BANGKOK — The leader of a weekend rally said Monday his group was not involved in the assault of a pro-democracy activist.
Pansuwan Nakaew, who organized a weekend counterprotest called Unity Before Elections, said his group was committed to peaceful methods and not responsible for the Saturday night assault of rival activist Ekachai Hongkangwan.
Ekachai was assaulted by a group of men after leaving a rally demanding timely elections that was moved after Pansuwan’s group said they would gather at the same time and place. Some in the pro-democracy camp have accused the counterprotesters of being behind the attack.
“We want to see unity before election, so we do not condone acts of violence. Causing violence or unrest is not our way,” Pansuwan said by phone. “We hope police will bring the perpetrators to justice soon.”
Pansuwan’s group gathered Saturday at the Democracy Monument to urge Ekachai and other pro-democracy activists to halt protests while preparations for an election are underway.
“We are not asking to delay the election. We are asking them not to incite conflict,” Pansuwan said Saturday. He said he and fellow activists were part of the street protests in 2013 and 2014 that helped bring down the elected government and bring the current junta to power.
Protests calling for the military government to make good on its promise to hold elections next month have resumed in recent weeks as the prospects of a poll have faded. Organizers worried Friday that their peaceful rallies could be marred by agent provocateurs seeking to influence public opinion.
On the same day, Ekachai was attending a pro-election rally at Thammasat University which originally been scheduled to take place at the monument. Ekachai, an ardent junta critic who has been beaten in the streets on several occasions, said three men wearing motorcycle helmets attacked him at about 7pm after he left the campus to eat dinner. He sustained wounds to his head, face and arm.
The activist said the assailants only fled after a group of Asian tourists rushed to his aid.
After news of the attack spread, some of Ekachai’s supporters blamed Pansuwan’s group, while others speculated it was the work of the military.
Ekachai himself believes the latter was more likely.
“They came in a group of four but only three of them attacked me. The fourth hung back … like he was giving orders,” Ekachai said in an interview Monday. “They didn’t look like ordinary people. They were probably soldiers.”
Ekachai filed a complaint at the Chanasongkram Police Station. The station chief said an investigation is underway.
“It is too early to speculate about who they were,” Col. Chakkrit Choosongnern said.
Chakkrit added that he will dispatch police officers to escort Ekachai next time he leaves a protest site in his jurisdiction.