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Cablegate: Anti-Coup Suicide Followed by Small Protest In

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM MARR MASS TH
SUBJECT: ANTI-COUP SUICIDE FOLLOWED BY SMALL PROTEST IN
SANAM LUANG

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 31, a taxi driver who made
headlines earlier by ramming his taxi into a tank, committed
suicide by hanging himself. In a note left near his body,
Nuamthong Phaiwan claimed that he took his life as a form of
protest against coup. On the evening of November 1, a about
200 protesters gathered peacefully in Sanam Luang to voice
opposition to the coup. The demonstration was planned in
advance of Nuamthong's suicide, but organizers coordinated
with Nuamthong's family to hold a memorial at Bangkok's
Democracy Monument. Police reportedly prevented the family
from taking the body to Democracy Monument, and the memorial
was cancelled. Additionally, there are unconfirmed reports
that the military was ordered to prevent some protesters from
attending the demonstration at Sanam Luang. End Summary.

Protest Suicide
---------------

2. (U) On the evening of October 31, Nuamthong Phaiwan, a
taxi driver who made headlines on September 30 by ramming his
taxi into a tank in Bangkok, committed suicide by hanging
himself from a footbridge in front of the Thai Rath
newspaper's headquarters. The body was found shortly after
midnight on November 1. Two letters and several newspaper
clippings were found near the body. The letters state that
Nuamthong chose to take his life as a form of protest against
the September 19 military coup. One letter reportedly says
that he specifically chose to kill himself to protest a
statement made by junta spokesperson Col. Akkana Thiparot
implying that no one would physically harm themselves to
protest the coup. (Note: Akkana has apologized for his
comments and offered condolences to Nuamthong's family. End
note.)

Sanam Luang - Again
-------------------

3. (U) On the evening of November 1, a group calling itself
"White Dove 2006" staged a demonstration in Bangkok's Sanam
Luang. (Note: Sanam Luang is the historically significant
site of anti-government demonstrations that ushered out
unpopular government in the 1970s, 1990s, and site of the
massive anti-Thaksin protests earlier this year. End note.)
The organizers are known Thaksin supporters Chanapat Na
Nakhon and Waranchai Chokchana. Poloff observed the
demonstration and estimates that it drew approximately 200
protesters, most of whom appeared to be taxi drivers.
Protest organizers issued a statement demanding that the
interim government lift martial law, revoke the interim
constitution, reinstate the 1997 constitution, and hold
national elections in 60 days.

4. (SBU) The demonstration was peaceful. There were 10-15
uniformed police officers stationed on the edge of the small
crowd, but they did not interfere with the protest. Some
protesters approached Poloff to complain about the presence
of plain-clothed security officers mingling in the crowd.
Protesters also complained to Poloff that security officials
were preventing people from traveling to Sanam Luang from
several parts of Bangkok. (Comment: Poloff drove his car
across Bangkok to Sanam Luang and saw no evidence of any
police or military effort to prevent people from reaching the
demonstration. Some newspaper accounts on November 2 report
that Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtas ordered the military to
block people from traveling to the demonstration. We have
been unable to confirm these reports. End Comment.)

5. (U) Though the demonstration was planned in advance of
Nuamthong's suicide, protest organizers contacted the family
and offered to stage a memorial service at Democracy Monument
as a part of their demonstration. Nuamthong's wife
reportedly agreed and was in the process of transporting the
body to Democracy Monument from a suburb of Bangkok when she
was stopped by police. The police reportedly persuaded the
widow to cancel her plans and return Nuamthong's body to the
temple.

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