The last interview before Sombat goes to jail: Darts Game VS. Martial Law
The name Sombat Boon-ngam-anong' or ‘Nooring' has been widely known for a long time in the NGO world. Another of his names by which he is known in the cyber world is "Bor Kor Laijud" ("Spotted Editor"). Apart from his role as founder of the Arts Mirror Foundation which works on children, hill tribe communities, marginalized people and human trafficking and his other volunteer work to address suffering caused by disasters such as the tsunami, he could, after 19 September 2006, be defined further as a fully-fledged anti-coup activist.
Immediately after the coup, Nooring joined a handful of people to oppose the tanks on the street. He already had bitter experience in the confrontation and struggle against the NPKC (National Peace Keeping Council), which staged a coup in 1991.
Since the 2006 coup, he has been organizing a series of activities under the framework of the 19 Sept Anti-Coup Network, and then split to form another group, "Citizens Against Coup Group" and became part of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) which uses Sanam Luang as their major rally ground.
An eloquent speaker, he commands respect for his style of informative public speaking in combination with his middle class politeness. He and his small group have been seen many times moving around from venue to venue in a creative campaign using cultural techniques to mobilize people against the coup.
The darts game was organized during a demonstration led by the UDD in June and no one could imagine that a "game" commonly found in temple fairs could evolve into a high level conflict.
As a result of the game, General Saprang Kalayanamitr filed a libel suit against Nooring; General Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, Chair of the Council for National Security (CNS), later asked to be co-plaintiff. The targets for people to throw darts at were made of portraits of General Saprang, General Sondhi, General Prem Tinsulanonda and Sondhi Limthongkul.
After two summons (Nooring argued that he received only one), the court issued an arrest warrant and the police requested his detention, which was subsequently approved by the court.
Nooring could have bailed himself out to fight the case. But he insisted that he would not seek bail and would represent himself in court so that he could confront and cross-examine General Saprang (who he prefers to address as Lt. Gen. Saprang, see An Open Letter to Lieutenant General Saprang Kalayanamitr http://www.prachatai.com/english/news.php?id=170). This was in spite of pleas and advice from both court officials and his well wishers who tried to convince him to seek bail.
In the following interview he explains his personal motivation for not seeking bail. The resolute decision to "vacation" in prison for one week had been made a week before the arrest warrant was issued. He asked Prachatai to help spread his ideas after his incarceration.
He compares the restrictions on his freedom to the restrictions on the freedoms of people in 35 provinces which are still ruled under martial law. He demands the immediate dismantling of the law. Unfortunately, his plight has drawn little attention from the media, even though it has triggered a wider call for the lifting of the martial law.
The following words come from the heart of Sombat Boon-ngam-anong, a citizen who is opposed to the coup and the father of a young daughter.
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Prachatai - How did the darts game that resulted in the libel suit come about?
Sombat - We had this activity during the rally of UDD at Sanam Luang and I started to organize the Sanam Luang volunteer group. Among us, we realized that the atmosphere of the rally had become too bland; there were just speeches, and the audience had nothing to do but listen. We just wanted to make it more colourful. So we started to put on an exhibition to educate people and some volunteers proposed games such as "dunking the maiden" and a darts game, and I agreed with them.
We had cartoons of the coup ringleaders as the targets for people to throw darts at. Most people who joined us came from grassroots communities and they enjoyed the game, it made them feel relaxed. We had cartoons of four figures including Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, Sondhi Limthongkul, Saprang Kalayanamitr, and Pah (General Prem Tinsulanond), but it was Saprang who sued me (later General Sondhi asked to be co-plaintiff in the case as well -- Prachatai).
I could not imagine this could have made a case. But I am not terrified by this. Since I learned about this (lawsuit), I did not take it seriously. But an incident that happened to one of our female volunteers, Bussaba, who looked after the darts game, made me concerned. She had been followed for three days from Sanam Luang to her home. And on the fourth day, she was grabbed by the arms by two men who told that "you shall not go to Sanam Luang or Rattanakosin Hotel (where we had a war room) again. Otherwise, you will be killed". And then she was punched hard in stomach and fell unconscious. After two days in hospital, she regained consciousness. The incident can be confirmed from the hospital records.
After she was discharged from hospital, she told no one about this. Later she spotted the guys again on the other side of the street pointing at her, so she just had to run away in a cab. That happened about the middle of last month, around the time that Chakrapob's driver, Ole, was beaten up.
