During a mid-afternoon in late April, a young girl in a bright yellow shirt and a black denim skirt was half walking half running in a small alley that was branching away from the bustling street of Lat Phrao. On the outside looking in, people might have thought she was having the time of her life. However, the reality is much darker – she was actually pacing her walk to avoid being pursued by undercover police.
“Pink” is one of the youngest and brightest human rights defenders. She gave TLHR an opportunity to interview her and talk about her activism, being followed and harassed by the authorities, her dreams, and how growing up under the current political atmosphere could be like.
“Hello, sorry for being late. I was being followed.”
Pink quickly greeted us, telling the reason of her delay.
After a brief discussion about her ‘being followed’, the conversation with the 13-year-old activist began.
The Road to Activism of the 13-Year-Old Girl
“To be honest, I don’t remember the first demonstration I went to, but the demonstration on May 18th is the first thing that came to mind.”
The demonstration on May 18th, 2020, was organized by the ‘Free Youth’ group and took place at the Democracy monument. It was this demonstration that has led to other demonstrations and activities being organized nationwide by various movements against the Prayuth regime. At that time, the three core demands from the protesters were for the government to: dissolve the parliament, amend the constitution, and stop the harassment towards citizens who were exercising their rights of freedom of expression.
She told TLHR that back then she didn’t understand what a demonstration is. However, when she went to the demonstration, she saw a lot of people and a protest sign that reads “If it could not be mentioned, then it should not exist.” Her curiosity slowly piled up as she didn’t understand its meaning.
“At the time, there were demonstrations to #saveRung and #saveProtestLeaders. I didn’t understand why they had to be arrested. At the demonstration held at Thammasat University, they called for the 10-point-manifesto. I understand and strongly agree with them that it would be better for the monarchy to have the king under the constitution.” Pink said.
Pink began attending demonstrations when she was 11 or 12 years old. She told TLHR that she knew activists such as Rung or Tawan by going to these demonstrations, and that she was worried about Tawan the most, as he had gone on a hunger strike in the prison.
Pink mentioned to TLHR that she is currently very interested in the issue of equality – a concept that she has chosen to express during the demonstration against the royal motorcade.
“We are human, you are human, and we are all equal. No one is higher than another. You are still the same as other people. The royal motorcade is really causing troubles for the other people – whenever people are traveling, eating, or getting on with their lives. It is really a trouble maker. We should look at the reality. We should be able to criticize what is wrong. I wish they reduce the budget that was given to certain parts, and increase the budget in other parts – such as for schools or hospitals – as they are in need of more budget.”
The Event on April 15th, 2022, at McDonald’s on Ratchadamnoen Road
“I went there to have some rice porridge and was arrested.”
She referred to the event where she and her friends were detained by 20–30 members of the police and authorities from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS), while having a meal inside McDonald’s on Ratchadamnoen Road.
“They carried us away… they even took the leftover food. They even handed us a phone, laughing and asking whether we would like to order a Big Mac. To be honest, we did not know where they were taking us to. They confiscated our phone and the police took us away.”
Pink described the situation that day. The police carried them – their legs were up in the air. They were sent to the MSDHS building before being transferred to the police club. They were released at around 6pm.
It was expected that King Rama X’s royal motorcade was going through Ratchadamnoen Road. Thus, this was probably the reason behind their detentions.
“Why do you have to treat us like prisoners? We went there just to have a meal. We did nothing wrong.” Pink questioned.
Being Followed, Harassed, and Becoming a Threat to National Security
Pink is one of the young activists who has been subjected to excessive surveillance and harassment by the authorities. Pink has been in contact with TLHR since March. She told us about the harassment she has faced, including being followed. The authorities followed her everywhere including her house and school.
“I have heard about the application called ‘Pegasus’ which is being used to spy on activists. I have also heard that to use it once, it would cost more than a million baht. I do not know if I was being tracked before.”
“I don’t know if they are going to be in trouble if they don’t have a picture of me to report to their superiors. Honestly, I feel sorry for them. Actually, if they are taking a picture of me, I wish they sent to me as well. In fact, I think they have all the information about me. They obviously know everything about me based on the chart that contains a list of persons of interest. Sometimes, if they call me to ask some questions: are you going to take part in this activity, what kind of activity, what are you going to do; I wish they asked me nicely. Actually the Samranrat police commissioner asked me politely more than others.”
“I want to live a normal life, a life that I don’t have to be afraid of being followed….I have never imagined being taken away, never thought of having my name on a list of persons of interest. I only want to openly communicate.”
Even on the day of the interview, undercover police had been following Pink right after she left her home. Pink described her situation:
“It has been heavy recently. They even came to watch my house. Often times, I felt that there were cars following me. Sometimes, I knock on the window of their cars, just because I want to have a chat. I want to ask where they are from and why they are there.”
Pink found out that she is the only one that is being placed under excessive surveillance. “Strangely, many of my friends that went to greet the king, none of them had to be under surveillance like me. Nowadays, I have to share my locations to my friends wherever I go. I am paranoid to go somewhere alone.”
The consequence of her activism made her name appear on the list of persons of interest. The youngest person ever to be considered a threat to national security.
“It makes me blush…me? I’m that dangerous to national security?” she said, with a comical tone.
What if the Political Situation was Good, What Would this Girl Become?
“I would have travelled to another province, without having to think about anything political. Just live a normal life and never have to think about moving abroad.” While she spoke with a clear voice, behind her words were the feelings full of worries.
She spoke about her dreams.
“I want to be a judge. I read a story about a judge who took his own life. He did it because he was ordered by his superiors, forcing him to change his judgment. The case he was deliberating was not even a political one. Therefore, I want to take part in legal reform. I want the law to be a true tool of justice, unlike what we have today.”
Another big dream for her is to reform Thailand’s correctional system. She has been constantly visiting her activist friends being detained in the prison.
“The prison environment is really bad. When its objective is to rehabilitate prisoners and integrate them back into the society, the current conditions inside the Thai prison could not support either of these goals. I have seen foreign prisons succeeded at those goals, but why Thai prisons cannot? “
On a final note, as a child growing up and living in a society dictated by the thoughts and powers of the elders, Pink has a message for them.
“For those in power, I want them to eat like the ordinary people, eat at the streetside stalls, so that they understand the lives of the ordinary people and the oppressed. I want them to try to live in a Dindaeng flat, try to use the services of the public hospitals, and try to take a bus. I want them to know that the existing budget could create tremendous benefits for the people.”
*Note: The interview was made on April 28th, 2022