On Friday, one 30-year-old woman, Hathairat ‘Ann’ Thanakitamnuay or Anna Vidhyaphum, the wife of former Democrat Party turned street protester and political activist, Tanat Thanakitamnuay aka ‘Hi-so Luk Nat’, who lost an eye in recent street demonstrations in Bangkok, was accompanied by her husband. Ms Hathairat, who is running as a candidate for the Ruam Thai United Party, visited Lumpini Police Station and filed a complaint with police alleging that she was raped by the former Democrat Party deputy leader in February 2021 at an apartment in central Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area. Speaking to reporters, she said she was angered by the demeanour and denials coming from Mr Prinn this week after the first accusations emerged following a dinner date with an 18-year-old university student during which she claims she was a victim of sexual indecency and later harassment at the hands of the senior political figure.
Charges will be brought before the Bangkok South Central Criminal Court on Sunday against Prinn Panitchpakdi, the now-former deputy leader of the Democrat Party who resigned all his positions this week after an onslaught of sexual complaints were made to the media and filed with police against him by disparate parties. The growing political scandal in Thailand has been developing in slow motion since the deputy leader of one of the principal parties in the coalition government of Prayut Chan ocha found himself at the centre of sexual harassment and later rape allegations this week. On Saturday, after interrogating the now-former leader of the Democrat Party, Prinn Panitchpakdi for most of the day, police disclosed that charges will be brought against Mr Prinn before Bangkok South Criminal Court on charges of sexual indecency with further charges also possible either on Saturday or in due course. Senior officers have also revealed that they will request assurances concerning travel restrictions if the accused man is granted bail by the court and have already made contact with the Immigration Bureau to prevent Mr Prinn taking flight from the country. The case is Thailand’s first Me Too moment and it is reported that there are potentially more women in addition to the four who have already made formal complaints to police in Bangkok and Phetchaburi including the one allegation of rape.
Embattled former Democrat Party deputy leader Prinn Panitchpakdi discreetly arrived at Lumpini Police Station on Saturday at approximately 8 am in a white luxury BMW 730 car to face questioning by police officers at the station who are coordinating an investigation in which so far at least four women have given statements against him alleging sexual harassment and, in one case, rape.
The well known Thai lawyer who broke the scandal this week, after taking up the case of an 18-year-old who had earlier gone to dinner with Mr Prinn last Monday, has told the media that there may be more women who are hesitant to come forward and make a formal statement to police.
Former deputy leader of Democrat Party met by police superintendent on arrival on Saturday morning at Lumpini Police Station to answer the criminal probe
Mr Prinn was initially met at Lumpini Police Station on Saturday by the Superintendent, Police Colonel Nimit Nuphonthong.
It is understood that the former senior official with the Democrat Party was questioned intensely by officers who had already begun the process of seeking an arrest warrant in the case from Bangkok South Central Court after a review of the case on Friday with top brass.
The reason for the visit by Mr Prinn to the police given was the public nature of the accusations that have been levelled against him and his wish not to be arrested without notice.
Mr Prinn is understood to have spent Friday consulting with defence lawyers.
Thailand’s one ‘Me Too’ moment, reports of more women who may come forward to file complaints
The evolving investigation and political scandal could mean Thailand may be about to have its own Me Too movement five years after the Harvey Weinstein scandal stunned the world causing a surge in the movement across the world.
Me Too traces its roots as far back as 2006 when it was started by activist Tarana Burke whose goal was to encourage young women to speak up about sexual assault and harassment.
The first that the Thai public found out about an emerging scandal in the kingdom was on Thursday when the then deputy leader of the Democrat Party, the country’s oldest and currently a key part of the coalition government of Prayut Chan ocha, announced his immediate resignation both from his current positions and the party.
Scion of a leading political family in Thailand
Prinn Panitchpakdi is the son of a political veteran and highly respected Thai statesman, Supachai Panitchpakdi, who as well as being an MP was deputy finance minister several times before becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) from 2002 until 2008.
His son Prinn, up to Thursday, was busy directing the election campaign for his party in a contest to select Bangkok’s next governor and an upcoming poll for city council seats.
He is a graduate of the London School of Economics and is also reported to own several residences outside Thailand.
Monday night dinner date exploded the life of affluent 45-year-old deputy party leader busy running election operations in Bangkok for the Democrats
All this was of course before his impromptu dinner, last Monday night, at an exclusive rooftop restaurant in one of Bangkok’s most exciting nightlife centres.
On Thursday, the grave nature of the reports was confirmed when Mr Prinn announced his immediate resignation not only as deputy party leader and member of its executive but also as an ordinary member of the party.
The 45-year-old politician preempted being named but was forced by high profile lawyer, Sittha Biabangkerd, who had continuously given strong hints on social media after taking the case of Mr Prinn’s Monday night dinner guest, an 18-year old state university student who claimed it ended in a nightmare for her.