How did you know about her being attacked?
She did not tell me. She leaked it to a member in our volunteer group and then it got known to others. After that, I had to stop this darts game and called Prasarn (Marukapitak) (who worked in the government's war room). I got acquainted with him to some extent with my tsunami relief work. I told him this incident and I believed him that he had nothing to do with this. But as part of the government's war room, he needed to be informed. Also, this should be known among activists like him.
When did you know that General Saprang wanted to sue you?
I was aware about that in early August. A summons was sent to my home in Chiang Rai. It said that Gen. Saprang was suing me for libel. I asked the police, and I learned that the case stemmed from this darts game. I was summoned to testify on 7 August, but I did not show up. I was waiting for the second summons which should normally come 15 days later. It's a common tactic to delay the case. But the second summons did not come. Instantly, the arrest warrant arrived and I called the police officer in charge of the case. He asked in a stern voice what I wanted to do. I shouted at him that I had not received the second summons yet. He said he had issued it. Because I did not show up in seven days after the first summons, he already issued the second one. It was OK. Similarly, Suchart (Nakbangsai from the Saturday Voice against Dictatorship) did not receive a second summons, and then had to face an arrest warrant.
How did you know the arrest warrant had been issued? (The interview took place before he went to acknowledge the charge with the officer and there was no request for his detention at that time)
A police officer who was not related to the case called to warn me that I was to be locked up. I was thinking hard what to do. I have had many issues with the General. At the MV program where I was moderator, the person who got the license to run the program was summoned to see Saprang. He saw me in the program. I was having an issue with the army while I was in Chiang Rai. And in Phitsanulok I also made fun of him.
Do you think the charge is fair?
On one hand, he is exercising his rights to protect his dignity and he opted to do it through the justice system. But what about those who beat up my volunteer? I have no idea who did that, but it was not at all fair. The woman went to report it to the police who were reluctant to take the case and asked her to produce so many other pieces of evidence.
I get to play when it comes to the trial. Like when Shin Corp used its right to file a libel suit. That was legally OK, the company can exercise its rights. But we have to look at the role that Supinya (Klannarong, Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) played, too. Eventually, the court acquitted her, after her hard work. Luckily, she has a big heart so she did not sue the company back. It was a good example of Jack who killed the giant.
Nevertheless, I commend Saprang for choosing to use the justice system to demand respect for his human dignity. The term "human dignity" is very important. Lately, I have been so involved with that expression. When I was working with hill tribe people, I could feel part of the meaning. But now I've been stung by it myself, and I think this word is really cool.
What does violation of human dignity mean to you?
Well, humans cannot just breathe to survive. The whole quality of being a human means much more than the four basic necessities. It encompasses rights and freedom as well. We have to have freedom to live our lives according to our culture, thinking and beliefs. We ought to have rights to protect our freedom and political freedom is related to the freedom to able to live one's life with dignity. But since the last coup, I have been feeling offended. I feel my dignity has been trampled on ever since the coup.
Could you elaborate?
I have freedom and I agree to live only under democratic rule. I respect and pay homage to democracy. But it is unacceptable for these guys to come and change the rules, replacing something we respect highly with something else. And they forced us to accept it.
I want to live the life I choose and am ready to debate with others. Under a democratic system, we are allowed to stand for what we believe and the life we live.
How is life after the coup? It did not bother you that much, did it?
It is about the ruling system and I want a ruling system that promotes mutual respect. I want to have a ruler, namely, the Prime Minister, a legislature to issue laws with public consent. I want a system through which I can propose my policies. But now we hardly have this space. They are not our representatives and we are not allowed to criticize them or express our feelings. Our political activities have been blocked since the first night after the coup. Cyberspace is blocked as well. The right to speak and other rights are all restricted. We all now live in a climate of fear; fear that dominates people all over the country.
Some argue that under Thaksin's rule, there was also a climate of fear.
I do not agree that it was fear. There was some discontent and to some extent you were allowed to vent it. You could oppose vehemently. You would not be subject to any threat, like now, even small people are abused under martial law. This is unfair. Under the Thaksin regime, at least people elected him in. There was some justification there. Most importantly, we were set to have a more legitimate election. Of course, political problems were there, as they always are. It is natural. It is a different story with a coup-installed government. Under this climate, we feel our dignity is compromised. And our dignity can be protected only when we are able to express ourselves. I would like to put it this way: I want to live the most normal life I used to.
