Wounded Protesters Tell Their Stories

I visited some of the wounded red shirts in one of the hospitals, where they are being treated today. I asked them to tell me, what happened to them, how it happened, what they saw happening around them and in particular, why they were there. I told them to give me fake names, so I cannot identify them even if somebody should ask me.

Pong stood opposite the Satriwitthaya school at the beginning of Thanon Dinso. Rachadamnoen Klang goes from Sanam Luang in the West to Sapan Phan Fah in the East. Half way is the Democracy Monument. Thanon Dinso goes from the monument straight north. Pong was standing on the right hand corner near five captured soldiers, who huddled on the ground against the wall, holding their shields up to avoid people throwing things at them.
It was a grenade that wounded him. Not the big blast, that went off inside the soi, that wounded many soldiers, but a smaller one closer to the opening of the soi.
“I was crouching behind a car, but somehow the shrapnel of the grenade reached me anyway and wounded my leg, stomach and a few pieces in the chest.”
Pong knew well that it was dangerous to go there and that he might loose his life in the battle. Still he didn’t care.
So what made him risk his life?
“I am a street sweeper, that’s my job. I am tired of the uppperclass looking down on me and other poor people. I really hate the way they look down on us and just make richer themselves instead of helping poor people get a better life. I want a society where people are equal. I don’t know if I get it, but I wanted to fight for it – I still think it’s worth fighting for and I would do it again even next time I may die.”
What do you think about Thaksin?
“I want to have him back. He did many things that gave ordinary people better lives.”
What do you think about the monarchy?
“I don’t want to change the monarchy, I want that to continue.”
Did you get financial help to participate in the demonstrations?
“No, I haven’t received anything from anybody. If somebody would pay me, I would take it, but you couldn’t pay me to stop fighting!”

Tor had taken part in the minor skirmished throughout the day on Rachadamnoen Klang. Around 11 in the morning, he had been hit by a rubber bullet further down the road closer to Sanam Luang but it had only been painful for a short while. In the afternoon he took part in the battle in Thanon Thanao, the street that leads into Khao San Road. This intersection of Rachadamnoen Klang by the smaller Thanon Thanao is called Khok Wua. He was wounded there by bullets fired from soldiers in the street.
Finally he was rescued by the mysterious black fighters labeled “terrorists” that came in fighting and pulled him out to an ambulance.
“The fighting in the afternoon had ended in a temporary armistice. We both pulled back some twenty meters from each other. The soldiers sat down on the street and so did we. This was the situation when around six in the evening, a helicopter came slowly flying in over Rachadamnoen from Sanam Luang. They dropped tear gas down on the street. Three of the canisters dropped down near the right hand corner of Thanon Thanao – the corner in the direction of the monument. We had some plastic bags, that we pulled over our heads, it helped somewhat. But the wind blew the gas from us and over to the soldiers. They got as much gas as we did and held up their hands like when you surrender.”
“About this time there came a new group of soldiers over on their side. The other soldiers had been in green battle dress with green army helmets. These were in darker uniforms with black helmets. They also had purple neck scarfs. They went to the front of the soldiers and started moving the metal rails forward. The other soldiers got up. Then they all started moving forward while they banged on their shields with their batons. We got up and started pelting them with water bottles, stones, what ever we had.”
“Then the front row stepped aside and opened several slots. Behind them the newly arrived soldiers were kneeling down and opened fire. I thought it was rubber bullets, until I saw some started falling. People started running away, which is the real reason why so many have bullet wounds in their back. The soldiers moved out to grab the people laying in the street and dragged them in behind their own lines, I don’t know what happened to them – I think they dragged away not less than twenty more likely thirty demonstrators on the street like that.”
Tor was hiding behind a transformer station near the corner of the little side road before Khao San called Soi Damnoen Klang Nua. He had run out on the street and was trying to pull a wounded person from the street to safety with him behind the transformer station when he was shot.
“I was shot in the right side of my bum. It hurt, I couldn’t move my leg and I thought I was going to be handicapped the rest of my life, I looked over my shoulder and think I saw the one, who had shot me before I dragged myself in safety behind the transformer.”
“Apart from the soldiers shooting on the street, other shots came down from above. The shot that cut the head open of the guy we have seen in the video came from above on our side. To the right between where I was and the main Rachadamnoen Klang,” he explains and marks the place on a hand drawn map with an arrow.
“The black soldiers, they talk so much about, came around the corner coming from the direction of Sanam Luang going into Thanon Thanao where I was. They were armed with weapons and charged forward shooting at the soldiers. When they reached me, two of them dragged me and the one I had tried to pull to safety out to Rachadamnoen where we were taken to the hospital by an ambulance.”
Tor says he doesn’t know who the black soldiers were. But there was no doubt whose side they were on.
“They were armed and knew how to fight, but they helped us, that was obvious.”
Tor knew it was dangerous to take part in the battle, but he didn’t believe the soldiers would shoot live ammunition at the protesters.
“I have been a soldier myself. I know that in three cases soldiers can refuse to follow orders. If the officer orders you to do something illegal, you can refuse. If the officer tells you to shoot on civilian Thai people, you can refuse. I know because as a soldier I was based in Pattani in the South for four years. I volunteered because I was told I would get a bonus – in the end I didn’t get a thing. I don’t know who took my bonus, but I never got it. At the same time I saw them use huge amounts of money on the useless bomb detector GT200 – we used spikes from bicycle wheels instead because they are better at detecting bombs!”
“I joined the protests, because I am fed up with government officials ripping other people off, cheating poor people, using government money to get fat and make their family richer and more influential. My dream is that one day we will have new politicians, new administrators, who will stop the abuse of ordinary people in this country.”
What do you think of Thaksin?
“We have never had a government that was not corrupt. The difference was that ordinary people had more benefit from the economic progress of the country under Thaksin.”
What do you think of the monarchy?
“I really love the King! Our King has done so much for the country. Upcountry where I come from, he had some dams made, that kept the water when there was too much and when we needed it for the fields, they released it. But today the officials managing the dam only do what gives them personal benefits. I think the King is very tired and I don’t think he can do more for us now. We have to go on ourselves. But I don’t think… I don’t want to change our system of monarchy.”

