The daughter of a red shirt killed at Ratchaprarop on 15 May has finally found the body of her father. She has met independent photographer Nick Nostitz to hear about her father’s fatal moment. Nostitz took pictures of the man injured with gunshot wounds on that day while they were seeking shelter and has been trying to locate him ever since.
Nick Nostitz had been looking for the man whom he tried to drag out from a pool on that day, until he went to give testimony at Phaya Thai Police Station. There, he talked to Thai reporters and learned that the man had died and his name was Charnnarong Polsrila, 45. Thai reporters then contacted his daughter Monchaya to meet with him.
Nick Nostitz and Monchaya
On 18 June, they met. Nick told her that, before the shooting started, her father, who was among red shirts gathering there, said jokingly to reporters and photographers that they had just their bare hands and sling shots to fight guns and bullets. A few minutes later, while the protesters were pushing tyres about 20-50 meters further, Charnnarong was the first person to be hit, in the stomach. Some shouted to the troops asking them to stop firing because someone was injured, but the soldiers probably did not hear or did not care, and kept on firing. Her father was also shot in the arm.
Charnnarong Polsrila (with a slingshot)
Photos by Nick Nostitz
Nick and the others ran to the toilets at the back of a gas station, and climbed over a fence into a house as the troops were closing in. He saw two protesters helping Charnnarong and trying to get him over the fence. After a while, he heard the sound of a splash. He turned and saw her father, and was not sure whether he wanted to be down there or whether he had slipped. The soldiers who caught up with them told Nick to pull Charnnarong out of the water. Nick could not do it alone, and so he asked the soldiers to help. The soldiers who had crossed the fence cursed the injured man, saying he should have died. Afterwards, the soldiers radioed for medics. Once a stretcher came, the soldiers forced them to leave the spot at gunpoint. That was the last time he saw Charnnarong.
Ever since, Nick kept worrying about what had happened to him, until on 17 June he was saddened to hear that the man had died. The incident will stay in his mind all his life, Nick said.
Monchaya Polsrila, 25, an official in the Air Force, said that her family tried to contact her father on 15 May from 3 pm, but failed. On the morning of 16 May, her mother brought a copy of Khao Sod newspaper for 17 May, which carried a photo of two men dragging her father by the arms. According to the report, he had been shot at a Shell gas station on Ratchaprarop Rd and sent to hospital. She thought at that time that her father was still alive.
Afterwards, she called the Narenthorn Centre and the Erawan Centre, and was told that normally the injured would be sent to hospital immediately, and no records were kept. She then called hospitals near the Ratchaprarop area, but found nothing. She posted messages on Facebook and passed them on to a TV channel and a traffic radio station.
On 17 May, she changed her approach, and focused her search on an unidentified man, as she thought that her father’s documents might have been lost or he probably left them in the car. She went to Phayathai 1 hospital where officials said that an unidentified man had died on the way to hospital, and the man was plump. However, police had already taken the body away, and no one knew where. Even then, she still did not know for sure that her father was dead. She went on to ask the emergency department, but it was fruitless.
On 18 May, the forensic department at Vajira hospital told her that they had the corpses of two unidentified men; one was skinny and the other was already swollen and almost unrecognizable due to a lack of formalin injection. From photos, she recognized a scar on her father’s chest, and quite believed that it was him, judging from the shape of the face and the moustache. Once she saw the body, she immediately recognized her father’s shirt. The body had only a shirt and underwear, matching what she had seen in a YouTube clip the day before where her father’s trousers had been stripped off.
The family retrieved the body, held a funeral rite for one night, and had the body cremated on 20 May.
According to Monchaya, the autopsy report says that a bullet was buried in the right side of the abdomen, the body was wounded in several places, and the arm was broken. But it does not specify the type of bullet.
She had once been summoned to give testimony at the Phaya Thai Police Station.
She said she had seen photos and a clip of her father on the internet, so she was eager to know who took them and what happened. She only knew from the clip that her father lay down with his trousers stripped off, but was in the dark as to what happened next. She wanted to hear from people who were there, but knew no one, until she got the contact for this meeting.
She said her family was originally from Sakon Nakhon. Her father came to work in Bangkok first. When she entered Prathom Suksa (Grade 1), her parents brought her and her sister to Bangkok to live in the Sai Mai area. Her father was a taxi driver, and her mother was a housewife. In the evening, her father usually dropped her mother off at the rally site, because her mother thought that there were not many people at night, so she had to be there. Her father then just went to work, and came to pick her up in the morning. It went on like this almost every day. They started to go there frequently before the 10 April clash.
Although she was sympathetic to the cause, she never agreed on their going to the rally, out of concern for their safety.
‘I read the news, and it said there was violence, and live rounds were being used. ‘They fired every day, Mother!’ I did not want them to go. But my mother said that if we did not go out to make demands, who else was going to do it for us? If we don’t fight for ourselves, who else will fight for us?’ she said. Later, she did not say anything and saw that her parents had the right to do what they did. Still, she was worried and feared the worst.
‘We didn’t think that live rounds would be used,’ she said, adding, ‘Father had one slingshot, kept in the boot of his cab.’
‘The word that is most painful to hear is ‘terrorists’. I don’t get it. People came out to demand their rights. Their weapon was a slingshot. OK. Some might say a slingshot could kill, if marbles or metal pellets are used. But, seriously, how can it fight against a gun?’
‘[They] fired like life was worthless. Was it too much? I can’t take this. But what can we do? We can do nothing, since they say my father was a terrorist. Who can we make demands from? They are the ones who make the accusation, and the ones we have no chance to fight with anyway.’
‘When I wear this uniform, some are against me. Some taxi drivers refused to take me. Some look at me strangely. People in general have the perception of the military as violent, but I see it as irrelevant. The Air Force is the Air Force. The Army is the Army. If you ask what I feel about the uniform I’m wearing, I still feel proud of it. It’s only a specific person in uniform who sees a human as not a human.’