I live in a country where I’m labeled a “nation-hater” (chang-chart, ชังชาติ) for asking specific questions or having opinions about the way things are.
I’m born into a society in which I would be branded ungrateful (nae-ra-khun, เนรคุณ) for challenging traditional norms and social hierarchy and for questioning the authority of seniors (poo-yai, ผู้ใหญ่).
As children and teenagers, we understand that curiosity is the root of all creativity. Most of the time, we question things because we genuinely are curious, but often adults misinterpret it as us “talking back” at them.
Thailand is a beautiful country, but it is far from perfect. As a teenager, I am curious as to why certain things cannot be said. Although we know the answer, I still wonder why that should be the case.
In my previous article, I discussed the case of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the democracy activist who went missing. Scrolling through the comments on social media, many people said that it was dangerous for me to speak about this topic.
But why should it be?
Being part of Thailand’s next generation does not mean that I should glorify every aspect of my country. Curiosity is the foundation of creativity and change.
As a teenager who is interested in politics, I often have questions about conservative traditions. I often question the fairness of our judicial system, the ethics behind using religion to justify action and the government system.
It seems that in the eye of many conservative Thais, the only way to be a proper patriot is never to question those in power, never to criticize the government and simply keep my mouth shut.
Although I recognize that being a patriot means to defend and love your country, it should also mean that one can have an open mind and be tolerant toward opposing views.
It is time that we normalize curiosity and skepticism. Answering a teenager’s question with “because it is what it is” won’t stop us from asking.
Change can only start with curiosity. I question because I am curious as to why certain things are the way they are and why certain traditions still exist. If the answers to the questions do not make sense, it means that something needs to be adjusted.
It is a new decade, a new generation and there ought to be change. I am Thai, and I love Thailand. But we all have different views and visions of the ideal Thailand we want to see in the future.
The Thailand I want to see is free and democratic.
I should not be afraid to ask for a free and democratic Thailand, and I should not have to be afraid to answer to anyone why I want a free and democratic Thailand.
I am not saying that we should end the culture of respecting our seniors. I am merely saying that for Thailand to progress, we should nurture young people to question and to have an opinion.
The ability to think critically is not ungrateful or hating the nation.