Activists stopped 'for own safety' vow return to Rajabhakti

Activists stopped 'for own safety' vow return to Rajabhakti

Soldiers stop Sirawith Seritiwat in Ratchaburi on Monday from leading anti-junta followers to visit the Rajabhakti Park. Government authorities contested that the intervention was for their own protection. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Soldiers stop Sirawith Seritiwat in Ratchaburi on Monday from leading anti-junta followers to visit the Rajabhakti Park. Government authorities contested that the intervention was for their own protection. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The leader of activists blocked on Monday from visiting Rajabhakti Park “for their own safety” vowed today to try again this month to get to the scandal-hit Hua Hin tourist attraction.

Sirawith Seritiwat, head of the Prachatipatai Sueksa group, told reporters on Tuesday his "Democracy Studies" group would attempt another train journey to Prachuap Khiri Khan province to visit the army-built collection of statues of former Thai kings that is mired in allegations of corruption.

He claimed the military regime stopped his group in Ratchaburi province because it was afraid of people asking questions about the project.

But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told reporters on Monday that soldiers pulled the activists off their train 200 kilometres from Prachaup Khiri Khan "for their own safety".

"Do you know why they were stopped from going to Rajabhakti Park? It was because others were waiting to beat them," Gen Prayut said at Government House. "Should they have been allowed to go there and get hurt or killed?"

He cautioned the 40 activists against trying to make another trip to the park.

"If you want to go, you may, but take care of yourself. Police will not be able to cope. If you violate the law, you must take some responsibility," the general said.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd on Tuesday questioned the real motivation of the activists, who he claimed were making up stories to fuel the park scandal.

"The public should wonder if the people who are spreading the information are related to past (legal) cases," Maj Gen Sansern said, without being specific. "The government is bringing those cases to court. If they are related, does it mean that they are trying to divert people's attention from the unsettled cases to the new issue?"

Mr Sirawith denied his group's sojourn was politically motivated and suggested that residents near the park who opposed their visit and pelted their bus with shoes as they were taken away by the military might have been prompted to do so by the military.

Maj Gen Sansern said a visit to the Rajabhakti Park by the Prachatipatai Sueksa or anyone else, including red-shirt leaders who attempted a similar journey earlier this month, could not facilitate the corruption investigation as it had to be based on data, not anything that can be observed at the park.

"Their trip to Prachuap Khiri Khan, their intentions and their behaviour are clearly irrelevant to any investigation," the spokesman said. "It was a political event that would create disorder. We could not let them go there. It was beyond what is permitted and would create unrest."

Military law currently prohibits political gatherings of more than five people. Had the students demonstrated at the park Monday, they would have been prosecuted, leaving them with a criminal record that could jeopardise their futures, he said.

Maj Gen Sansern maintained that the government welcomes any independent organisations to investigate the alleged irregularities in the Rajabhakti project.

Gen Prayut echoed his spokesman's sentiment, saying any irregularities relating to Rajabhakti Park were being handled through the justice system.



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