AYUTTHAYA — A woman was charged with assault Wednesday after she attacked a highschool student in Ayutthaya province for not standing up during the National Anthem, police said.
The suspect was identified by police as a roti vendor named Poo, 45. She was charged following a video of her assaulting a 15-year-old student at Ayutthaya Railway Station that went viral on Tuesday. Poo appeared to be enraged that the girl did not stand up for the anthem, and slapped her face and pulled her hair.
“You’re a student, wearing the uniform,” she shouted at the girl in an attempt to shame her, as another woman tried to pull her away.
The girl later filed a police complaint and got a medical checkup. She said that she did not stand up because she had menstrual cramps, which she proved via medical certificate.
Police Col. Prawet Srinak of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Police said that Poo’s punishment would be decided by the court. Assault carries a maximum punishment of two years in jail and 40,000 baht.
He maintained that the incident was a personal matter and unrelated to politics.
“This is a matter of physical assault. We’re worried that this could be made to be about the [monarchy] institution and politics. This was a misunderstanding,” Prawet said Wednesday. Prawet would not give Poo’s full name.
Poo apologized to the girl’s father and uncle Wednesday. Although they accepted the apology, the family would not withdraw the criminal case.
“I did it because I was suddenly angry,” Poo said. “I ‘m just a working class woman, I don’t follow politics but I grew up learning that we have to stand for the anthem.”
Poo said she usually intervened when someone did not stand for the anthem, but would not do it again.
One of the first to check up on the case was Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, who called the police to ask about the case less than two hours after the video of the assault was posted.
“I called to demand justice for her since it’s unfair she was slapped, with her head jerked like that,” Wiroj said by phone. “Both adults and the younger generation have to be mature enough to live with different opinions. We can’t chase away people who disagree with us.”
He added, “We have to be able to coexist and stop using power on each other.”
Wiroj, whose pinned tweet is a complaint form for students to report inappropriate behavior by teachers and school staff, said that “the last generation’s authoritarianism has pressed down hard on the children.”
“We have to try to understand these children, who are rightfully outspoken,” he said. “A society that disrespects each other will continue to have distrust.”
The National Anthem is played at public places at 8am and 6pm everyday. Pedestrians and commuters are expected to stand at attention during the song, even in busy skytrain stations.
The practice is not mandated by any law, but refusal to comply is often frowned upon or even confronted.
Despite popular belief, the National Anthem does not include any reference to the monarchy. It is also confused with the Royal Anthem, which honors the monarchy and is typically played in cinemas.