Government Responses to the Taxi Driver SuicideBy Bangkok Pundit Nov 03, 2006 12:06AM UTC
As you are probably aware a taxi driver committed suicide a couple of days ago as this newspaper reports:
A 60-year-old taxi driver has hanged himself in an apparent protest against the military takeover in Thailand, police said.
Nuamthong Praiwan hanged himself off a pedestrian bridge in Bangkok on Wednesday and said in a suicide note wrote: “I am a taxi driver who has sacrificed himself for democracy.“
He was the same taxi driver who in September had previously drove his taxi into a tank in suicide attempt against the coup as well.
The suicide has surprised the military as AP reports:
“The army is expressing deep condolence to the family of the dead man. His action was beyond everyone’s expectations,” army spokesman Akara Thiprot told The Associated Press.
Part of the problem for the government and Col Akara in particular is
because of a statement made by Col Akara after the taxi driver’s first
suicide attempt in September as the Bangkok Post reports:
Mrs Boonchu earlier demanded that Col Akkara apologise before her husband’s body.
A suicide note found near Nuamthong’s body said he took his life to prove Col Akkara Thiproj wrong.
When Col Akkara was a deputy spokesman of the Council for Democratic Reform, he had expressed scepticism about Nuamthong’s intentions in driving his taxi into the tank.
The Nation has the quote:
Army spokesman Gen Akara Tipparoj apologised yesterday for the comment he made a month ago that “nobody would hurt themselves for political ideology” after Nuamthong rammed his taxi into a tank at the Royal Plaza on September 30 in protest against the coup.
The government has tried to prevent any fallout from the suicide by showing its caring side as the Bangkok Post reports:
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont expressed his condolences to Nuamthong’s wife, Boonchu, during a brief meeting at Government House yesterday.
He promised to help pay off her 100,000-baht home loan, and gave her personal cash assistance of 20,000 baht, Mrs Boonchu said.
Mrs Boonchu had a chance to call on the prime minister after his adviser Parada Nenbamrung took Gen Surayud’s wreath to Nuamthong’s funeral at Bua Khwan temple in Nonthaburi’s Muang district. He then took her to Government House.
Mrs Boonchu said Gen Surayud told her he was willing to lend her any help she needs.
Arriving back at the funeral, Mrs Boonchu met army secretary Maj-Gen Veeran Chantasartkosol, who took Gen Sonthi’s wreath to the funeral.
Maj-Gen Veeran also gave her cash assistance from the army.
Maj-Gen Veeran told Mrs Boonchu that army spokesman Col Akkara Thiproj and Gen Sonthi would attend the funeral.
Others who gave Mrs Boonchu financial assistance included Nonthaburi governor Pranai Suwanrath, who was chosen on Tuesday to be the new chief of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre. He handed Mrs Boonchu 30,000 baht in cash from the Nonthaburi provincial government.
While the government is showing its caring side on one hand, it is doing all it can to stop news of the suicide as The Nation reports:
Fearing the highly publicised suicide of taxi driver Nuamthong Phaiwan could trigger a pro-democracy revolt against the September 19 coup-makers, the military yesterday reprimanded iTV for reporting the final message of the man who killed himself to protest against the coup.
An additional 20 soldiers were dispatched to the station after a phone call from a high-ranking military officer to iTV’s managing director, Songsak Premsuk, and news editors to warn them that the Council for National Security (CNS) was disturbed by the station’s reporting on the suicide.
A source from iTV’s newsroom said the CNS intervention might have been prompted by fear iTV was trying to help deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Another officer from the CNS secretariat called iTV reporter Jom Petchpradab to ask why he conducted an interview with Nuam-thong two weeks prior to his suicide.
Jom got an exclusive interview with Nuamthong on October 14, while he was attending commemorations of the 33rd anniversary of the 1973 pro-democracy uprising. Nuamthong had just recovered from injuries caused by his first suicide attempt on September 30, in which he rammed his taxi into a tank at the Royal Plaza.
The station did not air the interview initially because of martial law restrictions, but decided to release it after Nuamthong’s suicide.
The Army’s Civil Affairs Department yesterday reportedly sent a letter to the six public TV channels summoning their news editors for instruction today on “constructive reporting for peace of the nation“.
COMMENT: I have some sympathy for the government and don’t see them as responsible for the suicide, but when you stage a military coup and impose martial law preventing normally legitimate forms of protest, you shouldn’t be surprised when such things happen. I don’t expect that the suicide will cause the government/coup leaders to change their mind about martial law and if anything I believe it would make them less likely to lift the restrictions on the media imposed since martial law.
In recent days, the government/coup leaders have stepped up their public relations campaign against Thaksin and I expect that they will increase their efforts from now on as they need to further justify the coup to the public.btw, yes I have no doubt if a PAD supporter had killed him/herself, Thaksin would not have attended the funeral or sent a wreath.