A murder suspect-turned-media superstar lost his cool yesterday and assaulted a journalist, prompting calls for his prosecution.
Two journalists’ associations yesterday condemned Chaipol Vipra, who’s surfed across tabloid front pages for months as “Uncle Pol,” after he placed Amarin TV’s Napas Praneetpolkrang in a headlock live on the air.
“Such actions against a journalist being harassed while seeking facts in good faith is utterly unacceptable,” read a joint statement from the Thai Journalists and Thai Broadcast Journalists associations. “This is considered violent obstruction of the media conducting its business and a threat toward people’s rights and liberty.”
The groups also demanded 44-year-old Chaipol be prosecuted for assault.
The incident was caught on tape during a Tuesday afternoon interview outside a shrine in Mukdahan province where Chaipol had brought a tree trunk for use as an altar. A forestry official showed up and was reading from a complaint that the wood was illegally harvested, drawing reporters’ attention away from his good deed, when Chaipol suddenly confronted Napas.
“Which channel are you from? Lemme have that, lemme hold the mic,” he said as he attempted to snatch the mic from Napas’s hand.
“Don’t attack me. I’m only doing my job as a journalist,” Napas said.
In the clip, Chaipol then yanks on Napas’ arm, slaps him on the back and shoves him backward. After stepping away, he returns to attack the reporter, grabbing him and placing him in a headlock. Other reporters and police had to lead him away.
Few had ridden the “Uncle Pol” tiger as hard as Amarin. Ever since Chaipol went from prime suspect in the death of a child to sympathetic media sensation, it has been among outlets providing breathless and incessant coverage of his life, elevating him to folk-hero status (Our report on the phenomenon last year).
Napas, who has worked two years for Amarin TV, went to the local police station and filed a complaint against Chaipol.
Chaipol’s rise to fame began soon after he was fingered as the prime suspect in the death of his 3-year-old niece Chompoo in the northeastern province of Mukdahan. His life quickly became a human interest story, and, within months, his home turned into a tourist attraction. He was soon singing and dancing alongside famous country singers in music videos and presiding over corporate events as a kind of VIP. He made appearances at entertainment events and opened a YouTube channel that within weeks was watched millions of times and today has 332,000 subscribers. Donations poured in from his fans.
All of it was enabled by months of breathless tabloid coverage of everything he did by outlets such as Amarin, Thairath and Khaosod.
But police said the girl’s death remains an open case and, just a few days ago, compelled him to submit to a polygraph test. He’s also facing allegations he misused donated money.
— ข่าวสด (@KhaosodOnline) January 19, 2021
After Tuesday’s incident, some of his fans said Chaipol should not have given into his temper and at least be “grateful” for his fame.
“Without these reporters, you wouldn’t be this famous like you are today. Think about it,” wrote Chayangkoon Trongkaew, a member of the Uncle Pol Fanclub, which has over 208,000 members.