One Year After Fighting: What’s Next?

In this Oct. 16, 2020, file photo, activist Bunkueanun Paothong poses for a photo outside a police station in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Jerry Harmer, File)

By Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong

It is certainly chilling that it has been one year since I was charged with one of the rarest, and one of the most severe laws of this land. It was far from an ideal situation to find yourself in. Many in my family did not react well to the news. Despite the somber feelings all around, I soldiered on. And here I am now, writing this after a year of that confusing and terrifying incident, contemplating about life that has gone before, and what will be in store for the roads ahead.

One year ago, I joined one of the pro-democracy protests on October 14th, 2020. The objective was to occupy the Government House and force the Prime Minister to resign. I joined a group of friends, waiting for the main demonstration entourage at the Government House, not knowing that the Royal Motorcade that supposedly ‘passed’ through the protest would change my life from then on.

Looking back at that fateful hour, there was no telling what would happen, nobody knows, not even the lawyers at that moment. The law which I am charged with was practically never used in Thai history. And come to think of it, in a perverse way, I became part of history by being one of the first people that were charged by this law.

Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong and Ekachai Hongkangwan on March 31, 2021.

Today, situations turned for the worst in a sense. Many of my fellow students were either incarcerated, or compelled to maintain their silence. Some soldiered on against the government, and others have sought exile in other places. Some have maintained their peaceful protests, others have taken measures to fight back themselves. The movement today was unrecognizable to the one we organized last year. One question remains at the back of my mind: “What’s next?”

This is the question that many of the student leaders, or the organizers, did not know the answers to. One fights for their own revolution in their own ways and many have their own ideas. In my view, I believe that each of us have the ability to effect change and revolutionize our country in their own ways. We have demonstrations and organizations fighting for democracy, but to make sure that this change will take root, the people have to demand and effect change in their own circles as well. White collar employees can definitely unionize and demand better pay, better care, and a safer workplace. Students can also demand their rights to better and safer colleges. Many can be the change they want to be around their places. It is apt to say that no one will fight for your rights better than you do. We have to fight for our own change, our own revolution.

It’s been a year since. I still have my own revolution to fight for. My own freedom from fear. Many are now fighting for their own revolution in jail. I am still here with the threat of going into one. I still, as many do, desire a better country, a better life, one that all of us can breathe, live and die as a free individual. There was no telling what would happen next. I could only hope that our people had not abandoned their hope just yet. Thailand is not yet lost.

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