Almost 4 months after the crackdown, many red shirts are still detained in prisons around the country. The exact number of detainees, as well as their names, is not known. The official figure revealed by the secretary to the Minister of Justice is 209.
According to the Corrections Department, 169 cases are under investigation, 12 have been convicted, 2 are detained in lieu of fines, and 26 are on appeal.
The prisons where they are detained include Thonburi Special Prison (1 person), Khlong Prem Central Prison (17), Pattaya Special Prison (1), Bangkok Remand Prison (53 including the UDD leaders), the Central Women’s Prison (4), Chiang Rai Prison (6), Nonthaburi Prison (6), Khon Kaen Prison (9), Mukdahan Prison (22), Thanyaburi Prison (2), Nakhon Pathom Prison (2), Chiang Mai Prison (7), Samut Prakan Prison (2), Udon Thani Prison (25), Maha Sarakham Prison (11) and Ubon Ratchathani Prison (35). [Note: the numbers add up to 203]
In addition to the basic charge of illegal assembly, many have been charged with additional crimes including arson and possession of war weapons. Many who either have confessed or denied the charges have been found to have no lawyers, although the Phuea Thai Party has provided legal assistance to some.
Human rights lawyer Phawinee Chumsri visited 10 detainees at Khlong Prem Prison on 31 Aug after receiving a letter from them asking for help. She found that all had pleaded guilty in court and been sentenced to unsuspended prison terms. Three were appealing their cases, of whom two were students who were arrested on 16 and 17 May, sentenced for one year’s imprisonment, and denied bail for fear of fleeing.
The remainder were people from the provinces. They were sentenced to between 6 months and 2 years in jail, and their cases were well past the deadline for appeal. Sawaeng, from Nakhon Ratchasima, was arrested on 18 May at the Makkasan intersection while on his way from Ratchaprasong to Din Daeng. He had long worked in Bangkok as a construction worker, and went to rallies alone. He was brought to court on 19 May, where he denied the charges, but later confessed on 20 June. Without a lawyer, he was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in jail, plus another 6 months as he had just been released from jail less than 5 years ago. His family upcountry, including his aging father, knows that he has been detained, but cannot visit. He has written to them, but has had no reply.
Abhiwat, a Khon Kaen resident, was arrested on 18 May. He confessed and the next day the court sentenced him to 1 year in jail. A Phuea Thai MP visited him and promised to find him a lawyer, but he has never met any lawyer. He came to Bangkok with 3-4 friends, and was arrested near Soi Rang Nam while he was trying to join other protesters at Ratchaprasong.
Somphol, 43, has been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison for over 3 months since he was arrested on 16 May at a military post at Chulalongkorn University. He was wary of answering any questions, apparently out of fear. He said that life inside the prison had been quite harsh as his family members had never visited him, and he had no money. He was given 3 bars of soap when he first came, but now he had to pick up scraps of soap from other people. He asked for detergent which was very necessary for life in prison.
‘[Some people] have visited, but they were just showing off. Very boring [he laughed]. They just took photos and left. I told them about the lack of soap, toothpaste and detergent. They made a promise, but they have never delivered,’ he said about a certain human rights agency.
Somphol has been brought to Pathumwan District Court several times, and once was made to sign a blank paper, which an official claimed was so that the Phuea Thai Party will provide him a lawyer, but he has never met any lawyer. He has been producing paper cups for the prison, and earning 78 baht so far.
Prasong, 26, who has had a false left eye due to an accident when he was a teenager, was a homeless scavenger at Din Daeng and has lived under the expressway for years. Before that, he was a worker in the Chitrlada craftsmanship project in pottery, but was sent home to Mae Hong Son because of his unruly behaviour, before fleeing back to Bangkok again. He was interviewed by a lawyer from the Phuea Thai Party once in August.
He was arrested along with 5 others by the military under the Din Daeng Expressway at about 2 pm on 21 May when he was looking for food to eat near Saphan Temple. His hands were tied behind his back, and he was forced to kneel down in front of a pile of weapons including grenades, guns and Molotov cocktails for the press to take photos. He insisted that that was the first time he saw those weapons. Before that, he had been to the rallies to help distribute water bottles and to get free meals.
He said that he was beaten by the soldiers when he was struggling, and then was sent to the police. He has been charged with violating the Emergency Decree and possessing weapons. He has denied all the charges, and is scheduled to appear in court on 27 September.
Currently, a team of young volunteer lawyers is trying to provide legal assistance to these people.