My red-shirt father has been in hiding

Inthira Saraniam, 27, is a red shirt who organized her wedding ceremony at Sanam Luang.  Her father is a staunch red-shirt supporter who plastered his taxi cab with stickers condemning the 2006 coup junta, the Council for National Security, and all kinds of dictatorship, until the car was burned.  He also joined the anti-coup activities early on in Sanam Luang, before the movement later turned into the red shirts.

‘Whenever and wherever there was a protest, my father would never miss it.  Even when we were hard-pressed, he would drive his cab to park on the front line.  On the day his cab was burned, he had no money and walked from Charoen Krung Rd to Sanam Luang.  But his participation in the democratic movement has resulted in him being hunted down,’ said Inthira proudly.

Inthira said that after the government crackdown on 19 May more than 10 policemen in plainclothes came to her house asking for her father with a search warrant.  They did not find her father, because he had not lived there for a long time.

‘The police took photos of the house.  They saw my red shirt hanging up, so they told me to put the shirt on for them to take photos to show their boss, but I told them it’s not right and I would not do that.  Is wearing a red shirt illegal?  If so, you have to arrest all [red shirts],’ she said.

Since then, her home has never been in peace, with constant phone calls checking up on them. Even her uncle in Ratchaburi, who has the same surname as her father, has been visited by police, looking for her father.  Her younger brother, who has finished the ROTC, received a call to report to the reserve force in Ratchaburi, and was told if he could not come, his father could come on his behalf.

The last time she talked to her father was after the crackdown on the red shirts at Ratchaprasong.  He told her in a brief phone call, ‘I’m running away. Don’t worry. I’ve made it.’

Inthira said that her father had taken her to join protests since when she was under 10, when they used plastic bottles to drum on the ground [to make a noise].  She witnessed the Black May [1992] protests when Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang [currently a yellow-shirt leader] was arrested.  She was leaving her house near the Phan Fah Bridge looking for her father.  There were loud gunshots, and people were panicking and running in flight to Ratchanaddaram Temple.  Some of them fell and soldiers who caught up with them stepped on their backs and pointed guns at them.  She remembered it well.

‘The images of the past have reappeared.  In April 2009, I was about one month pregnant, and was trying to run away from the gas explosions and the burning of the buses.  In April and May 2010, the violence happened again, and my father has had to run for his life.  The government will surely carry on with its persecution, I believe,’ she said.

‘Now my family lives in fear.  My mother is a Chinese descendant who’s concerned with making a living, with no desire to get involved in politics, but she cannot avoid it.  My father probably has nothing to fear, at this stage, because he probably will not give in and I believe that he will fight on with his ideology which is maybe hardcore, but he has never harmed or destroyed anyone,’ she said.