Reporter Arrested During Crackdown Near Prayut’s Home

Riot police armed with rubber bullet rifles advance on a group of protesters on Feb. 28, 2021.

BANGKOK — A newspaper journalist was taken into custody while covering an anti-government protest close to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence on Sunday. He was released on bail a day later, on Monday.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said Buncha Chansombun, a reporter for Naewna newspaper, was arrested by riot police during clashes in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment, where Prayut’s taxpayer-funded residence is located. He was among at least 22 people, including four youths, arrested during a crackdown on protesters Sunday night.

“The journalist is now freed on bail,” the group’s chairwoman Yaowalak Anuphan said. “He faced six charges, same as the demonstrators.”

The newspaper is known for its staunch pro-establishment editorial stance.


Top: The clashes between riot police and demonstrators on Feb. 28, 2021.

Buncha’s arrest was confirmed by his parent agency. Naewna said in its news report that the reporter was detained overnight alongside other demonstrators at the regional headquarters of the Border Patrol Police north of Bangkok.

Police said the suspects were charged with breaking the Emergency Decree’s ban on mass gatherings, resisting arrests, carrying weapons, and three other related offenses.

Deputy metropolitan police commander Piya Tawichai said police who made the arrests could not tell Buncha apart from the protesters. But investigators will recommend the prosecutors not to indict Buncha since he was proven to be a journalist working in the field.

“We are doing everything according to the procedures,” Maj. Gen. Piya said.

Photographers capture the moment when demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment army base on Feb. 28, 2021.
Demonstrators clash with riot police in front of the 1st Infantry Regiment army base on Feb. 28, 2021.

Yaowalak of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said the attorneys from her group are submitting bail requests for the remaining suspects.

Bangkok’s emergency medical service center said a total of 33 people were injured during Sunday’s protest. Ten of them were civilians, while 23 of them were police officers. One policeman on crowd control duties also suffered a fatal heart attack and died at a hospital.

Journalists were generally free to conduct their duties on protest grounds, though a reporter for Prachatai news agency was arrested on Oct. 16 while he was covering the crackdown on demonstrators close to Pathumwan Intersection.


Police initially tried to charge the journalist, Kitti Pantapak, with breaching the Emergency Decree, but he was later charged with a lesser offense of resisting arrests and freed on bail.

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