On 28 June 2022, via a video call, a TLHR lawyer “visited” Polphon after he attempted to commit suicide to protest his pre-trial detention. The court had refused his bail requests twice. His hair was cut short, and he looked a bit different – you can catch a glimpse of anxiety through his eyes. He sat down on a chair and started speaking. His voice trembles, almost as if he was going to cry. He said, “I’m better now.” Doctors and nurses check on him throughout the day.
He recalled the moment he took the pills in the evening of 24 June.
The next day, at around 7am, a correctional officer started counting the detainees and noticed that Polphon was unusually vomiting. Polphon said he only had a headache, and the officer did not press him any further. However, after returning to his cell, he continued to vomit, and his Talu Gas friends forced him to tell the truth. He confessed that he took many paracetamols the night before. No officers were passing by the cells until 7-8pm, which was when the correctional officer started counting the detainees again. His Talu Gas friends quickly informed the officer of Polphon’s attempted suicide. The correctional officer took Polphon to the medical unit in prison and then transferred to the Correctional Hospital for gastric lavage in the evening.
He was told by the doctor that had he arrived later, he could have died from acute kidney failure. He remained at the Correctional Hospital that night, but he couldn’t sleep. He was stressed and kept thinking about his denied bail requests.
Suicide as a Mean to Protest the Court’s Pre-trial Detention
Polphon had been collecting the pill since he was detained the first day. He would ask for these pills from other detainees or the correctional officers.
“So, you have planned to committed suicide since day one?”, asked TLHR lawyer.
“Yes, I didn’t know what else to do.” Polphon replied.
He said he has been under tremendous stress since he was detained. He didn’t think he would be detained. He worried about his family and his study. He added that soon after his detention, he found out that his girlfriend got pregnant, so he got even more stressed.
He recalled the day he decided to present himself to the police at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau on 16 June. He said he went because he was told by his friend, who went to report himself to the police before, that his name is also on the police’s list. Thus, without any arrest warrant issued against him, he went to present himself as a means to demonstrate his innocence and willingness to cooperate.
The police let him leave as no arrest warrant was issued against him. However, the police told him to come back the next morning. Polphon went to see the police as scheduled. The police informed him that they now have an arrest warrant issued against him and requested the court for his detention. The court issued the detention order and denied him bail. Thus, Polphon and 10 other members of Talu Gas Group were detained at Bangkok Remand Prison that evening. The court continued to deny them bails.
Polphon said he planned to commit suicide since the first day he was detained because of the injustice he faces.
“I often told Phum (Sasaluck) that I wanted to commit suicide. When I was quite stressed, I vented with my friends in prison, but I continued to think about committing suicide all the time.”
On 24 June, relatives of 5 detainees presented bail requests to the court. However, they were denied for the second time.
“I was very stressed that day. I was accused of burning a police car, which is a more severe offence that those under the Emergency Decree. I thought it is unlikely that I would be granted bail anytime soon.”
This was his last straw, leading him to commit suicide that evening.
“I feel that I am facing injustice. If I committed such allegation, I wouldn’t be so stressed, but I didn’t do it. This is unfair to me.”
Being Innocent and Protesting Peacefully
Polphon talked about the Din Daeng protest on 11 June where he was accused of burning a police car. This is the first time that he was accused. He has never been prosecuted before. He admitted that he participated in the protest that day, but the car burning incident happened after he went home. He insisted, “I’m innocent.”
“When I went out to protest, I only went to call for our constitutional rights. I call for a better society. If we are struggling this much, the next generation will struggle even more. I never wanted to hurt anyone. It is true that protesters have set off firecrackers, but they didn’t mean for anyone to die. For the burning of the car or destroying any properties, nobody knows who did it. I didn’t do it because destroying properties or using violence carry severe penalties. I know that. Me and my friends wouldn’t dare to do these.”
“This is the first time I have been accused. The most important thing is that I didn’t do it, but the court continued to deny me bail. Why did the police accuse me and threw me in jail…”
“I participated in the protests for 2 years. I was never prosecuted because I believe in peaceful protest, without any weapons. Now I’m detained. I wish I could receive bail. The faster I could be free, the more opportunities I have to look for evidence to clear my name. I wasn’t at the protest at the time the car was burned. I didn’t burn it.”
“I tried to kill myself because I want to receive justice from the court. I’m willing to do this if it can change anything.”
Polphon’s Attempted Suicide
16 June 2022: To demonstrate his innocence and willingness to cooperate, Polphon presented himself to the police even though his arrest warrant was yet to be issued. He insisted that he did not burn the police car during the Din Daeng protest on 11 June 2022, although he admitted that he participated in the protest. The police let him leave as no arrest warrant was issued against him. However, the police told him to come back the next morning.
17 June 2022: Polphon went to see the police as scheduled. The police informed him that they now have an arrest warrant issued against him and requested the court for his detention. The court issued the detention order and denied him bail. Thus, Polphon and 10 other members of Talu Gas Group were detained at Bangkok Remand Prison that evening.
24 June 2022: During his detention, Polphon found out that his girlfriend got pregnant, so he has been quite stressed. The relatives of some of the detainees had also requested bails for the second time, but they were denied. These events have led Polphon to become even more stressed. He decided to take over 64 paracetamol pills that evening while other detainees were watching TV. He started vomiting from midnight until the next morning.
25 June 2022: Polphon also became disoriented. Due to these unusual symptoms, the other ten detainees tried investigating the cause. They all searched Polphon’s bed and found dozens of used pills under his bedsheets. Polphon confessed that he had attempted suicide, and his friend hurriedly notified the corrections officers. The correctional officer took Polphon to the Medical Correctional Institution for gastric lavage in the evening.
According to the doctor, had he arrived later, he could have died from acute kidney failure. Currently, he suffers from nephritis, and will remain in the Correctional Hospital for the next 7-10 days.
Thalu Gas group member attempted suicide in prison cell by swallowing over 60 paracetamol pills
Department of Correction’s response on the attempted suicide in prison