Elderly Thai woman roughed up, charged with crimes for protesting PM on campaign trail

A government spokesperson said today that everyone must “respect” candidates running to be prime minister, after a woman was dragged off by security for daring to criticize the current premier as he campaigned west of Bangkok.

Spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonchana said that the right to expression did not mean people could disrespect PM candidates when they make campaign stops, as happened Monday when at least three officers removed 61-year-old Wantana O-thong by force after she vocally criticized Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was expected to arrive in the area in Ratchaburi province. 

Wantana was also charged with assaulting and obstructing officials, making a loud noise in public and refusing to stay in a designated area. She was also accused of biting the finger of one officer, according to Col. Piyapong Wongketjai, chief of Bang Pong Police.

Wantana was granted bail with THB10,000 with help of representatives from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. 

Wantana sustained injuries to her feet, arms, and wrists during the ordeal and is expected to file charges against the authorities Tuesday afternoon at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, according to lawyer-activist Arnon Nampa. 

She was reportedly a former 2019 candidate for the Pheu Chart Party. She said she showed up where Prayuth was visiting to “exercise her rights in voting to call out the country’s leader to solve people’s livelihood problems and truly listen to the people.”

National police chief Gen. Damrongsak Kittiprapas said police are investigating whether the officers exceeded their authority by forcing Wantana away from where Prayuth was campaigning.

Wantana O-thong shows her inked fingerprints at the Ban Pong Police Station in Ratchaburi province. Photo: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

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