In a span of one week, two young Rayong men have become famous to some and infamous to others, depending on which side of the political divide you are on.
On 15 July, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha visited Rayong Province. The mission was to “boost the confidence” of the people after The Rayong Incident.
Ramkhamhaeng University students Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, 24, and Natchanon “Non” Payakaphan, 29, held up signs in protest of the general’s visit.
Panupong held up the sign, “Keep the guard up, your father.” (To say “your father” in a negative way is considered a great insult.)
Natchanon held up the sign, “If you stay, the country will be in ruins, you animal.” (Calling someone “an animal” is also derogatory.)
Our video report details the incident in which the two were manhandled by the police. The video report also shows Panupong doing a live broadcast of the arrest.
The incident was the final trigger that led to the anti-government protest on 18 July at the Democracy Monument. See our video report here.
The protest leaders made three demands: Dissolve parliament, stop harassing the people, and draft a new constitution. Panupong also joined the protest as a speaker on the stage.
Over the past few days, several smaller protests have also been staged in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, and elsewhere.
We spoke to Panupong about the incident and the criminal charges against him.
How did the incident in Rayong come to an end?
When Prayut left Rayong, the police left us alone. We went to the hospital to have the doctor check on our injuries that happened when the police were manhandling us.
We then decided to sue the police for unlawful detention, kidnapping, physical assaults, and abuse of authority.
What criminal charges do you now face?
Obstructing police officers. Fleeing from the authorities. Violating the Emergency Decree. Violating the Communicable Disease Act.
The authorities have the power to do whatever they want to us. There is no justice for the people.
How are you planning to fight back?
We have already filed a complaint. We submitted a letter to the Committee on Law, Justice, and Human Rights. MP Sira Jenjaka [Palang Pracharat Party] is the chairman of the committee. He will help with the case.
We have to keep fighting. We can’t give up. What we have had to put up with is too much.
Yesterday (20 July), a police officer from Rayong called me to try and negotiate with us. It was over the charges we filed against them, but we weren’t having it.
How confident are you that MP Sira would help with the case? After all, he’s a staunch supporter of the prime minister
I’m not confident. But we want to prove his commitment to helping the people.
About the Democracy Monument protest, do you think the government will give in to the demands?
There’s little chance that they will give in to our demands. Some of the protest leaders still get harassed. [Plain-cloth police] still knock on their doors.
What’s the next move, then?
There will definitely be more protests, and they will be more significant.
All the students from around Thailand will gather together at the Democracy Monument. It will mark a new chapter for Thailand, like on 14 October .
But it won’t be bloody. We will just ask them to listen to us.
Are you scared?
This is not my first time getting involved in something like this. I volunteered with YoungleadersThailand for three years and have experienced many threats. I was even shot at. I’m very much used to it.
If I have to sacrifice something for democracy, like my life, it will be worth it. There is nothing left to fear.
How do you feel when people say “politics isn’t for students, students should just focus on studying”?
[laughs] If you say that students are the future of the country, then we definitely have all the right, and even more of a reason, to be involved in politics.
It is our future, and that’s why we have to protect our future.