Evaluation of all-day commemorations for the suicide of Nuamthing Praiwan, the taxi driver who crashed his taxi to the tank as an act against the 2006 Coup d’état carried out by Council of National Security (CNS)
31 October 2015 at 9.00, at the pillar memorial of Nuamthong Praiwan below a footbridge in front of Thairath office, several groups such as the UDD leaders, 24 June Democracy Group, and some people left flowers as a tribute and remembrance. Nuamthong Praiwan, after recovered from crashing his taxi to a tank, committed suicide as a protest against the 2006 coup by hanging from the footbridge on 31 October 2006. The activity went smoothly and peacefully.
During the activity, around 40 police and military officers and plainclothes were on and around the footbridge. A temporary division was set in front of Thairath office. In the division, several documents indicated action plan to maintain order when confronting public assembly, the Public Assembly Act 2013, and NCPO order 3/2015. There was a schedule informing that there were 150 crowd control officers from Division 2.
The action plan also included weapon checking stations and prohibitions of stereo car, amplifiers, and public gathering in front of Thairath office.
The morning memoriam ended on 10.30
14.00 An event in memoriam of Nuamthong Praiwan, organized by Resistant Citizen, was held at 14 October Memorial, Khok Wua Intersection. The attendees were to meet up at the Memorial at 14.00 and at 16.00 march to the Royal Thai Army Headquarter to read a proposal for army reformation and Nuamthong’s suicide letter, then move back to 14 October Memorial for a Halloween party until late night.
When the fixed time was reached, there were around 300 people at the 14 October memorial. The event had to be postponed to 15.00. At Khok Wua intersection, a royal security division by Chana Songkram Police Station was set, and around 50 police officers were to supervise and observe the activity.
15.00 Prateep Ungsongtham, a human right activist, gave an opening speech at the memorial. Several metal barriers were placed in front of Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium opposite to the Royal Army Headquarter. Cars from Protection and Crowd Control Division parked near Nang Loeng Police Station together with 15-20 operating officers, male and female, from 12 stations.
15.30 the protesters formed lines, preparing to march from 14 October memorial. The organizers handed out “Gao Kham” (step over) magazine volume 2. Pol.Col. Attawit Saisueb, Metropolitan Commander 1, prohibited protesters from wearing Nuamthong Praiwan’s masks that the organizers distributed, stating that it violates the Public Assembly Act 2015.
15.50 police force lined up, around 20 at the Democracy monument and 40 at Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium. The protesters walked pass Democracy monument. Police closely followed and supervised protesters to walk on the footpath. A police car from Samranrad Station accompanied at the end of the lines.
The protesters held signs and banners with messages such as “We need professional military, not coup”, “The army must not retain the word ‘Nation’”, “Love country than life, Love people than life”, “Reform the army before the country”, “Get real democracy”, “Victory for democracy”, “Remove corruption, start at the army”
16.20 The march reached Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium. Organizers came to negotiate with Pol.Col. Sompoch Suwancharat, superintendent of Nang Loeng station, to cross the road to Royal Thai Army Headquarter. The organizers claimed that the order they got was against section 19 of the Public Assembly Act 2015, but Pol.Col. Sompoch insisted on not letting them cross to the Army Headquarter, stating that the organizers must take responsible for the offence if they crossed. The police separated the press from the protesters, saying that even the press are not exceptive from the Public Assembly Act. Protesters crossed the road to the island in the middle. The police then announced that it was a violation to the agreement on the event, and limited the gathering to only 30 minutes.
The protesters proceeded the activities by reading poems and making speech on army reformation. During the speech the organizers announced that the police allowed a little more time for activities. Other activities included reading Nuamthong Praiwan’s suicide letter, 1 minute standstill, and singing “Starlight of Faith”. Around 20 military officers in and outside the headquarter gate observed the whole activities. At 17.00 the protesters lined up to go back to the 14 October memorial.
17.30 The protesters were back at the 14 October memorial with police accompanying and supervising. There they performed music, read poems, and made speeches. No arrest of attempt to arrest occurred, even though the activities in front of the Army Headquarter failed to follow the restriction that was indicated in a letter from Nang Loeng station, that the protester are allowed to stay only on the Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium side.
A representative from Resistant Citizen said that on 29 October the group sent a letter informing the event, as required in the Public Assembly Act 2015, to Nang Loeng and Chana Songkram police stations. Both stations hold responsibility for the path that the marching would pass. They would stage activities in front of the Royal Thai Army Headquarter for one hour and a half, then move back to the 14 October monument. The previous day Nang Loeng Police Station made a response letter to the organizers with a summary of the Public Assembly Act 2015, emphasizing on section 19.
The letter stated restrictions that the group must march on the path that the police supervised. The use of amplifier is prohibited. For security reason, the gathering must be in front of Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium, opposite to the Army Headquarter. The letter also warned that the activity in memoriam of Nuamthong who was against the coup at the Army Headquarter may appear to challenge the NCPO order 3/2015. Organizers were told to be cautious and keep eyes on the attendees and their banners
Note that in section 19 of the Public Assembly Act, there is no restriction on the topic of the protest.