The King and Pai, Part 14: Pai’s Six Months in Jail . . . How? Why? What Could We Have Done?

[NOTE: This article was first posted on Facebook, June 20, 2017] On the 6 month anniversary of Pai Dao Din* being incarcerated for nothing (he shared an article about the King on facebook), it’s a time for reflection.

First we shed some tears for all that’s been lost: As Pai’s father Nai Viboon Boonpattararaksa, posted [my transation],

In six months
Some people graduate from school
Some people get a promotion
Some people have a baby
อ่านหนังสือจบไปหลายสิบเล่ม ฝึกซ้อมดนตรีจนขึ้นเวทีได้
You can read many tens of books or practice music until you can get on stage
For many people a love is cultivated and becomes ripe
หกเดือนของไผ่ เป็นหกเดือนแห่งการถูกจองจำ กับความผิดที่ยังไม่ถูกตัดสิน แต่พิพากษาไปแล้วล่วงหน้า
Pai’s six months have been six months of imprisonment for a fault that still hasn’t been decided, but he’s sentenced up front.

Indeed, according to news stories, Pai has, or at least had, a girlfriend. He told her she could go her own way if she needed to. He won $50,000 as part of his Gwangju Human Rights Award in May and suggested his sister use it for her schooling because he doesn’t know when he’s getting out. It is heartbreaking to go back to his abruptly abandoned Facebook page, which looks like the Facebook pages of many of us who are opposed to the coup—funny memes and serious observations about the ongoing political nonsense, with posts about life. There is a post in which he looks forward to the relief he will feel once he’s graduated from law school. And he thanks his family and friends for getting him there. Heartbreaking. (He never graduated because of this nonsense.)

It’s time to look again at the video he filmed of his own arrest (he went live on Facebook) and to see that he was startled to hear that he was being accusing of lese majesty just for sharing a article on Facebook. It seemed too absurd to be true. I’m tired of hearing that he chose to be a martyr. He chose to do what’s right, and what he had a right to do. He expected to be in and out of jail, for standing up for his human rights and those of other Thais. But he was counting on society to have some sort of conscience. Surely, they wouldn’t lock up a boy for 15 years over something that is not even forbidden by any plausible interpretation of the Thai lese majesty law!

It’s a time to reflect that when I saw this happen, and said “HELL NO! I won’t let this one go!” and called him “Thailand’s Rosa Parks,” that I made a good choice. This was a good, strategic place to take a stand. A nonviolent human rights and pro-democracy activist, one of Thailand’s best and brightest, faces 15 years in jail just for sharing a Facebook news article—at a time when Thailand has never more needed human rights, democracy, and honest news articles.

It’s time to reflect that Pai Dao Din was right to share that news article. It was important, and it’s veracity has never been questioned, not even by the Thai junta. And it looks tame today beside articles on the King that have come out since. Later articles are more shocking in part because, since Pai’s imprisonment, the King has continued to misbehave in new and horrible ways, including the enforced disappearance and subsequent humiliation of yet another close associate, Jumpol Manmai; and the stealing of a historical plaque marking the end of absolute monarchy; and the King’s exhibitionist strolls through Germany in crop tops or bikini bottoms; and the jailing of around more 8 or 9 people for sharing important content about King Vajiralongkorn on Facebook. A second reason that news articles today are more shocking than the one Pai shared is that both Thai and foreign reporters are waking up to the fact that it is immoral to ignore, and so condone, probable crimes on this scale, or to respect a lese majesty law this barbaric.

Pai Dao Din, who almost graduated with a law degree, was right to worry about the new Thai Constitution. It was crafted by some of the least democratic people on the planet, and it has now been further edited to appease power-hungry King Vajiralongkorn. None of them would recognize a human right if it bit them in the ass, which it will . . . one of these days, I’m sure. At the very least, this lying junta and the King they so hypocritically tried to elevate to god-like status, will be condemned by the verdict of history.

Finally, I end with a post by Pai’s father Nai Viboon Pattararaksa agonizing about whether he could have done anything different:

บางขณะ เราก็มาคิดทบทวน แต่แม้เราพยายาม คิดคล้อยตามพวกที่กล่าวหาให้ร้ายเรา เราก็ยังนึกไม่ออกว่าเรา ทำไมเราถึงได้เก่งกาจสามารถเลวได้อย่างไร้ที่ติดั่งนั้น หากสิ่งที่ไผ่ ดาวดิน และครอบครัวเรา คิดและทำมาตลอด และจะคิด จะ
ทำอีกต่อไป เป็นสิ่งที่พวกคุณเรียกมันว่าผิด
ไผ่และครอบครัวเรา ก็ไม่ต้องการสิ่งที่เรียกมัน
ว่าถูก อย่างแน่นอน
“Sometimes I think it over, but even if I try to think as the group that is accusing and slandering us, I still can’t figure out, how could we dare be so evil like that? If what Pai Dao Din and our family have always thought and done, and will always think and do, are what you all call wrong, Pai and our family don’t need the things that you call ‘right.’ That’s for sure!”

*Pai Dao Din’s real name is Jatupat Boonpattararaksa.

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