Throughout the past few months, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) has had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Red Shirt activists who are at the front line of the struggle for justice and equality in Thailand. Tui is well known among activists as one of the first to engage with political prisoners and highlight their cause. Her story mirrors both the frustration that many Red Shirts feel towards the political situation and their dedication to propelling positive change.
TRS: When did you first come to Bangkok?
I came to Bangkok from Isaan about 30 years ago. Like so many others, I was looking for job and business opportunities in the capital.
TRS: When did you start to become involved in the Red Shirt movement?
I first joined the Red Shirts after the military coup in 2006. I voted for Thaksin Shinawatra’s government and was very upset by the coup which removed democracy from our country.
TRS: Why did you vote for Thaksin Shinawatra?
Thaksin’s policies made life easier for me, especially the 30 Baht healthcare scheme. Thaksin also made people aware of democracy and encouraged our democratic consciousness. I also respected that he legalized the underground lottery that everyone knew there was a huge black market for.
TRS: Were you involved in the protests against the Democrat-led government in 2010?
Yes. I was in Rajaprasong on May 19th, calling for a democratic election. At first I refused to believe that the government would respond so brutally, until I saw the military use live ammunition on us, it was like warfare out there. After that day Bangkok was in a post-war situation, there was nobody on the streets.
TRS: How did you first get involved with political prisoners?
I first paid attention to the political prisoners when well known Red Shirt leaders were put in prison. However, when I realized that ordinary people were being sent to prison on weak charges I felt very sorry for them. I visited them and found out that they had no support from any groups, that they were being neglected and suffered horrible conditions in the prison. So I got in touch with other activists and we pooled together food and supplies and brought them to the prisoners.
TRS: Did you get involved with 112 prisoners at the same time?
I consider 112 prisoners as political prisoners, since they are imprisoned for crimes of conscience. I will never forget my first visit to the 112 prisoners, they were so happy to see somebody from the outside and feel that they were not forgotten. So I kept on visiting them and bringing them food and supplies. It almost became my second job. My friends and I pooled money and resources from our own pockets to help them. Back then there were just a few of us, but since the political prisoners have been getting more media attention, more people are joining.
TRS: What do you think of the amnesty proposals for political prisoners?
I think amnesty is long overdue, it is time for the government to do something about this. It should be granted to 112 prisoners as well.
TRS: How do you see the future in Thailand?
It’s hard to say. It is difficult to fight on behalf of political prisoners because the media here is very partial. Most Thais do not know about 112 because the mainstream media does not report on it. There is some potential in social media though, because people are starting to speak out.