Demonstration at Ratchaprasong in memory of disappeared dissidents

Today (2 February 2019), a demonstration was held at Ratchaprasong junction in memory of the three disappeared dissidents: Surachai Saedan, Phuchana, and Kasalong.

At 17.30, a group of political activists gathered at Ratchaprasong junction in memory of Surachai Danwattananusorn, or Surachai Saedan, and two other dissidents, Phuchana and Kasalong (pseudonyms). The trio fled the country after the 2014 military coup and disappeared in December 2018. Two bodies found washed up on the banks of the Mekhong River in Nakhon Phanom around New Year were subsequently confirmed to be Phuchana and Kasalong.

There was a minute of silence, then Pranee Danwattananusorn, Surachai’s wife, led the group in placing flowers in memory of the three dissidents.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk said that on 7 February 2019, he will go to Government House to submit a letter calling for justice for the three, and to demand the return of Surachai’s body. Somyot said that because Surachai, Phuchana, and Kasalong left the country after the 2014 coup and disappeared around 11 December 2018, when General Prayut Chan-o-cha was visiting Laos, he suspects that the government may have been involved in their disappearance. If the government is not involved, he would like them to explain what Gen. Prayut was doing on his visit to Laos and why the visit coincided with the three refugees' disappearance. He also would like them to find and prosecute the culprits.

Somyot wore a hat with a red star at the gathering. He said that the hat is a symbol of Surachai’s activism, a symbol of an unyielding fighter. He said “I am wearing this hat in memory of Surachai and two of our comrades.”

Before the demonstration ended, the group lit candles and sang “Deun Pen” and “Nak Su Thu Li Din.” Anon Nampa also announced that there will be a religious service for Surachai at Wat Chaeng Siri Samphan on Sunday, 3 February 2019.

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The activists present at the demonstration included Anon Nampa, Pansak Srithep, Chokchai Paiboonratchata, Sirawit Serithiwat, and Chonticha Jaeng-rew. They also brought a new Ratchaprasong banner to replace the road sign that was removed after the human rights attorney Anon Nampa announced that there would be a demonstration at the junction earlier in the week. The space in front of Gaysorn Shopping Mall, which has been a popular spot for political demonstrations, is now blocked with flower pots placed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. 

Before the gathering started, Police officers barricaded the sky walk between Siam and Chidlom BTS stations, preventing passers-by from walking past or looking down on the demonstration. 

The demonstration ended at 19:00.

About Surachai Saedan

Surachai Danwattananusorn, or Surachai Saedan, 78, was a well-known political activist from Nakhon Si Thammarat. He worked as a radio and television repairer before he got involved in politics. He was a good speaker and a strong believer in justice, and gave speeches at protests. He was also among the group of activists who fled into the countryside after the bloody coup in 1976, joining the Communist Party of Thailand. 

He was arrested time and time again, first as a political prisoner in 1981, and then on lèse majesté charges in 2011. Even in his old age, Surachai was still a political activist and was a founder of the "Daeng Siam" group. 

Surachai fled the country after the 2014 military coup, along with two other dissidents who went by the pseudonyms Phuchana and Kasalong. The three refugees disappeared in December 2018. In January 2019, it was confirmed that the two bodies found washed up on the banks of the Mekhong River in Nakhon Phanom were Phuchana and Kasalong. Surachai is currently missing and presumed dead. His body has not been found.