What is abnormal about life after the coup?
I feel I have been followed and been subject to criticism in public again and again. The powers that be label me a dissenter which does not sound too bad. Some people accuse me of being Thaksin's spawn, lapdog of the old power, etc. There are so many labels stuck on me.
You said you have been followed. What level was this at?
In every activity that I have been involved in. The military went to visit me at home in Chiang Rai, visited my daughter. They came to the building where my office is located, within just the first week, they came into the building armed. They called people to ask where I was, but it was strange that they never called me directly. They called my wife, they called my daughter and asked "Where is Khun Sombat?", "Do you know if Khun Sombat is in Phitsanulok", "I have heard that Khun Sombat is coming to Chiang Rai". They might just be checking for news to report to their superiors. But their presence was undoubtedly a threat to me.
How does it affect your daughter and wife? Were they afraid?
They may not feel fear, but they feel threatened. It is palpable. For some people, it could mean nothing, but excuse me, what if I called Sondhi's wife or his family members and asked "Do you know where Gen. Sondhi is now? I am a member of the UDD at Sanam Luang". Or "Do you know where your son or your husband is now? It's nothing, but I'm just calling". What would they feel about this?
Your wife has probably been through some struggle before, but what about your daughter?
I think she does not know how complicated the story is. But she was excited and told me "Dad, do you know today the military came here?" During my work, if time allowed, I would bring my daughter to Sanam Luang or to Chiang Rai. When I went on stage to speak, she asked to see me then, too. I had her stand at the far end and see how we organized our activities.
Did they see when you were rounded up?
How did she feel?
Before I went to speak, we had a family dinner and I told her that I was going to speak at the bus terminal and something could happen. I told her not to worry. I would just be taken to the military camp, and after a while they would let me go. I prepared my daughter for the event. I did not ask her how she felt then. But she was watching me all the time then.
If you had a chance to meet Gen. Saprang, what would you ask him?
It would be like when I was interrogated by the Chief of the Central Intelligence Bureau. Before he asked me any questions, he accused me of being an enemy of the nation. That's a good expression and it reminded me of Gen. Saprang saying he would treat all of us at Sanam Luang as his eternal enemies. It made me understand better how the military think. They have to draw a clear line to identify their enemies. And to their enemies, they show no mercy. It is just the same thinking. The Chief of the CIB told me he would treat me as an enemy of the nation, and so he would do everything at his disposal against me with no mercy. I think somehow Saprang somehow let me off by suing me for libel. This is perhaps the weakest thing he could do. If he did nothing at all, he might feel uncomfortable. I think he just wanted to do something that made him feel he has done something to maintain his dignity.
I hope that at the hearings, Saprang will testify in court himself. I will be very happy then.
He has the right to protect his human dignity. Can you argue for the right to organize the darts game?
The mockery of him did not happen out of nothing. And a person of his stature should be subject to more than just mockery. If they say I have violated his human dignity, then I have to say he has trampled on my human dignity numerous times since the coup took place, since he said he would shoot machine guns to kill dogs. He has done many things to discredit our actions. When we brought the case to the police, they were reluctant to take it. We attempted to sue Gen. Sondhi who accused the elderly ladies, who joined hands in the front row when we marched, of getting 3,000 baht to do that. Dr. Weng volunteered to file the case, but I have no idea how it is going now.
There is an overlap between libel and criticism and opinion. We think we have the right to express our discontent. And to express our feeling through a darts game is even weaker than my speech on the stage where I accused him of being coward for not showing up in the South and just commandeering state enterprises in the city. I do not think he has the calibre to run the board of directors of state enterprises, and it is not at all appropriate for him.
I expressed myself and I admit to committing defamation. Everyone is entitled to have human dignity even those opposed to you. But I defamed him because to me he is incapable. He has done something wrong, namely the coup, and has been intimidating people ever since.
What is the dividing line between freedom of expression and a slander?
We have to prove this by law. I expressed myself sincerely and he is a public figure who has committed something. Do you just want me to keep quiet after they committed the coup? Can't we yell against it?
Will you seek bail?
