While the UDD decided after the Ramkhamhaeng incident not to hold any stages in Bangkok, and most free Red Shirt groups followed suit, only one Red Shirt stage, opened on 1 December 2013, remains – Wutthipong “Gotee” Kajathamkhun’s small stage at the National Memorial in Bangkok’s north close to Pathum Thani, where his community radio station is located.
Gotee, a controversial figure within the Red Shirt movement, is presently built up as the arch-nemesis of the PDRC, who accuse him on stages and social media of being behind the nightly attacks against them. This though is more of a PR campaign – after Seh Daeng was killed in 2010 there seems to be a need for giving a face to the armed militants under the Red Shirts, and Gotee has been chosen to fill that role. While Gotee has led over the past one and a half years several actions disrupting Blue Sky rallies, and confronted Yellow Shirts at the Crime Suppression compound leading to a minor clash, he completely rejects the accusations of being behind the armed attacks, of which his accusers have also failed to present any evidence. Most of his followers are from the poorer sectors of society – taxi drivers, day laborers and outcasts, and his stage is visibly underfunded. Over recent years I have visited Gotee’s radio station on several occasions.
On his stage the language of the speakers is generally rough and raw, the language spoken and understood in the poorer communities of Thailand.
But also the progressive Red Shirt band ‘Fai Yen’ is performing nightly at his stage, forming an interesting and somewhat class bridging link between progressive Red Shirt student and intellectual groups and the lower echelons of Thai society.
Since the violent clash between Gotee’s group and a PDRC group led by Luang Bu Buddha Issara on 10 January 2014, Gotee gained enough notoriety to be interviewed by the international media, such as the BBC. When I came on 22 January 2014 to his stage, he was just interviewed by the local satellite channel ‘Spring News’, where he explained his childhood as an orphan, abandoned on the street as a baby, and his political struggle.
He also presented two of his followers who were injured during the recent clash – Chutiwat Thima (aged 44), who still has a projectile embedded in his head, and Payad Nadtou (aged 35), who was shot in the hip by an AK 47 from close range. Also present was Kampong Somchai (aged 50), a garbage collector whose entire body was covered in bruises.
While Kampong collected garbage at Chatuchak Park on the morning of 17 January 2014 he was searched by PDRC guards from the Lad Prao stage. When they found a red T-shirt and a membership card from Gotee’s group, they forcibly brought him to one of their tents. Kampong said that there they proceeded to beat him. Then they poured water over him, and tortured him with electroshocks. They also burned plastic, and let the burning drops drip on his body, constantly asking him to admit that he was hired by Gotee. Kampong said that the torture went on until 19 January 2014, when at about 4 am normal protesters found him, and led him out of the protest area. He then made his way to Gotee’s stage. Gotee then accompanied Kampong to file a case with police and to the hospital.
In a small ceremony Red Shirts tied Red colored strings around his wrists and handed him money, altogether maybe 4000 Baht.
Gotee points to the spot where a bullet hit his car a few days before.