BANGKOK — A political activist was taken away by soldiers Tuesday morning to a local district office in a bid to prevent him from submitting a petition letter to the prime minister urging he reinstate June 24 as the country’s national day, an official said.
A senior district official who asked not to be named for fear of repercussion, said Ekachai Hongkangwan was taken to Bangkapi district office Tuesday morning in what he described as an attempt to stop the political activist from petitioning Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha to reinstate June 24 as Thai National Day.
The move followed a failed attempt by soldiers Monday afternoon to convince Ekachai it would suffice to submit a letter to the office in the district where he lives.
Asked if he was being detained, the official said on the phone the word “detained” was not accurate.
“He was just invited since this morning. I don’t know further details,” said the source Tuesday morning by phone, adding that the military junta has dispatched soldiers to each district in Bangkok since the 2014 coup.
The official said the district has no control whatsoever over the matter, as Prayuth has absolute power under Article 44 of the now defunct interim charter – which was kept in the 2017 constitution.
On Monday afternoon, Ekachai said five officials visited his home in Lat Phrao, which doubles as an office, using an official van which bore a sign stating it belongs to the Bang Kapi district office. The senior district office confirmed the incident on the phone.
“Please don’t name me or I will be damned. What they did was to borrow our equipments and all those were soldiers,” he said, adding however that a district official accompanied the soldiers. “The NCPO has the power and I must follow their orders.”
The official added that these soldiers who use the district office as their workplace, numbering at about 30, need not report to the district chief.
The source said that about a dozen soldiers also use the district office as their sleeping quarter.
On his way to offer Ekachai legal assistance Tuesday morning, human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa said he had just learned about the activist’s whereabouts and called it a “coercive” move by soldiers.
Ekachai’s phone could not be reached at the time of publication. Junta spokesman Col. Winthai Suvari wasn’t available to comment Tuesday morning.