Student protesters of today reflect on October 14 memory, lessons

Thursday marks the 48th anniversary of the events of the October 14 popular uprising. It’s still remembered as one of the darkest days in Thai political history but also one that offers a degree of hope to those who study it.

To gain a sense of the importance of that day in the current political context, Thai Enquirer spoke to some of the young activists and pro-democracy protest leaders about the importance of October 14.

Reflections on yesterday

Chinnawat Chankrachang, a protest leader of Nonthaburi New Generation Network, was charged with violating Article 112, also known as lèse majesté, after taking part in anti-government rallies on November 25, 2020. 

He told Thai Enquirer on Tuesday that he wants to see change in our generation.

“For 29 years of my life, I’ve seen all fights adopt the slogan ‘let it end in our generation,” Chinnawat said.

“However, it never did. This time hopefully we finally put an end to the dictatorship.”

Chinnawat said that in a democracy, everyone should be treated equally under the same constitution which is the law that governs the land regardless of wealth or status. He noted that today’s demands are similar to what has happened in 1973 and builds on that legacy.

“Young people are coming out stronger as the authorities are no longer able to use overly restrictive laws to harass them into silence,” he said.

“Leaders use the power of social media to spread messages widely, this way, the government has failed to contain the knowledge and keep it away from us.” 

Chinnawat is currently facing 28 different charges for violating the emergency decree.

“I believe that victory will not be stolen [as it was in October 1973] as people are aware of what’s happening.” 

The view from the north

Sarawut Kulomturapoj, the leader of the Chiang Rai No Padetkan (Chiang Rai No Dictatorship) car mob, said that being detained for 112 has been a badge of honor because it shows that he is fighting for freedom.

“October 14 is a day of bravery as I see it,” Sarawut said. “Hundreds of thousands of young people gathered to call for freedom in an era without social media to help them organize.”

“History in recent years repeats itself,” he said. “We are in this endless loop.”

Sarawut warned that the fight was just beginning in this latest chapter.   

“We have not yet won a true victory. The demands of young people in 1973 and today are similar as they demand constitution changes, the end of military power, and a redefinition of the role of our institutions.”

Sarawut added that the protesters of today have a good chance breaking out of the cyclical nature of history.

“Our future is not destined to reflect the past, though victory, just like in history, demands some sacrifices for freedom.” 

Targeting the young

Jatuporn Sae-Ung, 23, is another student accused of royal defamation. She told Thai Enquirer that the movement is picking up pace. 

“We have taken our rally to a new level,” Jatuporn says. “We demand reform of [the institution] and an end to military coups. It may seem like we won in the past, but that was not a true victory. It did not last long. The same situation as October 14 is happening today.”

Jatuporn said that the students of today are learning from history and will adopt new methods to try and find a different outcome. Oftentimes this can lead to disagreements between various protest groups but the goal is ultimately the same.

“We are different groups with the same purpose. For example, people in Ratsadon [a different protest group to Jatuporn’s] are different and they are entitled to their opinions, only the enemy remains the same.” 

Her struggle for democracy has affected her personal life, she said.

“I have distanced myself from people I care about. I’ve been threatened and harassed constantly by state officials. I am also facing charges under Section 112, most likely for wearing Thai traditional dress at the protest fashion show.”  

The state has even taken to targeting high school students for their involvement in protests.

Kamonchanok Rueankham, 14, a junior high school student decided to give a speech questioning what the government should do in regards to education.

“Education is political. As part of the ongoing fight, the movement patterns changed, but never do the demands. I have experienced inaccurate information contained in the classroom, and can’t help but to doubt the government is misleading and distorting history,” she told Thai Enquirer.

“Deep down I fear government violence. But what’s happening is not right. I cannot predict what may happen in the future, but I will also continue to stand up for what’s right,” she said alluding to those that came before her.

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