Parit Chiwarak is or commonly known as “Penguin”. The 21-year-old is a political science student at Thammasat University and a vocal critic of the government.
On Tuesday 9 June, he and three others from the Students Union of Thailand tied a white ribbon at the Democracy Monument. It was meant to be a symbol to demand “justice” from the government in the case of a missing activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit.
They were arrested by a group of approximately 30 policemen.
Before the Democracy Monument incident, Penguin and his friends tied the white ribbon at important landmarks, such as the Equestrian Statue of King Rama 5, Army Region 1, Government House of Thailand, Royal Thai Army and the Ministry of Defence.
What did the police say?
They wanted us to untie the ribbon. But I negotiated, telling them that I needed to take some photos first, then I’d untie it. But when we weren’t looking, they just went and untied it themselves.
They then invited us to the police station. But I told them that they can’t just “invite” us to the police station.There has to be a charge. So they charged us with public disorder [Act on the Maintenance of the Cleanliness and Orderliness of the Country].
When we got to the police station, they changed the charge to violating the emergency decree. I threatened to cut myself, as an act of protest. The police held a meeting among themselves, came back and retracted the charge.
Instead, they charged us again with the Cleanliness Act. And also, we didn’t have our ID cards.
We are going to fight it. We have a meeting with an attorney on 22 June.
What do you think of the situation in Thailand, over all?
They can’t control the people. Even when they had Article 44 [which gave General Prayut Chan-o-cha absolute power], they knew there had to be an election eventually.
But now, things are heating up even more. The people are angry and want to express their voices. So now they are using the emergency decree as a tool to suppress us once again.
But I don’t think it will work.
We had a meeting with our lawyer yesterday [9 June]. We think the reason that the government wants to use the emergency decree to arrest us so badly is because right now we are the most active group. We keep going out and do these “symbolic protests”.
The symbolic protests are peaceful and anyone can partake.
Will there be actual street protests once the emergency decree is lifted?
I feel the opposite actually. I think, if the government continues with the emergency decree, it would anger people even more and the people would not put up with it.
Also, with the effect of the economic fallout, I don’t think the government can escape street protests, emergency decree or not.
Realistically, what do you want to see happen in Thailand?
I want to see democracy in Thailand and equal opportunities for everyone in the country, especially for the working class people who have less resources.
We aren’t born equal, some are rich and some are poor. But things like welfare and social securities could help.
How far are you willing to push? Are you willing to go to jail?
I will keep fighting for as long as I’m alive. I only have one life and I want to make my life worthwhile. If I ended up going to jail, then I would be another example to show that no one is safe under a dictatorship.