Having car set on fire two times, being beaten up six times, the steep price paid by Ekachai Hongkangwan

Ekachai Hongkangwan is a freelance writer and political activist. His activism has become prominent in the aftermath of the 2014 coup, around 2016. He has been campaigning on different issues: demanding an investigation on the failure to report assets (including 25 luxurious wristwatches) by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, aka ‘The Rolex General’: searching for a plaque commemorating Thailand’s 1932 revolution which has been mysteriously replaced by a new one that promotes the royalist notion of “Nation, Religion, and King,” aka ‘Mood Na Sai’: and scrutinizing of Maj Gen Dr Rianthong Nanna, an ultra-royalist activist. His latest involvement is the signature campaign to impeach the Election Commission. To be an active citizen under the yoke of the military junta, he has to pay a steep price.

Ekachai was subject to deprivation of liberty in an undisclosed detention facility, subject to intimidation and judicial harassment in eight criminal cases (For more information, please see “When Ekachai has been subject to repeated assaults amid silence”). The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) documents six physical abuses and two car arsons including the latest update of such Ekachai’s cases which stem from he was being engaged in his activism. Such physical assaults and property damage he confronted since 2018 as the following;

The physical assaults

The first assault, on 19 January 2018

Around 10.00 am, Ekachai and Chokchai Paiboonratchata, two political activists, went to the Government House to hand over to the Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, three wristwatch replicas and a poster featuring a collection of 25 luxurious wristwatches allegedly owned by the General. While he was displaying the poster and wristwatch replicas to the media at Gate no. 4 of the Government House. Ekachai was approached by a man in his 50’s wearing a red shirt under a long-sleeve jacket. The man violently pulled Ekachai by his shoulder, but he was immediately apprehended and was brought to the Dusit Police Station by polices. Reportedly, his name was Mr. Ritthikrai Chaiwannasart, 56, from Pong Nam Ron District, Chanthaburi. From the search of his body, the police had found a three-inch-long spring knife. He was later charged for carrying a knife in a public place without a reasonable ground and was brought for an arraignment on the same day, be fined 1,000 baht. 

First assault, 19 January 2018, Picture courtesy of Prachatai

The second assault, on 23 January 2018

At 10.00 am, Ekachai went to in front of the Government House for handing over three wristwatch replicas to Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. This time, he came with a vinyl signboard featuring information regard the wristwatch saga. After finished his activity, he left for his home at 2.00 pm by a public transportation. The assailants were waiting for him at the bus stop between Lat Prao Soi 105 -107. As he was getting off the bus, the assailant wearing a cap to hide his face approached him and punched Ekachai in his face several times, before fleeing into Lat Prao Soi 107. As a result, Ekachai has sustained broken lips and a wound on the right side of his neck. He recalled that an offender was Mr. Ritthikrai Chaiwannasart who had physically assaulted him before. He went to the Lat Prao Police Station to report an assault charge against the man. 

Mr. Ritthikrai was later indicted, and the Court convicted and sentenced him to six months and a fine of 10,000 baht, though the imprisonment has suspended. 

The second assault, 23 January 2018, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

The third assault, on 14 August 2018

At 10.15 am, Ekkachai was again at the Gate no. 4, the Government House for an activity on the Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s birthday, aka ‘The Rolex General’ and for a follow-up on an investigation of the luxurious wristwatches by the authorities. As he was getting off the bus close to the Mission Hospital on Sankhaloke Road, two men, wearing helmets on a motorcycle with no a license plate, approached him and thrown at him fermented fish source wetting him in his back from head to toes and emitting stinking smell. Ekachai insisted to press his activity at the Government House later to report a case to the Nang Lerng Police Station. He has asked the police to collect suspected fingerprints on the empty green plastic bucket left behind by the assailants. No progress of investigation has been made by the police, though. 

The third assault, 14 August 2018, Picture courtesy of Ekkachai Hongkangwan’s Fcebook page

The fourth assault, on 22 August 2018

At 12.00 pm, after his activity at the Government House, as he was getting off the bus for his house, Ekachai spotted two men on motorcycle parked just outside the Tire Plus garage at the mouth of Lat Prao Soi 107. He was alarmed as they were gazing at him. He continued to walk to his house in an adjacent alley, nonetheless. As he was turning into Lat Prao Soi 109/1 and kept walking between Soi 1 and 3 nearly house, he heard someone shout his name. He turned to the direction of the voice and saw the two men on motorcycle following him and just being stop at there. One of the them hit him with the helmet. While he was subjecting to the assault, another man approached him and hit him four or five times with a wooden club. He defended himself by raising his arm up. As the hitting was carried out by the third man, the other two guys just stood by and watched. As the third man lost hold of the wooden club, he tried to grab another wooden club for continually hitting Ekachai. Ekachai then decided to run into his house. After the incident, he reported the case to the Lat Prao Police Station and was brought for treatment and wound dressing at a hospital. An initial examination revealed that he had sustained bone fracture in his left little and ring finger. He had required to wear a splint for around one month.

The police managed to arrest one of the assailants, Mr. Kamthorn Thamkhan, 20. Lately, the public prosecutor inquired Ekachai by letter about the detail of damages claim. Mr. Kamthorn, however, confessed to being hired to drive the motorcycle but denied the alleged mastermind of this assault. Nevertheless, he never disclosed information as who the mastermind was and how many people were complicit the assault.   

