2 women arrested over pro-republic t-shirts

The authorities have arrested two women for possessing pro-republic t-shirts. One of them has already been released while the other is detained incommunicado. 

On 6 September 2018, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Bangkok authorities that morning arrested Surangkhanang (pseudonym) and her daughter, 11. According to Surangkhanang’s niece, over 10 officials, including four soldiers, about 5 men in black and female officials, emerged from a grey van and arrested the two after they came back from the market.

Without a search warrant, the authorities searched her house for a black t-shirt with a red-and-white logo. The problematic t-shirt was produced by a pro-republic movement called “Organisation for Thai Federation” and the red-and-white logo is the flag of the organisation. 

The logo or flag of the Organization may carry some important symbolism. The Thai national flag has horizontal stripes of red-white-blue-white-red. Schoolchildren are taught that the blue stripe represents the monarchy. (In fact, it first appeared when Thailand joined World War 1 on the side of France the UK and the US, all of whose flags are red, white and blue.).

The controversial t-shirt

They confiscated the t-shirt and Surangkhanang’s cellphone. In the meantime, Surangkhanang’s daughter was having breakfast and preparing to go to school. The authorities then took the daughter to the van and dropped her at the school, telling her that Surangkhanang would return by 3 pm.

However, TLHR revealed that Surangkhanang was sent home at 8.30 pm. She said that authorities detained her at the 11th Army Circle and questioned her about the controversial t-shirt. They asked her not to wear it or buy any more, adding that the producer and distributor of the t-shirt had already been arrested.

Surangkhanang was released after signing an agreement that she will not participate in any political activity.

On the same day, the authorities also arrested Wannapha (pseudonym) in Samut Prakan Province and detained her incommunicado. Her mother told TLHR that at around 7.30 am, about 7 military officers arrested Wannapha at her apartment without telling her family where she will be detained. They also confiscated many of the controversial t-shirts.

At around 5.45 pm, Wannapha’s son, 12, told TLHR that a soldier visited his house and gave him 400 baht, saying that Wannapha asked him to do so. The officer told the son that Wannapha will be sent for attitude adjustment but did not say when she will be released.

The current whereabouts of Wannapha remain unknown. 

On 8 September, the Organisation for Thai Federation luanched a statement comdemning the arrests as harassment and attempts to silence the people.