Protest Diary 1: Thammasat and my political awakening

I first went to a political protest with my mother at the beginning of the red shirt movement in 2008. I didn’t know what the rally was about only that my mother was taking me to Bangkok, and me being a kid from the provinces, I wanted to go see Bangkok.

I was lucky that the events of May 2010 happened during the school year otherwise my mother and I might have been there in the situation.

I remember watching the news in horror as Central World burned, as soldiers aimed their guns on citizens. Everything looked terrible and scary to me.

After the event, being in a group of redshirts became a point of shame in society. I was scolded by teachers in school for the burning of Bangkok. It made me confused, I didn’t know what side to choose.

I didn’t really have the confidence to express myself politically until I passed my entrance exam into Thammasat University’s political science faculty.

I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel towards the university for how open it is and my professor for creating an atmosphere where we can question the status quo. I remember vividly on one of my first days in class, my professor said, “You don’t have to believe me because I may be lying to you.”

It feels strange to say because all my life I’ve been taught to believe my teachers without question but here the teachers ask you to go out and find information for yourself, to think for yourself and to contradict them when you have a different opinion.

My group of friends has also engendered this political awakening. It suffices to say that students in Thammasat’s political science program live for politics. We can talk about it anytime and anywhere, at dinner, late at night, when we’re out drinking. We don’t always agree but we respect each other’s opinions and value each other as friends.

Last week, I joined the rally at Thammasat University. It is the first political rally that I attended where I made the decision from myself self and I wasn’t accompanying others.

I have to admit that I was a little scared because I knew that undercover police and soldiers would be there taking pictures of the people attending and of the rallies.

But when I saw my friends from the faculty, the other students, I was comforted. The fear was gone, transformed into courage.

I wanted to ask the police, why do I have to be afraid merely because I want to express my political opinion, or for wanting something better.

I am a normal person and expressing oneself shouldn’t be a crime. If you were lucky enough to be there with my friends and me, you will know that it was a welcoming atmosphere, a friendly one, we were all together to show the government that we wanted change, that we would accept a dictatorship no longer.

There were those that say we shouldn’t rally because of the coronavirus but even that was thought of by the organizers who asked the municipality to check for at-risk people and hand out masks.

What the government doesn’t want you to know, and what the government is trying to stop is that this protest was organized by students who are frustrated by the constant cheating the government employs whether its state power, judicial power or other organizations to silence us and to get what they want.

They think that we do not know better, but this only makes us angrier.

I hope that this small gathering of students is the start of a movement that questions who we are as a society and whether the society we’re building is one we’re proud to hand off to our children. Its time we create a quality society, a fair society so that our children will no longer have to rally like we are now.

(Translated by Cod Satrusayang)

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