Beaten Medic Volunteer Charged With Breaking Emergency Decree

Volunteer medic Purapon Wongchiak, 19, lies on the ground after he was beaten by police near Sanam Luang on Feb. 13, 2021. Photo: Reuters
Volunteer medic Purapon Wongchiak, 19, lies on the ground after he was beaten by police near Sanam Luang on Feb. 13, 2021. Photo: Reuters

BANGKOK — A volunteer health worker who was beaten and detained by riot police on Saturday during clashes with anti-government protesters was charged with breaching the coronavirus emergency rule, his organization said Monday.

The Doctor and Nurse Association, which provides first aid services at protest sites, said Purapon Wongchiak suffered bruises and muscle aches after policemen kicked him off his motorcycle and repeatedly struck him with truncheons.

The group also said Purapon, 19, has yet to receive any medical attention while he is being held at a police base northeast of Bangkok.


“Purapon is due to appear in court via a video link today,” said one of the group’s leaders called Toon, who asked not to be identified by full name for fear of repercussion.

“His lawyer told me that he is expected to be released on bail this afternoon. He hasn’t seen any doctors and all he could do is to treat himself with what he got in his first aid kit.”

Purapon is one of the 11 people who were arrested during a crackdown on demonstrators near the Grand Palace on Saturday. If found guilty, Purapon faces up to two years in prison.

Police said eight of them faced six charges, which include breaking the Emergency Decree’s ban on mass gatherings and resisting arrests. Three other people were released after they were found to be “unrelated to the protest,” police said.

Photos and videos of Purapon being struck by police drew widespread condemnation on social media, but metro police commander Phukphong Phongpetra told reporters that Purapon was one of the demonstrators who incited violence earlier on Saturday night.

“We found that he is not a professional doctor or nurse,” Lt. Gen. Phukphong said on Sunday. “He was among the group that caused public disturbance.”

But Toon, the leader of the health volunteer group, said police were just trying to save their face for mistaking Purapon as a demonstrator. She also said that investigators even attempted to negotiate with Purapon to drop his lawsuit against the police who assaulted him, in exchange for being released without any charges.

“He is a trained volunteer who clearly identified himself,” Toon said. “The first group of riot police let him go, but then another group came and pushed him off the motorcycle. He went unconscious for a while.”

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A pro-democracy protester waves the national flag of Germany during a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.

She added, “[Purapong] was shocked by police actions because he had helped them in the past.”

Volunteer medics and rescue workers are often deployed to provide first aid assistance to protesters and security officers alike during demonstrations in the past months.

The Medical Council of Thailand issued a statement Monday asking every party to protect healthcare workers from harm at protest sites – though it refused to officially recognize volunteer first responders.

“We are not involved with politics. If one wants to become a volunteer healthcare provider, they must treat everyone equally,” Ittaporn Kanacharoen, sec-gen of the medical council, said at a news conference.

“We may not be able to say whether the cross symbol was forged or not, but we want them to truly be able to take care of citizen’s health,” he went on. “If there is a registration, it would build assurances for the people.”

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Pro-democracy protesters gesture to riot police during a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.

Saturday’s rally was originally held at the Democracy Monument to demand the release of four protest leaders who are being held at a remand prison on royal defamation charges.

Demonstrators then attempted to march to the City Pillar Shrine to pray for the spirits to bless the pro-democracy movement. They were met with riot police who set up barricades in front of the Supreme Court and several rounds of skirmish broke out.

Protest leaders later negotiated with the police, and they were eventually allowed to send representatives to perform a ritual in front of the shrine. Upon completing the ritual, protest leaders declared the end of the protest and most of the protesters began to disperse.

However, some hardline demonstrators refused to leave and began throwing rocks and water bottles at police officers. Police issued an ultimatum for the protesters to leave and began to make arrests of demonstrators seen in the area.


A series of loud bangs were also heard, but Bangkok police chief denied reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being used. Bangkok’s emergency medical service center said a total of 25 people were injured. Five of them were civilians, the rest police officers.

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Red paint thrown by pro-democracy protesters is splattered on the shields of riot police standing guard outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
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Pro-democracy protester wrote messages on police barricades during a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
A riot police officer runs with a rifle during a crackdown in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.

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