Above Eleven Bar and Restaurant is located on the rooftop of an exclusive hotel, the Fraser Suites Hotel in Wattana District of Bangkok on Soi Sukhumvit 11.
What happened between the young woman and the now-former deputy party leader quickly became the catalyst for a barrage of reports to the police from young women all over Thailand, some going back nearly twenty years when two other then 18-year-olds also reported encounters with Mr Prinn, during which, they allege, he behaved inappropriately.
Stakes were raised considerably on Friday afternoon when the 30-year-old wife of a political activist filed a complaint of rape against Mr Prinn with police
The situation took a turn for the worse for Mr Prinn on Friday at 4.24 pm when the 30-year-old spouse of Tanat Thanakitamnuay aka ‘Hi-so Luk Nat’, a former Democrat Party member who resigned after the party entered into the coalition government in 2019, arrived at Lumpini Police Station with her husband to make a formal complaint against Mr Prinn.
The police station had already received a complaint from the young student from Monday night accompanied by her mother on Tuesday.
Ms Hathairat ‘Anna’ Thanakitamnuay accompanied by her well-known husband, gave testimony to police alleging that she was raped by the now former deputy party leader at a Bangkok condominium on Soi Sukhumvit 3 in early 2021.
Mr Tanat said he did not know the details of his wife’s testimony to police and had accompanied her after she was requested by officers to come and give a formal statement at the station.
‘Hi-so Luk Nat’ lost an eye last August taking part in street protests against the government in Bangkok
‘Hi-so Luk Nat’ was an active campaigner in the Bangkok shutdown of 2014 which led to the army coup that year but has since had a political conversion, playing an active part in street protests against the government of General Prayut Chan ocha.
He resigned from the Democrat Party in 2019 when the it joined the coalition government led by the Palang Pracharat Party.
On August 13th last, the 30-year-old lost an eye during the protests believed to be the result of blunt trauma after being hit by an object after the police opened fire with tear gas canisters in response to violent scenes and clashes between police and protesters.
Mr Tanat’s wife, Hathairat, also known as Anna Vidhyaphum, had contacted investigating officers after the news broke on Thursday.
She said that the details she heard from the other victims accorded with her experience with Mr Prinn.
Rape victim says she thinks Mr Prinn is suffering from a mental aberration and is a ‘danger to society’
She said that she thought the politician may be suffering from some sort of mental aberration.
Her comment comes just days after high profile Samut Sakhon lawyer Mr Sittha vowed to pursue the case and labelled Mr Prinn a ‘danger to society’ given what he had been told by a slew of women who have contacted him following his revelations of the case initially on social media without even confirming the name of the accused.
Mr Sittha, himself, is no stranger to controversial cases.
The high profile legal eagle has acted as a defence lawyer in the past for high profile celebrities accused of drug dealing.
He made his name over a dispute concerning a ฿30 million winning lottery ticket between a retired policeman and a school teacher which began in 2017.
Mr Tanat, on Friday, after the visit with his wife to meet police, said that he was satisfied that she was telling the truth and that this was not some political intrigue or subterfuge.
He pointed to the similarities between the stories of the women who keep coming forward.
Mr Tanat asked why Democrat Party stays silent
Asked why he had come to the police station with his wife he explained: ‘My presence here does not mean that I intended to see Mr Prinn. Had I wanted to see him, I could find him by myself. But I arrived here because there are media crews at the police station. I want to use this place to express my views regarding the matter.’
He also asked why the Democrat Party had not yet expressed solidarity with the victims in the case and their families.
On Friday, when contacted by reporters, Mr Prinn declined to comment further and when particularly questioned about why he had not volunteered himself for questioning by investigators at Lumpini Police Station particularly as senior officers had suggested such a course of action in the last few days.
Accused Mr Prinn told the media that he was ‘stunned’ by the reports, insists he is innocent
He told reporters that he had now taken on a lawyer and referred them to his statement on Thursday in which he proposed to let the justice system take its course.
‘I am leaving this case to the justice process,’ he said on Thursday as he concluded his statement after initially declaring that he was taken aback at what has happened.
Mr Prinn insisted that he was ‘shocked and stunned’ by the week’s developments.
‘I insist I am innocent. I deny all allegations. They are groundless,’ he said. ‘Although what happened is a personal matter, it affects the Democrats.’
Police collect evidence after the first complaint filed at Lumpini Police Station on Tuesday last by a university student accompanied by her mother
Deputy Metropolitan Police Bureau Commissioner, Major Trairong Phewpan, has been supervising the progress of the case at Lumpini Police Station due to its high profile nature.
The top policeman has repeatedly assured reporters that there will be no discrimination in how the case is handled by officers who he pointed out had already collected evidence after the complaint was filed on Tuesday by the 18-year-old whistleblower in the company of her mother.
This is understood to include CCTV footage from the hotel location.
