House panel to take up police violence against reporters during Apec Summit
A media representative on Thursday asked a House committee to investigate police’s use of violence against reporters during a crackdown on protesters last week.
The petition was submitted by Pongpiphat Banchanont, senior editor of The Matter, to Natcha Boonyachai-insawad (Move Forward Party-Bangkok) in his capacity as the chair of the House standing committee on political developments, media, and public inclusion.
The letter called on the House panel to investigate the police crowd-control operation on November 18, the first day of the Apec Summit, near the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.
Protesters had gathered a few hundred metres from the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, where the Apec Summit was being held and clashes soon broke out, with riot police shooting rubber bullets into the crowd.
Clips of a monk being pushed against a wall and a policeman reportedly attacking a reporter from the online news site, The Matter, went viral. The reporter was attacked even though he shouted out his credentials and showed his press armband.
After receiving the letter from Pongpiphat, Natcha said it was inappropriate and not right for police to harm reporters.
He said he has initial information that four journalists were injured — a reporter of The Matter, a photographer of Top News, a reporter of Prachathai, and a photographer of Reuters.
Natcha said his House panel would put the issue on its meeting agenda immediately and would discuss it as soon as possible. The House panel would gather evidence and would summon officials concerned to testify, Natcha said.
Pongpiphat said the crackdown on protesters on November 18 was really violent, and prompted many to wonder whether police unjustifiably used violence against reporters.
He said the Thai Journalists Association had earlier discussed with the Metropolitan Police Bureau and the police spokesman about field reporters’ work.
Pongpiphat said when reporters were deployed to cover an event, they were doing their duty just like police personnel.
Pongpiphat noted the Civil Court had ruled in a case that police must take into account the safety of reporters when they use force to disperse protesters.
“But the operation on November 18 harmed several reporters. This prompted us to wonder whether police were obeyed the order of the Civil Court or not,” Pongpiphat said.
He said reporters wondered whether the use of force against the media was not personal behaviour of certain policemen but an order of someone.
He said the media’s letter called on the House panel to:
- Conduct a fact-finding probe why police had used violence to injure many people and reporters.
- Summon the senior official concerned to testify on the operation on November 18, including the National Police chief, the Metropolitan Police chief and head of the operation on that day.
- To demand documents from police regarding the operation on November 18. The documents should state the number of policemen used, policies and orders of the crackdown and details of used tools.
- To demand documents about appointments of fact-finding panels of police in charge of probing incidents that saw people and reporters injured from 2020 until the November 18 incident.
“Our police could do better than this. We would like to see police work with standard and responsibly,” Pongpiphat said.