BANGKOK — A volunteer health worker who was struck by riot police during clashes with anti-government protesters will take legal action against his assailants for use of excessive force, his organization said Wednesday night.
The Doctor and Nurse Association, or DNA, said its member Purapon Wongchiak and six other individuals will lodge a complaint at Chanasongkram Police Station on Friday for the physical abuse and unlawful detention they suffered at the hands of the police during Saturday’s protest.
“Police said they have an offer which they will reveal when we file a complaint,” said one of the group’s leaders called Toon, who asked not to be identified by full name for fear of repercussion.
UPDATE: Police spokesman Kissana Phattanacharoen said riot police only employed “shields and bare hands” to secure the rally site. He also insisted police were properly following their protocols in their conduct.
— Khaosod English (@KhaosodEnglish) February 13, 2021
“We talked to the police after the incident and they apologized in a personal capacity,” Toon continued. “They said they will provide three policemen to protect each group of health workers in future protests. Nevertheless, we will discuss with our lawyers and file a complaint on Feb. 19 at 9am.”
The Doctor and Nurse Association often provided first aid assistance at protest sites, including the demonstration close to the Grand Palace on Saturday that ended in violence.
Purapon, the medic who was seen beaten by a group of riot police officers, said he suffered bruises and muscle aches after policemen kicked him off his motorcycle and repeatedly hit him with truncheons near the Phra Mae Thorani Shrine.
He was wearing a vest printed with the Star of Life – an internationally recognized symbol of emergency medical services – and complied with police instructions, Purapon said.
“The first group of policemen told me to mount my motorcycle and they walked past me without doing anything,” Purapon said. “However, the second group of policemen then approached and assaulted me.”
A total of 11 people, including Purapon and another DNA member, were arrested during a crackdown on demonstrators near the Grand Palace on Saturday night. Three people were released on the following day after they were proven to be mere bystanders unrelated to the protest, police said.
Eight people were charged with breaking the Emergency Decree’s ban on mass gatherings and resisting arrests. They were held in custody for two days and freed on bail Monday.
Police never apologized publicly for the use of force and – even insisted that Purapon is not a health worker as he claimed.
“He never studied or received medical training,” deputy metro police commander Piya Tawichai said Monday. “I agree with the Medical Council of Thailand that there should be a registration system to prevent impersonation. Volunteer health workers should wear a uniform and display their insignia clearly.”
Statements and videos released by the police force also accused Purapon of being one of the demonstrators who engaged in a violent confrontation with police, yet the police arrest report did not mention any weapons found on him, according to the document published by Purapon’s lawyers.