Student activist Benja Apan and 2 other activists from the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration went to the Iconsiam shopping mall on the afternoon of 19 January holding signs saying “Monopolizing the vaccine to give the spotlight to the monarchy”
A number of mall security guards tried to remove the activists from the premises and threatened to have them arrested. A small clash occurred when one of the guards pulled the sign from Benja’s hand, so she tried to grab his employee ID to see his name.
Benja said that the security guard slapped her face and other guards confiscated the activists’ mobile phones while they were broadcasting live on Facebook.
The police, who has been called by mall management, then arrived at the scene and took Benja to the Pakkhlongsan Police Station. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported, however, that she had not been arrested, and that she decided to press charges against the security guard for assault.
Icon Siam’s management did not press charges against Benja and the other activists for their activity. Meanwhile, the security guard who slapped Benja received a fine of 1000 baht. He claimed that he did not intend to slap her and apologised to Benja.
Benja said that she only intended to take pictures while holding the sign to raise questions about the vaccine production monopoly by Siam Bioscience, the only company currently licensed to produce the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the region.
There have been reports that Siam Bioscience’s largest shareholder is the Crown Property Bureau. Meanwhile, BBC Thai reported that the Department of Business Development, Ministry of Commerce, lists King Vajiralongkorn as the largest shareholder.
A crowd of around 30 people, led by activist Panupong Jadnok, later gathered at Iconsiam to demand an apology from mall management for the security guard’s use of force against the activists.
It was also reported that Sasaluk Charoensuk, one of those who participated in the gathering, was choked by a security guard, and that other participants were stopped from leaving the mall by other guards.
The crowd dispersed at around 18.40, after a representative of Iconsiam announced that they will investigate the incident.
An announcement was also posted on the mall’s Facebook page saying that the management will be investigating what happened and if the security guard is found to be at fault, he will face disciplinary action according to their protocol.
The announcement also asked people not to hold any political demonstrations within the premises and noted that the mall management retains the right to prohibit any activity that they see as inappropriate.
The hashtag #banIconsiam trended on Twitter following the incident in the afternoon, while campaign signs raising questions about Siam Bioscience’s vaccine license have also been seen at other locations.
Iconsiam announced yesterday (20 January) that it has investigated the incident and found the security guard violated its regulation. It therefore decided to take disciplinary action against the security guard, who has decided to “show responsibility” by resigning with immediate effect.