Letter from Chulalongkorn Student Council President Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal to American Ambassador to Thailand, Glyn Davies, turning down the invitation to celebrate American Independence Day with embassy staff

Note: Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is the VERY young person and the new hope of the Thai pro-democracy movement. He aspires to bring democratic values and respect for human rights to Chulalongkorn Univeristy, by for instance, doing away with abusive hazing rituals and making prostration to the statue of King Chulalongkorn optional. Here he turns down an invitation from the American Ambassador to celebrate American Indepence Day Celebrations with embassy staff and guests, for principled reasons. Translation is by Ann Norman, the second half has not yet been checked. It should be 95% correct.

Two weeks ago, I received a formal invitation from the American Ambassador to Thailand, sent to me at the faculty of Political Science at Chula[longkorn University], informing me that I can be one of the year’s honored guests joining the celebration of the 241st Anniversary of Independence Day at the Intercontinental Hotel, Bangkok.

For me, an ordinary student, this is naturally a great honor.

However, being invited causes me to want to ask why was I asked? I’m not different from the other students. It’s just that I that the thoughts I have when I think for myself causes me to campaign in a movement to increase democracy in the educational system of Thailand, which is rotten, in the community of the university, and community at the national level, those are things the population ought to do already. Therefore [my] getting this invitation this time is probably because the United States sees that democracy is important––sees that youth and population that cherish and fight for democracy are something important. The founders of the United States of America who achieved their goal of building a country on checks and balances and a separation of powers, knew that these aspects were imperative to sustain the right to freedom of thought and expression in a democratic society. As someone who campaigns in a movement, I am naturally happy to receive this invitation. The United States has had a such a large number of fighters for the population and for freedom, from Thomas Paine (who wrote the “Rights of Man”) up to Eugene V. Debs, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hellen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, etc., etc. Therefore the fact that I received an invite to join in the celebration of the Independence of the country that has produced thinkers, fighters, and leaders that have promoted liberty and rights, naturally causes this student, who believes in democracy, to be pleased to no end!

But as I have thought about it over and over, I return to feeling conflicted. [What has] occurred in the role of the United States of America: 1) The United States has invited me, as a student for democracy, like the founders of your country [who] have seen the importance. And 2) President of the United States Donald Trump has gone as far as to invite General Prayut Chan-ocha, leader of the coup, to go visit the White House. Aren’t they opposed? If the United States really cares about human rights and democracy [and] will happily shake hands with a Dictator who infringes on human rights, arrests and imprisons people who think differently, destroys the environment and assets of the nation, demolishes the processes that check and verify so there is no foundation for good governance, obstructs free public expression of persons who think differently and the foundation of academic subjects, how can I accept?

When I was elected president of student council of Chula[longkorn University], I announced my vision to be a president of university student council, different than what had come before. I will revive faith that those who get into politics can create real hope. I will be a person in the style of democracy and free society without hiding. I will have courage of ethical behavior in an age of imitation. This is the most important thing for me. My expression in this matter is a thing that must be done, is a thing that is so necessary for bringing about democratic society.

How will I be happy if I celebrate while my student friends, together with the Thai people, [also] my friends, can’t receive justice and are not able to offer an opinion honestly? The case calling for disclosure of the circumstances of the Thai-Chinese train should be a good example as to the lack of transparency and dictatorial nature of junta that will destroy the future, the economy, and the profits of the Thai people for present and future generations.

Finally, I would like to thank you Honorable Ambassador Glyn Davies for inviting me to the event. I have a letter with my reply, in this case about The Treaty of Paris, which will convey the opinion of the Student Council of the University to the White House. [You] have courtesy towards Thailand. Many times you showed support for democracy, liberty and rights so clearly, and many other of your American embassy staff also. I hope that the things that I write here to send to the President are an ingredient in the decision inviting General Prayut Chan-ocha to the White House. I hold no malice whatsoever towards the United States of America. In the system of democracy, each voice is important. I hope that I will be one voice, that you hear my reasons fully, that a university student must decline to join in the celebration of the Independence Day of the United States of America, with goodwill. I hope that the United States of American considers the rights and freedoms Thai people are deprived of, and return to clearly expressing a viewpoint of support for Thai democracy.

Being good friends on an equal basis in leading society towards a society where each person has rights, liberty, and happiness in their respective lives,

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal

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