A young girl’s photo raising the three-finger salute went viral following the pro-democracy protest at Chiang Mai University on 24 August.
Her name is Supitcha “Maynu” Chailom, an 18-year-old who attends a high school in Chiang Mai.
This video shows her speech (start at 1.30min), where she discusses the failure of the government, the school, and the system that governs Thailand. She finishes the speech with a rap about how the government fears words and rhymes, and at the 8.00min mark, she raps in English.
Bad Student is a high school movement to reform the Thai education system and eradicate fascism in school. The group led the protests at the Education Ministry twice and even pressured Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan into a live debate on the protest stage.
On 16 September, via its Twitter account @BadStudent_, the group posted an apology to its followers for not being as active on social media. They cited the reason that many student leaders are facing tough times at home with their parents for the following reasons:
Parents threaten to disown them. Parents have withheld allowance for nearly two months. Parents charge them for water, electricity, and rent. Parents kick them out of the house. Parents threaten to send them to study abroad. Parents refuse to pay tuition fees.
This is all because of their protest activities in standing up for education reform and fighting against abuse, harassment, and authoritarianism in school and demanding democracy for Thailand.
Supitcha also faces challenges with her family. Parents and relatives accuse her of “being manipulated and used.” They said if she attends the protest, she will get shot like those in the 14 October 1973 student protest and the Black May 1992 pro-democracy protest.
Supitcha won’t be able to join the pro-democracy gathering in Bangkok on 19 September. Instead, she plans to join a protest in Chiang Mai.
Ever the defiant one, she posted a message to her family on Facebook:
“If you are so worried. Let’s go to the protest together.”
How do you feel when the adults say young people should stay away from politics?
It’s a very backward thought. There has been an increasing awareness of rights and freedom these days, making people realize that politics is for everybody.
Young people are also the citizens of the country.
Why do you think they have this backward mindset?
I think it’s from the seniority and authoritarian mindset. It’s the culture of “อาบน้ำร้อนมาก่อน.” [Translation: “I have taken hot showers before you.” Meaning: Adults are experienced, so young people should obey.]
But we have technology and the internet. We can access information quickly. Their mindset is not relevant to today’s world anymore.
How else has your family tried o to stop you?
My mom called me and cried and said things like, “Don’t you love me? Aren’t you afraid of getting shot?” She would tell our relatives that I’m doing something way above my head. She doesn’t even believe that I am a capable person.
For my dad he also isn’t happy with what I’m doing. I gave him the number of the organizer of the protest and arranged for them to meet. He still doesn’t believe that I voluntarily joined the protest [on 14 August]. He keeps thinking that I got tricked into it.
What message do you have for other young people facing similar challenges?
Their stories should not go unheard. I’m planning to work on the issues of abuse and harassment in the family and the seniority system.
Many people are facing these challenges just because they are politically active. I want to tell other young people that we should not let it pass. We should fight to change this.
What made you get on the stage the first time, last month?
It took me only seconds to decide. They were looking for more speakers, so I just said yes. In my opinion, speaking up should be the norm, not something controversial.