Dechathorn “Hock” Bamrungmuan’s heart dropped as soon as he scanned the leaked police document from his phone.
“Samranrat Police Station is issuing this letter request to revoke the passports of 13 political suspects under the criminal case 428/2563.”
As he kept meticulously studying the words, it became clear that he was viewing a request from police to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ to suspend his passport.
“I was so shocked,” Dechathorn told Thai Enquirer. “I wondered, ‘Why is my name on this list?’ I am not even one of the leaders of the mob. I am not even very active anymore.”
He claims that this leaked police request is proof that the government is still oppressing him and others even after many activists have distanced themselves from the anti-government movement.
The leaked document’s appearance comes a week after the Constitutional Court ruled that three prominent activists were guilty of attempting to overthrow the royal institution. The ruling said that activists, Arnon Nampa, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul had committed treason in speeches they gave last year. The judges also stated that anyone connected to activists “network” should cease all political activities or face consequences.
Hock took to Facebook live on Monday night to go public with the new information. What worries him is the aching feeling that he won’t be able to escape intimidation from the state even as he steps away from the movement.
Dechathorn, more widely known as Hockhacker, or “Hock,” believes the passport revocations are linked to an eerie blacklist that became public not long after the protests sprung up in July, 2020. As he continued to read, it dawned on him that the authorities were still going after him for his involvement in the protest movement.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told Thai Enquirer that passport suspension under arrest warrants is common, especially for those who could be seeking to flee the country. But all of the names in the letter are not under current arrest warrants, and all have been granted bail, the legal group said.
It’s not the first time that the government revoked the passports of government critics.
Back in 2016, a leading member of the Pheu Thai Party filed a lawsuit against the military government for “falsely” revoking his passport after he made critical comments. The passports were eventually returned to the minister after public condemnation and significant pressure.
Hock is a famous rapper with the group Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD), a team of artists who rose to fame for tracks that openly criticized Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha’s administration. Their most popular single, “Prathet Ku Mee,”was viewed over 100 million times on Youtube. The music landed him in serious trouble with police, and he’s still fighting off a sedition charge from August, 2020.
“It was because of the first major mob in the public,” he said. “Many other activists who you probably know were there too. Anon, Mike, Penguin, many others. But now most of the main leaders are in prison.”
But when his wife became pregnant with his second daughter earlier this year, he decided it was time to walk away from the protest movement. He has not been to a rally in almost a year and has taken actions to remove himself quietly to spend more time with his family.
“So, why are they still interested in people like us?” he asks.
The document listed five other people in apparent connection to the anti-government movement. It justified the passport revocations by claiming that their behavior was “against the constitution.”
The other names on the list include, Jutathip Sirikhan, Korakot Sanegyenphan, Suwanna Tanlek, Baramee Chaiyarat, and Panumas Singporm. The document states a request of 13 passport revocations, but only six names were stated in the file.
Jutathip Sirikan, one of the activists whose name is also listed, says that having her passport revoked feels in some ways worse than facing legal charges. She added that the government is overusing the law to silence anyone involved in the protests.
“I was completely not okay with this,” Jutathip told Thai Enquirer. “I need to travel according to the major I am studying, which is South East Asian studies. And I’m at this stage of life where I feel like I need to travel to learn,” says the former Free Youth leader.
“I feel like my rights are being taken away. It’s [traveling ] just a normal thing that other people do, but now I can’t. Facing criminal charges is enough, but having my passport cancelled is worse. It’s unfair. This has nothing to do with escaping. Every human being has freedom.”
But like so many other activists who have called for democracy and other reforms, Hock and Juthathip have no intention of leaving Thailand. They feel they have not broken any laws for simply giving speeches or writing music.
“We were shocked because we didn’t think we would get into this again,” Hock said with frustration in his voice.
For Hock, the leak is just another glaring example of state repression—a lived reality he now feels he can’t escape.
“They say they don’t want to control us, but then they do something like this and take away our freedom.”
Additional Reporting by Natcha Patanasophon