Pornthip M.
Note: The fable below was originally published in Thai on Prachatai on 13 October 2014. The author, Pornthip, or Golf, is a detainee currently being held in pre-charge detention in an Article 112 case. She was arrested on 15 August 2014 and her detention has been renewed 6 times; the prosecutor has to decide whether or not to prosecute her by 25 October. Her lawyers have opposed her continued detention and requested bail four times. Each time, the Court has refused bail on the basis that the complaint against her is grave and there is concern that she may flee.
 
Golf was arrested due to her involvement in the performance of the play, ‘The Wolf Bride,’ in the events commemorating the fortieth anniversary of 14 October 1973 last year.
 
Golf is from Phitsanulok and her family has a cassava farm. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University. Since the end of secondary school, she has been involved in social activism and various outreach activities. She has many artistic abilities, including drawing and writing fables. But she has a special fondness for performance, and founded Prakai Fai theatre troupe before it dissolved in 2012. She once gave an interview about her dreams and said that she, “wanted to perform plays in the provinces, perform in different places. And, importantly, I want to perform plays for children to watch. I want to tell children new fables -- fables of ordinary people who change the world.”
 
She wrote the fable translated below while in detention and sent it via postal mail to a close friend. The fable is about her dreams and is encouragement for those outside the prison, especially children, with whom she often did activities. The underlined words are those that she had to use polite language in line with the regulation of the prison. While in English, there is only one register of third-person pronouns, in Thai there is a wide range that can be used to indicate status and social position. Her underlined words were the most neutral of these – “เขา” -- which I have translated as he.” What word she would use if not restricted is left to the imagination. 
 
The letter from golf. On top of the letter stamped "Approved" by the prison authority.
 
 
********************************
 
Central Women’s Prison
33/3 Ngam Wong Wan Road
Lad Yao
Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900
 
3 October 2014
 
‘Little Foot’  
 
Once upon a time, a child was born in a village in which all of the inhabitants had hearts of darkness. This darkness could not be seen through their chests, but was expressed through their words and actions.  They monitored their neighbors and gossiped about them. They slandered them. And all families acted sanctimoniously… But the heart of the little child was not the same color as theirs. His heart was the size of a fist. He was born with tiny feet. The villagers liked to mock the weak points of others and therefore called him ‘Little Foot.’ One cold day in winter, there was dew that had hardened into ice on the blades of grass, or what they referred to as frost. Little Foot woke up before the sky was light. He did not wake in order to admire the glistening beauty of the dew upon the blades of grass like the city people like to visit the village to do, but so that he could plan his new independent life. Little Foot picked up the cloth parcel he prepared the night before along with a flask of water and slowly walked to the steps of the house. He did not light a lamp, because there was electricity from solar panels.  After turning off the switch at the top of the stairs, Little Foot groped his way awkwardly down the stairs. He fumbled along until his vision began to adjust to the darkness and he could see the road indistinctly. Little Foot then walked onto the small village road that was simply a ridge made by villagers who mowed the grass neatly. He walked barefoot, his little pair of those two small feet. His feet were stripped bare and he trod on a path shrouded in grass and sharp blades of ice. But Little Foot did not feel anything because the cold upon the carpet of grass numbed his feet. There were small slivers of pain, but he did not stop walking.
 
“Walk on in the darkness. To walk partially on the right path and partially on the wrong path is still better than not forging forward at all,” Little Foot thought in his heart …
 
 
P.S. Please use polite and correct Thai language
 
 
 
Kho. Yo.*  Pornthip
Room 1/6, Phetch Building, Entry Zone
 
 
* Upon being taken into detention in Thailand, an individual loses her previous title. Rather than being “น.ส.” (No. So.) or “นางสาว,” (Nang Sao) which corresponds to “Miss,” one becomes “ข.ญ.,” (Kho. Yo.) or “ขังหญิง” (Khang Ying), which means “female detainee.” – trans.
 