No, if I bailed myself out he would feel nothing. His people would simply go report to him that "Sir, sir, the person who you asked me to file a lawsuit against has bailed himself out" and he would just ignore it. But if I refuse to seek bail, that may remind him that he has takes action against me. (His people will go to report to him that "Sir, sir, Mr. Sombat refuses to bail himself out and is now in jail". I want to know if that will make him happier.
By not seeking bail, do you want to communicate your feelings to Gen. Saprang or to society at large?
I want to communicate with everyone.
Are you sure this will make news?
I have no idea...and I have no idea to what Saprang will be up to. But I still want to know if he feels happy that he has succeeded. I want to know his subconscious mind and work with that. It could be a way to communicate at the subconscious level where we can reach each other instantly. It is by unspoken words. After I got involved with relief work for the tsunami affected people, I learned another way of human communication that relies on a special sense. It can happen in certain circumstances and occasions and is a kind of very swift communication that delves deeper to the subconscious level.
I take Saprang as a fellow human being. But his previous roles have destroyed his diverse humanity and made him create a set framework that moulds his character. This is the drama theory.
Is this a darts game with yourself as the dart?
I don't know. My expectations may be too high. But what interests me is the inside of human beings. For example, in the clash on 22 July, I am interested in knowing the feelings of each person at that time. It could be highly complicated. There could be some characteristics and logical paradoxes and a new logic has to be built for self-defence. Everyone was subject to this process including the UDD members, Seripisut (Pol. Gen. Seripisut Temiyavet) and even the police officers who tried not to hit the demonstrators. They were supposed to hit them, but they didn't. Many of them just didn't hit us, otherwise, it could have been a real disaster. There was a guy in a yellow T-shirt who stood in front and pointed his finger at us furiously and ordered the police to hit us several times. It was as if you could see fangs coming out of his mouth. I wonder what he had in mind when he gave these orders. Maybe, he was seeing the chair, the position he wanted, drifting toward him.
During the eleven months after the coup, have you personally faced any conflict in your mind, and any quagmires or confusion inside you?
I fight relentlessly as I used to when I was only 20 something. One difference is now I feel I have a bigger heart to forgive people. Of course, I have faced many disappointments. When I get disappointed, I do two things. First, I try to come to terms with what happened and find reasons to explain why it happened that way. Second, if the explanation fails to satisfy me, I have to forgive and say "never mind". It is another characteristic of Thai people. We can let go even for a brief moment. If we go on trying to explain the situation and fail to let go, then the anger will get inside us and gradually destroy us.
To fight relentlessly and to forgive and let go, these seem incompatible.
Forgiveness (abhaya) means not being "dangerous" (bhaya). Supposing that there is someone senior whose stance is different from mine, I will assure him that I will not act in any way to frighten him. But once we are taken over by anger and hatred, we are ready to destroy our opponent.
It seems the challenges for this struggle are more difficult than those in the May 1992 Uprising. It could be about conflicts in the mind or conflicts in relationships with people around us.
We face conflicts every day with friends, or those who claim to be our friends, some former volunteers who used to work together with me, or even staff in my office or those who have quit or even those very close to us. But we have to fight. When I go to visit my father, he just turns on ASTV in front of me. But I understand him.
Many people, like my own staff, dare not ask me, but they just create topics in web-boards such as "I cannot believe that today you (Nooring) are working for Thaksin". I have no idea how to deal with this.
How do you interpret this?
Their lack of understanding is one thing, but it also gets mixed up with loathing, fear, everything. In the beginning, people in my office feared a crackdown which would affect many people. Now, I live a much more comfortable life. Before, I used to receive letters of invitation to meetings every day and I had to spend most of my time in meetings. Now, there are hardly any such letters, very few indeed.
Among the diverse groups of people in the Arts Mirror group, do they understand what you are doing?
Most staff who have worked with us for more than one year understand. But the newbies may be confused a bit. The Arts Mirror folk tend to be slightly romantic and we have never been engaged in a real struggle before. We have hardly been involved with political issues and we quit that a long time ago. But now, in this climate, we don't fight in the name of the Arts Mirror group. We have to separate ourselves from that. We know that several brothers and sisters here are not ready to fight under very tense situations. It took me a while to realize this. The situation now is much more complicated than during the May 1992 Uprising. Once, just a few days after the coup, we went out to campaign at Siam Center, to sit and close our mouths and wear black t-shirts. Many people scorned us after that, all those big guys in the NGOs. I thought we did it very romantically. I thought we would be met with throngs of friends there at five o'clock as we had prepared. We indeed met many friends there in front of the Lido (a cinema) and I thought they would join us later at five o'clock for the demonstration. But it turned out that they were there to see the movie. It was so awkward for me. After that, there was a lot of strong criticism against us, and I just don't want to tell who it was.
