Skip to main content

Too young to die: Child victims of Thailand's violent unrest

By Saima Mohsin, CNN
updated 2:29 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
  • Brother and sister killed in grenade attack at shopping mall in Bangkok
  • Latest act of violence as anti-government protests in Thai turn more violent
  • Father: They were just innocent children, they had nothing to do with this (political issue)

Bangkok (CNN) -- It's a life experience nobody would want to endure -- attending your child's funeral.

But that's what some parents have had to do in Thailand in recent days, as the country's anti-government unrest has taken an increasingly ugly, more violent turn with children killed or injured, their tiny bodies maimed and turned lifeless by shrapnel or gunshots.

A six-year-old-girl, a four-year-old boy and a woman of about 40 died when a grenade detonated at an anti-government rally outside a shopping mall in the Ratchaprasong area of Bangkok. A five-year-old girl was killed by a stray bullet when attackers opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in eastern Trat province.

The two youngsters in the capital were siblings, the children of a working-class family. The father, Thayakorn Yotubon, works as a personal assistant and driver -- he told me he spent every single night with his children and would never leave them alone. In one of the photographs at his children's funeral, the little girl, nicknamed by her family as "Cake," (the brother was known as "Kane") is wearing a t-shirt that says "I love Papa."

"She asked me to buy it for her to wear on Fathers' Day," he told me, tears rolling down his face.

Special day out

On the scene of protests in Bangkok
Thai tensions erupt into gunfire, 4 dead
Life in Bangkok amidst political chaos

The day they were caught in the attack was a special day out because their aunt was visiting from out of town. She had brought Cake, Kane and her son out for a treat to the local shopping mall. They were waiting for a tuk-tuk -- a rickshaw taxi -- when a grenade was thrown into the crowds close to an anti-government rally outside the mall.

Cake and Kane died from their injuries. Their cousin, who is 8-years old, is in critical condition in a hospital. We found his small, blood-drenched baseball cap at the scene.

I have been covering the Thai unrest story from various protest sites, especially outside government buildings, but this time it was at the funeral of two young children. As we looked on and filmed, I questioned if we should be there -- if we should be filming their grief. But the family invited the cameras in. They didn't stop us and all spoke to my team.

Despite my moment of doubt, I knew this was an important aspect of this whole story that needs to be shown to those involved. As Thayakorn so clearly put it: "My kids were just children, sweet children. They were too young, they should not have done this to them ...They were just innocent children, they had nothing to do with this (political issue)."

What's behind the Thai unrest?

Their mother seated towards the back, was unable to bring herself to lift her head, wipe away her tears or talk to those sitting beside her. I watched as she was helped to her feet by family members, helping her take each shaky step towards her children's bodies.

"These are not my children," she cried. "They don't look like that."

Children's bodies

Her children were laid out with their bodies bandaged and stitched together, their faces without expression, without the joy and happiness their father described to me.

"They were happy, innocent and sensitive kids," said Thayakorn. "They loved to be around us -- their mum and dad all the time. They were sweet kids."

This was a Buddhist ceremony. During the last rites, family members pour water through the person's hands to symbolize the return of the body to the elements. But these hands were far too tiny, far too angelic, delicate and innocent to be there.

I watched as the mother struggled to perform the ceremony. She couldn't look at their faces -- she wouldn't look -- unable to accept or bear the burden of this loss.

Even the Buddhist monk appeared lost for words as he looked on.

I have been told that Buddhist funerals in Thailand are often somber events, with little emotion and outward shows of grief. But the passing of two innocent children in such circumstances was too much for all in attendance. Family members and friends were so distraught they could not utter words of condolence or comfort to ease the mother and father's pain.

And when the father came to perform the rituals -- he dropped to his knees, talking to his children. Crying out in disbelief: "You were too young to die."

In this corner of the capital, at least one family had paid too high a price for the political turmoil sweeping across the country.

Part of complete coverage on
Thailand coup
updated 3:21 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
The military leader who took control of Thailand in a coup in May has been named the country's prime minister.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Thailand's new military ruler has added a personal touch to the post-coup charm offensive, writing the lyrics to a pro-junta ballad.
updated 1:03 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Pageant winner Weluree "Fai" Ditsayabut has relinquished her title under a barrage of criticism over her comments about red shirts.
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
They may not be led by Katniss Everdeen, but Thai protesters have adopted one of her symbols. Jessica King reports.
updated 3:29 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
The general who seized control of Thailand in a coup has announced he has received royal endorsement to run the country.
updated 3:01 PM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is no longer in military custody, according to a highly placed source in the junta.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Sun May 25, 2014
Photos of the demonstrations against military rule in Thailand.
updated 4:03 PM EDT, Sat May 24, 2014
U.S. suspends $3.5 million in aid to Thailand after the military took charge of the country.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Thailand's military declared Thursday that it has taken control of the country in a coup. What does it mean? Here's our explainer.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
If you're planning on visiting the country, you should be aware of what's going on.
updated 4:55 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, reacts to the Thai military coup.
updated 8:04 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
The Thai military has censored TV and radio -- and social media could be next.
updated 2:02 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Many people are going about their lives as normal -- some are even responding playfully.
One iReporter living in Bangkok says he is more worried about neighborhood snakes than the military coup.
updated 5:48 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Thailand's military chief announces coup in a televised national address.