By Phuriphat Sangkhapat
The social changes Thailand is going through is unprecedented. Children as young as 14 and 15 years old are in the streets protesting for democracy.
Some parents are supportive at home, most are not, and all are worried about their children’s safety.
Here are three stories of families torn apart by Thailand’s political divide. The interviewees have requested to withhold their real names and identities.
My father sees me as the enemy
Aungvara is from an extremely traditional family. Her father even has a “Popcorn Gunman” t-shirt.
The Popcorn Gunman was a sniper who supported the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in their protests against the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2014, which led to General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s military coup.
The gunman became a celebrity among the PDRC because he was shooting at the police to “defend the people.”
Aungvara is 26 years old and started to form her political opinion while studying politics at the university. To which, following several political arguments, her dad concluded that her teachers had brainwashed her.
Whenever her father sent political news into family Line Group, she would explain how the information is fake and false. Every time, the conversation would turn into a heated argument.
She no longer sees eye-to-eye with her father on any issue. But Angvara has her own family. She’s a young mother of two children. She also has a social media page where she posts her thoughts on how to raise children.
Her father sees the posts as an attack against him.
“He said I’m attacking him, even though I’m just writing about things in general to educate others,” she said.
Aungvara wants her children to grow up appreciating different opinions, debates, and critical thinking, and be up to date with global developments.
“It’s challenging to find a school that offers those things. I don’t want my children to go to a government school. I want my children to be themselves.”
“I understand that my father means well and that he believes he’s correct. But what was good back in his days may not be applicable today.”
My mother threatened to kill me
For Kay, a 26-year-old social worker, there have never been political discussions in her home. This was her normal family life, and family arguments were few and far between if any at all.
Until she started to form her own political opinions.
The turning point was when she saw on the news and social media the police dispersing protestors on the morning of 15 October in front of Government House, and the arrests of activists that followed.
Kay decided to join the evening’s protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection, but she told her parents she was going out with friends. Her mother caught her in the lie, but Kay went anyway.
A couple of days later, while she was getting ready to head out to the protest at the Ladprao Intersection, her mother gave her an ultimatum: “Do not go.”
A heated argument followed. According to Kay, her mother said, ”You see Thanathorn [Juangroongruangkit] as more important than your own family.” Her mother also blamed her and the protesters for closing down the sky trains and inconveniencing everyone else.
“I’ve never seen my mother so angry, using so many curse words,” Kay said.
“She also picked up a knife and threatened to kill me.”
Her father intervened and calmed the situation down.
Since that day, Kay hasn’t joined another protest. She’s able to still speak with her father, but there hasn’t been a word spoken between her and her mother.
“Change is inevitable. You can’t stop a child from growing,” she said.
My father no longer wants me home
Nat is an 18-year-old high school student from a middle-income family in the north of Thailand. She grew up absorbing the conservative and royalist teachings of her father.
“Our family never worried about politics. It would never impact us,” she explained her family’s attitude before the rise of the Ratsadon Movement.
Nat’s turning point occurred three years ago when she transferred to a school in a larger province and moved to a boarding house.
She met new friends from different family backgrounds, and she got on Twitter. Nat began to form her own thoughts and opinions, and family arguments began.
The situation imploded with the pro-democracy protests this year.
“I believe our political system should be with the international standard. Tax spending should make sense. Every institution should have checks and balances,” Nat said.
Her father, on the other hand, believes Thailand’s political system is “perfect” as is.
One day, during another heated family argument, her father called her stupid, among many other things. Nat decided to leave home. She was traumatized.
Nat still sees her family from time to time, although the relationship is strained. She decided to no longer speak about politics with her father. But she hopes one day her father would open his heart and reads her posts on social media.
“Let me have my own opinions. Don’t just tell me that I’m wrong,” she said. “I wish I could speak politics with my dad without using emotions.”