As a fifth complaint emerged on Saturday before the Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy chief Police Major General Trairong Phewpan, on Sunday, emphasised that women making claims against the former deputy chairman of the Democrat Party need to come forward and engage with the legal process through the police. The case is being seen as the beginning of the ‘Me Too’ movement in Thailand where laws on sexual harassment and misbehaviour are surprisingly strong.
The high profile political figure who resigned all his positions with the country’s Democrat Party, on Thursday, faced three charges in court on Sunday and was later detained by police at Lumpini Police Station who fingerprinted him and requested a court to extend his detention from April 17th to 28th without bail. When brought to court later in the afternoon, Mr Prinn Panitchpakdi was granted bail on a cash surety of ฿700,000 but ordered not to leave the kingdom without permission.
The former deputy leader of the Democrat Party, Prinn Panitchpakdi, appeared at Bangkok South Central Court on Sunday on three charges including two counts of indecent acts and one of rape.
In a process which began when he entered at a side door at Lumpini Police Station before 8 am on Sunday to meet police officers by appointment and extended into the early afternoon, he was returned to Lumpini Police Station where the police officially detained and fingerprinted the accused while requesting his continued detention from the court from April 17th to 28th as the investigation into the case proceeds.
Ex Democrat Party boss was held in police custody until bail was granted and paid on Sunday in court
The former high profile political figure, after being taken into the custody of police, was later driven in a police van back to the court in a 30-minute drive arriving just after noon where despite police objections to bail on the basis that Mr Prinn has lived outside Thailand and has the resources to leave the jurisdiction.
He was granted temporary release, however, based on a cash surety.
The amount stipulated was ฿200,000 for each of the two indecency charges and ฿300,000 for the charge of rape which was brought against him on Sunday.
This is linked to Ms Anna Vidhyaphum, the wife of political activist and former Democrat Party member, Tanat Thanakitamnuay, aka ‘Hi-so Luk Nat’.
Political couple in court to formally oppose bail for Mr Prinn while only three charges were filed by police
The couple were at Bangkok South Central Court on Sunday and objected to bail being granted to Mr Prinn.
They left the court precincts early after leaving instructions with a lawyer to act on their behalf.
In the meantime, there is swirling and unconfirmed speculation concerning the case suggesting that 45-year-old Mr Prinn could offer compensation to some of his accused while others have also come forward such as a possible 5th complainant, a 25-year-old Chiang Mai woman on Saturday, who claimed she was doing it to send a message to other women and Thai society.
Reports on Friday suggested that there were initially four complaints filed against Mr Prinn but only three charges were brought before the court on Sunday morning.
Chiang Mai police chief assigns a female officer
The young woman who came forward on Saturday, met Police Major General Thawatchai Pongwiwattanachai, the police chief in Chiang Mai who later confirmed that there had been further complaints.
He said he assigned a female police officer to interview any potential victims.
Police Major General Thawatchai promised that where full evidence could be obtained, then prosecutions should follow quickly but police had to be thorough and fair to both parties in carrying out their duties.
Accused, arriving in police custody, insisted on his innocence and placed his faith in the legal system
During his court appearance on Sunday afternoon, as he was led to the holding cells beneath the court in Bangkok, Mr Prinn again protested his innocence in the matter and said he was confidently putting his fate in the hands of the legal system.
He was later freed on bail when the monies were paid but the court ordered him not to leave the country without seeking permission and to report to Immigration Bureau authorities.
Rape victim Ms Anna asks for space
Later, after it was revealed that Ms Anna Vidhyaphum, the alleged rape victim in the case, intended to withdraw from the forthcoming election where she was seeking a seat on the Bangkok Council, the Bangkok Director of Elections issued a statement saying that the candidate may not withdraw her candidacy but can, after the poll, opt not to take a seat if she is elected.
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
Ms Anna’s husband, Mr Tanat, over the last 48 hours, indicated that the situation has caused his wife trauma and has asked the public and media for their understanding.
Ms Anna, or Ms Hathairat Thanakitamnuay, filed her complaint of rape against Mr Prinn on Friday afternoon at Lumpini Police Station.
Police chief says the legal process will be pursued based only on evidence established by the officers
On Sunday, Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy chief, Major General Trairong Phewpan who has oversight over legal proceedings in the case, again assured the public that the police would pursue all reports received although he pointed out that some may already be beyond the time limit to legally pursue a prosecution.
However, police would interview and collect evidence concerning all cases thoroughly and would not be deterred from acting based on evidence collected.
However, he stressed that all victims who wished to have their cases heard must come forward to police authorities and be prepared to give a statement in accordance with the required legal process.
Thailand’s legal provisions already allow strong grounds to prosecute sexual harassers and predators
Under Section 276 of Thailand’s legal code, a person who has sexual relations with a woman who is not his wife against her will or who takes advantage of her while she is not in a position to resist can face a prison term of four to twenty years.
Similarly, a conviction under Section 278 concerning indecent acts, a wide-ranging term, against a person over 15 years old while not being in a position to resist, can lead to a prison term of up to 10 years.
The Thai criminal code because of the sweeping nature of offences listed, surprisingly, given the country’s reputation for being patriarchal, can very effectively be used as a deterrent against sexual predators and men who sexually harass women by the police should further complaints be made of this nature.
25-year-old Chiang Mai woman outlined a complaint against Mr Prinn in an incident from early last year
The emerging case in Chiang Mai is believed also to be linked to high profile lawyer Sittha Biabangkerd or ‘Lawyer Tum’ who blew the story wide open this week when he took on the case of the first complainant, an 18-year-old dinner date of Mr Prinn from last Monday.
Monday night dinner date exploded the life of affluent 45-year-old deputy party leader busy running election operations in Bangkok for Democrats
The young woman, in that case, tells a very similar story to the others that have come to light so far in Bangkok and Phetchaburi.
She said she had met Mr Prinn and because of his status, she had given him her telephone contact details.
She said that early last year, he had contacted her to let her know that there was a conference in Chiang Mai linked with financial matters and cryptocurrencies. He invited her to accompany him.
When she arrived at the hotel, there was no sign of a conference but Mr Prinn had coaxed her into talking with him. Having discussed education matters with her, he then moved on to discussing sexual topics.
Then, on the pretext of examining her handwriting which he complimented her on, he attempted to kiss her on the mouth.
Accused Prinn of being a sex pest who phoned her from multiple numbers after she had blocked his calls
She said she immediately wiped her mouth in disgust and ran from the room and out of the hotel. She said Mr Prinn followed her and again tried to kiss her on the cheeks.
Afterwards, she blocked his telephone number when he attempted to call her and this resulted in him making use of up to 4 other telephone numbers which she also blocked.
She told the Chiang Mai police chief that since then, she has become very nervous about calls from strange numbers.
She said she wanted to prosecute the former political figure as before this week, she thought that no one would have believed her story to be true.
She saw it as a signal to other women in Thailand that men should not be allowed treat women as sexual objects.