The fourth assault, 22 August 2018, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

The fifth assault, on 19 January 2019

Around 19.15, after his campaign to ask the government to not delay the election at the 14 October Memorial, Ekachai and another fellow activist were walking to retrieve his car parked inside Thammasat University’s campus. While he was approaching a turn near the Pin Klao Bridge, four young men appeared on motorcycles. They were apparently waiting for him there. Three of them had charged Ekachai from behind as the other one was on the lookout. Ekachai’s friend intervened to stop the assault and as a result, he was subject to the abuse together. Then, a group of about ten foreign tourists, probably, Chinese or Korean, nearby come to his rescue. The tourists started to punch and chase away the assailants. The four of them decided to get on their motorcycles and drove away. Ekachai was punched in his face and kicked in his head. As he raised his arms to defend himself, he sustained some bruises on his arms as well. His activist friend was also punched in his face breaking his eyeglasses and causing him broken lips and a cut on his eyebrow. After the incident, Ekachai reported the case to the police at the Chana Songkhram Police Station, though no progress of the investigation has been made.   

The fifth assault 5, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

The sixth assault, on 5 March 2019

At 16.00, while a friend of him and Ekachai walk to his car that parked inside the Ministry of Public Health, opposite to the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Tiwanond Road, they heard someone shout Ekachai’s name. As he turned to the direction, two men, one wearing full-face helmet and another half-face helmet, emerged on a motorcycle with no a license plate. Then, the two men came off the bike. One of them holding a wooden club, another a steel pipe, approached him. As he saw the danger coming; he immediately ran away and pursued by the man with the wooden club; while, the other man with the steel pipe prevented his friend from coming to his rescue. 

Ekachai ran across the road to the building of the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health and was caught up there by the man with the wooden club. As he tripped over while trying to charge through a tree barrier in front of the office, the ensuing man hit him in his head. Ekachai raised his left arm to defend himself and thus sustained an injury. As Ekachai ran further on and got closer to the building, the man in pursuit of him hit him again in his head, and then retreated to his motorcycle. Together with the man with steel pipe, they drove away. Ekachai’s friend was spared in the incidence. The incident was just after a meeting of Ekachai with the Medical Council of Thailand to give them further information about the alleged inappropriate behavior of Maj Gen Dr Rianthong Nanna.     

After the incident, Ekachai went to the Phra Nang Klao Hospital; the doctor told him that his head wound bled, and left arm wound sustained from being hit at. He also has wounds on his right hand and right ankle as he was trying to run away. After the treatment, he went to report the case to the Thanam Nont Police Station. As the investigation is ongoing, Ekachai has not been informed of the progress.

The sixth assault, 5 March 2019, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

Property damage

The first car arson, on 26 January 2019

On 26 January 2019, 3.00 am, a man set fire on his car parked just outside his residence. From the CCTV footage, it appears that a man in a jacket and a cap was walking into his residence’s alley. In his hand, he had a bottle of petrol which he used to set fire on Ekachai’s car causing some damage. The CCTV footage further revealed that there was another man standing right by the man who set fire. After setting fire, the man was seen walking toward his accomplice. Ekachai reported the case to the Lat Prao Police Station, but no progress has been made as far as the investigation is concerned.   

The first property damage (car arson) 26 January 2019, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

The second car arson, on 1 April 2019

On 31 March 2019, Ekachai Hongkangwan and Anurak Jeantawanich organized a campaign at the Ratchaprasong Intersection to collect signatures of those supporting the motion to impeach the Election Commission. About 200-300 protesters have joined them. After the activity, the documents (used for the removal of the EC) and the speaker were kept in Ekkachai’s car, which was later parked in front of his residence. 

On 1 April 2019, around 1.15 am according to the timestamp on the CCTV footage, a man in a jacket and trouser with a helmet was seen walking from the other end of the alley and then used his foot to kick the side mirror of Ekachai’s car. He then poured petrol on the windshield and set it ablaze. The fire caused a damage the passenger cabin beyond repair and further the documents prepared for the removal of the EC and the speaker as well.  Ekachai has then reported the case to the Lat Prao Police Station. The police have come to examine the crime scene and kept the damaged car at the police station. 

The second property damage (car arson) on 1 April 2019, Picture courtesy of Ekachai Hongkangwan’s Facebook page

Footage from CCTV in front of Ekachai’s residence

Ekachai revealed after the incident that the police should be able to retrieve footage from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA)’s CCTV to trace the route used by the assailant as to where he had come from and where he had escaped and where he made his stops. Ekchai feels, however, that the police are reluctant to bring to justice the perpetrator. 

Ekachai added in the interview that he was aware of the incident of Anurak Jeantawanich, aka ‘Ford Red Path’. He was taken by surprise that Anurak was also subject to the assault.  Ekachai assumes what happened to him and to Anurak could have stemmed from their joint-action about the 2019 election. Otherwise, there has been not other activity that the two of them have joined hands. 

Ekachai told that he regrets losing his car, which cost him hundreds of thousand baht. Now, he has no plan to buy another car fearing it could be burned again. 

The use of violence against activists has expanded. 

Early evening on 31 March 2019, Anurak Jeantawanich who organized a campaign with Ekachai was also subject to a physical assault. According to him, after organizing the activity to collect signatures of those who want to the EC’s removal, he arrived at his home around 9.45 pm. Two men, in black with helmets on, were driving a motorcycle and pulling over in front of his house. One of them barged into his house carrying with him a wooden club and began hitting Anurak. He tried to defend himself and was able to take the wooden club from the hand of the assailant. He hit the person with such wood until it was broken into two. The assailant then ran away as he was shouting for help. Anurak sustained a bleeding injury on his arm and called 191 to report the case. He will later report the case to the Samut Prakan Police Station.   

Anurak Jeantawanich and physical assault against him, 31 March 2019, Picture courtesy of Anurak Jeantawanich’s Facebook page