The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has requested the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to permit the construction of a small marker at the site of the 12 March 2004 abduction of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, who after three years remains missing (AHRC-OL-010-2007).
As noted in the letter to the governor of Bangkok, the making of people’s monuments is an extremely important part of retaining memory, and continuing the fight for human rights.
Such monuments have been constructed across Asia in recent years.
In Korea there is a very large monument to the 1980 Kwangju Uprising against military rule. The uprising was followed by years of resistance to the dictatorship which included many forms of memorialising and storytelling to keep the spirit of the uprising alive and the people’s memories intact.
In Sri Lanka the AHRC has been involved in the construction of a number of markers. The Monument to the Disappeared at Seeduwa depicts an empty space between two concrete blocks, in the shape of a missing person. It is built at the site where the bodies of two victims of abduction and killing were dumped in 1989. Another monument at the centre of Colombo records the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in three languages. And the monument to murdered human rights defender Fr. Michael Rodrigo is located in Negombo.
In January 2007 the AHRC was honoured to join in the unveiling of a marker in Uttar Pradesh, India to 18 children who died of starvation due to government negligence and caste discrimination. The villagers of Raup themselves erected the monument with determination to say that no more of their children could be allowed to die.
The AHRC is aware of similar monuments in Thailand, and appreciates the symbolic importance attached to them also. The October 14 Monument in Bangkok, to the victims of the struggle against military dictatorship in 1973, is a noteworthy example. More recently, the community of Bo Nok in Phrachuap Khiri Khan erected a memorial for environmentalist Charoen Wat-aksorn, who was killed in 2004.
For these reasons, the AHRC has proposed the construction of a marker at the site where human rights lawyer Somchai was last seen, on Ramkhamhaeng Road, in Bangkok. The purpose of this marker will not only be to recall the struggle for which Somchai paid with his life: it will be to recall all victims of forced disappearance in Thailand, and to make a firm statement that this practice must end.
To design, construct and open the marker, the AHRC is establishing a special fund. We invite any persons or organisations interested to contribute sums to the fund, large or small, to contact the Thailand Desk of the AHRC for further information: email@example.com [Subject: Somchai memorial], or call +852 2698 6339. Other suggestions concerning the proposed marker are also welcome.