In their mastery of methods to halt the political momentum of student protests, the Thai authorities have turned to a most unexpected tactic: to make it as hard as possible for protesters to defecate by threatening toilet truck drivers not to come to the protest sites on 19 September.
To hold a two-day protest at Thammasat University, the organizers had multitudinous items to prepare, ranging from food, water, a stage, electricity and sanitation. On 19 September it was expected that 50,000-100,000 protesters will come, so their job was not easy. But the police have made their job even more difficult by trying to obstruct the protest.
Pakorn Porncheewangkun, one of the organizers of the 19 September protest, told Prachatai that police tried to prevent toilet trucks from coming to the protest sites by threatening their drivers and staff.
He said that before the protest, he originally wanted to hire toilet trucks from the one company he has always been using, but then he felt that something might go wrong. So he hired toilet trucks from another company as well. Pakorn did not give us permission to specify the name of the companies for the sake of their safety.
To make sure that protesters have ‘luxury experiences’ when using the toilets, he said he paid 361,000 baht for the toilet trucks, water trucks, and vacuum trucks. The money came from people’s donations. However, his concerns started to become real.
Caption: Porncheewangkun and bottles of water with Kai Meaw’s ‘Ta Sai’ stickers which he prepared for the protesters on 19 September. Source: Pakorn Porncheewangkun
Pakorn said police went to threaten the owners of both companies, but they did not give in to fear because they believe in democracy. So instead they went to threaten their drivers and staff at their homes and asked them not to come to the protest site.
Out of fear for their safety, employees of one of the companies decided not to come to work on 19-20 September. So the company owner said they wanted to give a refund.
Even though 5 trucks withdrew out of fear, the other 10 from the other company said they would come anyway. Pakorn hired additional vacuum and water trucks to support the existing toilet trucks and make sure protesters get timely access to toilets.
Even then, police still tried hard. On the day of the 19 September protest, they tried to block the toilet trucks from coming to the protest sites. Some of them were blocked on Phra Pin Klao Bridge.
On September 19, the Royal Thai Police has deployed 8,550 policemen and policewomen at 14 spots including Thammasat University, the Royal Palace, the Democracy Monument, the Jo Po Ro intersection, Makawan Rangsan bridge and other junctions close to the protest sites.
Luckily, protesters were able to get access to toilets after they successfully managed to get into Thammasat University before noon. Our reporter said that they could access toilets at the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy in day time.
Toilet trucks finally arrived at 16.00 after they successfully managed to get away from the police. Pakorn described that the protesters quickly lined up to use the toilets.
According to Sanitation First, an organisation that focuses on the right to sanitation and hygiene, “in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared sanitation a universal human right. This means that everyone, everywhere, has the right to a toilet.”
Pakorn Porncheewangkun is a former red shirt supporter. Recently, he announced that he was ready to support any group of student protesters in the democratic cause. He believes that the government is allowing the protests because they know in the long run the students cannot afford to keep holding protests. So he supports the students to help increase their chance of success.
In a recent protest where the Bad Students debated with Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Pakorn told PPTV that he had spent almost 200,000 baht to help the students organize the protest. The money came from people’s donations.
Pakorn became widely known after he bought one of a set of controversial paintings that depicted Lord Buddha as the superhero Ultraman for 4,500 baht in 2019. They were painted by a student at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University who later had to apologize to hardline Buddhist groups for tarnishing their religion after they asked the Crime Suppression Division to prosecute her.
Despite a request from the University, he refused to return the paintings knowing that they would be destroyed. Instead, he put them up for auction and donated some of the money to the young painter and hospitals in Nakhon Ratchasima. The first painting raised 600,000 baht while the second raised 2 million baht.