Thai authorities urged to investigate attacks on activists
BANGKOK (AP) — Rights groups urged Thai authorities Wednesday to investigate attacks against pro-democracy activists after one was beaten and left unconscious on a sidewalk in the latest case of growing violence.
Amnesty International submitted open letters to Thailand’s defense minister and its police commissioner asking them to bring to justice attackers against three vocal pro-democracy activists who have faced physical abuse on multiple occasions since the military seized power in a coup in 2014.
Authorities have so far failed to investigate the violence. The ruling junta has actively cracked down on dissent and political discussions while it enacted new election laws that favored its leader, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, in elections in March.
Amnesty said the attacks against the activists “appear to fit a pattern of systemic violence timed to coincide with their efforts to draw attention to perceived election irregularities and problems relating to the formation of a new government.”
The appeal follows an attack last Friday on Sirawith Seritiwat, who opposes the military’s role in politics. He was beaten until he was unconscious on a sidewalk near his home in Bangkok in broad daylight.
Photos of a bloodied Sirawith and security camera footage of the attack that were circulated online have sparked public outrage.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday he had instructed police to investigate the attack on Sirawith.
“I am not his enemy,” Prayuth said.
Police said they’re investigating.
The most recent attack on Sirawith left him with a fractured eye socket and head injuries. He was previously attacked on June 3 by at least five men after he had been working on a campaign to petition members of the junta-appointed Senate not to vote for Prayuth to become prime minister.
Other anti-military activists such as Anurak Jeantawanich and Ekachai Hongkangwan have faced physical abuse on multiple occasions by unknown assailants.
Anurak said he was most recently attacked in May by six-to-eight men, some wearing motorcycle helmets and using metal bars to hit his head, after he announced a plan to protest the election of the pro-army speaker of the lower house of Parliament.
Ekachai faced physical abuse on several occasions in addition to having his parked car set on fire twice this year. He was also subjected to at least four violent attacks in 2018 as he engaged in peaceful protests about official misconduct, according to Amnesty International.
“Intimidating activists by physical abuse appears to be becoming increasingly aggressive and involving a rising number of victims,” Angkhana Neelapaijit of Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission said in a Facebook post last Friday after Sirawith was attacked.
“These incidents usually occur during the day in public places but authorities have never been able to apprehend the perpetrators, which leads to continued intimidation against political opponents without consideration for the law.”