Interview: Voices of ‘Joseph’ who cut himself in courtroom, calling for #ReleaseOurFriends

On 11 October 2021 at the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court, 9:00 am, the court had an appointment to examine the evidence in the case of the #Mob26Oct rallies in front of the German embassy on 26 October 2020. 

At courtroom 503, after the lawyer waited for 4 hours, the judge gave the reason for being late in the courtroom. He explained it was due to the fact that on the same day, there were so many cases. 

Once the judge finished the sentence, ‘Joseph’ (Alias) , one of the defendants in this case, stood up. 

‘ํYour honour, may I ask for your permission’, he said.

The man walked from his seat in the courtroom and stood in front of the judge bench. Now, he stood exactly in front of the judge before reading his statement.

“I would like to leave this message to the director of the court and all court administrators. The shirt I wore today, one named ‘Arnon Nampa’ and ‘Benja Apan’; Two of them did not get bail under this court.”

“I would like to leave the message to you to tell the director of the court: both of them are just defendants that the court has not yet convicted. But the court does not allow the bail and detain both of them. It means that the court has already found them guilty.”

Once he finished his speech, the man used his right hand to grab the carpenter knife out of his pocket. He raised his left elbow up and said “two of them are not bailed out, their names are Arnon Nampa…”. he took the carpenter knife out and slowly cut into the back of his arm in the vertical line.

“Benja Apan”, he said while cutting into the open wound in his arm for the second time. “Arnon Nampa”, he said , cutting into the same wound for the third time “Benja Apan, Arnon Nampa….”.

Everyone in the courtroom was stunned. The silence took over the room. It was so quiet that we could hear the sound of the blade cutting through the skin of the man very clearly. 

He kept saying the names of his two friends and also kept cutting himself at least 6-8 times. Then, he slowly put the carpenter knife in his pocket and put the other hand to cover his wound. Now, the wound would not stop bleeding and he later slowly walked and sat in his seat.

His blood dropped all the way to his seat. Now, we were regaining our consciousness and rushed to ask him ‘are you okay?’ ‘Should you go and get the wound treated properly first?’

His answer was only “I can take this” and stood firm that he would stay until the day’s trial finished. After that, he used a few tissue papers to cover his wound and listened to the trial calmly. 

A few seconds passed, and the court released the reason why they would not allow bail for Arnon and Benja. The judge stated, “The reason for us to not allow bailing is normal in the case of defamation prosecution, just like any other case with other people. These two are in the same scenario”.

“I, alone, do not have the power to make any decision of who would be released. But I would inform the judge who holds power in this particular matter.”

Joseph sat and took the pain from his wound until the trial finished, which took about 15 minutes since he expressed his symbolic action by cutting his own arm.

From this incident, we later had the opportunity to talk to Joseph about the decision to express his symbolic action.

“My wound is now alright. Only 20 minutes later the blood stopped bleeding. My wound has been treated properly.

“The spot I cut was not deep enough to cut the artery. Where I cut it is the back of the palm, not the wrist that has the artery. We know that if I cut in that spot, it could be a crisis. Frankly speaking, we planned to protest against the court for a long time. This has been thought of very carefully.

“I was accused with Section 112 from joining the protest in front of the German Embassy, and this case is under the jurisdiction of the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court. Benja, our sister, also was not bailed because of this court as well.

“We are just people with no big power so we want to send our message to the director of the court. With our statuses, we have no clue of how to make our voices heard, the voice of pain from all of us.

“If we only stand up and speak, we know it wouldn’t be enough. It took us a while to come up with what we should do.

 “I understand that many people would disagree with my actions today. However, I planned that I would not hurt myself to death. I didn’t cut myself and bled without purpose. My blood that bled in the court today was for the court to acknowledge that it was such a small pain compared to the sacrifactions of Benja and lawyer Arnon.

“Before I stood and cut my arm, I said to the court that the court’s refusal to bail Benja and Anon deprived them the right to fully defend the case because they were detained in prison. 

“The court’s refusal to bail already implied that he was guilty. However, neither of them have not yet heard the final verdicts regardless of lèse-majesté cases or other cases 

“So I have to ask questions. How can I be confident in the justice system? How can I continue to believe in the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court?

“I know many people don’t agree, but I’ve been thinking about it since last night. I must do something for our friends, to let our  friends come out, to let the society know that they are still inside. It’s better than me doing nothing. I want to help my friends come out. But I really don’t know how else I can help them”.

“I really don’t know what to do. I really want to help my friends”, he repeated himself.

As of the time of writing, ‘Arnon Nampa’ was detained for 63 days and ‘Benja Apan’ was detained for 3 days. All of which were ordered under the consideration of the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court.

At the trial in the case of #Mob26Oct, the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court has ordered the postponement of the witness examination date to 25 October 2021 at 9.00 am due to the fact that Benja, who is the defendant, cannot be called to join the conference. Since then she has been detained in the prison quarantine area.