Voice of “Rung Panusaya” from the Central Women’s Prison (22 Oct 2020)

Rung looks entirely different from before. Her hair gets has been cut to shoulder-length and her blonde-dyed hair has been redyed black. She appears in the brown uniform for new inmates and is also wearing a blue mask and a plastic face shield.

After exchanging smiles, our conversation begins via visitor phone.

Rung says her hair was cut and redyed this morning, just before the attorney’s visit. The most recent previous image of her that we have was when she and Penguin were taken from being held in custody at the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters to the Criminal Court when the inquiry officials applied to the Court to have them remanded in custody pending investigation. At that time, her hair was still blonde and she wore her signature red blouse. Now, her hair has become black and has been cut to shoulder length to comply with prison regulations. She is still allowed to wear her own glasses, although she has been told to replace them with plain black frames without any pattern. She must ask her family to prepare such eyeglasses for her and have them sent in given that she needs special lenses which must be preordered.

When we ask, she replies that she can still bear it. We tell her the lawyers have challenged the remand order against her, Penguin, and Mike with the Appeal Court this morning and are awaiting the decision.

Rung asks about the protests outside and about her friends. She looks thrilled upon hearing about the massive number of protestors joining demonstrations. Still, she is worried and concerned about everyone’s safety. When we tell her about how General Prayuth, in his public announcement, proposed for each side to take a step back, Rung whispers with her unique grin “I Hear” followed by a dry laugh.

We read her the messages that her friends and others want to convey to her. Her eyes start to well up and she beams when she learns whose messages are being read out to her. Her eyes fill with overwhelming feeling as she is touched by the messages from both her acquaintances and people she does not know personally. We told her Ajarn Thongchai (Winichakul) sends her moral support and that he “ admires and is in awe of their strong determination”.

We ask Rung about the conditions inside the prison. She says it is more crowded than the Thanyaburi Provincial Prison and the rules are more strictly enforced. The inmates who know who she is have come to greet her. At present, she is quarantined in a room with around 48 female inmates.

We told her that Ajarn Thongchai wants her to know that books are likely to be her best friends while she is locked up. Rung says she has tried to scour for books to read and only managed to find one which interests her and could be useful. It is the Philosophy of Voltaire. The rest of the books are about religion.

When asked what she wants to tell people outside, Rung tell us that she wants us to tell them that “I am fine, I have not disappeared anywhere. I am still with all of you ideologically. Even though physically, I remain in jail, my heart goes wherever you are. I encourage you on and thank everyone who has come out to fight with all our friends today. This keeps the hope to fight of all people inside (the prison) alive.”

“Please come out in massive numbers to show the feudalists that people have taken a stand and shown their ideal and their demands. And if the feudal dictators do not stop, if they continue to avoid meeting the demands of the people, the resistance will grow exponentially.”

“Down with feudalism, long live the people”

Before waving goodbye, we had our last hug. We both smile and try to hold our tears. I want to show my solidarity to Rung, and so I show her my notebook patched with a sticker reproduction of the People’s Party No.2 Plaque. It is still here. It has not gone anywhere even if the demonstrations have been suppressed and the protest leaders arrested. It can only galvanize more people to come out and lead to the growth of our cause and struggle.

We flash three fingers to each other, and I say goodbye to the strong and calm Rung.

 

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