As violence rises against protesters, Thailand’s police blame the victims

At left, gunshot victim Wanchai Ari in an ambulance last night on the way to Praram 9 Hospital. At right, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet throws a small explosive device. Photo: Tosaporn Sererak / Twitter, The Standard
At left, gunshot victim Wanchai Ari in an ambulance last night on the way to Praram 9 Hospital. At right, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet throws a small explosive device. Photo: Tosaporn Sererak / Twitter, The Standard

A 25-year-old vocational student was shot in the stomach last night when protesters came under fire as a pro-democracy rally was breaking up, and the police today blamed the protesters themselves.

Tosaporn Sererak, a physician supporting the protests, said that one of several bullets fired just after 10pm by unknown assailants penetrated the intestines of volunteer guard Wanchai Ari, who was in stable condition this morning at Praram 9 Hospital. It was the second time protesters have been shot at rallies in as many weeks.

A suspect attacked and subdued by protesters was taken into custody by the police. Payap Keawwilai, 31, who was arrested with a gun and bullets, was taken to St. Louis Hospital.

But speaking Thursday, deputy metro police chief Piya Tawichai blamed the violence on volunteer protest guards. He said witness testimony pinned the shootings on vocational students from feuding colleges at the rally held outside Thailand’s oldest bank headquarters last night. He did not provide any evidence.

There’s an established pattern when government critics are victims of violence in which investigations seem easily stymied or stall out completely.

Reached for comment, Phahon Yothin police chief Gen. Atthawut Niwatsophon refused to discuss last night’s violence after answering his phone, saying he was “busy driving.”

Nine days after six protesters were shot outside the Parliament, no suspects are in custody, despite two men with ultra-royalist links falling under suspicion. Days after police officials also cast suspicion on protest guards, the top cop at the Taopoon Police Station today said no arrests have been made. The chief, Col. Krich Kanchana, said two of those injured came to file reports, and investigators were still reviewing CCTV footage showing the shooter.

Royalist, ‘pink man’ top suspects in shooting of six protesters outside parliament

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome last night said the police have a double-standard when it comes to protecting protesters.

“Officers put on a big show on how well-prepared they are to control the mob, to protect the [Crown] Property Bureau, like it is their lord of life,” he wrote in a tweet. “On the other hand, the life and property of the protesters are ignored. I hear that a protester got shot, I don’t know who did it, but isn’t it the cop’s duty to protect a human life first? This is nuts.”

Minutes after Wanchai was shot last night, a man wearing a white motorcycle helmet was filmed throwing a small improvised explosive, a so-called ping-pong bomb, at a McDonald’s restaurant at The Avenue Ratchayothin. No one was reported injured and the man managed to escape the scene.

Ed. Note: At a Thursday afternoon press briefing, police identified the student victim as Pachakorn Saksritao, 20, and the suspected shooter as 25-year-old Pasaphong Kulamornkarn. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

Several key pro-democracy figures and government critics were savagely beaten in broad daylight last year without anyone held to account.

Portraying pro-democracy protests as violent as a pretense for military intervention has a long history. In 2010, the army violently ended weeks of massive rallies in Bangkok and staged a coup d’etat four years later after anti-government elements spent several months instigating violence and sabotaging a general election. 

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS

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