Opinion: Unmistakable Message to Thailand Surfaces in Mekong

From left, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatchan Boonphawal, and Kraidet Luelert, in undated photos provided by Pranee Danwattananusorn. All three went missing in December from Laos, with all but Surachai now identified as corpses which washed up in the Mekong River days before the New Year began.

Re•tention: Pravit RojanaphrukNow that police have confirmed through DNA the identities of at least two Thais murdered and mutilated horrendously, I wonder what kind of hatred, cruelty or inhumanity could be responsible.

The two, who fled to Laos after the 2014 coup, were bound, disemboweled and stuffed with concrete. Their bodies were wrapped in rice sacks, another layer of green fishnet and thrown into the Mekong River.

At least two surfaced and have been identified as the anti-monarchist pair Chatchan “Phoo Chana” Boonphawal, 56, and Kraidet “Kasalong” Luelert, 47.

Read: Police Deny 3rd Corpse Was Found in Mekong


The two disappeared from Laos in early December along with a well-known republican Surachai Danwattananusorn, a 76-year-old, colorful former communist rebel turned Redshirt opposed to rule by the military and monarchy.

Was it just sheer hatred and vengeance? Or were their executioners merely “professionals” carrying out an operation?

Was the fact that at least two if not three bodies floated to the Thai side of the river in Nakhon Phanom province an unintended coincidence? Or was it a warning to the rest of the anti-monarchists who dare speak out?

A body is retrieved from the Mekong River on the border of Nakhon Phanom province in an undated photo.
A body is retrieved from the Mekong River on the border of Nakhon Phanom province in an undated photo.

I’m not alone in holding that the killings, which brought to five the number of identical disappearances since the coup, was about “making an example.”

The military government insisted Wednesday after the two DNA results came out, that they had nothing to do with it.

Whoever ordered the killings, when I spoke to the son of Phoo Chana on Monday, he dared not reveal his or his father’s real names. It wasn’t until Thursday that the police made their identities public.

The climate of fear is real.

The remaining fugitive anti-monarchists in Laos, believed to number about a dozen, are now not only in fear but mortal danger.

For four years, many of these people tried to obtain asylum in the West but failed. Now they know they are sitting ducks and at the mercy of the Lao security officers who keep an eye on them.

One of them, 20-something Nithiwat Wannasuri, is one of those who’s tried and failed to win asylum. A member of an act that penned anti-monarchy and anti-junta music, Nithiwat, who believes he could be next, is very bitter about what’s happening but refuses to be quiet. He said he’s moving every four days and posts angry updates on social about their plight and the situation in Thailand.

On Facebook, those supporting their cause have posted tributes praising as martyrs the two men as well as Surachai, whose wife Pranee Danwattanusorn, now says that he must be dead.


“The world have spoken your name: #Surachai …” wrote one Facebook user noting that 13 international news agencies have reported about the three.

To some ultra-royalists, it was time to celebrate and express schadenfreude.

Posting on Tuesday after the DNA tests were revealed, Facebook user Sarawut Niamloi instructed those “next in the queue to be ready for your turn.”