Prinn meets police, denies sex charges

Prinn meets police, denies sex charges

First court hearing and bail arguments scheduled for Sunday for former Democrat deputy leader

Prinn Panitchpakdi, right, a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, arrives at Lumphini police station in Bangkok to report to police on Saturday morning after he was accused of sexually abusing women. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)
Prinn Panitchpakdi, right, a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, arrives at Lumphini police station in Bangkok to report to police on Saturday morning after he was accused of sexually abusing women. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)

Prinn Panitchpakdi, a former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, is scheduled to appear in court on Sunday morning to answer sex charges, which he denied in his first meeting with Lumphini police on Saturday.

Mr Prinn on Saturday gave statements to police investigators about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape and would present evidence later, said Pol Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Police had no authority to detain Mr Prinn as an arrest warrant had not yet been issued, he added.

However, he can be arrested immediately if he fails to show up at the Bangkok South Criminal Court at 8am on Sunday, when police will present an argument for his detention. The accused is expected to request bail.

“Bail applications have to be submitted to the court. Legal action will be taken for each case as there are three cases filed with the Lumphini police station. Bail applications must be submitted separately [on Sunday],”said the MPB deputy commissioner.

Pol Maj Gen Trairong Phiewphan, another MPB deputy chief responsible for legal affairs, is overseeing the cases. Lumphini police are handling the cases and can bring in investigators from MPB Division 5 if more damaged parties file complaints against the politician, said Pol Maj Gen Jirasan.

He insisted police did not feel pressure just because the accused was a prominent political figure. They would strictly abide by the law and handle the cases in a transparent and fair manners, he said.

Police will ask the court to set bail conditions to ban the suspect from leaving the country as he reportedly had overseas residences. Because the cases carry harsh punishment and involve several victims, officers will also seek cooperation from the Immigration Bureau to ensure the suspect does not flee.

Mr Prinn, 44, arrived at the Lumphini police station at around 8am on Saturday to respond to complaints filed by four women against him. After reporting to the officers, he escaped reporters by leaving the station via the back door.

Among those at the station on Saturday was Tanat Thanakitamnuay, known as “Hi-so Luk Nat”, a high-profile pro-democracy protester and husband of one of Mr Prinn’s alleged victims.

Mr Tanat said his wife’s mental state had begun to deteriorate and she did not want to face reporters, so she was letting him speak on her behalf.

“My presence here does not mean that I intended to see Mr Prinn,” said Mr Tanat. “Had I wanted to see him, I could find him by myself. But I arrived here because there are media crews at the police station. I want to use this place to express my views regarding the matter.”

He said five or six victims had contacted him and others had also contacted his wife. One had been a friend of the suspect while they were studying in the United Kingdom, he said. At the time, she was only 17 years old, said Mr Tanat, adding that she had allegedly been persuaded to go to a place where she was at risk of being vulnerable.

He said he understood that some victims did not dare come forward to file complaints against prominent people, adding that many sexual abuse cases go unreported in Thailand.

On Friday, the Ruam Thai United Party issued a statement saying that one of the alleged victims of Mr Prinn was its candidate for councillor in the May 22 Bangkok elections.

Ruam Thai United said that Hathairat “Anna” Thanakitamnuay had filed a complaint with police accusing the politician of sexually assaulting her. She has also given interviews to Thai media about the incident, which she said happened in March last year.

Mr Prinn stepped down as deputy leader of the Democrat Party on April 15, after reports emerged that he had sexually harassed an 18-year-old student, a claim he also denied.

A graduate of the London School of Economics, he is the son of Supachai Panitchpakdi, a former deputy prime minister and former director-general of the World Trade Organization.

Mr Tanat, 29, lost the sight in one eye after being struck by a projectile during a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on Aug 13 last year.

A wealthy former member of the Democrat Party, Mr Tanat took part in Suthep Thaugsuban’s “Bangkok Shutdown” street campaign that paved the way for the 2014 military coup. He resigned his membership when the party joined the coalition government formed by the Palang Pracharath Party after the general election in 2019.

Tanat Thanakitamnuay, husband of one of the alleged victims of politician Prinn Panitchpakdi, speaks to reporters at Lumphini police station in Bangkok on Saturday afternoon.

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