Nui comes from upcountry but works in a factory on the west side of the Chao Phraya river. Nui was shot in the stomach and in his left arm in the Khok Wua intersection of Rachadamnoen Klang and Thanon Thanao.
“I was shot by somebody from above. I was in the middle of the demonstrators and if it should be the soldiers on the street, who shot me, the people between me and the soldiers would have to be hit first. The shot also came in under my rib and exited in my groin, which is a clear line from above. The bullet that hit my arm must have been from a much bigger gun, because it ripped open a big part of my arm. The other bullet that went through my stomach just left a rather small hole.”
Nui didn’t notice if the soldiers in the street were different. He knew some fired rubber bullets, because one next to him got hit in the foot and it started bleeding a bit, but it did not penetrate the skin or break any bones.
Why did you go?
“I knew it was dangerous, I accept that. But it was the first day off for Songkran. I was going home the next day. An older friend asked me if we should go and help fight for the country. I thought it would be cool to be able to tell back home about it. I only got there around six in the evening and then I was shot only an hour later.”
What do you think of Thaksin?
“He is OK.”
What do you think of the monarchy?
“I am OK with that.”
Are you a member of any party?
“No. I don’t think that even after this we will get better politicians than what we have – they are all selfish. If one day there is a clean party, I would like to become a member!”

Prachak stood in the beginning of Thanon Dinso, the street leading away from the Democracy monument on Rachadamnoen Klang where Satriwitthaya school is on the corner when he was shot. The bullet ripped through his stomach and cut through his intestines. After three days in ICU, the doctors have told him he has about 30 percent chance of survival if they can battle the infection in his bowel.
Prachak is convinced that the bullet that hit him came from above from inside or from the top of the Satriwitthaya school. It also fits with the traverse of the bullet.
“I knew it would be dangerous. But we have to fight if we want democracy. Please give us an election!”
What do you think of Thaksin?
“It’s OK if he comes back after we have democracy. If we have election, I will accept the outcome whoever wins.”
What do you think of the monarchy?
“I don’t want the army in politics! I don’t want the monarchy! I want democracy!”
With his 49 years of age, Prachak was the oldest of the wounded people I interviewed. He said he knew well that he may not survive and he was “mai ben rai”. When I ask him about his family he starts crying.
“They understand me. They have come to see me. I don’t mind if I die, I just hope it will help give real democracy..”

Help get more reports
Just when I was about to leave the hospital, I was contacted by Dr. Singthong Buachum who presented himself af member of parliament for Peu Thai Party. He told me he was also interviewing the wounded to gather evidence against the government.
I would therefore like to encourage other foreigners who speak Thai, to compile more eye witness reports like the ones I have shared above as truthful to the facts and without interpreting their replies or put words in their mouth.
After the incident in 1992, a government investigation was conducted, but the result was never shared with the public. With the internet options we have today, there is a chance that at least this secrecy will not be possible today.
Compiling individual accounts at this point is still relatively simple, because there are so many people wounded in the incident that are still hospitalized in relatively few hospitals.

Read also: Photos: Red Shirts Fighting Thai Soldiers

Map of the area

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

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