From the point of view of those who accept the coup, it is better now than under Thaksin?
But can I have the rights to oppose now? Just say it out loud that you really endorse the coup. Just speak up. I have not seen any NGO that has enough courage to come out to speak up. They all take the line that "well, we do not accept it, but...". No one says it clearly (that they endorse the coup). But we do declare our opposition to the coup. But we don't have any space to say this, do we? You may not trust the politicians, the PTV folks who come out to rally, but you cannot doubt people like Dr. Weng (Tochirakarn). It's not like that. You simply try to find justification to destroy the persons who you know do not work for Thaksin. It's like a gunman who looks for a justification for shooting somebody. But if you look into people's eyes you will see humanity.
I think NGOs are cruel. Those who speak about respects for human dignity, even among prisoners, those who used to fight for human rights for everyone, those fighting to ban capital punishment, etc., what is this all about, after all? Now you can see how cruel all these senior people and the big intellectuals can be. I never thought that they can be this cruel. Their interviews shocked me. There we go, our very respectable senior figures who are our spiritual leaders, and even though they are very compassionate persons, but in certain moments, I could feel their cruelty. I try to come to terms with this. And my explanation is it does not matter how intellectual you are, but when your hearts are filled with vengeance, your wisdom disappears. But this does not always happen, not that often though.
But people often say those are the enlightened ones, but we are people who are starved of wisdom and are not shrewd enough to read the game.
It's impossible. It's a different set of explanations. I would be happy to hear their explanation. In the beginning, I also wondered and kept asking myself. Is there anything that I am not aware of which would be reasons that prevent the respectable ones from agreeing with me and standing with me? Why is their interpretation of the event totally different from mine? Is there anything more complicated that I cannot come to terms with? Are there any pieces of information that I lack? I try to review this all the time. I find nothing there. Nevertheless, it does not mean I do not understand the reasons that put them opposite me. I try my best to find the best explanation that helps me understand why they make such a stand. Luckily, Dr. Weng keeps reminding me to work with joy. But I have no idea if he is really joyful (laugh). In the beginning, he enjoyed it a lot, but I was very stressed. Later, he became very stressful, after changing from People's United Front Against Coup (PFAC) to UDD. The situation became very tense.
Why is that so?
Maybe he suffered more pain than I did. He used to fight to the level of taking up arms. For us, our friends just disappear and become the "grey people". But for Dr. Weng, his friends simply take the opposite stand and always attack him. When Dr. Weng was released from prison, an old friend of his came to criticize him for three hours and he just listened to that. It was mad.
What makes people who think differently hate each other?
It's a lack of communication. Wars are triggered by communication failure. This is not simply misunderstanding, but a political war, though it has not yet escalated to the level of people taking guns to shoot each other in the street. Right now, it is a war which stems from a lack of communication. Take for example, many people hate the UDD because they were led to believe that Noparuj (a leader of the White Dove Group) slammed his car into the police. And we spoke out early on that it was not true and Noparuj did not slam his car into the police. After he was released from jail, he launched a lawsuit against Seripisut who accused him of this. I just want to tell Chomkwan (Laopetch, news anchor at Nation TV) on the day I appeared on Nation TV that what you have just shown and what you have just said is not true. Chomkwan told us that she could rewind the tape to watch the scene again. Similarly, when Thepchai Yong was having a debate with the Caravan of the Poor in a TV program, he accused them of using truncheons to hit at people (when they laid siege to the Nation building), but in fact, they did not use truncheons, but flag poles. Chomkwan threatened us just like Thepchai Yong threatened the taxi drivers (from the Caravan of the Poor). She dared us to rewind the tape and see. And as we did, it turned out that it was not Noparuj who drove the car. I still wonder why the police officer broke his leg. I really want to know if that car really hit people and broke someone's leg. It could be that the police just stampeded over each other. We could tell the truth of the event more scientifically. I might have some prior suspicions, but I also want to know the truth. On the stage, I made my apologies to the police. Now we have two pictures, and it is not fair just to put out the picture of the police beating us. We have to put two pictures together and order them chronologically. Unfortunately, we just don't have the process like that.
