Update: Organizers of the rally apologize for the assault.
PATTAYA — Police on Tuesday said an activist was charged with physical assault after he headbutted a Russian expat who interrupted a pro-democracy rally in the resort city of Pattaya.
Narathiwat Khamma attacked Russian national Vladislav Timokin during the Sunday evening’s gathering on Jomtien Beach, Pattaya City Police superintendent Khemmarin Pissamai said by phone. Narathiwat was released on a bond set at 10,000 baht on the same day.
Investigators will press more charges against him if doctors deemed Timokin was seriously harmed, Col. Khemmarin added. Timokin was seen reeling back with a bloodied nose after Narathiwat headbutted him.
The incident is a rare case of violence associated with the ongoing anti-government protests, which have remained largely peaceful since they broke out in July. PM Prayut himself criticized the assault in today’s news conference at Government House.
“Foreigners are not related to this matter,” PM Prayut said. “Even though there was some verbal [disagreement], it’s not right to attack him like that. It damages the reputation of Thailand and all Thai people.”
The Prime Minister continued, “I have already said that political difference is normal in democratic principles. We have to co-exist.”
Videos posted on social media show Narathiwat and Timokin exchanging heated words during the pro-democracy rally on Sunday evening. Timokin was observing the protest with his young daughter.
“Did you talk normally to me?” Narathiwat could be heard saying in the video, before he headbutted Timokin in front of the child.
“You can go fuck yourself!” the activist said to Timokin, who was bleeding from his nose. He was given first aid care at the scene. Both Timokin and Narathiwat were later taken to a police station.
After his release, Narathiwat told reporters that Timokin walked into the rally and asked what the demonstrators were protesting. He said the conversation soon descended into a quarrel when Timokin began to scold the protesters as “trash” and blamed them for pulling down the economy.
“It was a decent exchange of opinions until he called us trash,” the activist said. “He said the protests damaged the economy. I argued that the economy was not good well before the protests, but he told me that it’s normal for him since he could still afford a 1,000 baht meal.”
“He then pointed fingers at protesters and called them a virus. I approached him and he then challenged me as seen on the video,” Narathiwat continued.
Organizers of the rally later released a statement saying they were sorry for the violence.
“The People’s Party of Pattaya would like to apologize to the public and demonstrators.
We have to clarify that the incident was caused by provocation and shouting of curse words from a foreign man, which prompted one of the speakers to lose control of his temper and knocked the foreigner’s face with his head.
However, the cause does not excuse the misbehavior that followed. We therefore would like to apologize to everyone through this statement.”
Pattaya police chief Khemmarin said Narathiwat’s court date will be set at a later time.