The biggest Thai news over the past few days, or since Thursday, was undeniably the sexual harassment and rape allegations made by some twenty women against Democrat Party deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi.
Prinn resigned from all party posts on Thursday amidst mounting allegations. The reactions were swift and there are at least two things Thai society can learn from the ongoing cases as Prinn reported himself to Lumpini Police on Saturday to hear rape and indecency charges made against him.
First, Prinn must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the court. Toxic Thai politics means both sides of the political divide are already sold. Those against the Democrat Party, which is a government coalition partner, believed beyond doubt that Prinn is guilty, a serial sexual predator, and widely condemned him on social media.
On Friday, hashtag #Prinn was mentioned 197,000 times on Thai Twitter. Many people believe the Democrat Party is evil and thus Prinn must be guilty as charged. Forget about the police, prosecutor, or the court – Prinn and the Democrat Party have already been summarily condemned by these groups in Thai society.
Even if Prinn may have eventually managed to be freed from the charges, these people will most likely continue to believe Prinn was guilty nonetheless and likely say he had managed to buy the justice system. After all, his father, Supachai Panitchpakdi was a former deputy prime minister and a former director general of the World Trade Organization.
Police on Saturday already charged the LSE-educated Prinn with rape and two counts of indecencies after three women have filed police complaints with Lumpini Police. Now, the public should keep a close eye on the case but allow the justice process to work first. I say this even if the man is rich, powerful, well-educated, and with lots of connections, even if I am personally more swayed toward the accusers.
Second, those supporting the Democrat Party on the other hand also readily brush off the allegations as an attempt at political assassination. Some said why, the only woman who accused Prinn of rape and willing to reveal her identity publicly only came out to report to police after a year and not right after.
Others blamed woman who allegedly was raped inside Prinn’s spacious flat on Sukhumvit 3 on March 2021 for “asking for it” as no single woman should enters a man’s private compound unaccompanied.
One of the alleged rape victims, Anna Vidhyaphum, 30, was then single. She is being accused of making a false allegation for her own political gain because she is a candidate for a Bangkok City Hall Council seat for the opposition Ruam Thai United Party, while her husband, Nat Thanakitamnuay, is a prominent anti-government and monarchy-reform activist.
Anna told me on Friday she had to dose up her antidepressant medicine after the incident and only decided to come out this week after learning that the man flatly denied to the media when accused by some other women who were not willing to speak publicly.
“I didn’t think he would be a crook. He’s well dressed, well educated, and is socially known. I didn’t think he would have done that. But he did and no one could do anything,” Anna told me in an exclusive interview.
By Saturday, Nat told me his wife has decided to pull out from the race to prove that she was not doing this for political gain and will focus her time on public campaigns against misogyny and for women’s empowerment instead. Later on the same day, the Election Commission reminded Anna that under the elections law, she cannot quit. Anna thus announced that she will no longer be campaigning for the seat.
As for Prinn, my suggestion is, if you believe you are truly innocent, then fight the mounting allegations as transparently as possible – do not sneak into a police station from the back door again. But if deep down you know you are a serial sex offender, then, by all means, admit it to the society now and apologize to all women who have violated.
This is the least you can do to atone. After all, you were chosen by the Democrat Party to campaign against violence against women two years ago. Thai society expects a lot from you. I believe it is never too late for anyone to express remorse and apologize. Thai society can one day forgive you after you have been corrected by the Corrections Department.
As of Saturday, after hearing charges, Prinn who entered and left Lumpini Police Station from the normally locked back door told reporters who caught him that he is absolutely innocent.
Early this morning, Sunday, Prinn returned to the station again as police will be requesting the prosecutor to indict him. Hours earlier, the lawyer of the alleged victims claimed some of the victims were being offered around one million baht to be quiet and stop pursuing the case.
Prinn, the man who was once assigned by his party to campaign against sexual violence under the motto “Love with nonviolence” was asked by reporters this morning whether the bribery attempt was true or not, but Prinn refused to answer the question. He instead said the justice process is ongoing.
It could have been easy for Prinn to deny having or trying to buy some women off the legal cases, but he refused to do so. This is not reassuring at all and if true, money and influence may kill the justice process before it could get the chance to properly run its course.