As the military crackdown on the ‘Red Shirt’ protests, which killed at least 94 persons and injured at least 2,000 people, sees its 10th year anniversary on 19 May 2020, Phayao Akhad, a Woman Human Rights Defender, the mother of a nurse who was brutally killed by the military in 2020, is still tirelessly seeking for justice despite facing threats, intimidation and legal reprisals by reason of her struggle for justice.
Phayao Akhad at the vigil for her daughter and other victims of the 19 May 2010 crackdown at Wat Pathum Wanaram on 19 May 2020.
Phayao Akhad was recognized as Outstanding Women Human Right Defender by the National Human Rights Commission in 2019, is a mother whose 25-year-old daughter, Kamonked Akhad, was shot repeatedly while working as a nurse and providing medical aid to the protesters in Wat Pathumwanaram during this Red Shirt protests, which had occupied central Bangkok from April-May 2010. The protesters were demanding then for Abhisit Vejjajiva, the then Prime Minister, to resign and dissolve Parliament which would result in a General Election.
The Inquest found that Kamonked was killed by being shot with multiple bullets by 8 military officers, who were stationed on the BTS rails which overlooked Wat Pathumwanaram. She was shot repeatedly even though she was wearing the white nurse’s uniform with a Red Cross sign, indicating that she was a health worker, whose lives must be protected on humanitarian grounds - never to be targeted, let alone killed, under any circumstances.
In 2010, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) took her case up to investigate further and forward it to the military prosecutor, who in May 2019 stated that they would dismiss the case as they claimed that there was no sufficient evidence and/or witnesses to proceed with the case. Phayao insisted that there were enough evidence such as the video recordings, photos, bullet cases, and even the testimonies of military officers, who did admit during the inquest hearing that they were on the BTS rails on that day.
Earlier, on 8 May 2020, Phayao, along with Pansak Srithep, the father of a 15-year-old boy, who was also shot dead by the military on 15 May 2010, went to submit the letter as a follow up to find out the progress of the investigation from DSI.
They also made the point that this case should not end up in the military court, who will also have a military prosecutor. The said that this case should be forwarded to the civilian court as the case involved higher ranking authorities in the civilian government, according to a lawyer familiar with the case. They also noted that so far that there has not been any summons to military officers to give testimonies as a part of the investigation.
Today, 19 May 2020, Phayao had requested to meet with the Justice Minister, being the Minister responsible for the DSI. However, the Minister was not available, so the meeting had to be postponed.
Annually, the families and relatives of those killed on 19 May 2010, would organize vigils at Wat Pathumwanaram at 17.00 to remember their loved ones who were killed.
This year, Phayao received word from the temple authorities that they could not use Wat Pathumwanaram as it would be closed for cleaning. As of the noon today, the temple gates still remained closed, and a number of police officers are seen stationed in front of the temple. Phayao also have reportedly received a number of calls from the police officers inquiring of her activities.
When asked about her feelings about her struggle to seek justice 10 years on, she said that the Thai government is trying to forget the case, hoping that it will fade away from memory with time.
“I only want truth. It needs to be uncovered so it can enter the justice system. This way truth can be opened to the public because right now we are still divided. This is the only way to get back dignity of those who were killed. They are only normal people without any weapons but they were killed brutally.” She said, “Ked is a nurse in the so-called sanctuary zone, why was her life not spared?”
Phayao, who was a flower vendor, said that before her daughter’s death, she was politically inactive, but since the incident, she has been at the forefront demanding justice for those who died during the 2010 military crackdown. Since then, she has faced countless intimidation such as calls from the police and intelligence officers, visits from plainclothes officers, and other reprisals for her activities defending human rights.
Recently, after the laser projection of the #FindingTruth all over Bangkok, she received repeated calls from the authorities on 11 May 2020 to inquire whether she was a part of it and whether she has plans to organize any protest for the commemoration.
Earlier, on 10 December 2018 on International Human Rights Day, she participated in a mime with other activists in the streets in Bangkok, where she dressed up in her daughter’s nurse uniform. The message communicated to the public was that justice has not been achieved yet. Thereafter, she was charged for violating the Public Assembly Act, and later in July 2019, she was fined 1,000 Baht for failing to inform the authorities 24 hours in advance before the event according to the Public Assembly Act.
Protection International Thailand calls on the Thai government to provide protection mechanisms to Women/Human Rights Defenders (W/HRDs) who have been demanding justice for their families and relatives who were killed during the military crackdown in 2010. They must have the right to demand answers and accountability from the state without fear of reprisals. All perpetrators must be held accountable.
We are concerned that the prevailing impunity negatively affects W/HR Defenders, by amongst others, preventing them access to justice. It also has a hostile impact on movements they are affiliated with and on society as a whole, as it obstructs access to truth and seems to protect the wrongdoer. Such attitude will not prevent the recurrence of similar events of injustices. The use of State Impunity to deter and silence others from defending human rights is unacceptable and shameful.
The government must never obstruct justice and must ensure that all perpetrators be held accountable for their crimes in order to halt the culture of impunity in Thailand.