Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has ordered police to speed up catching the men who beat up a pro-democracy activist on Friday.
Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat, 27, was beaten up by four men wearing helmets on a major street in Bangkok around noon on Friday. His condition remains critical.
Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said on Saturday that Gen Prawit, who is also the defence minister, was concerned about the use of violence on people with opposing political views.
“He asked the Royal Thai Police to act swiftly to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” Lt Gen Kongcheep said.
The spokesman added that Gen Prawit had ordered security forces to better protect people who exercise their rights to express opinions or hold activities within the legal framework.
“He urged people to learn from each other, keep an open mind and listen to different views creatively and refuse to resort to violence or hate speech.”
While agreeing the perpetrators must be brought to justice, some members of the coalition-leading Palang Pracharath Party felt the attack should not be taken at face value.
Former Bangkok MP candidates Kritchanon Aiyapunya and Thanwa Krairirksh on Saturday submitted a letter to the superintendent of the Min Buri police station, which handles the case, asking him to speed up the investigation.
They expressed concern about Mr Sirawith’s condition and disagreement with the use of violence. They are also worried the incident could be used to attack the government and escalate dissent.
“We can’t see what the government would gain from the attack," they said. "On the contrary, some people stand to gain from inciting people and escalating conflicts. That’s why we urge police to speed up their investigation."
Pareena Kraikupt, the PPRP MP for Ratchaburi who is making a name for herself with personal insults of political opponents, took a less charitable view. Writing on Facebook, she said nobody was stupid enough to openly assault an opponent.
“But the Anakot Dab Party [a pun on the Future Forward Party’s Thai name meaning “no future”] is suffering a decline," wrote the daughter of Thawee Kraikupt, a veteran Ratchaburi politician and influential figure.
"If Ja New is hurt by people from the same side to incite people and attack its enemies, I condemn those behind it and hope the party will be dissolved and its leader, secretary general and spokeswoman put behind bars."
She added that violence need not be used in politics to build a holier-than-thou image while destroying others.
Also on Saturday, some Pheu Thai MPs, led by Anudit Nakhontap, visited Mr Sirawith at the hospital and gave his mother, Patnaree Charnkij, a donation of 200,000 baht from the party’s MPs to help with his medical bills and another 50,000 baht from Khlong Sam Wa residents where the attack took place.
Mrs Patnaree said her son remained in the ICU. The pressure his right eye remained low and the pupil was dilated, she said.
Mr Sirawith was to leave for India to further his study and some well-wishers had helped coordinate with the university in Pune where he was to enrol for a post-graduate degree so that he could report in writing with a doctor’s certificate, his mother said.
Meanwhile, some non-gevernmental organisations condemned the attack and urged police to do their job properly.
The People’s Network for Police Reform on Saturday issued a statement urging the prime minister to remove police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda if he failed to protect people.
Jon Ungphakorn of Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) started a campaign seeking donations of 247.5 baht each to help with the medical bills. The number represents the Buddisht year when the country was changed to constitutional democracy in 1932.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists gathered at a concert for democracy at the October 14, 1973 memorial on Ratchadamnoen Avenue on Saturday afternoon.
The event, which Mr Sirawith had helped to organise, commemorates the 87th anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy on June 24, 1932.
Mr Sirawith recently gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he expressed his belief that society needs to engage in dialogue.
“I think we have to show people the truth and make them understand that it’s okay to accept and contemplate criticism,” he said.
“We need to value different points of view and encourage arguments instead of resorting to violence. This should be a battle of words — not violence.”