BANGKOK — A security guard at IconSiam luxury shopping mall was fined 1,000 baht by the police on Tuesday after he was filmed slapping a university student who was holding a lone protest in front of the department store.
Passapong Ponjaturapat, 47, was identified as the assailant. He was fined by Pak Khlong San Police under a misdemeanor of minor physical assault against Benja Apan, a 21-year-old Thammasat University student and a member of the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration.
Benja said she was holding a placard with the message “Vaccine Monopoly is PR for the Royals” at the riverside shopping mall about 2pm Tuesday, when she and her companion were surrounded by about 10 security personnel and staff from the mall.
“After we took the photos, the guards ran and mobbed me,” Benja said at the police station. “At first I was going to leave through the front part of the mall, but he wouldn’t let me. He tried to confiscate my phone. I wouldn’t let him do that. And suddenly he seized my placard, so I reached for his staff ID card, I wanted to know who he was. He slapped me right then.”
The student continued, “I felt very angry and humiliated. He admitted his fault and paid the fine. He apologized to me. He said it all happened in a moment of chaos.”
The confrontation was also captured on a live video and posted on social media. One of the staff could be heard telling Benja to leave the premises because it was a private property. “This is my home!” the employee said.
Passapong declined to speak to a reporter at the police station.
IconSiam later issued a statement promising a disciplinary inquiry into the guard who had slapped Banja.
“IconSiam is aware of the incident. We’d like to express our regret and apologize for what happened,” the mall said.
“As soon as we were aware of the incident, we opened an investigation and set up a fact-finding committee. If the employee is found to have committed the wrongdoing, we will take a serious disciplinary action against the employee in accordance with our regulations.”
The statement went on to say that it reserves the right to ban any political gatherings and activities on its premises. Any violations may result in a legal action, IconSiam said.
Lt. Col. Jirote Bhamornsut, deputy superintendent of Pak Khlong San Police Station, said IconSiam has the rights to remove Benja from the mall since it is considered private property.
“It’s within the power of the shopping mall whether to allow the protest to happen or not,” Jirote said. “If someone tells you to leave their house and you refuse to, that’s intrusion.”
Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a leader of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, went to the police station along with some 20 protesters on Tuesday afternoon to show their support for Benja.
“This person came out to campaign on behalf of the interest of the people,” Parit said, adding that the vaccination effort is being exploited as a public relations tool for the monarchy.
The vast majority of vaccines to be used in the inoculation campaign will be manufactured by Siam Bioscience, a company wholly owned by the Crown Property Bureau. The firm said it secured a knowledge sharing agreement with AstraZeneca, a British pharmaceutical who developed the vaccine.
IconSiam is a 50 billion baht joint venture between real estate giants Siam Piwat and Magnolia Quality Development. It opened in 2018. Siam Piwat also owns other prominent shopping malls like Siam Paragon and Siam Center in downtown Bangkok.
On Dec. 20, Parit and his group also staged a protest demanding monarchy reforms at Siam Paragon. Security guards employed by the mall trailed the activists as they walked around the department store, but did not interfere with the protest.