BANGKOK — Five members of an anti-monarchy music band left their hideouts in Laos for France on Friday as they pledged to continue their cause.
Photos of Faiyen members Nithiwat Wannasiri, Worravut Thueakchaiyaphum, Romchalee Sombulrattanakul, Parinya Cheewinkulpathom, and Trairong Sinseubpo arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport surfaced yesterday. It is understood that the five will now proceed with seeking refugee status in France.
Nitiwat Wannasiri, arguably the most vocal of the band members, vowed not to live in quiet exile.
“I did not come to escape but came to continue the fight. The lives of comrades forced to disappear or be killed must not be in vain,” wrote Nithiwat on Facebook early Saturday morning, Bangkok time. He declined to comment when reached by a reporter.
Against the background of a number of exiled republican dissidents being assassinated and abducted in recent months, overseas activists lobbied hard to secure the rescue of the musicians, who fled to Laos after the May 2014 coup.
“It’s been a stressful seven months of struggle to find a country in the democratic world that would recognize the importance of saving the lives of these political exiles in Laos. Seven months during which the lives of eight Thai people in political exile are presumed terminated,” one such activist involved in the effort wrote on Facebook.
Late last year, the bodies of two Laos-based republicans floated up the Thai side of the Mekong river in Nakhon Phanom province. At least six other exiled republicans are currently presumed missing. They include well-known Redshirt Surachai Danwattananusorn, who disappeared late last year in Laos. Many of his friends and followers believe he is dead.
Not all Thais are pleased that the band is one step closer to security though. Nithiwat posted one scathing comment from a Thai woman living in France.
“You guys are hanging out together in France now. You guys are from hell. I work hard every day to pay tax but the [French] government admits only scum [into the country]… If I see you in Paris, I’ll spit on your faces,” wrote Facebook user Varisa Uenkaet.
Nithiwat replied, “Bring it on!”
France has become a hub of political fugitives, with at least nine Thais currently living there to avoid prosecution on royal defamation charges back home.
Nitiwat and other exiles have said in previous interviews to the media that they lived in fear of retaliation from the Thai authorities.
Earlier this week, fugitive academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun revealed that a masked assailant broke into his home in Japan and sprayed him with unknown chemical on July 8. Pavin, who often lashed out at the Thai royal family, said the attacker fled the scene after he and his partner gave chase.
Note: Some details in this article were omitted at the request of Khaosod’s management.