On 27 March 2011 I went to observe a small Daeng Siam/24 June group rally at Democracy Monument. A couple came on stage, holding images up of their dead son – Terdsak Kungjinjan – who was killed at Kor Hua on 10 April last year. They announced on stage that on Saturday, 2 April, they planned to bring from its storage at Wat Phapphachai the coffin with their son to Kor Hua, to hold rites. After, they wanted to parade the coffin at Sukhumvit Soi 31, the entrance to the Soi of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s house (this was cancelled though), and then to proceed to Wat Si Kan in Don Muang, where the following day the funeral was to be held. Originally I planned to go on 1 April to the rally in Udon, but decided to only go after the rites at Kor Hua finished.
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On 1 April, Saturday morning at 9 am, I went to Wat Phapphachai, where many Red Shirts were already gathered. Terdsak’s parents thanked the abbot, who provided their son a cooling coffin free of charge, and soon the Red Shirt motorcade proceeded to Kor Hua.
At the place where Terdsak died, they offered some food and incense sticks, asking his spirit to come along to the funeral. Through a loudspeaker, speeches blared. Shinawat Haboonpad, the owner of the Taxi Radio station who has recently returned from exile, took part as well. Soon the Red Shirts continued, and I went home and then to the airport where I got a flight to Udon Thani.
I arrived in Udon just before sunset. The approach road was heavily jammed with Red Shirt vehicles. The Udon Lovers with their leader Kwanchai Paipanna held the 5 year anniversary of their community radio station. The last time I was there, the radio station was still in a rented building on a small leased plot of land. Since 2009 they have been gathering funds to buy their own plot of land, and to erect a larger building for their radio station. By now they had acquired an 18 rai plot of land on Udon’s outskirts, and a two storey building. They have about 5 million baht debt to pay, and part of their rally was to help raise funds. The grounds of their radio station were packed with people, my conservative estimate is between 60,000 and 80,000 Red Shirts who were gathered there – easily the largest Red Shirt rally since last year’s protests at Pan Fa and Rajaprasong. At the entrance were large donation boxes, in which people put mostly hundred baht and twenty baht notes (after counting the following day, the Udon Lovers received 1,180,000 baht from those boxes; stage and other expenses were supported by other supporters). On the stage a group of dancers in traditional costume performed a dance. I climbed a loudspeaker tower to take images of the crowd.
Most Red Shirt leaders were present, also many Pheua Thai MPs, alongside former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was connected through a videolink. Several times I walked around the rally grounds, climbing again on loudspeaker towers to get more images of the crowd.
Behind the brightly lit new building of the radio station Udon Lovers staff sold “Red Radios” for 340 baht and Red mobile phones for 990 baht.
The last image I took that night was an exhausted Kwanchai receiving a head massage, I left shortly after midnight to catch a few hours more sleep, before I had to get to the airport and catch a plane back to Bangkok, to be in time for the funeral proceedings of Terdsak.
At the rally in Udon I noticed no journalists other than Red Shirt media. There was no TV coverage; no coverage of this event in any newspapers I know of. I wonder how it can be possible that such a large event can go completely unnoticed by the local media? I understand that every small Red Shirt stage cannot be covered by the media (Daeng Siam stages are not covered at all, due to the sensitive subject matter), but isn’t the largest Red Shirt gathering since last year’s rallies a news event important to cover?
The following day, Sunday, 3 April 2011, I went to Wat Si Kan in Don Muang. Several thousand Red Shirts had already gathered for the funeral. Many Red Shirt leaders have announced their participation, aswell as Veera Musikapong, whose bail restrictions of not being allowed to attend political gatherings of more than 5 people, not to leave Bangkok, and not to speak to journalists were lifted one day before the concert at Bonanza Khao Yai, where he appeared for the first time on the stage since Rajaprasong.
A slightly unlucky situation could have developed as in the building just next to the funeral the military held their health check up and lottery for new conscriptees, but fortunately no incident occurred.
Not too long after the VIP guests arrived, including Somchai Wongsawat, Deputy House Speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai and Pheua Thai MP for Don Muang Karun Hosakul, and some of the most important Red Shirt leaders, the funeral proceedings began. The coffin was driven around the crematorium three times, and then carried up the stairs and placed in front of the crematorium. The VIP guests donated robes to the monks. Red Shirt leaders held speeches (Nattawut mentioned “Ta Sawang”). Somchai Wongsawat symbolically lit the pyre.
Most people left then, and the more private part of the funeral began. The parents decided to say goodbye to their son at an open coffin. The coffin then was placed into the crematorium. Terdsak’s parents and his younger brother who ordained gave their farewells. Terdsak’s close friends posed for a group photo with his parents.