Red Sunday at Ratchaprasong

Activists and red shirts have continued to converge at Ratchaprasong on Sundays to commemorate the loss of lives in the area.  Last Sunday an activist was arrested and fined for making a loud noise.

On 18 July, a group of activists and red shirts gathered at Ratchaprasong intersection to remind the public of the recent crackdown and the loss of lives, an activity which they plan to keep doing on every Sunday, called Red Sunday.

Hundreds of policemen were deployed to safeguard the Ratchaprasong intersection sign where the activists intended to tie strips of red cloth as they had done before.

The activists and red shirts gathered in small groups scattered around the intersection, with the biggest group at the corner of Central World.  They tied strips of red cloth to other signs instead.

A policeman said that about 150 police from 9 police stations had been stationed there since 3 pm.

At 4.30 pm in front of Pathumwanaram Temple, some activists staged a performance entitled ‘People have died here’.  They called for the lifting of the Emergency Decree so that the public can have freedom of expression, and a temporary halt to all reform and reconciliation panels until independent and transparent fact-finding and scrutiny is carried out into the crackdown.

Then the activists, some of them dressed and made up to look like corpses, walked from in front of the temple to Ratchaprasong intersection.       

At 5.20 pm, Sombat Boon-ngamanong, an activist who initiated the activity, negotiated with the police to let them tie red cloth to the Ratchaprasong intersection sign, but was allowed to tie cloth on the footpath fence only.

Sombat had been arrested for the same activity at the same place on 26 June. He was detained for two weeks, and was released on 9 July.

‘I don’t have to prepare myself for another arrest. It’s the authorities’ concern, not mine.  I live my life normally.  I’ve no problem.  I don’t have to hide.  You’ll see me every Sunday.  If [the authorities] want to arrest me, please do it on Sunday and I’ll be glad,’ he told Prachatai after the release.

While Sombat was tying the red cloth, other activists and red shirts shouted ‘People have died here’, tied red cloth at other places nearby, and wrote messages on the corrugated iron wall surrounding the construction site of Central World.  They lit red candles to commemorate the dead, and then dispersed.

A 60-year-old woman who joined the activity told Prachatai that she had heard about the activity from her son who had read about it on Facebook, and came alone.  She wanted to join others to remember the dead.  She and her family were there during the crackdown, and fortunately no one in the family got hurt.  Nevertheless, she felt sorry about what had happened, and would never forget it.

‘I came here to remember the dead, to let them know that we have never forgotten them.  Although we’re not relatives, we fought together.  We, the red shirts, do not abandon each other,’ she said.

During the activity, at about 4.30 pm, activist Nathee Sorawaree was arrested by 4-5 plainclothes police after he shouted at police making announcements through loudspeakers, telling those who joined the activity to remain calm.  The officers announced that the activity was considered an assembly, since it had been arranged through Facebook, and was a crime carrying a jail term under the Emergency Decree.

‘Don’t gag us. Let us speak. Let us express ourselves,’ Nathee shouted against the police announcements, and went on, ‘I’ve seen this place burned down, and people shot.  If you want reconciliation and want to hear our voices, let us speak. Don’t gag us.’

While he was being arrested and carried away, he kept on shouting, ‘I came alone.  I’m not violating any laws.  I’ve not come with 5-6 people.  This reaction [by the authorities] is excessive.’

While he was locked up in a police detention vehicle nearby, he told reporters his name and said that he was an activist working for the homeless in Sanam Luang.  He said the police had started the provocation first with the loudspeakers.

‘Red Sunday.  Red Sunday,’ he kept shouting.

Pol Lt Col Phirom Chantraphirom, Deputy Commander of the Lumphini Police Station, told reporters that the police made the arrest in order to calm him down, and for fear of possible unrest.  Nathee would be brought to the police station for interrogation, and then released.

At about 6.40 pm, Nathee was released from the police station.  He was fined 100 baht for making a loud noise.