It is reported that the young woman, currently a student at a state university, had attended a lecture given by the high profile political figure which dealt with economics and financial investments.
Invited to dinner where she found she was alone
She had been invited by Mr Prinn to accompany him afterwards to the exclusive rooftop restaurant and bar where she found, to her surprise, that she was alone with him.
In the course of the rendezvous, she became uncomfortable when the politician inappropriately touched her hands and cheeks leading to her asking to leave.
She told police that he had also raised deeply personal and sexual topics during the uncomfortable discussions.
The older man then drove her to a nearby subway station during which she says he began to sexually harass her.
Mr Prinn is understood to have frantically phoned the girl’s mother on Wednesday after it became known that a police complaint was filed. Reports suggest that he apologised to the woman.
On Thursday, Police Major Trairong said that the CCTV evidence retrieved from the restaurant would prove useful for progressing the investigation.
Police satisfied by progress on the case, had enough on Friday to seek an arrest warrant against Prinn
He pointed out that the police officers working on the case were satisfied with the progress made.
He said it was normal procedure in relation to a crime that may involve more than three years imprisonment to immediately procure an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court which in this case would be Bangkok South Criminal Court.
However, he pointed out that it would still be open to the accused to volunteer himself to the police leading the case at Lumpini Police Station.
Public denials by Mr Prinn made alleged rape victim angry this week prompting her to come forward
Ms Hathairat or Anna, on Friday, after formally accusing Mr Prinn of rape said she had been stung into action by watching his emphatic denials of culpability on Thursday after the news broke on the case.
She said that many women knew the truth but up to now had not done anything about the situation.
She explained when she saw the politician deny the allegations and his demeanour, she became angry.
She claimed he knew that everything said by the victims who had come forward was true.
She thought to herself that if Mr Prinn was to escape justice, then people would lose complete faith in the legal process altogether in Thailand.
Ms Anna also announced, on Friday, that she was withdrawing as a candidate in the Bangkok elections for a council seat, a decision endorsed by the Ruam Thai United party.
Police ready to obtain an arrest warrant for Mr Prinn on Saturday and had alerted the Immigration Bureau
Before this, at 3.20 pm on Friday, before confirmation of the news of Ms Hathairat making her formal report to police claiming that she was raped by the former Democrat Party senior official, Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Trairong came forward to tell reporters that the Royal Thai Police were planning to seek an arrest warrant for Mr Prinn Panitchpakdi on Saturday.
In the meantime, he said police had alerted the Immigration Bureau to take precautions so that the suspect, the former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, does not take the opportunity to leave the country.
He said that the decision came after he had reviewed the case file with investigators assigned to the case.
He also revealed that complaints received so far at Lumpini Police Station and the police station in the Mueang area of Phetchaburi included two former Democrat Party officials who claim they were harassed by the underfire party figure in Phetchaburi in early 2020.
Another 18-year old student taken to the same venue on Sukhumvit Soi 11 last August and later blocked Mr Prinn on LINE after sex questions at dinner
Among the reports that have surfaced is that of another 18-year-old student who was taken to the same restaurant in Soi Sukhumvit 11 in August 2021.
She was a student activist who had invited Mr Prinn to be a guest speaker at a university event.
She said that she had arrived ahead of Mr Prinn and he had asked her to order wine. She revealed that the encounter left her feeling awkward and she had confined herself to drinking only tomato juice.
She had also alerted her friends by smartphone and arranged to meet them outside the hotel as a precaution.
She said that she had been invited by the politician to dinner sometime after the speaking event when he had asked her on the LINE chat application if she had found work.
The proposed meeting was, ostensibly, to talk about new working practices including remote working and new trends.
However, the conversation quickly turned to sexual matters including a question as to if she had enjoyed sexual relations since their last meeting or whether she had a boyfriend yet.
Met by friends outside and began crying
The former Democrat Party leader had then insisted on getting up from his chair to examine her handwriting style in the middle of the restaurant, making the woman physically uncomfortable.
Like the fateful date on Monday night last, he had also inappropriately touched her hands and face.
The woman had taken to the ladies’ bathroom at the end of dinner in shock but when she emerged, Mr Prinn was there having already paid the bill and insisting on escorting her downstairs in case she might get lost.
The young woman exited the hotel and went to the spot where her friends were waiting anxiously for her and began to cry.
‘Very nice to meet you’, LINE message sent afterwards by alleged sex pest Prinn to the 18-year old student
She later blocked Mr Prinn on LINE when he attempted to again make contact with her after telling her it was ‘very nice to meet you’.
‘I admit that I didn’t do anything right then, I was very curious as to why Mr Prinn dared to act like that,’ she conceded this week.
Deputy Police Commissioner Trairong said a proposed arrest warrant for the politician on Saturday would have specified acts of indecency at this point for which there is already sufficient evidence to proceed.
He said he hoped the public would maintain their confidence that the police would pursue the case wherever it leads.