Group of 7 students happy to be 'flies who won't let the cat enjoy its meal'
AS THE DEADLINE for them to surrender to police for repeatedly and publicly opposing the military junta was set to expire yesterday, the seven wanted Dao Din students insisted from an undisclosed location that they were fighting for a legitimate cause and refused to relent.
“I think there are others who may want to come out [to oppose the National Council for Peace and Order] but don’t dare to. We want to show them that we can fight and create political space that’s beyond the red and yellow [political] divides,” said Suphachai Phukrongpoly, one of the seven members of Dao Din.
“I feel that the military coup is a terrible culture in that it forces people to think alike,” said Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, 23, the most expressive among his peers, all law students from Khon Kaen University and all from the Northeast. “It’s tantamount to cutting short the learning process [of society].”
Jatupat is well aware that seven core members, himself included, is minuscule compared with the 30,000 students at Khon Kaen University alone but he said the group’s fight was like trying to ignite an idea so people could rise up. “If you don’t agree [with the coup] but don’t come out, it is as if you condone it.”
Another member, Suwitcha Pitankkorn, said: “I am glad that we’re the minority who have the guts to rise up.”
Besides having to deal with the military junta, which is now after them, some members of the group said they found it difficult to deal with their friends and families |but all had eventually made |their parents understand that it was their decision even though the|odds were heavily against them.
Jatupat feels he had to take a stance. “If our numbers eventually increase, we can overcome,” he said, adding that at least they were “like flies that won’t let the cat enjoy its meal”.
Suwitcha said he was disappointed with some of his long-time buddies, as he found them to be utterly apolitical and indifferent to what was going on. “I feel anguished,” he said.
Balancing studies and keeping up the struggle for democracy is no easy task under a military dictatorship. Yesterday, three non-core members of the group were arrested in Khon Kaen province after they placed drawings of the seven at the province’s Democracy Monument.
“My position is that I would choose to commit myself to society before my own interests. I can deal with the latter later,” said Jatupat, adding that he had to do this because dictatorship forced people to shut their mouths. Even rural villagers are affected as the junta has colluded with big businesses, and this is adversely affecting villages on land issues, forests and petroleum exploration – issues the group originally devoted themselves to, he said.
“I don’t hate Prayut. I won’t hit him if he sits next to me, but I hate his thinking,” said Jatupat, who is known as Phai among friends. “Prayut is power-crazy. Well, he’s the lousiest PM I have ever heard speaking.”
“Under a normal government, there is naturally an opposition party. So I will be an opposition for you,” Suwitcha interjected.
“They told us to obey the law but they themselves tore up the constitution. It’s really ironic,” added Wasan Setsit, another member. “They have to be more fair. Why don’t they acknowledge first that they tore up the charter?”
Supachai “Arty” Phukrongploy said: “Autocratic power comes with fear, no matter which era,” adding that the power of social media should be harnessed to fight repression.
The secretary-general of the National Security Council sent a message to the Dao Din group yesterday, asking how they could benefit the country by doing what they were doing.
NSC secretary-general Anusit Kunakorn said he was concerned, as these people were still young. He said that if the group stuck with opposing the military junta, the country could only progress slowly.
Jatupat said there was no point asking Prayut to stop ruling the country autocratically. “I don’t think he would stop even if he were told to stop. So I will catch him later! As for those supporting the coup makers, I want to say that the negative impact will last 10 to 20 years, so please consider the long-term consequences.”
Suwitcha, meanwhile, said he was still intrigued by the accusation that they were paid to oppose the regime.
As for nerdy-looking Panuphong Sritananuwat, he said he would like to thank the public for their overwhelming moral support, which was beyond expectation.
“I thought [our actions] would only elicit support in Khon Kaen. I am delighted, and please convey my thanks to them,” he said.
Jatupat said he had gambled everything and hoped others would also step up to defend freedom and democracy.