Remembering #NuamthongPraiwan: 17 years since his sacrifice in resisting the 2006 Coup
Let's rewind to September 30, 2006, just 11 days after the Democratic Reform Council, led by the King as the Head of State, or CNS, carried out a “Coup” and seized power. On that day, news broke about Mr. Nuamthong Praiwan, a former employee of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) in the Bang Kruai District, who was 60 years old and worked as a taxi driver.
Near the Equestrian Statue area, he drove his purple taxi into a CNS tank as an act of protest against the military coup and the narrative sustained by the media, where people were shown bringing flowers to soldiers, taking pictures with them, and expressing their support.
Nuamthong Praiwan then explained to the press: "I acted in the name of righteousness and believed that soldiers couldn't just be taking tanks out on the streets. It's absurd for people to offer them flowers." At the time, the September 2006 Coup had just occurred. The accident, which he later referred to as martyrdom, left him with serious injuries.
After this event, Colonel Akara Tipproj, Deputy Spokesperson of the Administrative Reform Council, claimed in an interview that "(t)here's likely no Thai individual with such high ideals that they would harm themselves and ruin their life just to defy or protest against the coup."
Following this intervention, Nuamthong gave an interview to ITV television station, confirming his intention to be a 'martyr' for democracy and explaining the motives of his act:
“The more they concealed the news, the more people believed others were in favor of the Coup. (...) I can genuinely attest that I refuse to live under dictatorial rule. If our country continues in this direction, it might resemble the situation in Myanmar."
What happened afterwards?
On the night of October 31, 2006, 1 month after recovering from the accident, Nuamthong Praiwan took his own life by hanging himself from the cable of an elevated bridge on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, just opposite the Thairath newspaper office on the eastbound side. Two suicide notes were found by his side. In one of these letters, he expressed his desire to erase the derogatory remarks made by the then government spokesperson, Mr. Akara Thepthipan, who had claimed, "No one with true patriotism would resort to self-sacrifice." The letter further explained the tank incident as an intentional act of martyrdom, where Nuamthong miscalculated the speed of his vehicle.
On the day he decided to end his life, he was dressed in a shirt bearing a message written in verse, a symbol of political activism. The words on the shirt belonged to a poem by Sri Burapha, which read: "In unity, with fearless might, a powerful court, an arsenal of countless weapons, numerous adversaries, an unyielding alliance, the force of the masses cannot be resisted." - Kularb Saipradit.
Join us in remembering 'Nuamthong Praiwan’
After the passing of Nuamthong Praiwan, his name has been used as a symbol of resistance to the coup. In 2007, the Fah Deaw Kan Publishing House dedicated him the book 'Coup of September 19, Coup for Democracy with the King as Head of State’, collecting academic articles related to the 2006 Coup. Later, in 2010, a statue was built to commemorate Nuamthong during the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, or UDD gathering on Ratchadamnoen Road. A life-size replica of Nuamthong’s upper body was placed at a gathering site of the Red Shirts, but it was confiscated, after the protest was dispersed.
Every year on October 31st, many people gather at the "Nuamthong Praiwan Memorial Column" to commemorate his sacrifice for democracy e and resistance to the 2006 Coup. Even though 17 years have passed since Nuamthong Praiwan’s death, his name and the memory of an ordinary taxi driver haven't faded away. At the very least among the political activists and, most importantly, his family.
#WeAreManushyan ♾️ Equal Human Beings
✊Manushya Foundation stands in solidarity with Nuamthong Praiwan’s family, political activists, and all citizens who defend and protect democracy. We believe that dictatorship will one day lose its grip, paving the way for democracy’s revival.
Pravit Rojanaphruk, Near-Forgotten Struggles Against Dictatorship And Repression, (4 November 2017), available at: https://www.khaosodenglish.com/opinion/2017/11/04/salvaging-memories-struggles-dictatorship-repression/?fbclid=IwAR3tpCr8FV5-ZUMOULsaiNbILuszCMsV7iOj748vy95WTom_OGLCRw35EzA
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, Activities In Memoriam of Nuamthong Praiwan, (2 November 2015), available at: https://tlhr2014.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/activities-in-memoriam-of-nuamthong-praiwan/