Change.NCPO "Lookade" Chonthicha from student activist to Democracy campaigner

My family background is similar to other middle class families. Prior to the demonstration crackdown in 2010 I was like other teenager who don't care about politics. During the Red Shirt protest I had never join them.
I started to pay attention to politics when the Red Shirt protesters were crackdown. I remember that I saw a magazine called "Voice of Taksin" which written about the demonstration crackdown in the city center of Bangkok. I never know about the Red Shirt before I had neither positive nor negative feeling toward them. That might be the reason why my mind was open when I read about the crackdown.    
Having read their story, I started to ask my self  if one day I got shot by the state, what would it be. I start question my self because I feel insecure with my life. Some might say that if you not going out and join the protest you would be fine. I think this idea had at least 2 problems.
First, I think the way the state used live ammunition to crackdown the demonstration in the middle of the capital did show that in the eyes of the state they did not see the protesters as human being. If we let this practice become a standard how can we feel save. We would never know if one day we will become "enemy" in the eyes of the state just because you disagree with a certain policy.
Second, I see that to be a complete human being you need something more than just feeding your hunger stomach. You also need to live your life with free spirit. If you had to live in a state where you cannot hold your free opinion or speak your mind freely you are not different from robots without lives or our minds might have been dead. 
I started to had my political view since 2010 but the first time I really taken part in a protest was later in 2013. The agenda of that protest weren't politics but was a protest against the construction of Mae Wong Dam. However, when the movement became politicized I had decided to step out.
When the PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee, a movement led by Suthep Thaugsuban to outs a former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinnawatra and demand for political reform before election) started their rally I also went there but just as an observer because I disagree with their demand. After the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) staged a coup in 2014 I and my friend started a small campaign to protest against the coup such as sandwich eating campaign.
Activities after the coup led to arrests. Sometime I had to sleep in a police station. I didn't really spend time in police's cell but I was held in an inquiry room with too cold air-conditioner that cause me migraine. Prior to the year 2015 I was arrested several times but later released in the morning. Actually, when I was arrested I felt scared. Neither court nor prison scared me but what scared me was my family because my dad is a military officer. Fortunately, in the early times that I was arrested my family did not aware about my activity or the arrests.    
The anniversary of the coup that was held on 22 May 2015 in front of the BACC (Bangkok Art and Cultural Center) has changed my life drastically. Initially, I did not think that it would effected this much since it was just an "innocent" activity that organized by students. We just planed to show a symbolic gesture and end the activity within less than 15 minutes but at the end it turned to be something serious beyond our imagination       
While the activity was going on I had been physically attacked by authorities at least twice. First I felt like electric shocked on the left side of my back, the second time other authority tried to pull my left arm with an aim to drag me from where I sat. the couple assault still effect my body until today.    
I used to believe that I am a healthy and strong person who was ready to be on the ground. After that day I sometime felt numb on the left side of my body, I cannot lift heavy objects as I could done easily in the past. Sometime, I was severely numb that I could not walk. The assaulted not only effected my physical condition but also effected my mental condition.      
When I was prosecuted for taking part in this activity, I started to had issues with my family. I had been arrested several times before but my family never known. Once I had asked my lecturer to present as my relatives before the police because I do not want my family to know that I was arrested. This time was however different. Since I had to go to hospital after I was arrested, my case was reported by the journalist, some relatives saw the report then told my parents.      
After I was prosecuted my parents want me to enter in to judicial process but I denied because I cannot accept the prosecution of civilians in the military courts and the most important I cannot accept NCPO's order as a law. During this time I fought with my parents then I decided to leave the house and stay away for a while.
I told my parents once that the reason why our society is this bad and people of my generation had to face the situation like this was because our parents choose to do nothing so people in my generation had to live in this a society as it is. The argument between me and my family was one of my inspiration that drives me to work in a political organization like Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) in 2017. I want to prove to my family that I did not join protests just for fun but I want to make change in the society seriously.
Some of my friends who used to be activists decided to join political party. I think what happened was good but politician was not fit with me. The expectation of politician in  Thai society is a person that full of "moral". I don't really want to change my life style just to met social expectation. I still want to hold a hand of my partner in public place, I want to go out with my friends for parties. I don't really think Thai people are ready for the politician like me and I personally don't really think I want to invest time and energy to change perception of Thai people toward politicians. Furthermore, under this political structure I don't think I will be able to do much as a politician.    
People usually think DRG is an organization that receive fund to organize protest but in fact what we did were capacity building work for example organize online security or campaigning strategies trainings we also raise awareness on sexual harassment among the activists. This type of work were however not visible to the public. Sometime our organization faces difficulty to seek for funding because donors think we are political organization.     
Looking back to the last four years, I could say my life had change drastically. I ended my student life and entered into professional life. My work however remained the same pushing for change in Thai society. 
Up until today I had proved to my family that I did not join political campaign just for fun but I did with purpose. I want to make things better. Looking back to 22 May 2015 I admitted that it had left scar for me. My body does not function well as it was. But even I can turn back time I would still join an action on 22 May 2015 to insist that I am human being who had her own will. I believe what I had lost is worth.  
On 22 May 2015, Chonthicha or "Lookkade" a 4th year student from Srinakarinwirot Prasanmitr went to join an assembly to commemorate 1st anniversary of 2014 coup d eatat at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center. She was arrested in the same day along with other 30 activists after the authorities decided to forcefully crackdown the protest. Chonthicha was detained along with other activists for a night at the Pathumwan police station. She later received police summon to acknowledge accusation for defy order of head of NCPO no. 3/2015 (12) which ban on political gathering of 5 people and above afterward.
Chonthicha along with other 6 activists decided not to report to the police, the Bangkok military court later issued arrest warrant against them. On 24 June 2015, Chonthicha along with other activists gathered in front of Pathumwan police station to take a symbolic action. Later on 25 June she and other 13 activists marched from Thammasat University to Democracy Monument. At the monument the activists held a banner written "Down with Dictatorship Long Live Democracy." Chonthicha along with other 12 activists were later arrested in the evening of 26 June 2015.
After they were arrest, the police brought all 14 activists to the Bangkok military court and filed petition asked the court to remand them in custody for 12 days. The activists decided not to bail themselves out, as a result all 14 activists were remanded in prison for 12 days. They were released after 12 days remand as the Bangkok military court disapprove police's petition to remand them longer. 
Apart from being prosecuted for taken part in activity to commemorate coup anniversary Chonthicha also faced other 5 criminal cases that related to political assembly including sedition cases for being an organizer of a protest calling for election. 
The NCPO rued Thailand for half a decade from May 2014 to June 2019. In this period of time Thai people experience number of change. It had experienced the rise of former coup leader who once claim he wasn't a politician became Prime Minister as Candidate of a political party. See the norms in Thai politics turn backward for example the recognition of Prime Minister who need not to run for an election or see the the senate that came to power via selection not election.
Within this period of time, life of some ordinary people who dare to challenge power of the junta also change drastically. Article in this series then wish to dedicate to those individuals who acted peacefully against the junta in its first half of this regime between the May 2014 coup up until the Constitutional Referendum Campaign in 2016.  
Photo by Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR) 


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