BANGKOK – An exiled Thai critic of the country’s military and monarchy said he was attacked in his home in Japan last month and believes Thai authorities were behind the incident, an accusation that was ridiculed by the kingdom’s army chief.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a 48-year-old associate professor at Kyoto University, said he was asleep with his partner when a man broke into their home last month at about 4 a.m. and sprayed the couple with a substance that burned their skin.
Neither was seriously hurt, but Pavin said they have been told by police not to return home. The police confirmed they were investigating a July 8 incident in which a Thai man was sprayed in his house.
“The attacker clearly wanted to intimidate,” said Pavin, adding that he had no personal disputes that could have been behind the attack. “The doctor said the chemical was not deadly, but said that the burning sensation will stay for quite some time.”
A prominent political dissident who has denounced the Thai military’s coups in 2006 and 2014, Pavin has also openly criticized King Maha Vajiralongkorn, breaking a taboo in Thailand, where criticizing the monarch is illegal.
Pavin accused the army of being behind the attack and said he had been told this by sources. But he said he had no evidence and did not identify the sources or say how they would know.
The suggestion was rejected by Thailand’s army chief, Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, who is also head of the king’s Royal Guard Force. He said he had heard about the attack but was astonished at any idea that the military could be involved.
“I’d say don’t be too imaginative. This is not a ‘Mission Impossible’ movie,” Apirat said, adding that a personal dispute might be behind the incident.
“We have our hands full in addressing problems internally in Thailand. And to think that we dispatch people to go assault people overseas — that is impossible,” the army chief said.