Who am I? I’m a twenty-something queer person with an okay job, living in the centre of Bangkok. I wake up breathing in the PM 2.5 particles first thing every morning. I commute to work, passing this big sign with the words “Bangkok, the perfect lifestyle” as I ride through an endless sea of honking cars and heatwaves. I end the day by reading the news, discovering what stupid if not ignorant shit our government has decided to say now. As a part of self-reflection in preparation of writing this piece, I looked back to this hell of a routine and found that none of this screams hopeful.
‘What makes you special makes you dangerous’ Kate Bush
Yet on the other side of the town are “Tawan” Tantawan, 21, and “Bam” Orawan, 23, peaceful activists who were prosecuted with the lèse majesté law — the same law they were protesting against. Thailand’s lèse majesté law (article 112) protects the Royal Family from defamation and threats, which should not be a problem if it wasn’t being used by ultra-royalists as a political bullying tool. Tawan and Bam are almost on their second month of dry hunger strikes within the walls of Bangkok’s Central Women’s Correctional Institution, with growing concerns over their failing health.
Their demands were simple: they just want judges to act like judges, and not like political pawns influenced by money and/or power. It’s ironic that they are exactly the victims of the cause they are fighting for. News outlets have been reporting the martyrs’ physical conditions, each day crawling slowly towards fatality with little compromise or signs of backing down.
‘So I bury it and forget’ Kate Bush
It’s amazing to me that despite all of the pain, there’s still a sense of hopefulness among them. It’s even a harder kick to the head, considering that I’m living my perfectly mediocre life, yet I still feel hopeless looking at those brave souls, and a handful of other political prisoners and refugees who were damned in a similar manner.
If it were two years ago, when this wrath was fresh and hot nationwide, I’d be calling a scooter taxi to the nearest protest centre in a heartbeat. I’d stand beside others of my generation, who were also sick of our government and the way the lèse majesté law was used. Late 2020 to early 2021 was the prime time of new age democracy, where protests would happen every week. I even remember having to run away from the high pressure water tanks into the safety of my university campus. If this were 2020, we would be taking more action in solidarity of our friends in imprisonment.
I don’t remember what happened along the way. Perhaps we got exhausted and collectively ran out of hope while our government, while idiotic, played a smart and long game of waiting us out. I feel grossed out to admit that at the end of the day, maybe we saw those democratic movements merely as a hype train that we can just hop off when protesting was out of trend. We forget that there’s a serious issue persisting and there are people like Tawan and Bam who are on this train for life.
‘Just saying it could even make it happen’ Kate Bush
I have been struggling to write a conclusion to this think piece, and I think I’ve found the reason why: there is no conclusion to this story in real life. Tawan and Bam are still fighting for all of us and I still feel this lingering hopelessness. There has been more traction, especially online, with hashtags that demand the release of the two and to show support, but I have a feeling that this would circle back into another trend just like past movements.
One thing that I could gather from this ongoing story, though, is that perhaps it’s time to let our hopelessness become the reason to be hopeful again. And I hope that my story resonates with youngsters like me across the globe, and reminds us that we aren’t alone. Hopelessness is something that we collectively feel as a generation, and maybe it’s time to do something about it. We’ve had our rest and now it’s about damn time that we pick ourselves up. We must act, understand why we feel hopeless and point our weapons at the cause.
Kate Bush says it best in her iconic 1985 song Cloudbusting:
‘The government can confiscate all fluorescent yoyos, but that would never stop us from glowing in the dark‘.Kate Bush
Featured image: Tan Kaninthanond / Unsplash