Thailand: Poet murdered; concern mounts for safety of writers

RAN 10/14 10 June 2014                                                                                                                

Mainuen K KintheeSix weeks after the murder of prominent ‘red-shirt’ poet Mainueng K. Kunthee, who was shot dead on 23 April 2014 by unknown assailants, freedom of expression is severely suppressed and a climate of fear prevails. The motive for Mainueng K. Kunthee’s murder is not known, although it is thought that he may have been targeted for his political activism amidst the escalating political violence in the country at the time. PEN International condemns his killing, and calls for a full and impartial investigation so that those responsible can be brought to justice. PEN International is deeply concerned for the safety of writers, academics and activists in Thailand, who are increasingly at risk of attack and imprisonment solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, and reminds the authorities of their obligations to protect freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.



Take action: Please send appeals:

  • Condemning the murder of prominent ‘red-shirt’ poet Mainueng K. Kunthee, and expressing fears that he could have been targeted for his political activism;
  • Calling for a full and impartial investigation into his killing so that those responsible can be brought to justice, and reminding the authorities of their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party.
  • Expressing concern for the safety of writers, academics and activists in Thailand, who are at risk of attack and imprisonment solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions.

Appeals to:

Leader of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)
General Prayuth Chan-ocha
Royal Thai Army Headquarters,
Rachadamnoen Nok Road,
Bangkok 10200,
Fax: (+66-2) 226 1838
Salutation: Dear General

Please contact this office if sending appeals after 10 July 2014, and please keep us informed of your activities.


A month before the military coup, on 23 April 2014, poet and political activist Kamol Duangphasuk, widely known by his pen-name Mainueng K. Kunthee, was shot several times by an unidentified gunman, who had approached his car at a restaurant parking lot in northern Bangkok. The gunman escaped on a motorcycle. Mainueng later died in the hospital.

Mainueng K. Kunthee, aged 45, has been widely known for his poetry since the late 1980s. His poems were published in a number of magazines including the Matichon Weekly in the 1990s, and according to Wat Walayangoon, another well-known red shirt writer and poet, he was popular for his direct poetic style and for voicing strong political messages. His poems call for social justice, the rights of the rural poor and for challenging the forces of oppression.

Mainueng strongly opposed the 2006 military coup and the subsequent crackdown on critics of the monarchy. He took part in many rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the “Red Shirts,” and became known as a “Red Shirts poet.” He was also very active in the campaign against Article 112 of the Penal Code, or lèse majesté law, which has been widely used to criminalise free expression and imprison writers, journalists and publishers. His murder is one of a string of violent attacks on activists and academics known to be critical of the monarchy and the lèse majesté law. For more details see Human Rights Watch’s article.

After the violent crackdown on ‘red-shirts’ in 2010, Mainueng withdrew from political rallies because of credible safety concerns, although many of his poems composed during the anti-coup era continued to be read at red-shirt gatherings. He became politically active again when the controversial amnesty draft bills were put before the Lower House in October 2013. Prior to his death he had been publicly campaigning for the granting of bail to lèse majesté detainees.

Mainueng made his living from a small restaurant, called the Duck Poet Society, specialising in duck dishes. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

The following poem was written by Mainueng in April 2010, shortly before the military started to crack down on the red-shirts:


‘Molding the Violent Passion’ - Translated into English by Suda Rangkupan.

Molding the violent passion for democracy,

We are blamed terrorists amid the capital.

Oh, the great capital city, yet so empty, so hollow.

Is this the Kingdom of Deva or Satan?


Molding the violent passion for democracy,

We are blamed terrorists, hanged to be killed.

Wanna keep it, the city of angels, of heavens?

Let us make the legacy of the absolute oppressor to an end!!!


Molding the violent passion for democracy,

We, with no guns, grip the bamboo stick against the bullet.

Under the shade of the merciful Bhodi,

Why? So cruel, so inhuman!


Molding the violent passion for the people,

We endure against the attack of the heaven’s destiny.

Our feet stand on the justice.

Low class people strive for peace all our hearts.


Molding the violent passion, we are those who are passionate,

We break the chain for the freedom of the commoners,

This is the last struggle!

We shall fight wholeheartedly, and we shall win!

Military Coup

After nearly seven months of escalating political violence in Thailand, a military coup d’état led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha was declared on 22 May 2014. The coup has imposed martial law and a curfew, dissolved the Senate – the only remaining national government body with elected members – and taken on wide-ranging executive and legislative powers. Political gatherings have been banned and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has imposed strict censorship of the internet and control of the media.

Several television and radio stations were shut down in the early days after the coup though most have since resumed broadcasting.  Facebook was briefly blocked by the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry at the request of the military on 28 May, although the military denied this. However, on 9 June, Telenor, the Norwegian telecoms company which runs Thai operator DTAC acknowledged that it had implemented an official request to block the site on 28 May. An interview with an anonymous journalist describing how journalists are self-censoring may be read here. On 25 May 2014 the NCPO issued order no 37 assigning jurisdiction to military courts for offences against the royal family (articles 107-112 of the Penal Code) and most offences against internal security (articles 113-118) as well as offences stipulated by orders of the NCPO.

Since the coup, scores of protesters and critics of the coup, including prominent politicians and academics, have been summoned to report to the army and at least a hundred have been arrested. They include journalists Thanapol Ewsakul, editor of the hard-hitting political magazine Fa Diew Kan (Same Sky) and Pravit Rojanaphruk, senior reporter of The Nation, who were both detained on 23 and 24 May after being summoned by the military. Rojnaphruk was released after a week, and an interview with him after his release may be read here.

Thirty-five prominent academics were summoned on 25 May, including the following scholars who advocate democracy and amendments to the lèse majesté law: Thammasat lecturers Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Worachet Pakeerut and Sawatri Suksri (the latter two of the Nitirat or Enlightened Jurists group); Suda Rangupan, a former Chulalongkorn University lecturer, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Kyoto University. Mr Pavin, a frequent contributor to the Bangkok Post and other media, said by telephone from Japan that he would not turn himself in. It is thought the others have also chosen not to report to the authorities. Refusal to respond to a summons is a crime carrying a maximum prison term of two years and/or a 40,000 baht (USD1,300) fine.


For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: