Two protesters convicted to one year in jail under the Emergency Decree during the government crackdown in May try to make their voices heard through a group of activists called ‘Social Move’.
The group has raised their story to call attention to the plight of numerous unknown victims of the Emergency Decree held in prison.
Krishna Thanchayapong, 34, and Surachai Phringpong, 19, members of a student activist group called the Free Intellectuals Group, were arrested by the military on 16 May at about 9 pm while they were driving from the red-shirt rally site at Ratchaprasong intersection to Surachai’s home on Rama I Rd.
They told Social Move that after their group had delivered a speech that day on the Ratchaprasong stage, they split up to go home. Both of them, together with a younger friend, Dave Saharat, were stopped at a military checkpoint at Soi Chula 12. They remember that they saw about 4-5 troops there.
Krishna, the driver, said that when all three got out of the car, about 20 military troops suddenly surrounded them and searched them, seizing their mobile phones and cameras. The troops tied their hands behind their backs and forced them to face a wall and kneel down. During that time, they felt that guns were pointed at them, so they did not dare look round.
After a while, a military officer asked them what they knew about ‘the mob’, who the key red-shirt guards were, where weapons were hidden, and which red-shirt guards had fought the military with weapons. All the while, they were questioned at gunpoint.
Krishna told them that he did not know what they were asking, and he was just a demonstrator sympathetic to the cause of the red shirts.
Less than a minute later, a hooded military officer appeared and threatened that if they did not tell the truth, they would be strangled to death. They, however, did not provide the answers which the military wanted. So the troops strangled them. According to Krishna, they were also kicked and trampled on their backs. The physical abuse went on for about 45 minutes, all filmed by a military photographer.
Afterwards, a military officer appeared whom Krishna assumed to be their commander, as the other soldiers saluted him.
The officer poured Ronson lighter fuel on their heads and faces, stepped back about one metre from them, and lit a lighter. With the lit lighter, he tucked fireworks in their backs, and threatened to set fire to them if they did not provide information.
Meanwhile, they were whipped with a rope, and data from their mobile phone cameras was loaded onto the soldiers’ notebook computer. This included photos of them taken when they were waiting to go on the red-shirt stage at Ratchaprasong and of Surachai when he was giving his speech. When the soldiers saw the photos, they accused them of lying, and shouted to their comrades that the three of them were involved with the red shirts, and asked them how much they had been paid.
After the soldiers were satisfied with the beating given to them, they were given papers to sign. Krishna and Surachai did not read the content as they feared being shot or disappeared if they were too slow. The hooded soldier threatened that if they did not confess in front of the press, they would be killed.
Krishna then noticed that the soldiers were not displaying any name tags or ranks.
Later, they were ordered to turn and look toward soldiers forming a line. They saw the soldiers place several items on a piece of cloth on the ground including fireworks, cigarette lighters, slingshots, pellets and fuel bottles.
The soldiers told them that the press would be called, and if they did not confess in front of the press, or said anything different from what they were instructed to say, they would be killed.
About 10 minutes later, about 5-6 reporters arrived, and Krishna told them just that they had come to join the red-shirt rally.
After the reporters left, the soldiers told them that they were asking for trouble for lying to them and not answering the reporters as they had been told to do. They were forced to sign another set of papers, which they again signed without reading as they thought that it was futile and they wanted to be sent to the police immediately so they could survive.
The police came and they were taken to Pathumwan Police Station in a police detention vehicle. About 10 soldiers followed them there and told police to make a report as the soldiers dictated it. Krishna said that the police did not interrogate them at all, but just copied what had been written by the soldiers. They were denied the right to contact a lawyer or family members.
The armed soldiers again threatened that if they did not confess, they would not spare them.
Krishna said that when they arrived at the police station, the duty officer told them not to worry as there were many red-shirt police at the station, but in the end they could not contact their families.
After they had signed papers, the police put them in a small cell inside the station, with a smelly toilet. They stayed there with two other men. Krishna lay down in front of the toilet, with an empty water bottle as a pillow. Surachai and Dave lay next to him. They hardly slept, because of the clouds of mosquitoes.
The police woke them at about 4-5 am to sign more papers. Drowsy, they again signed without reading them as they thought it would make no difference.
In the morning, the police took Surachai and Krishna to Pathumwan District Court. Dave was a minor, so he was taken to the Juvenile Court.
At the District Court, the indictment was read out and they confessed, as they had no one to consult, and were afraid as a result of the soldiers’ intimidation.
The District Court ruled that day that they had violated Section 9 (2) (4) of the Emergency Decree, which prohibits assembly and use of public roads, and Section 83 of the Penal Code for conspiring to commit a crime. They were sentenced, according to Section 18 of the Emergency Decree to two years’ imprisonment, and as they had pleaded guilty, the sentence was commuted to one year.
The court cited a list of items which were claimed to have been seized from them, including 3 knives, a slingshot with 20 metal pellets, a brass knuckle, makeshift guns, a firework, a lighter, a bottle of gasoline, a mobile phone, and 3 cameras.
They insisted that they had no such things.
Their case is now on appeal. Their bail requests have been denied by the District Court which claimed that they might jump bail and commit more crimes.
They are currently detained in Zone 8 of Khlong Prem Prison with other 7 red shirts who were also accused of violating the Emergency Decree.
The prison allows only family members to visit them. Others can visit only when a family member signs to endorse them as relatives. And visits are allowed only on Tuesdays.