3 January 2022, Kantapat, 17, a student activist in Buriram, was summoned to meet the police and made to sign a paper affirming that he would not interfere with an upcoming royal procession of Princess Sirindhorn on 5 January.

Kantapat told Prachatai that he had no plan to organise any activity during that time and was instead preparing for a midterm exam that was scheduled for after the long new year’s holiday.  Despite this, plainclothes police reportedly kept an eye on him at his home and school.

Prior to the Kantapat incident, royal processions in Bangkok were targeted by activists twice. On 28 December 2021, three activists held up banners with the message “abolish Section 112” at a procession of King Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. They were arrested and fined. 

Two days later, another two activists were arrested and charged with royal defamation after raising a banner at the Equestrian Monument Intersection close by one of the King’s palaces shortly before a royal procession passed the area. The banner demanded the release of detained protesters.

Arrests in both cases involved the use of force, resulting in cuts and, in one instance, a dislocated shoulder.

On 20 December 2021 when Pakawadee Veerapaspong, a Chiang Mai activist and translator, was visited by plainclothes policemen before Princess Sirindhorn’s royal visit in Chiang Mai Province on 24 December.  A full report was published by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

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