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn
 
Golf (right) at the Ratchada Criminal Court (file photo)
 
 
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Since the military coup, the number of lèse majesté cases has been rising in Thailand as the chances of the accused grow even slimmer under the junta’s rule. The trial was about to start when everybody except the defendants and their lawyers were asked to leave the room. Despite negotiations by observers and in the Read more...
BANGKOK (AP) — Lawyers for two Myanmar migrant workers accused of killing two British travelers on a southern Thai resort island say the two have retracted their confessions and now claim to have neither raped the female victim nor slain the pair. The battered bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a beach on Koh Tao island on Sept. 15. Read more...
BANGKOK, 21 October 2014: Airports of Thailand will reduce its budget for the second phase of Suvarnabhumi Airport expansion from the initial THB62.5 billion to THB61.6 billion. The Board of Directors chairman, Prasong Poontaneat, said after a new feasibility study AoT has reduced the budget for the airport expansion. However, all major aspects of the […] Read more...
 
The military has again attempted to censor the anti-establishment Same Sky (Fah Deaw Kan in Thai) publishing house by banning its t-shirts, one of which has the image of a dinosaur, with possible charges of lèse majesté. Earlier the military pressured its embattled editor to delete Facebook comments on the military’s censorship attempt.
 
The military asked for samples of three T-shirts for inspection: 
  • A white t-shirt with a Jurassic Park logo and the message “The Lost World of Monarchical Absolutism.” The image was derived from the theme of the issue of the Same Sky Journal published in 2012.    
  • A blue t-shirt with a tree in the middle. The root of the tree reads “Constitutional Monarchy” that grows into a tree formed from the text “Absolute Monarchy”. It is an image from the journal published in 2011.
  • The last one is the cult symbol of “Khun Sab Sueng” or Mr Grateful with his mouth zipped shut. The symbol of Khun Sab Sueng, normally shown crying, has been used by the anti-establishment to mock the ultra-royalists. 
     

From Left: Blue t-shirt with a tree in the middle. The root of the tree reads “Constitutional Monarchy” that grows into a tree formed from the text “Absolute Monarchy”; White t-shirt with a Jurassic Park logo and the message “The Lost World of Monarchical Absolutism”; and Khun Sab Sueng” or Mr Grateful with his mouth zipped shut. 
 
 
Jaran Homtianthong, President of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand which organized the 2014 Book Expo Thailand at the Sirikit Convention Centre, Bangkok, revealed to the BBC Thai Service that three military and police officers on Sunday asked him to request the Same Sky to stop selling the T-shirts at the fair.
 
The military claimed that t-shirts could be deemed defaming the revered Thai monarchy.
 
On the same day, Thanapol Eawsakul, the editor of Same Sky journal and publishing house, stated that the military ordered him to delete a Facebook status which stated that the military officials has come to search the Same Sky’s booth, claiming that some of the books have contents that could be deemed as defaming the monarchy as well.
 
Jaran, however, said to the military that he will not infringe upon the Same Sky rights and he has no rights to judge if the t-shirts could be liable for lese majeste or not. 
 
“Thanapol, the editor of Same Sky journal, was arrested and released twice already without being judged by the court. He has the right to set up the booth. If I infringe upon his rights then i would be guilty because he did not do anything wrong,” the BBC Thai Service quoted Jaran as saying. He added that he was not surprise that this might happen because the martial law is still in place. 
 
In 2006, Same Sky and Thanapol were threatened with lèse majesté because of the issue “The Monarchy and the Thai Society” aka “The Coke Issue,” which was banned by the Thai authorities. Because of this issue, Thanapol was charged with Article 112 but the police did not file the case. 
 
 
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The Military Court rejected the bail request of a man who wrote messages mainly criticizing the junta and allegedly making reference to the king in a shopping mall’s restrooms.

On Monday, the Military Court refused to grant 2.5 million baht bail to Opas C., a 67 year-old man charged with lèse majesté after writing messages criticizing the junta and the Democrat Party and allegedly making reference to HM the King. The Court reasoned that the charges are serious and they could not grant bail because of the flight risk.  

Opas was caught by guards at Seacon Square mall in eastern Bangkok on 15 October and later handed over to the military by mall personnel. He was brought before the press on 17 October and charged with lèse majesté by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) for writing the following message:

“The government of clowns that robbed the nation, led by f*** Prayut. They have issued ridiculous policies of amateur comedians. Their main job is to use the monarchy (uncle [censored by Prachatai*]). Their main weapon is Article 112. I’m sick of seeing your face [Prayut’s] every day. It tells me that you [Prayut] are near the end because of the looming internal conflict.”

*The censored phrase, allegedly a reference to the King, merely gives a physical description of a person.