It looks like the National Human Rights Commission has started to investigate the 22 July 2007 clash.
That's good. The names of the academics on the investigation committee make me relieved. It's better late than never. Just think about 6 October 1976, how many years ago did it happen?
During 6 October, I remember I was watching it live on TV. There I saw police shooting inside Thammasat University, and the terrorists were in there. I was very excited and sided with the police. After that, they went into jungle, and I began to read newspapers then. There was news about communist raids which killed 300-400 people in villages. I cannot remember exactly the figures, but they were hundreds. I was very happy as I believed these people were destroying the nation. And I stood in school to sing propagandist songs "Nak Phaen Din". It was fun to sing this at school, the whole school sang....We were going to get rid of these people. But as events unravelled, it turned out that these people were granted amnesty. What happened, I asked? Was it the same story?
So people who watched the 22 July clash on TV might just think the same as I did during the 6 October massacre. Many people were led to believe that students in Thammasat had contraceptive pills, condoms, and lots of firearms. They were Vietnamese, etc. These days, people are satisfied just like I was when I was young. But then, my thinking was not that complex. I was able to draw the parallels with Japanese cartoon and it was unacceptable for me that good people could be made villains.
That means you attribute the situation in Thai society now to the fact that communication isn't working?
The communication is there, but it breaks down. And the truth does not come out.
Or the communication did not fail; look at how many people were happy with the coup?
That's not communication, but some kind of programming. It was a sort of propaganda for destruction. It's not communication which helps people to learn. Communication is degraded to just a process. But our goal is learning and we have to come to terms with that.
OK, let's call it propaganda which has been made possible with the full cooperation of the media. But isn't what the UDD has done with media, simply repeating the same process?
We have to fight and we know the trap is awaiting there. But we simply have to do our best according to the circumstances. And now we are trapped.
How are you trapped?
We are trapped by Thaksin. He has both strengths and weaknesses. And those people look for his weaknesses and set them up as a trap. And our fight has escalated to that level. It has reached the point where we hae to confront them or otherwise there would be no next move. We could not cancel the demonstration, and we could not just do nothing. If we stopped fighting, we would get trapped and Sanam Luang would become empty. We could simply have our seminars in a hotel.
Ajahn Kasian (Tejapira) maintains that there ought to be new alternatives, new solutions, and human beings should be able to escape being trapped.
I agree with him, but what could I say? We lagged behind them. But even if we had been able to stay ahead of them in the beginning, we might see the trap anyway. It's not our style to look for this. It takes time for us to see, but when we see the trap, we are already trapped! Even so, we struggle to keep walking with the trap that bleeds us. How can we remove Thaksin from our campaign after all?
You might find this question offensive, but we need to ask it anyway. People say that you are serving the Thaksin regime because you owe a debt of gratitude to him and now you are paying it back.
I have to admit that I am impressed by many things Thaksin did. What I can tell myself is I am neither a fan of Thaksin nor a hater of him. I mean I am impressed by many things he did. When I say I do not adore him, that's because previously I have strongly criticized him. I am joining the movement this time partly because of Thaksin, but it's not that I feel I owe him gratitude. We have to differentiate that. When I praise Thaksin, people say I adore him, and ignore the other feelings I have toward him. Or when I criticize him, they say I am part of the PAD (People's Alliance for Democracy) or the anti-Thaksin people.
What can I say? I have the right to say I adore Thaksin for certain things, but dislike him for others. But I want to maintain that I am honest to myself so much so that I can say that my struggle has not come about because I owe him any gratitude. You can check my history, my previous stands, or even any interests I am involved in. We have never benefited from Thaksin either organizationally or individually. I have taken no money from him.
The point is can we accept that there are people who are less dirty than us?
Will you keep fighting?
The struggle may be spun out. We have to expand our mass support, but we cannot hope to have them all with us. It's impossible in light of the situation and under the leadership of UDD. The brand name is now spoiled and even if we change the name, it would not help. We have to do it differently, but we may not win over all people. We have to wait and see what will be the innovation after UDD that will take us to a new level.
