I have been writing about Thailand’s politics and society for nearly 20 years, and looking back at the body of work, there is one thought:
“I’ve been writing about the same shit for nearly 20 years.”
That’s because the country that I love has been repeating the same mistakes, over and over again, and not just for 20 years.
It’s like walking in a circle, in a dark cave.
But when I came across the story of the young lady in the cover photo, Benjamaporn Niwas, I saw light shining through the cave.
But of course, there’s darkness surrounding the light.
Let there be light
Benjamaporn is a Mathayom 3 student, the equivalent of a ninth grade freshman in the American high school system. She also is a democracy activist in the making.
Here’s the translation of her quote in the photo:
“The ambiguity of the law is exploited by those in power to violate the rights of students. If this is the future, then I do not want this future. Not in this present life, or in the next.”
She was speaking in the context of the ambiguity of the Education Ministry’s new haircut rule, which allows students the right to wear their hair short or long, but also leave the decision to school directors on whether to allow the students this right.
Darkness casts a spell
The other four quotes in the photo are comments by “adults”:
“You should go and die, bitch.”
“Daughter, you should become a whore.”
“It’s so unfortunate for Thailand, that her parents sent a buffalo to school.”
As for the longest quote, don’t bother, it’s basically the same thing, just longer.
Take the future into your own hands
I’ve been teaching at Thammasat University for nearly 10 years. From then to now and into the future, one theme I always challenge the students with is this:
“Take the future into your own hands.”
Start in this classroom. Ask me questions. Question what I say. Disagree with me. Taking the future into your own hands means having the courage to stand up and the conviction to speak out.
But do so rationally, back up your arguments with facts and evidence.
As well, do it with measure, give respect to the person you are debating with. Have the empathy to understand the context of the opposing view. Have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the rationale of the opposing view.
Furthermore, if at all possible, stand up with a bit of style and speak out with a touch of swag. Meaning, don’t bore me, entertain me.
Take us out of the cave
Because you see, people my age and older have failed you. Thailand under our watch is a country plagued by corruptions, chaos, coups and dictatorships. People my age and older have spent the last 15 years yelling and screaming at each other. We have torn this country apart through anger and hatred.
We have been walking around in a circle, in a dark cave.
And when there’s a light shining through, such as Benjaporn, sure, most of us would not be so crude as to make such derogatory remarks. But certainly, many of us are thinking: shut up, young girl.
So to all the young boys and girls, don’t be like us, the supposed adults who are slaves to anger and hatred.
Be like Benjamaporn, stand up and speak out. But do so with reason, respect and, if at all possible, a bit of swag.