Samaphan Srithep or Cher, 17, was fatally shot at Soi Rang Nam on 15 May. His elder sister wrote about him on her Facebook.
I often thought of him as a “badly brought up” kid. He was annoying, impertinent, had a gift of bad timing. He was also provocative, and a bit unhinged.
I had even thought that if he carried on this way, he would probably “die before he has lived.”
All these thoughts are formed by my own prejudices, my own “double standard.” (He wasn’t a good-looking young man. He was dark-skinned, overweight, unruly, and disrespectful. It’s sad to be reminded how wedded I am to these idiotic notions of what makes a young person attractive.)
As far as I can remember, I had never done anything good for this young man. I was often sharp-tongued withhim, I almost disliked him, actually. But Cher would always hang around helping out his elder brothers and sisters. Even though I found his unruliness hard to handle, this honorary younger brother would still help me out on many things.
Now I realise he was the way he was because he was older than his years. He had been brought up to have independence of mind. He was the kind of young man who needed his own “space.” His examples were his elder brothers and sisters in the adopted “Sura” clan. (Head of the Sura clan is Suraphong aka Mr. Ultraman, followed by Suradiew, Surapan, Surawit, Suramung, Suraboy, Surajack, Suraki, Surajoom, Suratak, Suraek etc.) Suracher was the youngest among us, so he was loved and hated best by his elders.
He wasn’t a bully, he never thought badly of people. He was an adolescent who was beginning to learn about “life.” He was that way because he grew up among people who believed in real democracy. He believed he had the same right as his elder brothers and sisters to express his opinions. That’s why we thought of him as impertinent.
I last saw him on April 11, 2010. He came to the event commemorating those who had died in the government’s “reclaiming the space” operation. He was the one who tied the white glove, the symbol for stopping the murder of citizens, to the Democracy Monument. He did whatever he could, willingly, that was probably also part of his learning experience.
Today he was impertinent enough to go into the danger zone. Someone in there was cruel enough to shoot him until he fell. The blood from his head left a long trail. I guess he didn’t die immediately. He must have suffered immense pain. I don’t know what it feels like for a body to still be breathing, for the pulse to still be racing, while your head lies smashed on the pavement like a watermelon dropped from a great height.
He laid there for almost an hour before the rescue people managed to bring out that faintly breathing body. The soldiers would not let anyone go in to help him. They shot everyone who tried to do so. One of the rescue people nearly got shot in the arm.
The doctor said he died at the hospital. That shocked me and made me cry. It meant that for an unbearably long time Cher must have been aware that it was his own head lying on the pavement like a smashed watermelon.
I went to see him in the hospital morgue. Saw him lying still, his eyes not quite closed. He had grown a little bigger; his body was getting dark. His feet were bloodstained and his hands were very tense. His fists were clenched as if he was in great anger or pain. Most importantly, his head was stuffed with cotton to stem the flow of blood.
It was him all right…I told myself. Before that I had only seen an image of the body in the blue top lying on the pavement, taken by a local who lives in the Soi Rang Nam area. There was a long trail of blood flowing from the body, and a crash helmet nearby. At that time I didn’t want to believe that it was him.
I had once complimented Cher behind his back to one of the Sura folks, back when he had volunteered to become a guard for the PAD. You had to respect him, what stuff was he was made of? At 16 he had decided to leave home to go sleep in the middle of the road on the protest ground,in order to act as a security guard and protect others. In the end he was injured, chipped a tooth, and nearly didn’t finish grade 9 at school.
Yesterday he left home to “witness” street democracy, and the war in the heart of Bangkok. Tragically the bullet that hit him was not selective. Tragically Thai-style democracy robbed him of his life.
While waiting for the body I went out to buy clothes for him, thinking that it would be the last thing, the only thing, thatI could now do for him. I bought jeans, because his dad said Cher liked to wear jeans. I bought the biggest top I could find, because at that point there weren’t many shops still open around Victory Monument. The shooting was still continuing around Din Daeng Triangle.
He had “changed” his shirt, but outsides things were still the same. I waited until he was ready to go home, then lit a joss stick to talk to him. I touched him. The jeans fitted him perfectly. He was now smiling gently, the corner of his mouth turned up. I asked for his forgiveness and told him he was Suracher, the best Sura there ever was, and how proud we are of him. I wished him a peaceful sleep.
He is “Suracher” or Nong Cher, the son of Daddy Neng. To his elder brothers and sisters he is Ai Hia Cher. His name is Samaphan Srithep, and he was 17 years old. He died before he had had a chance to live, all because he had the gift of bad timing, and he was impertinent enough to want to find out more about democracy.
----------If you want to find out more about democracy, go out there and experience it.
----------If you want democracy, go out there and demand it, bring it home.
Translated by May Adadol Ingawanij