A student activist who was detained by police after she and another person interrupted a speech by Thailand's human rights chief has accused two plainclothes officials of harassing and threatening her with rape.
Natchacha Kong-udom, a university student, and Sirawit Seritiwat, a core member of the Thai Student Centre for Democracy (TSCD) managed to show the three-fingered salute, which is outlawed by the junta, in the full presence of media, security personnel and guests who attended the International Human Rights Day event in Bangkok on December 10. The event was organised by Thailand's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The popular “Hunger Games” salute was adopted by anti-coup demonstrators after the removal of Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government by the military last May. The military has outlawed protests and public criticism of junta policies.
The students managed to display protest signs such as “Where is the NHRC when the gun comes out?” “Missing person”, “Are you still alive?”, and “Stop paying the NHRC.”
Chairperson Amara Pongsapich, who has been chief of the NHRC since 2009, was caught off guard by the sudden disruption. Kong-udom and Seritiwat were taken from the NHRC premises and brought to the police station for failing to obey the prohibition set by the National Council for Peace and Order. According to the junta’s council, acts of dissent would lead to national security problems.
Two NHRC representatives attended and observed the “attitude adjustment” interrogation between the police and the detained students. The students claimed they were forced to sign a statement saying that they will not participate in future anti-coup demonstrations.
Meanwhile, Kong-udom lodged a police report at the Tung Song Hong Police Station against two men she accused of harassing and threatening her with rape at the NHRC event.
สัมภาษณ์นักศึกษาที่ถูกเจ้าหน้าที่นอกเครื่องแบบขู่จะข่มขืน หลังไปประท้วงชูสามนิ้วที่ กสม.
— Sunai (@sunaibkk) December 13, 2014
Interviewing the student activist whom plainclothes officials threatened to rape after she staged 3-finger salute protest at NHRC.
She noticed that she was being followed at the NHRC event and stopped to ask the suspicious man, “พี่มาทำอะไรค่ะ ตามหนูมาตลอดเลย,” which means, “What are you doing here brother? You follow me all the time.” The man replied “ก็ตามมาข่มขืนน้องไง,” which means “To try to rape you.” The threat was made in front of many witnesses, including NHRC officers and journalists.
Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand in Human Rights Watch's Asia division, tweeted about this incident on December 12:
Plainclothes officials threatened to rape student activist after she staged 3-finger salute protest at #Thailand Human Rights Commission.
— Sunai (@sunaibkk) December 12, 2014
Kong-udom told Prachatai, an independent news website, that other activists were also being followed by suspicious individuals:
I know that I and other student activists have been followed for a while and of course I’m afraid. This is an abuse of rights. After all, where is my safety?
Kong-udom, who is transgender, was first arrested in front of a cinema in Bangkok on November 20 for flashing the Hunger Games salute.
As of this writing, the NHRC has not yet released a statement about the threat.
The incident is a recent example of the intensifying intimidation suffered by acivists in Thailand ever since martial law was declared by the military last May.
Activists are risking their safety by organizing peaceful flash mobs and anti-coup activities to call for the restoration of civilian rule through democratic elections yet they have received no assistance or even a statement of support from the country's major political parties.
The harassment of activists is one proof of the worsening human rights situation in Thailand. Fortunately, this case was reported because of the perseverance of Thais who are unwilling to submit to repression.