Kuekkong Bupphawan, the son of disappeared political activist Chatchan Bupphawan, or Phuchana, told Prachatai that he and his mother went to the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Police Hospital yesterday (22 January 2019) to testify on the case of Phuchana’s disappearance and supposed murder, and to receive the autopsy and DNA test results for one of the mutilated bodies found in the Mekhong River, now confirmed to be that of Phuchana.
Kuekkong Bupphawan, Phuchana's son
Kuekkong said that the police also took a sample of his mother’s DNA, allegedly to confirm his own identity.
He said that at the hospital, he signed documents confirming his acknowledgement that the body is his father, and that he asked to see the body.
Before he became an activist, Kuekkong said Phuchana was selling subscriptions to red shirt programmes. He got involved in politics around 2008, when the red shirt movement started. He was also a candidate in local elections, and was involved in several MP election campaigns. Phuchana was called in by the military after the 2014 coup, and subsequently sought asylum in a nearby country. Kuekkong said his father was interested in history, but was not very involved in politics before he became involved with the red shirts. He said Phuchana was a kind man and was never involved in violence.
Chatchan Bupphawan (Phuchana) with his family
Since he fled the country, Phuchana had stayed in contact with his family. On 12 December 2018, Kuekkong said Phuchana told him that he would be away for three days, but did not contact his family after the three days. Kuekkong then called Phuchana around the latter’s birthday on 23 December, but the call went unanswered, which was a cause for concern. He then heard news about the disappearance of political activists in exile overseas. Around New Year, he heard about the two bodies found washed up on the banks of the Mekhong River in Nakhon Phanom, and subsequently contacted the police officer in charge of the case. Kuekkong said he saw photographs of the body found in Amphoe That Phanom and was quite certain it was his father, but because he was also sure that Phuchana was murdered and he did not know who was responsible, he did not know who to trust and did not want to go public with the case.
Kuekkong said the police asked him to leave his mobile phone for inspection, but because he studied computer science, he knows that if the police want to check his call history, they do not need his phone, so he refused to leave his phone with them. He said the police didn’t harass him, but he found certain procedures suspicious, such as the request for his mother’s DNA sample, since only a sample of his own DNA should be enough to prove his father’s identity. He also said that so far, he has not received any documents about the investigation into his father’s murder.
He also contacted Kasalong’s family, who told him that they were quite certain the other body was Kasalong, but wanted to wait until they were sure about its identity. Now that it is confirmed that the other body is Kasalong, the family will be taking the body back to Chiang Rai for the funeral.
Kuekkong said that officers told him that, once the autopsy and DNA testing process has been completed, the hospital will charge the family 300 baht for every extra day the body spends in the morgue, but the police deputy superintendent in charge of the case would be able to write a letter asking the hospital to waive the fees.
Kuekkong said that his father’s death came as a shock to him and the family, and that he didn’t imagine anything like this would ever happen. Phuchana’s family will now be organizing the funeral, and Kuekkong said that he would continue to follow up on the case.