BANGKOK — Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday the government was not involved in an assault on a dissident exiled in Japan last month.
Gen. Prayuth said he sympathized with monarchy critic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who says a masked man broke into his home and sprayed him with unknown chemicals on July 8. The General added that he was not behind the incident.
“I sympathize with him, but he was assaulted in Japan,” Gen. Prayuth said at a news conference. “If you are accusing the government of sending someone to do it, who would dare do that? The government didn’t do it, and we would never do so.”
Prayuth was responding to a reporter’s question concerning Pavin’s claim that he was sprayed with a chemical while sleeping in his residence that left him with a burning sensation.
In media interviews, the 48-year-old academic said the unidentified man broke into his bedroom in the early hours, pulled off the blanket, and attacked him with the spray before running away. Pavin said he reported the incident to Japanese police.
“They seemed to understand the context. My context,” Pavin recalled the incident at a recent lecture in Washington DC. “They seemed to suggest that this could have been linked to a conflict in Thailand.”
He added, “Since this happened, I was told not to return to the apartment, so I have to be put in a safehouse.”
Pavin, who teaches at Kyoto University, regularly lashes out at the Royal Family on his Facebook. He was among hundreds of people summoned by the military after the 2014 coup for “attitude adjustment,” which he refused to attend. The academic has chosen to live in self-imposed exile in Japan, where he has stepped up his harsh criticism of the monarchy.
In April 2017, the government issued an order banning communication with Pavin and two other monarchy critics living overseas, though their social media accounts still enjoy large followings.
In today’s news conference, Prayuth hinted that Japan should reconsider housing Pavin.
“Each [government] has a promise not to let someone who attacked another country live in their country,” Prayuth said. “Just like us, we try to make sure we don’t let people who attack other countries live in our country.”
At least eight anti-monarchy dissidents have gone missing in exile in recent years. They include hardline activist Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochathammakun, well-known Redshirt Surachai Danwattananusorn, online radio organizer Ittipon Sukpae, and republican talk-show host Chucheep Chivasut.
Their families believe they were abducted and assassinated.