On 16 June I received a phone call from the commander of the Special Unit of Patani. I had met him several times before, and this time he told me that an intelligence officer of the local ISOC (The Internal Security Operations Command). I new the intelligence officer too, and he said they wanted to have a talk with me while having a cup of coffee with me, so I suggested to see them in a coffee shop in front of my university in Patani City.
A few minutes later, I was contacted by one of the deputy rectors of my university, stating that the meeting was a serious one. He told me to come to the meeting room of the rector’s office on the next day. The vice dean of my faculty was to attend the meeting too.
The meeting had been scheduled to start at 8.00 a.m., and I arrived the empty meeting room 5 minutes before the time. The soldiers appeared about nearly an hour later. Apart from the two officers mentioned above, there were about 7 or 8 other men in uniform, including two military cameramen who took pictures all the time.
They explained that the commander of the 4th region army wanted to ‘catch’ me. It wasn’t explained what exactly the commander wanted to do, either detaining me for seven days based on the martial law, arresting me following the criminal law or deporting me. The reason was that he had gotten a report that I appeared in media and criticized the NCPO. The explanation confused me as I had stopped appearing in any media since the coup. The only way of communication I used for the purpose is Facebook. So I asked which media they meant, but the only answers I got were all obscure.
The intelligence officer explained me that somewhere (yes, somewhere) I mentioned about the Media Selatan, one of the local community radio which has been followed by the military very closely, and I am a regular guest of one of their Malay-language program called ‘Dunia Hari Ini (the World Today)’. According to them, allegedly I had said the survival of the station depended on the support from the local people, which the military somehow had interpreted as instigation. I gave my explanation which seemed to satisfy the military guys. However, they said that I have to see the commander himself on the following day (18th). The meeting was to take place in the Pattani Provincial Hall, attended by the governor of the province too. It was a bad sign, as I had already arranged things for my honeymoon trip to Indonesia. If I had to be arrested, it would be a very bad news for my wife who was on her third month of pregnancy, and had been looking forward to the trip. However, I evaluated the situation as still not too serious, because the meeting would be in a civilian place, and the commander wasn’t coming to Pattani just to see a Jap, but I would be granted his audience after he attended a prayer for peace by the local religious leaders, the event staged up by the military.
On that night I sent an e-mail to an officer of the embassy of my original country who I had met before when he and his boss came down to Pattani. In the reply, he gave me some very good advices on such an occasion, and promised to make an ‘inquiry’ into the news toward the ministry of foreign affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, so as to emphasize the fact that the embassy was following what was going on.
The meeting with the commander was scheduled to start at 11.00 a.m. When I arrived at the meeting room of the provincial hall, there were only his deputy, the two military officers I met the day before, all in their uniform. The deputy, whose name I forgot, was a communicative small man who kept his oily smile all the time, with unnaturally black hair for his age (57 years old). He dominated our conversation, talking about all ranges of things, insisting many times that he was originally from Narathiwat, how he cared and knew the local people well, and so on, all kinds of stuff which would vanish from your memory immediately after you finished the conversation.
The very informative conversation continued more than an hour until Lieutenant General Walit, the commander, entered the meeting room. Unlike his deputy, Lt. Gen. Walit clearly showed his dislike of me in a clearly sullen face, and also unlike many Thais, started the meeting in a very straight forward way by stating that I had made serious mistakes which could bring to ‘catching’. He was a kind of person who felt no need to conceal his dislike and short-tempered character, not very good at arranging things in a logical order. He preferred stressing the seriousness of offences I had committed to explaining the offences themselves. Then he showed me some photocopies of the report he had accepted in which there were some quotation pictures of what I said on 24 March last year. On that day, in front of the audience of no less than 3000 Patani people I had said that the villagers should support the BRN in the negotiation process, continuously pressure the organization so that they wouldn’t leave the negotiation table. But in the citation of it in the report only said ‘The villagers should support the BRN’. He asked if I really had said these things. I said yes. He said, now that the NCPO had seized all powers, you couldn’t criticize or attack it, because doing so meant causing disharmony in the society, but I had appeared in media and openly criticized us, an offence which was unacceptable. I knew very well one of the most important features of the army to interpret things in whatever way they like, so I wouldn’t say the things in the quotations at this moment.
I tried to give my explanation, but before I could utter four or five words, Lt. Gen. Walit cut off my reasoning, a very typical PDRC supporters-like behaviour to cut the reasoning of their interlocutors before they could complete a sentence.
He asked to me whether I would be happy if a bloody foreigner had come to my country and did the same thing as I had done. I said it was his or her right to do so. Then he asked ‘Will you be happy if I do the same thing in your country as you have done in my country?’ I answered that I would be very happy and respect your right. Both my answers failed to satisfy the Lt Gen. He seemed to believe that everyone should think as he thinks. Lt. Gen. Walit insisted that I couldn’t do that in his country. It’s against the law as now all the law was under the NPCO.
I explained to Lt. Gen. Walit that I hadn’t appeared in media since the ‘change of the administrative structure of the country’. So, I’d be very happy if the commander could kindly tell me which media had pick up the fragmented part of my speeches, posting it after the coup, causing the very intelligent military men believe that I had said these things after the coup, despite the fact that I had said them more than one year before, when this country was still under the civilian government led by Ms Yingluck.
Lt. Ge. Walit said I didn’t have to be given any explanation, as it had even already appeared in a newspaper. So I asked which newspaper he meant. He could tell me the name of it so that I could make a contact and made a complaint against ‘such behaviour which clearly lacks in responsibility’.
The commander averted his face from me to his deputy, who uttered some ‘ermmm’s several times, and told me that his men would contact me later to inform me on that, which, as you can easily guess, hasn’t happened until this moment.
Lt. Gen. Walit said it wasn’t important, but I must understand that it was wrong to say that. I tried to explain to him that I had said that in a different context before his big boss, Gen. Prayuth, seized the administrative power of the country. At that time if the legitimate government at that time had wanted to arrest me on what I had said in front of thousands of people and cited by so many media, they could have done that. It was none of my business that you had just noticed what I had said more than one year ago, accusing me of lacking in respect to the NPCO, the body which hadn’t existed yet at that time. But the commander was not a kind of man who was ready to listen to others when they uttered things irritating to him.
The gist of what he said after that was that I couldn’t say that thing because it was wrong. In the end, he kindly told me to refrain from state my opinion in public for my safety.
He also asked whether I came to the meeting place following his invitation or summon. I said it was an invitation. He said ‘exactly’, as there was no formal letter for that, and my embassy should understand that it wasn’t a summon. So, I knew that the inquiry from the embassy had some effect. However, he continued, now that I understood it was wrong to say such things as appeared in the ‘newspaper’, there would be no invitation again. If I would commit this kind of offence again, Lt. Gen. Walit said, he wouldn’t invite me, but summon me to report myself and to stay with his men for seven days. Then the meeting was finished.
When I ‘wai’ed the Lieutenant General, he kindly offered his hand to shake. He gripped my hand very firmly, shook it a few times, which can be interpreted in any way.