Brothers confess to attacking Thai law professor

AP News

3/1/2012 6:49:27 AM - AP News

Twin brothers have confessed they assaulted a professor who leads a campaign to reform laws concerning Thailand's monarchy, police said Thursday.

Police Lt. Gen. Winai Thongsong said Supot and Supat Silarat turned themselves in and admitted punching Worachet Pakeerut in a parking lot at Bangkok's Thammasat University because of "differing views."

Worachet and other members of a group called Nitirat, or Enlightened Jurists, have drawn criticism for seeking to reform Thailand's lese majeste law. The law mandates prison terms of up to 15 years for insulting the monarchy.

Winai said the brothers acted on their own in Wednesday's attack.

"I was not happy," Supat said, as police discouraged him from speaking at a news conference. The brothers said they sell clothes and perfume for a living.

Worachet said Wednesday the men punched him in the face and then fled by motorcycle. He sustained cuts and bruises and was briefly treated at a hospital.

Lese majeste cases have increased in recent years as the previously taboo subject of the monarchy's proper role has started to become a matter of public discussion.

Monarchists fear any discussion of reform is aimed at dismantling the royal institution, and have repeatedly criticized the Nitirat group's efforts. Protesters in early February burned an effigy of Worachet outside the university.

Nervousness about the issue is compounded by concern over the eventual succession to 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has been hospitalized for more than two years. The heir-apparent, Prince Vajiralongkorn, does not command the same respect and has yet to prove his mettle.

Thammasat administrators briefly banned the Nitirat group from holding meetings on the university campus after the effigy-burning, saying they feared violence, They reversed their decision after extensive public protests.

Several human rights groups, including the Bangkok-based Human Rights Lawyers Association, condemned Wednesday's attack in a joint statement and urged Thai people to "hold on to their tolerance to listen to opinions different from theirs."