Sasiwimol: Mother’s Day Without Mother

Kamlang Kaw
The sentence at the top of an outbound letter from the prison dated 24 July 2015 reads, “It is only our bodies that are separated.” There are precisely 15 lines of text as prescribed by prison regulations. The letter holds a mother’s message of concern for her children: “My two daughters, how are you? What are you doing now? I really miss you. I really want to see your faces. Are you being naughty?  Especially Ice Thim, you definitely must be mischievous, am I right? Do you miss me? It is the rainy season and the air is chilly. Look after yourselves. Do not run and hide and play in the rain together, or you will get sick. How are your studies? Are you doing okay? Do a good job on your homework. Big Mommy told me that Ung-Ing has grown a great deal smarter and that you do all of your younger sister’s homework with her. Study hard, no matter what. Read a lot of books, my smart ones.”
A drawing entitled “Our family,” is drawn in color underneath the text … all four people in the picture are smiling with happiness, just like any ordinary family.
Sasiwimol, or Oe, is 29 years old and worked as a drink server in a hotel in Chiang Mai. She married young and had two daughters with her husband before they separated. The older daughter is 10 years old and in Grade 4. The younger daughter is 7 years old and in Grade 2.
At present, the two daughters are being looked after by their grandmother.  She has chronic illness and works as a cleaner in the same hotel where Oe worked. The entire family lives from hand to mouth.
Oe had no previous conception for what happened to her. She had never even participated in a political demonstration. At the end of September 2014, plainclothes officers searched her rented house and took her computer and mobile phone for inspection. The officers who took her to be interrogated at the police station accused her of making Facebook posts in violation of Article 112 under the name “Rungnapa Khamphichai.” 
Oe says that she told the police officers that she was not the person who made the posts in question. But the officials persuaded her to confess that it was indeed her. They told her that it was not a grave issue and if she pre-emptively confessed, then she would be let go.  
It was a chaotic and tumultuous day for Oe.  Her younger daughter was getting sick and there was no one to look after her, and so she brought her along to the police station. Her boss called her on the telephone looking for her to come to work. Since Oe knew nothing about Article 112 or the judicial process, she confessed. There was no lawyer present, either.
On 13 February 2015, right before Valentine’s Day, Oe had an appointment to meet with police officers. She did not know that she was going to be arrested and charged, and so did not think about fleeing. The officers informed her that she was being charged with violating Article 112 and then took her to the military court.
She has been imprisoned since then. 
307 Sasivimon
The two little girls call their grandmother “Big Mommy,” and they call their mother “Mommy Oe.”
The grandmother of the two little girls says that Ung-Ing, the older daughter, is more attached to her mother than Ice Thim. But Oe and both of her daughters are very close. They often went places and did activities together. Oe took her daughters to school in the mornings and picked them up in the evenings. They watched movies together. Oe especially liked to take them to eat pork barbecue. She took them to eat it three or four times a month, and so the little girls came to like it too.  
Oe pampered her children and frequently bought them toys She and her mother liked to buy things in pairs so that the two little girls matched. 
The grandmother says that both little girls changed from being relatively cheerful to being increasingly quiet and listless after February when their mother was no longer at home.
Each day, the grandmother begins work at daybreak. She must wake the children up and ferry them to school by motorbike. When she gets off work in the evening, she must pick up the pair to return home. On Sunday, she still has to work at the hotel and so the two little girls are home alone. The grandmother calls them every few hours to check on them.
All the grandmother can do is say to her granddaughters: “For now, let Big Mommy be your mother instead of Mommy Oe.”
The pair of little girls do not know why their mother is imprisoned.
It is 7 August 2015, which is only a few days before Mother’s Day.
Their mother must appear before the court  …The children prepare jasmine garlands to give to her when they greet her.
The prison is usually only open for family visitors on working days. This means that the two little girls cannot visit their mother as they must go to school. For the past few months, though, their grandmother has allowed them to leave school to visit their mother when she appears before the military court.
Unlike male prisoners who are detained in a holding cell while at the court, female prisoners are allowed to sit and wait for their turn in court with their families. Big Mommy and other relatives prepare food that Oe likes and they sit and eat together. They eat raw and cooked laab [minced meat salad], dessert, fresh coffee, and fruit, especially durian, which Oe likes. The children hug and snuggle with their mother.
Their mother was late that day because the prison forgot to bring her. The two little girls and their relatives had to sit and wait for a long time. When they grew tired of running around outside the court, they sat and played mobile telephone games on their grandmother’s lap.
Mommy Oe arrived after noon. The two little girls ran to hug their mother as soon as she got out of the truck. Before she was led into the court, they took jasmine garlands that they had prepared out of their bag and bent down to pay respect to their mother.
Mommy Oe’s tears flowed down her cheeks. 
After eating lunch together, the two little girls had to wait downstairs while their mother went into the courtroom upstairs.
The military court read the decision at a fast clip. Oe had just submitted a retraction of her confession in the morning. She was judged to be guilty of 7 violations of Article 112, with a punishment of 8 years per violation for a total imprisonment of 56 years. Her punishment was reduced to 28 years since her confession was beneficial to the court proceedings. The court dismissed the retraction of her confession and the request for a light or suspended sentence. The reason given was that the punishment was already a light one. After the decision, the two little girls saw their mother sobbing loudly while in the embrace of their grandmother and other relatives.  Before Mommy Oe was taken away, she hugged the two of them goodbye.
Grandmother says that when they returned home that day she tried to tell the story of the court decision to her two granddaughters. 
Ung-Ing was able to understand that her mother would have to be in the prison for a long time. But it seemed as though she did know how long 28 years were exactly. She withdrew into silence.
Grandmother says that Ice Thim did not understand. She ran to look at the calendar on the wall and pointed to 28 August 2015. She thinks that her mother will be released on that day. She still asks, “Why hasn’t Mommy come home?”
The daughters are still not aware of, and do not understand, the charges for which their mother was prosecuted. 
Big Mommy cries herself to sleep. On the day of the decision, she was unable to close her eyes to go to sleep. Her chest seizes up and tears still come whenever she tells the story of her daughter. 
For Mother’s Day this year, and many years to come, Big Mommy will be without a daughter to look after the family. And the two little girls will be without their mother.

For more details of the case, visit our database.

Article type: