By Afnan Waekama
“Our bodies belong to us. No one should have the right to assault us, whether through words, looks, or actions,” Natthathida “Whan” Miwangpla told Thisrupt over a phone interview.
She has been a volunteer nurse at FAV.53 (First aid Volunteer) for almost ten years.
On 11 March 2015, seven plainclothes soldiers arrived at her home and presented with a piece of paper, the martial law announcement by General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s military junta, dated 22 May 2014.
There were no arrest or search warrants.
“They told me I was a suspect in the bombing in front of the Ratchada courthouse,” Natthathida explained. The bombing occurred on 7 March 2015.
She told the officers she did not have anything to do with the bombing. Nonetheless, they insisted on her to pack three days worth of clothes and go with them. The interrogation would take three days, after which they would return her to her home, the men explained. Natthathida complied.
As soon as she got in the car, they blindfolded her. That was when the first assault happened.
“I sat in the backseat, between two officers. They lifted my clothes to look at my body, claiming that they were checking for tattoos.”
“I’m a woman, like your daughters and your wives. Don’t do this to me,” Natthathida pleaded with the officers.
According to her, one officer replied, “You have a mouth on you. I just wanted a look.”
They arrived at an army base.
Natthathida did not know which army base, as she was blindfolded the entire trip. The officers took her to a small room with two beds, which she said still had blood stains on them.
“I stayed in that room. Whenever the officers came in to interrogate me, they would blindfold me.”
On the next day, during an interrogation, Natthathida said the officers again looked underneath her clothes. One officer squeezed her breasts and told her, “These are big. Are they real?”
She also experienced similar assaults by other officers.
One said to her, “I just want a look. Don’t act like you’ve never had sex.”
“I told him that he doesn’t have the right to touch me,” Natthathida said. “Then, he smacked the back of my head and told me to confess to the bombing.”
After three days of interrogation and the sexual assaults, they released her.
“I was powerless. I felt like I had no rights. I couldn’t defend myself.”
Following the assaults, she consulted with lawyers, but no one could help her. Eventually, she buried the experience.
“I just gave up. Defeated by the way things are in the Thai society,” Natthathida said.
But things are changing.
With the ongoing pro-democracy protests, long-buried issues and taboos are now at the forefront of national discussions. This is why Natthathida has chosen to speak out.
Because now, along with countless other Thais who suffer from injustices, she has a stage and people willing to listen to her.
The stage is the pro-democracy protests. Those willing to listen are the pro-democracy protestors.