Thai democracy activist attacked by unknown assailants

BANGKOK: A Thai pro-democracy campaigner was beaten by unidentified assailants on a Bangkok street and hospitalised on Friday (Jun 28), his mother said, the latest in what rights groups say is a “systematic” assault against activists who oppose the military-led government.

Thailand was under a five-year military regime after a 2014 coup, with authorities clamping down on dissent.

A much-disputed election was held in March, reinstating military leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as prime minister, though a government has not yet been formed.

The attack on Friday is the latest in a rash of public assaults against three pro-democracy activists this year – with one of them having his car torched – and police have yet to arrest any perpetrators.

Sirawith Seritiwat, 27, is an outspoken student activist well-known for staging anti-military protests but has been more subdued since the announcement of March’s elections.

His mother told AFP he was attacked Friday morning outside his home, with witnesses telling her four men started beating her son with sticks.

“They broke his nose and eye socket, causing a clot to one of his eyes,” Patnaree Chankij said, adding that her son was “unconscious” and doctors were worried about his sight.

Photos shared on social media showed Sirawith bloodied from the attack, with his eyes swollen.

It is the second attack on him this year, following a June 2 incident when five unidentified men pummelled him with sticks, briefly hospitalising him with several head wounds.

Sirawith filed a complaint but the police investigation has not yielded any arrests.

His mother believes it is “the same group” of attackers.

“He had no enemies, only political ones. He has been campaigning against the junta for the past five years,” Patnaree told AFP.

Two other prominent pro-democracy campaigners, Anurak Jeantawanich and Ekachai Hongkangwan, have also been publicly targeted this year.

Ekachai, a frequent critic of the military-led government, has been attacked nine times since 2018 and his car was set on fire in two separate incidents this year.

Anon Chawalawan of iLaw, a legal monitoring group, said police have not arrested any suspects over this year’s attacks against the three activists.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called on authorities to investigate the incidents, and has raised concerns about possible government involvement.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk said the three activists were “seen as enemies of the junta” for their peaceful opposition.

“The climate of fear (for activists) is very real and the threat, including physical threats, has become imminent.”