Police Quickly Blame Guard Rivalry For Gun Attack at Protest

Forensic police investigate the shooting at the pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on Nov. 26, 2020.

BANGKOK — Police on Thursday said “internal conflicts” among groups of protesters’ security details are to blame for the gun and explosive attack that wounded at least one person near a protest on Wednesday night

Deputy metropolitan police chief Piya Tawichai said the attacks were part of a fight that broke out between volunteer guards from rival polytechnic schools, just as protesters were leaving their rally in front of the Siam Commercial Bank’s main office.

But many anti-government critics cast doubt on the swift judgment, which came less than 24 hours after the shooting. The national police chief also said an investigation is still ongoing.

“We found that the perpetrators were from Minburi Polytechnic Technology College, while the victims were from Pathum Thani Vocational College,” Maj. Gen. Piya said. “I confirm that both groups are members of the protesters’ volunteer guard unit.”

He added, “The fight broke out due to work issues. There’s no outsiders involved.”

However, national police commissioner Suwat Chaengyodsuk told reporters that the investigation is still ongoing. He declined to name any motives.

According to eyewitnesses, a loud bang was heard followed by three to four gunshots at around 10.15pm, about an hour after the protest formally ended. A group of men were seen running away from the scene, though one of them tripped over and fell.

At least two people were reportedly injured. One of them is a protester guard who sustained gunshot wounds, while another is said to be one of the assailants, who was beaten up in a scrum that broke out after he was caught by the protesters, police said.

Pro-democracy protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank headquarters in Bangkok on Nov. 25, 2020.

One of the members of the Free People volunteer guard group who would only identify herself as Preaw said the perpetrators might have been royalist supporters, since photos circulating on social media suggested that they had participated in one of the pro-establishment rallies.

“We don’t know who they are,” Preaw said. “But photos suggest that they might have belonged to the other side. My friend in the vocational student group told me that he did not recognize the men even though they were wearing the group’s armband.”

Preaw was at the scene when the shooting broke out. She said it was chaotic after a loud explosion was heard and people rushed to find a cover.

“There was a confusion over which direction the sound was coming from,” she said.
“When I got up, all I could see was people running and screaming.”

Pro-democracy protest in front of the Siam Commercial Bank headquarters in Bangkok on Nov. 25, 2020.

Forensic police later found traces of bullets and fragments of what appeared to be an improvised explosive device at the scene, though Piya said it remains unclear what type of device was used.

The alleged assailant apprehended by the protesters was identified as Pasapong Kulla-amornkarn, 25. Police said they found a .38 revolver on him, but it is unclear whether it was the same firearm used in the shooting.

The confrontation was also captured live on camera by The Standard news agency, which shows a man throwing what appeared to be an explosive at the protesters in front of The Avenue mall, close to the rally site.

Thanakorn Wongpanya, who was covering the protest for The Standard, told Thairath TV he heard a noisy quarrel shortly before he noticed a man throwing something at the demonstrators. He said he did not see where the assailants went after carrying out the attack.

The Gear of Red Thonburi group, which oversees vocational student volunteer guards, said in a statement that the attack was carried out by certain individuals who had “infiltrated” its ranks to cause violence.

“It’s clear that a certain group of people from the faction which seeks to use violence against pro-democracy protesters had infiltrated one of the vocational student groups to instigate unrest,” the statement said.

“The group will continue to uphold peaceful principles and will keep on fighting without any weapons.”

Next protest is called for Friday, but the location has yet to be announced.