Ja New 'not asked' to stop activism

Ja New 'not asked' to stop activism

The government on Wednesday dismissed an allegation that police had asked political activist Sirawith Seritiwat, recently injured in a brutal attack, to stop building a new political movement in exchange for continuing to receive police protection.

Mr Sirawith, better known as Ja New, was attacked twice last month. In the most recent incident on June 28, he was badly beaten in broad daylight near his home in Klong Sam Wa district by four men wielding blackjack batons.

The police had a duty to ensure people's safety anyway, said Deputy Defence Minister Gen Chaichan Changmongkol. He was responding on behalf of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to a motion filed by Future Forward Party (FFP) list-MP Rangisman Rome at Wednesday's House of Representatives sitting. The motion was intended for Gen Prawit.

"The police have never stopped anyone from building a political movement because they do not have any authority to do so, as long as the person is exercising his or her political rights allowed under the constitution," said Gen Chaichan. There are currently 76 people receiving protection from the Metropolitan Police Bureau, he said.

As for progress in the investigation into the attack on Mr Sirawith, the police are closer to seeking warrants for the arrest of suspects after questioning 15 witnesses, said Gen Chaichan.

In another development, the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) revealed on Wednesday that 13 social media users are being charged for sharing false posts on social media accusing deputy police chief Pol Gen Chaiwat Ketworachai of being behind attacks on Mr Sirawith and other recent attacks on political activists.

Eight of the 13 suspects had already appeared on Tuesday to answer their charges, said TCSD commander Pol Maj Gen Phaibun Noihun.

The eight suspects denied violating the Computer Crime Act, an offence that carries a maximum prison term of five years and/or a maximum fine of 100,000 baht, he said.

The suspects did, however, admit to sharing a post containing false information which has damaged the reputation of both Pol Gen Chaiwat and that of the national police, he said. They said they weren't aware that the information they shared was false, he said.

He said they had shared a post made by a Facebook user going by the name of Jenat Suchanan. Police already have sufficient evidence to prove the identity of the person posting the information, and are tracking that person, Pol Gen Phaibun added. The other five suspects will meet investigators next week, he said, adding that none of the eight suspects knew each other beforehand.

Meanwhile, anti-junta activists petitioned the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) to help reinvestigate their physical assault cases after the Metropolitan Police Bureau failed to make progress. Ekachai Hongkangwan, 42, Anurak "Ford" Jentawanich, 51, and 10 other activists asked Pol Lt Col Chanin Nguanson, a CSD investigator, for help.

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