Doubts on police denial of using tear gas; crackdown victim charged

Live footage of crowd control police carrying firearms contradicts a statement by Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra,  the Metropolitan Police Chief, that the police did not use tear gas or rubber bullets against protesters on 13 February. A volunteer medic has been charged after suffering a heavy beating by the police. 

In live footage from Prachatai (at around 02.05.38), crowd control police officers can be seen carrying some kind of gun while taking control of the area in front of the Supreme Court at around 21.20 on 13 February. The Prachatai reporter also reported seeing a shot being fired toward the fleeing crowd at the Shrine of Mae Thorani, around 100 metres away.

From the footage, the weapon is likely to be a gas grenade launcher of some kind. However, Deputy Police Spokesperson Pol Maj Kritsana Pattanacharoen responded to media questions on Saturday night by saying that he would ‘check on it’, while on Sunday the Metropolitan Police Commissioner denied the use of such equipment.)

People around the shrine reported the effects of tear gas. One is Chayathanus ‘Cheraim’ Saradatta, a former Miss Universe Thailand contestant. Pol Lt Gen Phukphong said the police may summon her for questioning over this issue.

The police action was a response to the chaos caused by people who were lingering after the end of the protest that marched from the Democracy Monument. The remaining people were angry and somehow not satisfied with the protest ending just like that. 

People could be seen throwing objects such as bottles and metal sheets. The sound of explosions from either fireworks or hand-made grenades was heard from time to time before the police ordered the crackdown. 

On another matter, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights released the arrest document of Puraphon (surname omitted), 19, a volunteer medic who was photographed being beaten by crowd control police during the crackdown, which went viral on Saturday night with the hashtag #ตำรวจกระทืบหมอ.

Pol Lt Gen Phukphong said on Sunday that Puraphon was arrested because he was among those who were causing trouble at the time. Some media also reported that the police found weapons hidden inside Puraphon’s flak jacket.

The arrest record shows that Puraphon was among the 8 who were arrested on Saturday night. The police neither seized nor found any weapons as the media had reported. The only thing found in his jacket were medical scissors.

During the crackdown on Saturday night, Purapon and his team leader were helping a person who was hit by tear gas when he was assaulted by about 10 crowd control officers. He was kicked and hit with batons until he lost consciousness.

According to TLHR, the police were trying to negotiate with Puraphon not to file a complaint against those who assaulted him. When he rejected the negotiations, the police charged him with causing a risk for Covid-19 infection, assembling to cause public disorder and assaulting officers.

Puraphon is studying emergency medicine. On 16 October 2020, he joined the Doctor and Nurse Association, a volunteer medic group who have been operating in emergencies on a voluntary basis.

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