Saedaeng’s funeral at Wat Sommanat, Bangkok 21-22 June 2010
This is how heroes are made; there must have been some 7-10,000 people (at least 3,000 jammed inside the extensive cremation compound of the wat itself), drawn together from three distinct groupings of red shirts sharing the same sense of remorse and loss – not only over a person who was an inspiring leader but also the massacres of civilians by the state and its military instrumentality which incurred 10 April and 19-20 May. Attendance at a funeral is also one of the few opportunities for red shirts to currently gather legally under the current emergency law imposed in Bangkok. Some 31 men ordained as novices for 24 hours the day before the funeral. I have never sensed such hurt and frustration directed at vertical levels upwards; as a critique of the whole amaat system which has, once again, gained control over the democratic process and discourse in Thailand rooted in 24 June 1932 and enacted downward at the grassroots.
Saedaeng’s daughter, Khun Khattiya “Dear”, who claimed to the media that she has some evidence about the murder, took charge of the funeral which was (to many seen as ironically) supported by the palace at the request of her family. But remember Saedaeng was a highly decorated soldier and war veteran in bygone times. As the palace honour guards arrived incredibly the crowd did not suppress their hidden feelings and jeered. These folk are no longer afraid and many said they have nothing to lose now. Nuttawut, with a serious fictitious charge still hanging over his head, was allowed out of Khlong Prem Prison briefly for paying respects as the crowd which screamed in delight at the unexpected visitor who was just as quickly whisked away.
The whole ceremony, which took place over two days, was considered as a means of closure on the pain felt by many folk in Thailand over the past few months but, as informants noted, it also opened new imaginings and it was considered a beginning in seeking justice, equity and the end of double standards in Thailand since 2006.
One informant, a former driver, explained that he was shot in the chest (shot deflected because of amulet), once in the arm and once in the leg from an M16 as he was helping a wounded person seek cover. Although it may never be confirmed, I was told that the person who shot Saedaeng was a former low ranking army officer and trained sniper who since leaving the army had his own security business and farm; other accounts told me he was shot from a white Nissan Urvan (as used by the army) parked across the road. The shot was fired at ground level. The army clearly arranged the murder as ordered by the government to silence Saedaeng once and for all as he knew only too well what was really going on. Informants also suggested the senior officer responsible was General Prayut seeking to ingratiate himself with Anupong and Abhisit and who in turn received the OK from elsewhere (?) while at the 11 Infantry Regiment in Bangkhen.