BANGKOK — Police have charged an actor and talk show host with assault for punching a motorcyclist and dragging him to prostrate to his “dream car,” footage of which went viral over the weekend and cost him his job Monday.
A lawyer for Acharanat Ariyaritwikol, 28, said his client struck Kittisak “Boy” Singto repeatedly on Friday out of self-defense. The assault and Acharanat’s insistence that Kittisak kowtow, or graab, to the luxury car he allegedly damaged in an accident were trending topics on social media, earning the hashtag #GraabMyCar.
“He was defending himself,” Adul Tinapong said at Yannawa Police Station. “The other person looked like he was about to start a fight.”
In video of the incident, Kittisak appears frightened as Acharanat drags him by the front of his jacket over to his car and strikes him repeatedly in the face.
But speaking at the police station, Acharanat said he thought Kittisak might have had a knife or gun at the time. He asked the public for forgiveness.
“Am I wrong? I am. I admit that,” Acharanat said with a waii. “I’d like to apologize to the media, everyone, including Nong Boy and his family.”
Police have charged Acharanat with assault. Achanarat’s employer GMM TV announced Monday it had canceled his contract and terminated all of his ongoing projects effective immediately. A news conference earlier announced for Monday afternoon was canceled.
GMM TV wrote in a statement that it “regrets the incident and sees the damage from his status, as an actor and emcee should be a role model to the youth.”
Although no charges were initially filed when the incident occurred, both parties changed their minds Sunday and made criminal complaints. Kittisak “Boy” Singto filed an assault complaint against Acharanat, while Acharanat asked police to prosecute Kittisak for damaging his car in the accident.
The GMM TV host said he was outraged that Kittisak, a 25-year-old government clerk, hit his Mini Cooper and then attempted to flee the scene. He said he loved his car very much, and that he had spent years saving for it. At one point Acharanat said it was his longtime dream to buy the car.
“It’s the same issue. I had no right to hurt him, but he had no right to flee from the scene of the accident either. Don’t just watch half the clip,” the actor said.
Although the confrontation took place Friday, video of the incident exploded on social media over the weekend, drawing widespread attention. The clip showed Acharanat dragging Kittisak across Charoen Krung Road to his 1.8 million baht car and striking him repeatedly in the face.
“Next time, don’t hit and run, you get it?” Acharanat screamed at the motorcyclist. “Now, graab my car.”
Kittisak has not spoken to the media.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, police spokesman Songpol Wattanachai described the incident as a case of assault. He also urged motorists to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.
Many on social media criticized Acharanat for not only resorting to violence over material damages, but also for demanding that Kittisak humiliate himself in public and prostrate, or graab, to the car. Graab is a display of the utmost humility in Thai culture, especially if done in front of someone.
“Everybody’s angry in car crashes, of course, but the interesting point is #GraabMyCar is about having dehumanizing thoughts. He perceived another person’s dignity to be inferior to a car,” tweeted user @Mybraceteeth.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that a comment by police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen was made Monday. He spoke Sunday.
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