PHUKET — Top government officials on Tuesday distanced themselves from a coalition politician who stirred public outcry by disparaging a policeman for not providing him a security escort.
Though Phalang Pracharath MP Sira Jenjaka insisted he was not flaunting his authority over the policeman as alleged by his critics, party leaders declined to defend his actions. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha went as far as instructing party officials to give Sira a warning.
“I’ve already given the instruction.” Gen. Prayuth said. “The party spokesman has already apologized. There must have been some misunderstanding.”
The confrontation took place when Sira and three other MPs visited Phuket province to inspect a condominium that was allegedly built on a protected land. At the condominium, called the Peaks Residence, he vented his anger at a local police officer for failing to provide him police escorts.
“Other precincts always send some officers to accommodate visiting MPs on duty. I’m not bragging, but I think you should do the same, officer,” Sira is filmed saying to Police Lt. Col. Prateung Ponmana, deputy chief of Karon Police Station.
Sira said he was outraged to see Prateung sitting and sipping coffee instead of standing at attention and waiting for him when he arrived.
Before the officer had a chance to respond, Sira said Prateung had another chance to prove his competence.
Pratueng then interrupted him, “Sir, calm down. Are you suggesting that I’m wrong?”
The police officer said that he had already prepared for the MPs’ arrival and swept the area for any threats. Police contingents were also at standby at the police station in case of any call from Sira.
The conversation reached the boiling point when Sira turned his face away and said “But you manage to spare some time for coffee? It’s a clear offense,” to which Prateung said, “That’s right!”
“I am pooyai!” Sira replied loudly, using a term that means influential persons. “How dare you raise your voice at me?”
“Hey kiddo, I’m here to serve the citizens. Don’t you feel greng jai for acting like this in front of four MPs?” Sira said.
At the end of the video, the Bangkok MP ordered Prateung to apologize.
After the video was posted on the internet, it quickly went viral and drew criticism from many netizens and government critics, who accused Sira of bullying the police for unnecessary show of force. Phalang Pracharath said it’s not responsible for Sira’s behavior.
Party elder Thammanat Prompao said today that the party has no involvement with Sira’s visit to Phuket, which described as “a personal visit.”
He also asked the fellow MPs not to interfere with issues outside of their electoral district.
Nattee Thinsaku, a Phalang Pracharat Phuket MP, said on Tuesday he was shocked by what happened – because he was not even informed of Sira’s visit to his electoral district in the first place.
“I understand that [Sira] has good intentions for Phuket people, but it has to be based on the facts,” Nattee said. “The Court of First Instance has already tried the land ownership case, which is currently on appeal.
“The case is being investigated locally and there is no need for the MP to barge into this matter,” he said.
Transparency activist Srisuwan Janya said he would submit a complaint against Sira to the anti-graft office for exploiting government services for personal gains.
The construction project, which Sira said that the land ownership and construction permits have not been lawfully given, has been halted by the local municipality as the case is being investigated.
He also said he has received a death threat for speaking out about the controversy, which he said “two people have already died.”
Video of the quarrel on Aug. 18, starting at 2:40.