Supposing that some parts of the people's movement become disillusioned, will you join hands with them? From our observation of your campaign in front of MBK Centre, it was rather hard and lonely.
If those folks (Thai Rak Thai leading members) still take the helm, I can hardly do anything. They will control everything. We used to debate many a time and I proposed that our problem was internal management. We have done too little to develop our organization or those who join in our campaigns. We simply focus on external goals which are not everything after all. The goal should be the empowerment of our masses. And once we reach a certain quantity and quality of our masses, the goal to overthrow the coup will automatically be achieved.
I started to organize this UDD volunteer program because I could not tolerate the way they looked just at the number of people, their quantity. Even though the numbers are important to some extent, it's not something we should concentrate on. They can do more for us than just sitting there getting wet in the rain. They can work for us. We simply have to lay down some system and then we can all learn together.
One day, when I was on the ground, not up on the stage, a guy approached me; the Sanam Luang folk like to chat anyway. He told me he had been joining the rally for a long time. He came here by himself on a motorbike. And he kept collecting the fliers thrown away by the demonstrators and littering everywhere. He collected them and redistributed them. That he could see the value of discarded things made me feel just....how could he see that?
People have been criticizing us for taking the role of underdogs and doing whatever they want us to do. Someone told me "I know that you are sincere in what you are doing, but this game belongs to the "king", the powers that be". One day I got an email like that, I was so enraged I wrote a long reply. I said "this underdog will kick the king's ass". It does not bother me to lose. We have learned much from losing and in my life I have lost many times. What is more important is to have the chance to fight.
Why were there not many white collar people joining the Sanam Luang demonstration?
The demonstration went on for too long. There are no demonstrations that drag on this long. For these people, you have to prepare them well, give them time to study. To get them to demonstrate until one o'clock in the morning and go back home exhausted did not work as it would interrupt their work. But we have always had a group of white collar people joining us in every demonstration.
Next week, you might not have chance to breathe the air outside?
It's not that good staying here anyway. I was sort of convinced by listening too many times to Khun Surachai Sae Dan.
Will it be romantic?
Well, it's perhaps not very beautiful like that. But I want to fight, and here is another kind of violence, and I am a violent person, a radical. But I insist on doing it, even though I am not sure how long I will be able to stand it. I have no idea if I can stand the conditions inside at all. Patience is very important then. I do not fear others, but myself. I fear that I cannot bear it as I have never been in there (prison).
What about your one night at the military camp in Chiang Rai?
I hardly had any fear then. It was very different. It would have been more exciting and challenging if I had been taken to Phitsanulok (headquarters of the Army Region 3) that night. But I was kept in Chiang Rai, so I did not feel anything. It was only the next morning that some people came to threaten me. Even though I look a bit like a baby, I have been through the worse situations such as the time I spent with all those corpses during the tsunami relief work. Some people say sleeping with 40-50 people sounds very crowded. But that reminds me of my time in Wat Bangmuang where the whole ground was filled up rotten corpses. I had to struggle to stay there to work. On the first day, I could not do it and vomited three times. I wasn't able to catch my breath. But I struggled to stay in there. And the situation there simply made me feel less attached.
But there is no cage to imprison you?
Freedom is in our hearts. It's not that physical freedom means nothing. It does. But in any circumstance, you can build an unlimited space of freedom from your internal qualities. Look, we are caged in front of a 17 inch computer monitor and we even have less chance to move than inmates. We stay there many hours a day and even with sore fingers, we still manage to sit there.
What conditions would get you out of prison?
I will try to stay inside as long as I can. There are four reasons that would get me out. First, if I am not strong enough for any reason, I will bail myself out. Second, the court sees that there is no reason to hold me and lets me go. Third, Saprang withdraws the case and at the courtesy of the General I get liberated. And fourth, I will use this incarceration to press for the lifting of martial law.
What will you do next?
In fact, I am not very serious about going to jail. I am planning to campaign for "Red Sundays", which mobilizes cultural elements for political purposes.
When you are in jail, who will steer the campaign?
In my opinion, this is a good opportunity. I want to campaign on this issue and thank him for giving us the chance. People will think about me, about "Red Vote No" and "Red Sundays". What I would like to propose next is "Red Sundays". It's true that I am using this (detention) as a pretext for this campaign.
Translated by Pipob Udomittipong