NAKHON SI THAMMARAT — Police on Thursday declined to say whether a crowd of hardline monarchy supporters who mobbed and attacked a car thought to be carrying progressive politician Thanathorn Jungrungruangkit would be prosecuted.
Thanathorn was touring Nakhon Si Thammarat to help a Move Forward Party candidate campaign for a local election, though the politician said he was not inside the vehicle surrounded by the ultraroyalists. When asked by reporters if the incident warrants a criminal investigation, a deputy national police chief declined to comment.
“We cannot give any details at this time,” Gen. Damrongsak Kittiprapat said. “We have to collect evidence first. I will let you know later if those actions broke any laws.”
Thanathorn, 41, was attending a meeting with Move Forward Party officials inside Ravadee Hotel when pro-monarchy hardliners gathered in front of the hotel’s entrance and exits.
They pledged to look for Thanathorn, whom they believed to be conspiring against the monarchy and engineering the ongoing protests against PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The royalists demanded that all vehicles exiting the hotel roll down their windows to identify the passengers. When one of the cars refused to open their windows, the protesters mobbed and heckled the vehicle.
One person waved banknotes at the car to show a portrait of His Majesty King. Another struck the vehicle with a flagpole.
Thanathorn later posted Wednesday evening that he wasn’t at the scene at all.
“I was not in the car, and that wasn’t even my car. I’m worried about people who were unwittingly dragged into this,” he tweeted.
Only Wanted to Talk?
The blowback was almost immediate. A Twitter user who claimed to be the owner of the vehicle said there were five women inside the car when royalists besieged it, and they did not show themselves because they felt threatened by the hecklers.
The user also said she will file charges against all individuals who caused damage to the car.
But Col. Montien Baotong, chief of Nakhon Si Thammarat city police, said by phone Thursday that no one has filed any police complaint in regards to the scuffle so far.
It was unclear what the royalists planned to do with Thanathorn if they discovered him inside the vehicle. But Arnon Meesee, leader of the royalist group involved in yesterday’s incident, told reporters that the protesters merely wanted to talk to Thanathorn.
“We just wanted to ask him why he came to Nakhon, and if he is really behind the movement to bring down the monarchy,” Arnon said. “The photos taken only show people trying to see who was in the car.”
He insisted that the royalists were not engaging in violence.
“Who would put down the flag to go see inside the car? The flag was in-hand and there were so many people behind pushing. So the hand pushed in, and the flagpole came with it too,” Arnon said.
Thanathorn was the founder of the Future Forward Party, a political faction that campaigned on progressive and liberal-leaning platforms. It was the second largest opposition party in the Parliament until a court disbanded it early this year, sparking waves of student-led protests that continued to this day.
Conservative figures have routinely accused Thanathorn of supporting those protests and conspiring to bring down the monarchy, though he repeatedly denied those allegations.
The politician was also followed and heckled when he showed up in Rayong on Monday and Samut Prakan on Tuesday.