The Big Interview: Uncle Statue

For the past five months, pro-democracy protests have taken place throughout the country with regular rallies in Bangkok and the surrounding areas. Protesters come and go depending on their schedule and even the leaders don’t show up to every single protest.

But one man has made it his mission to show up and show his support to the cause.

He’s there at every protest, with his face painted white, words written in black, and never utters a word unless someone asks him to. No one really knows where he came from, no one really knows who he is. But when you see him, you remember.

The students refer to him as ลุงหุ่น, or Uncle Statue.

We finally got the inside scoop.

Tell us, how did this all begin?

At first, I came to cook for the protesters during the 2010 red shirt movement. I joined their rallies. Then the crackdown happened.

I’ve always meditated, so as the crackdown was happening, I went and sat and meditated on a military tank, while holding a flag. I wasn’t thinking anything much of it, but people came over and showed their support and put white powder on my face (laughs), they thought I was putting on a show.

They started to give me money, and someone gave me a bag [money bag]. People kept coming in to give me money — from banknotes to coins — I remember I got around 4,500THB that day.

I had a realization, all this money from strangers and people, they must want me to do something with it, to create something. So I tried thinking outside the box. I thought about it, and was wondering — did they want me to perform a certain activity? To protest?

I was thinking about something along those lines, and tried to figure it out.

Has your political stance changed in any way?

[During the Red Shirts movement], I moved from Rajdamnern to Rajprasong, and was blocked from entering. I am also friends with Ko Tee, who was arrested for 112. He’s the 112, but not me (chuckles). I am not the extreme type. I will not go that far. I am just the type that demands for democracy. To be honest, I was actually a Red Shirt that loves the monarchy, during the reign Rama 9. At the time, I didn’t know as much as I know now.

Now, I am [thinking] just like the kids — I want the truth. When we find the truth, only truth will be able to win and save us. We have got to think and act like them [the kids], and follow their lead — they are our future.

What was your inspiration behind this display of protest?

First of all, it is faith. Faith in the fight.

I educated myself about our history, such as what happened on October 6 [Thammasat University Massacre]. So I discovered the truth and that gave me the strength and faith in the fight. The students back then sacrificed their lives for the people, the future, the greater good. They were shot by bullets, they were framed; it has always been like this throughout history — and we must keep fighting.

But this time, the kids today are not scared. So I am here to be their entertainment, to make them happy.

What do you do (in real life)?

I install and repair satellite dishes and CCTV cameras. I will accept jobs for the morning only and come to the protests in the afternoon. I accepted three jobs this morning and actually started working at 6:30am.

I would get dressed and put on makeup in the car.

How do you feel now, when more and more people are recognizing you?

To be honest, I feel very proud and flattered when people take my photos and post them somewhere. I am humbled that I have become a sort of inspiration and joy for the kids — to show them that even when I am this old, I am still willing to fight.

They will come and wai me and tell me to fight on — saying loong su na (keep fighting, uncle!).

They call me Loong Hoon (Uncle Statue), they would greet me and even donate money.

Honestly, it’s great, I am so proud. It’s as if I am a celebrity, something of importance in this fight for the kids.

What inspired these outfits?

In the beginning, it was just powder, literally just trial and error. I tested out with many face paints — some were powdery, some were very sticky, some were so difficult to remove.

It takes a lot of process, many steps along the way. When I sweat, the water will run down and kind of ruin the makeup.

Did you know that it took me around 6-7 months to find the right paint for my face? But it does wash away when you use water.

I have never been inspired by other people, this was all from my imagination. My inspiration would probably be from the fellow people, protesters, the ones chanting these catchphrases and sayings, like “hea” and all.

I assembled this all myself, because you cannot find this in markets.

In the end, I am just here, fighting peacefully.

Each time, I notice that you have different outfits, would you be aware of the theme ahead of each protest?

I find out [about the theme] the same way everyone does. Sometimes it would even be too late so I’d just dress as one of the students. For example, if the main point being made is 112, what the protesters are demanding, or what is happening and what needs to be said at the moment.

In the end, I am demanding for democracy and human rights.

I want to tell the story through my words and display and believe that that can communicate across all agencies and channels.

I made all these myself, they’re all tailor-made. Right now the trend is the students. I would dress and look like the students because they are the most influential and powerful.

What makes you think they are influential, and what’s the difference between now and then during your Red Shirts protest?

They are remarkably different.

Now, the children and youth have so much power. There has never been a time in Thai history that kids of all ages, from kindergarten to elementary, have come out to protest because they have been abused — from haircuts to sexual harassment.

When this kind of image is sent out, it is very powerful. Never has there been a time in history where this many young people are out on the streets demanding for change.

Why is it so powerful now? Why is democracy so important to you — to the point that you’ve never missed a day of protest?

It is very important. First, it affects all of us — in terms of the economy and our well-being.

Second, if politics was good, kids wouldn’t be out here right now. The [current government] came here in the incorrect way, and they stole this power from someone else. They say they are not corrupt, but how do you explain the 250 senators?

This constitution was written to serve their interests. It is illegal.

After all that is said and done, do you still have hope for this movement?

I will continue to do this until the kids stop fighting, until we have true democracy. 

No matter which generation. I will continue to fight tirelessly for democracy, for truth.

No matter which era or which government, if there is injustice and wrongdoing, I will come out and fight for justice and righteousness. Even when I know that it is risky, I believe this is how we will move forward.

I believe that your experiences, life, and history will always teach you something.

You can see the double standards everywhere. The other side doesn’t get tear gases but the students do. Where is the humanity? We are all fellow Thais.

All the government is trying to do is oppress their people. You bring them down, make them struggle, make them poor. They think that by making the people poor they will become weaker and they will stop.

But in reality that is the opposite. The poorer we get, the more we struggle, the more we fight to survive.

The lower we get, the harder we will fight.

Do you have any final message? What would you like to communicate to the people?

Educate yourself on the truth, have faith in what you believe in, and have faith in the truth that will happen in Thailand. Try to consider what the other side is thinking or saying, and weigh it out — don’t just listen to theories and accusations.

Sticking with this Us vs. Them narrative is what will end us all.

Disclaimer: Uncle Statue’s comments regarding 112 has been clarified and on paragraph 11 for clarity and contextual purposes.

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