Contrary to what the junta has tried to claim, that all detainees have been very well treated while in custody, other than being deprived of their freedom, a second account of degrading treatment of an anti-coup protester has emerged. A student activist said he was threatened with enforced disappearance and being killed because he had protested against the coup just twice. The story also shows how the media saved him from detention.
Prachatai earlier reported the first account of degrading treatment of anti-coup protesters by the military. This involved threats of killing and deprivation of water. The story can be read here
Worawut Thuagchaiphum is one of six student activists from Mahasarakham University in northeastern Maha Sarakham Province who were ordered to report to the military for organizing anti-coup activities. What makes him special? He was the only one in the group who was summoned three times.
In the evening of 22 May 2014, when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha staged a military coup d’état in Thailand, the group made cloth banners with anti-coup messages and hung them from the Maha Sarakham Clock Tower and aroud the city.
One of the cloth banner read "The people own the power. No Coup."
(L) Worawut Thuagchaiphum and friends while hanging the anti-coup cloth banner in Mahasarakham province. (R) Soldiers come and destroyed the banner.
Later on 25 May, they organized a candle-lit event in the city of Maha Sarakham to express disapproval of the coup. About 30 military officers with guns and armoured cars came and destroyed the banners and tried to arrest the students, but the military agreed not to arrest them after negotiation with a lecturer who was at the scene. An officer said before leaving “You lot will really get it soon. I’ll arrest you lot and lock you up so you’ll be too scared to do anything”.
A day later on 26 May, the military sent a letter to the university Rector, asking him to have the six students report to the military on 27 May.
On the morning of 27 May at the military camp, the military welcomed the students with words of intimidation.
“Have you ever been disappeared? Disappear with not even a fingerprint left behind?”
And throughout two hours of interrogation, the alleged intimidation continued and focused on enforced disappearances and beatings.
Worawut gave the following examples:
“We’ve taken the power in this country. You want trouble, eh?”
“You’re craving for peace? I don’t have peace but you’ll get a piece.” [NOTE: This is an untranslatable play on words. The word for ‘peace’ (‘santi’) has had the vulgar term for ‘clitoris’ incorporated into it to make the neologism ‘santaet’.]
“You want democracy so much? Have you ever been disappeared?”
“Now I can kill you, beat you without breaking the law because we’ve taken power.”
At noon, they were released. Worawut went to the university and found that four military officers were waiting for them. The military escorted him and another friend to the City Hall and later to the military camp.
At the City Hall, he briefly got a chance to call his friend. He asked him to spread the news to the media because he thought it would help keep him safe.
At the City Hall, an officer with the rank of second lieutenant allegedly intimidated him again:
“Have you ever been shot? Do you know how painful it is?”
“Have you ever been tortured? I’m very keen on torturing people.”
Worawut Thuagchaiphum on the military's armoured car on 25 May. (Photo from his Facebook account)
The officer asked what he thought of the monarchy; he replied “I think just like other people.” According to the student activist, the officer replied “I know what you think of the monarchy. You consume too much red-shirt news”.
During detention, they were deprived of food and water. They were told to call friends to bring them food, but no friends dared to come since they were afraid that they would also be detained.
Later a military officer found a report about him on Prachatai and, according to Worawut, said “You guys are smart. I detain you here, but you have the guts to send news to the outside. Because you did this, we’ll detain you and not release you. You think they can help you. No. We’ve taken complete power”.
The officer then placed a gun in front of them and, according to the activist, said “Do you know how many people were shot by this gun? This gun is to shoot fucking people like you guys”.
Later Col. Norathip Poinok came to talk to them at about 10 pm and said “I’ve read the news. Today I’ll release you because I don’t want to have an issue. After you’re out, please give them the correct information that we had you here for political attitude adjustment. That’s all. We didn’t do anything else”.
Later they were taken to talk to a psychologist who merely asked them simple questions, such as how they were and their personal information. The military released them at the university before midnight.
A day later on 28 May, military officers came to meet him at the campus and allegedly threatened him not to make any political moves. The officers also allegedly confiscated his belongings, including notebooks and textbooks.
Later on the same day, a military officer called and ordered him to go the military camp for the third time. This time the military allegedly threatened that if he did not stop his political activities, his family would have to suffer.
He then checked with his mother who said military officers were wandering around his house and sometimes visited the house. His mother said she received a call from someone claiming to be a military officer who told her that her son had violated martial law.
Worawut said this time the military ordered him to leave the province, even though at first the military ordered him not to stay in the province. He said the military thought he was behind the leaflet “We need an elected government, not one appointed from the coup.” He said, “How could I do that? The military said themselves that they “followed [me] all the time, even on campus.”
After Thai-language Prachatai published this story last week, Worawut was summoned again Wednesday.