Nat: The same series of events, the same place

 
Nat is a tall, slender, and energetic man. I have known him for nearly two years, but I cannot remember when and where we met for the first time. Perhaps the court, or if not, then the prison. Places where others do not want to be caught.
 
Nat told me that his interest in politics began in 2006. He registered as a member of a webboard in order to express his political opinions. I often bugged him about what in his studies or life had caused him to become interested in politics. Nat said that he was not well-educated and did not have an undergraduate degree.
 
Nat’s answer made me speechless. The cadence of our conversations indicated that he had significant knowledge about the trajectories of Thai and global politics. He used English words often, including many words that I myself did not know. Nat’s all-around knowledge and English-language skills were greater than many of those with diplomas.
 
Nat divulged his secret: since he did not have formal higher education, he struggled to search for knowledge on his own.  He searched books and the internet and conversed with foreign people. His interest and political awakening led him to begin corresponding via email with foreign people that he had never met.  In the end, Nat was arrested because he sent an email to a foreign person who was under close watch by the Thai authorities. Nat’s email was viewed as falling within the scope of violation of Article 112.
 
Nat told me about his arrest with gusto. On the afternoon of 13 October 2009, he was at home in his condo. A knocking on the door grew louder. When he opened the door, there were more than ten people wearing office worker clothes.  They informed Nat that they were from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and procured a search and arrest warrant.
 

 

 

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When he realized whom the people who came to his home were, he was completely befuddled. Everything happened very quickly. After the officials finished searching his house, they took him to be interrogated at the DSI. Nat admitted that while he was really afraid during his interrogation. He gave his email password to the officials. Even though the incident took place many years ago, Nat still told the story of his arrest with a tone of nervous excitement. It made me feel tense, too. But Nat broke the climax of the story making the observation that as far as he had seen, the detention cells at the DSI are the most luxurious. They are air-conditioned and different from run-of-the-mill cells at police stations.
 
Nat was a “special guest” at the DSI for two nights and was then sent to be detained at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Luck remained partially on his side. After two weeks there, Nat was granted bail at the end of October 2009 for 400,000 baht.
 
Nat breathed the air of freedom for only a brief period. On 14 December 2009, two full months after his arrest, Nat appeared at court and confessed. The court sentenced him to nine years in prison on the same day. His punishment was reduced to three years and eighteen months. Nat’s freedom slipped away upon the conclusion of the reading of the sentence.
 
Nat faced difficulties in adjusting to prison life at first. He did not dare to tell the other prisoners what he was in for, so did not really dare to speak with anyone. During the first six months, he had to work “spinning cups,” or making the pointed paper cups that often accompany public drinking water fountains. Prisoners must make them unceasingly for five days per week for a wage of 100 baht per month. 
 
Nat’s life changed once again in August 2010 when the prison announced that a competitive examination would be held for inmates to work in the educational unit. Given his familiarity with computers, Nat applied and was selected. He no longer had to sit and spin cups but instead was now a computer teaching assistant. While the instructor lectured at the front of the class, Nat taught his fellow prisoners how to use various programs. According to Nat, the instructors had to speak clearly, and in particular, have a loud voice. A soft voice cannot be used to teach prisoners. Nat worked as a teaching assistant until his release in April 2012. 
 
Nat was released early for good behavior. He felt an unspeakable happiness when he stepped out of the shadow of the towering prison.
 
Even though he his punishment was complete, Nat returned to the prison frequently. He visited and encouraged his friends from his time inside who shared the same fate. This was the period in which Nat became involved in social activism and when he and I had a chance to get to know each other. Nat explained that when he visited his friends in prison, they were not the only ones who received encouragement and assistance, but he learned things from the prisoners as well. 
 
From the time of his release in 2012 until May 2014, Nat worked above-board the entire time. As someone who yearned for knowledge and liked a challenge, Nat tried his hand at many different businesses. He succeeded at some and failed at others. He even assisted me and my colleagues in our work from time to time. But Nat never did anything that took him close to violating the law again. He was determined to not return once again to the prison. 
 
In May 2014, the junta seized the administrative power of the country and summoned a large number of people to report themselves. Nat’s name was listed among those summoned. But he did not report himself because he was concerned about his safety. In June 2014, his condo was raided by officials and he was arrested. He was taken to a military base for seven days of  “attitude adjustment.” Before he returned home, he learned that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for not reporting in line with the summons. 
 
Nat arranged with the police that he would meet them at the Samsen police station. But prior to the appointed day, officers from another police station raided his condo and arrested him. It was the second time that year and the third time in his life that his condo was raided and he was arrested. This happened even though Nat had arranged to turn himself in.
 
In January 2015, close to the date set by the court to read the judgment in his case, Nat began to post Facebook statuses expressing his concerns. Many friends attempted to provide encouragement, since until then, all those who were arrested for not reporting themselves in line with the orders of the NCPO had all received suspended sentences. I myself sent him a message to allay his worries. It turned out that I and many others were wrong!
 
On 22 January 2015, the Dusit district court sentenced Nat to one month and ten days in prison (reduced from two months and twenty days because he confessed). The court said that the sentence was not suspended because Nat committed the offence less than five years after being released in a case of violating Article 112. Nat requested bail with an amount of 40,000 baht. But the court sent the matter to the Appeal Court.  Nat therefore had to go sleep at the Bangkok Remand Prison to await the ruling.
 
I went to visit Nat the next day. He returned to the place where he would never be ready to return. 
 
“A lot has changed here. There are new walls. What is very surprising is that there are a lot of Article 112 cases. The place is full of them -- close to fifty people,” Nat said.
 
“If the Appeal Court denies bail, I won't try again. I can stand two months here,” he said with an energetic tone.
 
Nat spent four nights in his old haunt before the Appeal Court granted bail on 26 January 2015.
 
I met Nat after he was granted bail. His head was shaved, which is the regulation style of the prison. Nat said that he did not feel too terrible about his new hairstyle because perhaps long hair is inappropriate for the environment in the prison. What he felt terrible about was having to return there once again even though he had not done anything. Nat’s fate hangs by a thread. If the Appeal Court upholds the initial decision, Nat may have to return to “have a holiday” in the prison for the remaining one month and six days of his sentence. 
 
 
 
For more details of Thanet's case >> Click into our database
And see the failing to report himself case of Nut >> Click into our database
 
 
 
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