Netiwit Choltiphatphaisal, a student who was among those detained on the first anniversary of the 2014 Coup commemoration, wrote a memo on what happened before he and his friends were arrested.
On Friday after school, I heard that there would be a symbolic activity to commemorate the first anniversary of the coup. The venue was near Siam Square which was on the way to my extramural tuition and near the BTS station where I would get off the train, so I decided to drop by and see what they were doing.
I just went to take a look. I didn’t think there would be a problem. (Why would there be?)
But when I arrived after six pm, I got a message from the friend who was giving me the tuition class saying I should go back. He was at the scene and the situation was worrisome. I started to get worried.
I saw people encircled. I asked people nearby and was told that the students were sitting in a circle because some students had been taken away by the authorities despite acting peacefully. So they were going to sit there until their friends here and the students in Khon Kaen who had also been arrested were released.
Though I had not seen the situation with my own eyes, I was shocked. I felt the urge to be there among the students to show my solidarity with the symbolic fight. Some officers were sent to talk to us but the talks failed. Nevertheless I thought it was possible to negotiate.
We sang แสงดาวแห่งศรัทธา (Starlight of Faith) and เพื่อมวลชน (For the People).
“If I were born to be a bird, flying far, far away, I would be a white dove to guide the people to freedom…”
Before the song ended, officers abruptly broke through the barricade and some of us were hit by punches and stun guns. Four or five of us were dragged across to the officers’ side.
Suddenly, the officers snatched my brother. He was so apolitical. (He doesn’t even know what NCPO stands for.) Actually he accompanied me to Siam and tried to prevent me from joining the students. When I knew what was happening, I thought it was ridiculous and decided to join and he just came with me. We only sat down and sang.
When we asked what crime we had committed, the authorities did not say anything nor did they mention the barricade. (The accusation that we broke through the barricade was later fabricated)
Not having previously foreseen this, some of us there started to cry, the ones who were shot by a stun gun were angry and cursed. However, we were determined and would not back off. None of us reviled the police. We knew it was just an injustice. We knew we had not committed any crime. We were not sure what would happen but we kept our arms locked together.
Some tried to assess the situation while some sang “We Shall Not Be Moved" (เราจะไม่ไปไหน)
We shall not, we shall not be moved
We shall not, we shall not be moved
Just like a tree that's standing by the water
We shall not be moved
Then all of us sang “For the people” again. The song again could not be finished. The police broke in and quickly snatched their targets. This time it was me.
They arrested everybody in the circle. I firmly held the hand of the friend sitting next to me but we could not resist. I was dragged along and a shoe went missing. I asked the officer to stop to get the shoe but he refused. So I had one shoe left.
A young friend, a 16-year-old non-formal education student, was taken by the throat, dragged along and thrown. A Thammasat student was taken by the throat until unable to breathe while his wrists were also tightly locked by a belt. He was verbally abused.
All of us were forced into a van going to Pathumwan Police Station. One was thrown into the van. This time there were 11 altogether. Among us were a non-formal education student and a working man who just dropped by because he saw an injustice. We all went to the police station together.
A friend a little older than me, named Songtham – Dave, was also dragged away but he was not in the van with us. He was assaulted and beaten until unconscious. We were angry.
One of us shouted “You have killed our friend”.
Luckily Dave was sent to hospital in time. He was saved but seriously wounded. The treatment was rather expensive and is his responsibility.
I may describe the details of the 10-hour detention next time. But I think many people have talked about it already. We were divided into 3 groups: 21, 11 and 5 people. Each group was manipulated under different conditions. It was rather confusing.
I did not plan to take part in any activity. I just came to take a look then go to Kinokuniya for a book. I had thought it would only take no longer than 20 minutes. But the situation was bad and I could not help but join them.
Who in their right mind would stand such brutality? Why should peaceful activists face such violence?
I write to tell about myself and might reply to unfounded accusations on the internet that we are hired or lured into a political movement. Actually, most of us didn’t know each other before. And even my innocent tutor was arrested. I think he was put into the 21 people group.
It is the history of an individual and a perspective of May 22nd 2015. For a student like me it was worth it.
What are we waiting for? Why let the grownups thrash us? Where is our voice? I am glad I was among the youths fighting for our rights.
It was suffering to be detained for stressful hours. However, isn’t seeing our fellows’ genuine sacrifice and rational reaffirmation of human dignity a price worth paying for?