A couple of months ago, there was a rumour among members of the Prachatai webboard that one member had been arrested. No one could really confirm this, but one member certainly did disappear from the forum. This seemed to be a repeat of a pattern that has happened several times before; many others, including the first two cyber casualties, Praya Pichai and Ton Chan, have completely disappeared from cyberworld ever since, at least under those names. But Pruay Salty Head is different. He has come back, with a story.
(He came up with this peculiar name in 2007 when Prachatai asked some of its webboard members, who had chosen screen names meant to revile or ridicule their political opponents in a rude way, to change their names. Pruay Hua Khem, a Thai-style spoonerism, then became Pruay Salty Head.)
Pruay has written about his arrest in two parts, the first posted on the Prachatai webboard just a few days before it closed down at the end of July, and the second on www.weareallhuman.info, formerly the samesky webboard. Both pieces have been translated into English by Doungchampa.
In late May 2010, when Pruay was driving from his house, he met what could have been seen in a movie or TV series.
‘There was a car making a U-turn ahead of me, which stopped the car in front. Then a woman in the car that made the U-turn suddenly stopped. She opened the driver’s door, got out and lifted up the bonnet. I immediately thought that her car may have broken down and had to park in the middle of the road. I suspected that it might be related to her battery running out of juice. I remembered that I had a jumper cable in the back of my car. I decided to steer my car to the left, because the car in front of me had not even moved.
‘Then cars moved up on my left, which made me unable to steer in any direction. I had the unpleasant thought that I was trying to be a good road Samaritan helping that woman with my jumper cable but this car was blocking my way. I moved to open the door. Suddenly, a man, approximately 50 years old, wearing a nice professional suit walked up alongside my car. I initially thought that he had to be crazy for deciding to wear a suit in the heat and walk down the middle of the road. In fact, he opened his suit to show me what was inside, and I saw the embroidered letters “DSI” (Department of Special Investigation)! Then, I knew what was really happening.
‘I lowered the window on the driver’s side. He asked me whether I was Pruay. I thought that it was useless to deny it. I had previously thought that if I was taken in for questioning, I would not lie, but would tell them the truth. I told him yes, I was Pruay. He said that he would like to talk with me inside the car. I told him that I would contact my lawyer. He quickly asked whether I would like to use formal procedures. I opened the passenger door and allowed him to sit in the car. He showed me a search warrant. After glancing through it, I had to say to myself that this darn court was very diligent in issuing a search warrant even on a Sunday. (The day that they arrested me was on Monday.)’ (Excerpt from Doungchampa)
The rest of the story can be read following the link.
Pruay later told Prachatai on 3 Aug that so far he had not yet received any summons from the DSI, while his notebook computer and books which had been seized had been returned.
He said that during interrogation that day the DSI seemed to think that he was part of an alleged plot to overthrow the monarchy. He insisted that he knew nobody at the Prachatai and weareallhuman webboards which he always visited, but, ironically, only came to know some when they offered to help after the arrest.
He said he always went alone to rallies after the 2006 coup, and he was at the recent red shirt rallies, taking photos and listening to speeches, alone. And he never went to meetings or parties held by members of the Prachatai webboard.
From documents shown to him by the DSI, he believed that he had been under surveillance for at least 3 years. It seemed that they had long known who he was, and even knew how many digits his password contained.
After his arrest, he dared not post on the webboards, because he believed that all activities on the internet were being logged in detail. That day at the DSI, he saw documents in the files with the True Company letterhead. He did not visit websites at home, but would go out to read Prachatai at cafes.
Although he intended to stay quiet at first, he couldn’t stand what the government did to dissenters, despite its ‘reconciliation’, including in particular Sombat Boon-ngam-anong, who was arrested while trying to tie red cloth on the street sign at Ratchaprasong.
Unlike the reality TV teenage contestant Mark V11, who had to quit the contest for what he had written on his Facebook page, Pruay’s career has yet to be affected, as long as he remains anonymous.
His main grievance is the lack of freedom of expression. It is necessary to address everyone involved in politics, but this is restricted by law, he says.
He advises other webboard posters to use proxies and other applications to hide their real identities, a practice which he himself had neglected initially, as he never thought that he would be arrested.