ON TUESDAY, four days after his arrest, the parents of Jatupat Boonpatararaksa, aka Pai, a key member of Dao Din and Neo Democracy Movement (NDM), were at the prison to visit their son for the first time.
Pai was among the 14 being detained for violating the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ban on political gatherings of five or more persons and for allegedly committing sedition by calling for the ouster of the military regime of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Wiboon and Prim Boonpatararaksa, Pai’s parents, are both lawyers. Wiboon hailed from Bangkok and studied law at Ramkhamhaeng University. After working as a lawyer in the capital for a period, he moved to the Northeast, settling in Chaiyaphum province, motivated by a friend, and started assisting with community development and litigation.
Wiboon had helped the locals fight against big businesses and the state with the gold-mine case in Loei province and Pai and his friends also helped him.
From a very young age, Pai observed his parents, particularly his father, working with and helping local communities.
As for Prim, she also shared Wiboon’s passion and has been helping locals for several years. Sometimes the work included joining demonstrations in a bid to oust corrupt governments taking advantage of the people.
“When I was giving birth to Pai in 1992, his father was not even there. He had gone to Bangkok to join protesters in [the event known as] Black May,” Prim said, referring to the mass 1992 uprising that ousted dictator-cum-prime minister General Suchinda Kraprayoon.
The family is very politically active and Pai had been strongly influenced by them, accompanying his father to political rallies in Bangkok.
“Sometimes, it requires more than being there with local people, educating them or helping them with legal cases. Sometimes, coming to Bangkok is necessary. If the government’s policies are locals-unfriendly, we have to make their voices heard,” Wiboon said.
He added that in past years, “I’d taken Pai to join People’s Alliance for Democracy [PAD] rallies. It’s a part of learning as well as a part of the process in helping others.
“When the locals were neglected, what else could we do? It leads us to Bangkok. It’s not about [political] colour or anything. People have different goals even when they are rallying in the same group. When I was supporting the People’s Democratic Reform Committee [PDRC], I didn’t agree with all of them. My agenda was to push things through to help the locals. Others also had their own agenda,” Wiboon explained.
Asked if he had joined the red-shirt demonstrations as well, Wiboon said: “No. But 80 per cent of the people we work with are red shirts.”
Not surprisingly, Pai’s parents are very supportive of their son’s decision to campaign against what he sees as injustice. They have learned he will not be seeking bail – a move to pressure the military regime further. Pai will eventually study law like his parents, but at Khon Kaen University.
“I would be lying to say I’m not worried,” Prim said. “I care for Pai. But I definitely know that he hasn’t done anything wrong. He is not in jail because he killed someone or robbed from the people. He did what he thought was the right thing. So as parents we have to support him and his decision.
Pai’s father said: “The prison will strengthen him as a fighter. Now, he won’t have to fear anything given that he has already been put in jail. So, go for it … Fight for whatever you think is right,” Wiboon said, knowing that his son and friends could face imprisonment term of as much as seven years each.
At the remand prison, the parents joined NDM activities supporting the 14 detainees including their son. Wiboon played a guitar and sang “The Song of the Commoner”, a revolutionary song, along with his son’s friends.
Pai’s mother said she would return home in Chaiyaphum the following day, but Wiboon would stay a little longer to assist Pai, in case he needed anything.