At the press briefing last week, Opas, sitting next to Lt Col Burin Thongprapai from the military’s Judge Advocate General’s Office, said he wrote the messages because Thai politics stressed him out and that he was frustrated with the coup and the junta.

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Harrison George

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is a bit of military flummery that nominally provides security for the monarch but in reality keeps the tourist dollars flowing.  The sight of humans imitating automatons in ridiculous hats attracts the gawping attention of those in need of regular trivial mental stimulation.

At 6 pm every evening a similar change-over occurs in police stations around the country.  This attracts no attention at all and the mechanics of it are unknown to the general public. 

But perhaps they should be.

The officers going off shift at 6 pm will be back again at 6 pm tomorrow.  Starting a new shift to work through till midnight.

You see, the good lord invented the 24-hour day, but the Royal Thai Police have invented the 30-hour day.  An officer who today is on duty from noon to 6 pm will be working the 6 pm to midnight shift tomorrow, then after 24 hours off, midnight to 6 am, then the next day 6 am to noon and start again. 

The average citizen only becomes aware of this when he files a report at, say 7 pm.  If the next day he needs to contact the officer in charge of the report (and the rules are that no other officer is allowed to interfere), he is asked to come back at any inconvenient time between midnight and 6 am.

Outside of their 6 hours, the officers may have to appear in court, write up case files, maybe even do some investigating.  And at some point, sleep.  Or try to.

And there’s a problem.  The planet turns every 24 hours, give or take the odd micro-second, and over the years the human body has adapted to it, as have animals, insects, even plants.  We are programmed for about 8 hour’s kip while it’s dark and 16 hours awake in the light.  Muck about with this and you make trouble for yourself. 

There is a copious medical literature on the effect of night shift on workers, who are still on a 24-hour cycle, but the wrong way round, so to speak.  There is an increased risk of diabetes, cancers, heart disease, obesity, poor sexual performance and, surprise surprise, insomnia. 

And that’s before we mention the cognitive effects.  Night shift workers make more mistakes, have more accidents, and generally exercise poorer judgement.  I have found no research that says they indulge in more corruption.

All this is exacerbated by the constantly shifting shifts that the police are expected to put in.  Is it any wonder that we get the uncoordinated cock-up on Koh Tao?

But maybe this is one of the things that will go under the junta’s ‘if it moves, reform it’ policy.  Because they, and the rest of the anti-corruption righteous right, are convinced that the police are a major source of evil in the land.  Why, you-know-who used to be one.  What more proof do you need?

Well, yes, there is evidence a-plenty of corrupt practices among the police.  But who exactly is pointing the finger?  If we are going to expose institutionalized stupidity in one branch of the security forces, maybe we should reveal a home truth about the military.

No one I know believes that the military are squeaky clean when it comes to money.  But most of us think that any hanky-panky is of the common-or-garden variety, of taking a cut off stuff, especially when they buy overpriced toys that are missing necessary bits (the aircraft carrier with no aircraft; the submarine pens with no submarines), or are utterly and irretrievably useless (the airship and magic bomb detectors).

But military officers have a scam that only they can indulge in.  I was alerted to this when someone told me of a base which on paper is home to hundreds of soldiers but has bunks for only about 50.  And no, they’re not all sleeping on the floor.

It works like this.  Once basic training is over, it is often hard to find work for all those conscripts.  Many go onto the books as ‘servants’ working in officers’ housing.  Many, many servants.  Dozens per house.  So many that they’d be falling over each other if they were actually there.  But on closer examination, you will probably find that the housekeeping is being done by an illegal Burmese skivvy on a couple of thou a month.

So where are all the servant-soldiers?  Well, along with many others at the tail-end of their compulsory 2 years, they are out in the normal world.  Some are working on the family farm or business, many make money in the informal sector, a few just goof off.  They do whatever they want to do as long as it doesn’t require a civilian ID, which they will not get back until demob. 

Another thing they don’t have is their TMB passbook and ATM card for the account that receives their admittedly pitiful military pay each month.  These are being safeguarded back at base by their officers, who happen to know everyone’s PIN.  In this way, an officer’s salary can be supplemented multiple times by however many conscripts have been given paid (but not to them) furlough for the duration. 

So now think again about those assets declarations by the uniformed members of the NLA.  Rich wives?  Inherited wealth?  Luck on the lottery?  Excuse me while I cough discreetly.


About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

 

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