Activists demand accountability after Democrat leader rape allegations

Gender equality activists staged a demonstration in front of the Democrat Party headquarters on Monday (18 April) to demand accountability from the party after its former deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi was accused of having sexually assaulted at least 15 women.

Activists performing in front of the Democrat Party headquarters

During the demonstration, the activists staged a performance of “Sita Lui Fai” (“Sita walks through fire”), a Thai version of the Chilean feminist anthem "A Rapist in Your Path," to protest rape culture and the culture of victim blaming and impunity in sexual assault cases.

Originally conceived by the Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis and sung in Spanish, "A Rapist in Your Path" has been translated and sung at women’s rights protests across the world as a way of speaking out about sexual violence and the patriarchal power structure that represses women. It was first translated into Thai and performed at a Pride parade in November 2020.

The song has since been modified and used at several other protests, including in abortion rights campaigns and protests against human right abuses in schools.

The Thai version uses imagery from the epic “Ramayana,” with a reference to Rama’s wife Sita, who was forced by her husband to walk through fire to prove her purity after her long captivity by Ravana.

They then read out a statement saying that Prinn’s victims have said that they are afraid because he is influential, and that news reports show that he has repeatedly committed sexual assaults since he was living in the UK. They also noted that, since he was charged and resigned from his position as deputy party leader, other party members have been reported to engage in victim blaming and making light of gender-based violence, since messages in a party group chat on the application Line were leaked showing members publishing personal information of victims and sending messages questioning why the victims did not speak out before this.

Former Democrat MPs also praised Prinn, saying that he was brave to resign, while a party spokesperson said that sexual assault is a personal issue. Prinn was also appointed deputy party leader despite having a record of sexual assault while he was in the UK. The statement said that these actions reflect the culture of impunity in sexual assault cases, and how his family, the party, party members, and society allow such violence to happen and make it acceptable, even though it should be a basic ethical principle to reject gender-based violence.

“We, as gender equality activists, including women, men, non-binary people, trans people, and LGBTQIAN+ people, feel very disappointed that a political party and a politician, who is responsible for setting ethical standards when it comes to gender, instead uses his power to commit an act which diminishes a person’s right to bodily autonomy and destroys their human dignity, and we feel concern that the influence of politicians and the partys will be used to “silence,” leading to injustice,” said the statement.

The activists called on the Democrat Party to investigate whether there was an effort to conceal Prinn’s criminal record before he became deputy leader, and to investigate every candidate and executive member to see whether they have committed sexual violence.

They also called on the party to i a clear regulation against sexual violence and to apologize to the public, as well as to promise not to use its influence to interfere with the complaints filed against Prinn.

Prinn was charged with public indecency and rape in three cases and was granted bail on 17 April using a 700,000-baht security. The court also prohibited him from leaving the country.

After it was reported that several women are filing sexual assault complaints against him, Prinn announced that he was resigning from every position in the Democrat Party. On 19 April, party leader Jurin Laksanawisit also resigned from the government’s committee on gender equality and the committee on national strategy and policy on women.

Meanwhile, more women are reporting to the police saying that Prinn assaulted them. As of today (21 April), a total of 15 women have come forward.

Ratchada Thanadirek

Ratchada Thanadirek, a member of the Democrat Party’s executive board, came to watch Monday’s demonstration and received the activists’ statement.

She said that the party is willing to consider the activists’ demands and will not let any politician commit sexual assault. As for Prinn’s case, she said that the law should be the judge since the case is going through the judicial process.

She also said that the Democrat Party is willing to support the victims, such as by providing them with lawyers. She also apologized for the party spokesperson’s statement that sexual assault is a personal issue, saying that sexual assault is not a personal issue but the statement was a personal opinion of a party member.

Mimi reading out the activists' statement

Gender equality activist Mimi (pseudonym) said during a Facebook live broadcast on The Reporters that they expect the Democrat Party to reflect on itself, since they see that Prinn’s position in the party gave him power as he used his position to pressure the women he assaulted into sex. They also said they expect that political parties implement clear regulations on sexual assault and what to do if party members use their position as leverage to sexually exploit others.

Mimi also noted that, whenever they stage demonstrations about gender equality, every organization tends to send a woman as their representative, even though women are not the cause of the problems. They said that, if a party sincerely want to solve these problems, it should send representatives of every gender to speak to the activists, not just women.

As for the Democrat Party’s offer to provide lawyers for the victims, Mimi said that they are not sure if the party’s lawyers will be able to make the victims feel safe as party personnel themselves cannot make the victims feel safe.

Mimi said that one of their demands is that the party must not use its influence to give Prinn impunity.

“I think that this is the best time, and it is very necessary that we show that sexual violence must end no matter what, and perpetrators must not get away with their crimes and then return pretending to be honest and knowing nothing,” they said.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”