Victims of enforced disappearance remembered at student group’s exhibition

On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the student activist group Spring Movement and Amnesty International Thailand organized the “Separation/(Silence)” exhibition at the 14 October Memorial in memory of victims of enforced disappearances in Thailand.

Sirin Mungcharoen speaking at the event

Student activist Sirin Mungcharoen, a member of the Spring Movement, said that the people who came to take part in the event are the friends and family of victims of enforced disappearance, and that they would like those who are missing to think of them as fighters rather than victims. She said that these are people who did what they believe in, and the state caused their disappearance, but that the event was for remembering them.

Wajana Wanlayangkun, daughter of writer and political refugee Wat Wanlayangkun, said during the panel discussion that she respects and admires the courage of the families of victims of enforced disappearance, as they are trying to find out the truth and find their family members while facing many risks. Wajana said that the problem came from injustice and the structure of society, which means that people who speak out or try to find the missing people and call for justice could face danger or even become victims of enforced disappearance themselves, and that the society should not let such a thing happen.

“On the day we remember victims of disappearance, I don’t want there to be more families of missing people every year. That is not the society we want,” Wajana said.

Kanya Theerawut, mother of missing activist-in-exile Siam Theerawut, said that people who have different political ideas should not have to face legal prosecution, violence, or disappearance. She also observed that the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) does not pay enough attention to cases of enforced disappearances.

Spring Movement's 'missing person' posters with names and pictures of victims of enforced disappearance. The poster, which the group released on their Facebook page, has now become a common sight at anti-government protests in Thailand. 

Wanchalearm Satsaksit’s sister Sitanun also said that Wanchalearm’s disappearance has been ignored by both the Thai and Cambodian authorities, who have not provided support in the search for the missing or the judicial process. Sitanun said that this is a reflection of inequality in Thai society, as it has been 90 days since Wanchalearm went missing and the Thai authorities has yet to give the family any answer.

Sitanun said she will do everything to tell the world about what is happening in Thailand. She said she will do her best to try to find her brother and tell society what happened to Wanchalearm, and asked for the people’s support. Sitanun insisted that the government cannot deny responsibility or knowledge that a Thai citizen has been abducted.

The Commoner Band performing at the event

Phayao Akhad, whose daughter Kamonked was killed during the 19 May 2010 crackdown on the Red Shirt protest, also joined the panel discussion. Phayao said that there has not been any progress in her daughter’s case, which has been moved from the civilian courts to a military court.

Phayao said that, for the past 6 years, the Thai people have let a government that continues in power from a military coup run the country, until the younger generation started fighting back, which shows that the younger generation will not tolerate living under such state power. Phayao called on the red shirts and people who love democracy to come out and protect and support the students.

One of the news clippings on display at the event.

Meanwhile, former student activist Sirawit “Ja New” Serithiwat said that people had said that human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit’s disappearance would be the last case of enforced disappearance, or that the 2010 protest crackdown would be the last time people were killed because of politics, but there is no guarantee that these incidents will be the last. Sirawit said that it may look like a constitutional amendment is possible, but political exiles continue to go missing, and that if tens of thousands of people do not come out on the street, it will happen again, so it is crucial to continue to search for and speak the truth until we know who is behind these incidents.

[Video] End the silence: messages from friends of Wanchalearm Satsaksit

During the exhibition, the Commoner Band also performed while wearing masks of previous victims of enforced disappearances, including Surachai Danwattananusorn, Siam Theerawut, and Wanchalearm Satsaksit. There was also a poetry reading by Pansak Sritep, whose son was killed during the 2010 crackdown.

An attendant at the exhibition places a flower in one of the vases. 

There were also a set of vases, labelled with messages such as “I do not agree with enforced disappearance” and “I think justice comes with the process of finding the truth.” Attendants at the event placed flowers the organisers provided into the vases. Also banners displayed news clippings of reports about missing activists and one gave the number of days they have been missing.