Ja New rejects police offer of conditional protection

Ja New rejects police offer of conditional protection

Sirawith Seritiwat was hospitalised after a brutal assault on June 28. (AP file photo)
Sirawith Seritiwat was hospitalised after a brutal assault on June 28. (AP file photo)

Pro-democracy activist Sirawith Seritiwat, who was attacked and left unconscious on a Bangkok pavement, said he will refuse an offer of police protection that would require him to stop political activities.

Mr Sirawith, widely known as Ja New, was severely beaten by four assailants near his home on June 28. He received head injuries and a fractured eye socket.

The activist, who was attacked twice in June, says he will not allow police to ensure his safety because he believes the government was behind the attacks.

The military seized power in a 2014 coup and has cracked down on dissent while failing to fully investigate repeated violence against its critics. The junta also enacted election laws that favoured its leader, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in voting in March.

“Apart from prohibiting me from getting involved with anything political, I must also report to police my plans and whereabouts at all times,” Mr Sirawith said by phone from his home, where he is recuperating after being released from a hospital on Sunday.

Mr Sirawith was also attacked in a separate incident on June 3 by at least five men after he worked on a campaign to petition members of the junta-appointed Senate not to vote for Gen Prayut to become prime minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, whooversees security affairs, said on Monday that police had offered to guarantee Mr Sirawith's safety if he distances himself from politics.

“It's up to the police. Let the police deal with it,” Gen Prawit told reporters. “They meant that Ja New is not allowed to be involved (with politics).”

Mr Sirawith said he would not let police ensure his safety because he suspects the government was behind the attacks.

“I won't take the deal,” he said. “And if I don't take the deal and these types of things happen to me again, it must mean that the government was behind the first two attacks, right?”

Authorities have not arrested any suspects in either attack on Mr Sirawith, or in attacks on other anti-military activists.

One activist, Anurak Jeantawanich, said he was attacked in May by six to eight men, some wearing motorcycle helmets, who hit his head with metal bars after he announced a plan to protest the election of the pro-army speaker of the lower house of Parliament.

Another activist, Ekachai Hongkangwan, has faced physical abuse on multiple occasions in addition to having his car set on fire twice this year. He was subjected to at least four attacks in 2018 as he engaged in peaceful protests over official misconduct.

On July 3, Amnesty International submitted an open letter to Thai authorities urging them to bring to justice attackers against three vocal pro-democracy activists, including Mr Sirawith, saying the attacks "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."

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