“[Riot Control police officers] did not ask me any question. I told them, ‘I am not here for the rally. I only came to drop a passenger off.’ Still, they pulled me in, took me outside, and beat me up.”
The above statement came from Khem (Pseudonym), a 33-year-old motorbike taxi driver who was recounting the protest crackdown on the night of 10 August 2021 with a shaky voice.
On that day, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration organized the activity “Car Mob Against the Tyrant” to pressure Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign his premiership. The activist leaders called off the rally at 17:05 hrs. after protestors drove past the Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction Plc. Building, Thammanat Prompao’s residence in the Rama IX area, and the King Power Building on Rangnam Road. However, reportedly, some protesters remained in the Din Daeng area, and the Riot Control police officers began firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the area from 17:00 hrs onwards.
Later, a network of professors of law and legal practitioners has released a statement concerning the crackdown of the #10AugRally. The statement pointed out that the authorities handled the protestors with excessive force and violence, including through targeted shootings and firing tear gas into residential communities with disregard for people’s safety and wellbeing. Moreover, it was found that many officials together beat passers-by and smashed cars parked in the nearby area. Such actions violated the international standards on dispersing a crowd and demonstrated an “intention to cause violent harms from the authorities’ side.”
On the night of 10 August, Khem was working during his regular hours. He did not participate in any part of the “Car Mob” activity, so he did not expect to be beaten by the Riot Control police officers so violently that he needed to be hospitalized in an emergency unit. Meanwhile, his favorite motorbike was also seriously damaged by rubber bullets fired by the authorities.
At around 19:00 hrs, his passenger asked him to drop them off at a market in the Din Daeng area. However, when he was heading home, some people in the area told passers-by to use a different route. Therefore, he chose to drive past Soi Ratchaprasong School, where there are residential communities and commercial buildings.
At that time, many shops in that area were still open, and some people were also heading home as he was.
As Khem was entering this Soi, around 20 Riot Control officers were simultaneously deployed in this area. When they saw Khem, they immediately fired rubber bullets and tear gas at him, causing him to lose control and fall off the motorbike.
Khem attempted to hide in one local grocery store, but around ten Riot Control police officers followed him into the shop and pulled him outside to beat him up. Many eyewitnesses who saw the incident shouted, “Don’t hurt him! Don’t hurt him!” to tell the authorities to stop hurting Khem. On the other hand, Khem said that one officer yelled at him, “Come here, you f*cking bastard. Come the f*ck out here!” He was visibly wearing a motorbike taxi jacket and explained to the officers that he was not a protestor and only went there to drop off a passenger. Still, as one of the eyewitnesses said, “They [Riot Control police officers] did not give a sh*t who was who.”
“The authorities should have announced in advance that they would fire something at all. No announcement was made. They just fired the bullets and tear gas at us,” Khem said.
Khem indicated that the Riot Control police officers were beating him for almost ten minutes before leaving the area. After the violent incident was over, local residents helped wash off the tear gas from his body.
Shortly, the authorities returned to Soi Ratchaprasong School and fired tear gas without making any announcement to inform residents to hide inside their buildings. Therefore, Khem, together with others in the area, went back to the grocery store to hide. During that time, they also took turns using saline water to wash their faces. One of them also turned on the fan to blow the tear gas out of the store. However, the tear gas still made all of them cough severely. Khem said that, at that time, he felt like I was dying.
One of the eyewitnesses recalled that the Riot Control police officers fired tear gas into Soi Ratchaprasong School three times during this incident. However, they only announced once that they would fire tear gas and inform local residents to go inside their buildings. For the other two times, they immediately fired tear gas without prior notice even though some people were still standing outside their buildings.
Later, Khem went to the hospital for a medical checkup. The doctor has diagnosed that he suffers from injuries on his right rib, which are likely to be a form of rib inflammation. Furthermore, he also has an abrasion on his ankles, knees, hands, and body. Over one week since 10 August, he has also been experiencing severe chest pain, making him unable to travel anywhere easily.
In terms of property damage, my motorcycle’s faring and mirrors were broken because the Riot Control police officers shot rubber bullets at his motorcycle. He said that he has no financial means to repair these parts, despite the fact that he needed the motorcycle to make a living. Without this vehicle, he has not been unable to work as a motorcycle taxi driver up until now.
“I would like to call for the authorities to give warnings or make announcements in advance to inform people in the area who did not participate in the protest. It is unacceptable that innocent people have suffered from injuries due to the authorities’ actions,” Khem spoke his mind at the end of his interview, “I cannot say anything else anymore. I’m too overwhelmed.”