Japanese man jailed for attacking Thai dissident

Japanese man jailed for attacking Thai dissident

Self-exiled Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun addresses protesters through a live video call to condemn the military-aligned government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a pro-democracy rally in Pathum Thani province on Aug 10, 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Self-exiled Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun addresses protesters through a live video call to condemn the military-aligned government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a pro-democracy rally in Pathum Thani province on Aug 10, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

A Japanese man was jailed for 20 months on Wednesday for attacking a Thai academic in Japan where he lives in self-exile following his vocal criticism of the military and monarchy.

The verdict was confirmed to AFP by the district court in Kyoto, where former diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun has lived for the past decade.

Tatsuhiko Sato, 43, had last month admitted to breaking into Mr Pavin's home in July 2019 and attacking the dissident and another person with tear gas, according to Japan's public broadcaster NHK and other local media.

Sato admitted to the charges and said the attack was carried out at the instruction of a senpai (superior). Under questioning from one of the prosecutors, Sato repeatedly declined to name the individual.

Mr Pavin, an associate professor at Kyoto University, said he suspected the attack had been masterminded from Thailand.

"I truly believe that the Thai establishment is behind this because I have no enemies in Japan and have never participated in any political activity on Japanese soil," the 51-year-old told AFP.

"I am satisfied with the court's verdict... However, the culprits behind this attack will still have to be pursued."

Mr Pavin has published books and other commentaries about the military and monarchy in Thailand, where criticism of the king is considered taboo.

He is also an administrator of a Facebook group with more than 2 million members who discuss the royal family's role in the country, as well as a pro-democracy movement's proposals for reforms.

Thailand's lese majeste law is seen as one of the strictest in the world. Offenders can land up to 15 years in jail per charge for defaming, insulting, or threatening the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent.

At Sato's first hearing last month, prosecutors sought two years in jail and argued it was a planned attack under an order from an accomplice, NHK said.

Mr Pavin said he did not know Sato and had not met him before the incident, which left the academic traumatised.

"The man could be linked to organised crime because there was a BMW waiting to pick him up," he said.

"I have had trouble sleeping at night. I also had to install at least five surveillance cameras in my house in addition to extra locks and an anti-theft alarm."

At least nine Thai dissidents who fled political persecution in Thailand have been forcibly disappeared in neighbouring countries in recent years, according to Human Rights Watch.

One of the most notable cases was the disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was abducted by armed men in broad daylight in Phnom Penh in 2020. He remains missing.

Mr Pavin, who has been a thorn in the side of the army since it seized power in a 2014 coup, accused the military in 2016 of harassing his family in Thailand.


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