- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

BANGKOK (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) — A furious Thai senator punched a colleague in the face during a legislative session Wednesday as tensions flared over who was to blame for the custody deaths of 78 Muslims in the kingdom’s south last week.

Pratin Santiprapob, a former national police chief who represents Bangkok in the upper chamber, took a swing at his counterpart from Mae Hong Son province, Adul Wanchaithanawong, who had rushed from his seat toward him.

The brawl occurred as another senator from the capital, Chermsak Pinthong, a prominent critic of the government, issued a pamphlet criticizing the military’s handling of a protest last week that led to the 78 deaths.

Officials said the Muslims died after they were piled into military trucks for transport into custody on Oct. 25 after a demonstration at Tak Bai in Narathiwat province. Mr. Chermsak said he had traveled to the region to interview doctors about the deaths.

Mr. Adul interrupted Mr. Chermsak, who was at the podium, to tell him he had spoken long enough, prompting Mr. Pratin to leap to his defense and allude to “somebody” being a major drug trader.

Mr. Adul demanded that Mr. Pratin name the person to whom he was referring , but that senator sat silent. Then Mr. Adul leapt to his feet and walked toward Mr. Pratin, who stood up and made a double jab at Mr. Adul’s face as stunned senators looked on.

“It was my instinct to defend myself because Adul looked threatening,” the former police boss told reporters afterward.

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