Editorial by The Isaan Record

Photos by Atithep Janthet

The act of dispersing the “People’s Party 2020” demonstration on October 16 in the area in front of Siam Center and the Pathumwan intersection in Bangkok was not unexpected because before that there had been two dispersals of such demonstrations already starting on October 13 and continuing until now.But what happened after the use of violence in the dispersal of protesters with high-pressure water hoses mixed with tear gas was, despite the protesters conducting themselves peacefully and completely unarmed. It only goes to show that the actions of the authorities, besides causing injury to some demonstrators both physically and mentally, still had an effect on “Thai and international reporters as well” as there were more than a few journalists who were also injured, along with their equipment being destroyed from the use of such violence.

The moment when police turned high-pressure hoses mixed with tear gas on demonstrators (and journalists)

Our two-person Isaan Record reporter team was observing and reporting on the situation and was exposed to the same effects as other news outlets.

The physical and mental injuries suffered from the state’s use of violence, currently and in the past, can be seen as remaining elements from “the state” which has never once reconsidered the damage it has caused and never recognized that violence has never contributed to freedom.

This is especially true for those journalists who were forbidden to monitor the situation and take photos and instead became subject to the violence of the state, as well as those journalist who were pushed out of the demonstration area. Most notable was the arrest and the seizure of the camera and cell phone of Kitti Phanthaiphak, reporter of Prachatai, whose team was reporting live on what was going on in the area where demonstrators were below the skywalk in the area of the National Stadium. Kitti had clearly identified himself as a reporter who was reporting the news, along with his national ID card, armband, and credentialed by the Thai Journalists Association. He was merely acting as a “reporter” who was only trying to only carry out his duty in reporting the news to the public. His arrest was a clear infringement of his rights and liberties, both physically and mentally.

Kitti Phanthaphak, reporter for Prachatai, after being arrested and held in a police paddy wagon. Credit: Prachachat Website

Being restrained by handcuffs has to be held as something inimical to those in a democratic society that respects rights and freedom. Carrying out the duty of being a journalist whose position is guaranteed by the constitution, even if such journalists are later released and fined 300 baht.

He was charged with violated orders of authorities under Article 368 of the criminal code which stipulates, “Whosoever is aware of orders made by authorities who have been so empowered by law, and acts contrary to such orders without sufficient reason or excuse, is liable to punishment of imprisonment of not more than ten days or a fine of 5,000 baht, or both.”

In the eyes of the world, acting with violence against both demonstrators and journalists is tantamount to  declaring war because it’s equivalent to the “state” being blind to the importance of the media reporting the news and their recording of history. 

To the contrary, the Thai state is endeavoring to cover the ears,  bind the eyes, and close the mouth and acts toward the media as if it were committing a crime. 

But we are not. Journalism is not a criminal activity and journalists are not criminals.