More than a dozen officers rushed last night to a Thonglor arts event about the torture of youth at police hands to demand it cover up words deemed offensive.
About 20 cops rolled up on WTF Gallery and Cafe in Soi Sukhumvit 51, where an artist had painted a wall with portraits of several protesters who say they were tortured to which phrases such as “Fuck the Popo” and “Fuck the King Kong” had been added.
Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, whose Cross Cultural Foundation organized the event, told Coconuts Bangkok that around 20 officers, who said they were local Thonglor cops, blocked access to the soi and complained that the artists and organizers were making loud noises.
Live of police raid by activist Tantawan Tuatulanon
That’s when they ordered the “offensive” removed, which also included “No God, No K!- Only Humans,” and “Royal bullets.”
“It was the free expression of the protesters. I don’t think the messages were so triggering,” Pornpen said.
According to someone present who asked not to be named for fear of legal repercussions, the event was streamed live online, accompanied by audio of the youths’ testimony of the abuses at the hands of the authorities.
At one point, the witness said, the youth were encouraged to add captions to the portraits, which might have gone further than expected. Some of the youth got confrontational, more officers arrived, but eventually the encounter ended without anyone fined or detained, the witness said.
WTF said it was not their event; they had only provided the space for use by the foundation.
Pornpen’s group has for years called attention to the persistent problem of military and police torture, particularly in the Deep South. Last night, it had invited Tawan Wattuya, a painter known for cutting political satire, to paint the wall as part of its #SafeinCustody campaign to pressure police and build awareness about the issue. He improvised the portraits while listening to their testimony.
“Usually I would ask my models to write their names next to the portraits, but this time I told them to write whatever they wanted,” Tawan said. He said he was barely aware of what was transpiring as he was focused on his painting.
Police at Bangkok’s Din Daeng Police Station have been accused of beating, choking and burning pro-democracy protesters late last month after arresting them.
Weeraphap Wongsaman, 18, along with 35-year-old Attasith Nussa said the police even threatened to kill them. Attasith said his head was slammed into a wooden bench and his ribs and stomach beaten with a baton before he was choked to the point of nearly losing consciousness. They are part of a large protest movement demanding a return to democracy and reform of the monarchy’s role in society.
The incident prompted Human Rights Watch to declare that Thailand’s government had “failed miserably to live up to its repeated pledges to end torture in police custody.”
Pornpen, a veteran rights defender, is undeterred. On this Sunday, she will host a screening of Ai Wei Wei:Yours Truly at the Doc Club & Pub on Soi Sala Daeng 1.
Additional reporting Todd Ruiz