Human rights lawyer Anon Nampa is 36 years old. Among the pro-democracy protest leaders mostly made up of university students in their early 20s, he is considered old.
In 2010, he represented Ampol “Ah Kong” Tangnoppkaul, nicknamed in English-language media “Uncle SMS.” Ampol was convicted of Article 112, the lese majeste law, over SMS messages deemed offensive to the monarchy. He passed away in prison in 2012 at the age of 64.
Over the past months, Ampon has risen to become one of the most prominent faces in Thailand’s pro-democracy protests. While most mainstream media shied away from covering his speech on reforming the monarchy institution, his words have spread across social media.
We speak to him ahead of the planned protest on 24 September.
Do you think the authority will charge you with Article 112?
I don’t think so. If someone filed the complaint, then, of course, the police has to make the report. But, as far as I know, the government doesn’t have a policy for Article 112 at this time.
If I’m charged, I will fight within the justice system.
[Article 112 has been filed with the police, see this article.]
24 September is Mahidol Day. Is this the reason the date was chosen for the protest?
It has nothing to do with Mahidol Day. We’re marching to the parliament. On that day, they will have a session on amending the constitution. That’s why we chose the date, and that’s why we will be there.
[Mahidol Day is in remembrance of Prince Mahidol, who’s known as the father of modern Thai medicine. He’s father to King Rama 9 and grandfather to King Rama 10.]
People are still mistaking “reforming the institution” with “abolishing the institution,” why do you think that is?
I think those people understand that reform doesn’t mean to abolish. They just don’t want reform to happen. They know the difference between the two terms. They just don’t want reform to happen. They are happy with the way things are.
What do you think about the open trend of discussing the institution and not standing for the movie theater’s royal anthem?
These are normal things, as the protests evolve. I think the new generation understands politics. Some might not be old enough to vote, but they know the value of freedom of expression. Because the political situation is fragile right now, people are stepping out and showing their stance even more.
Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes I would get physically tired after a long protest. It’s normal. But when I wake up [the next day], I am fine. This struggle is evolving. We fight from the heart. We are legion. At the end of the tunnel, there are hopes and dreams of a better Thailand.