Opinion: Why Ekachai Hongkangwan Is a Formidable Political Activist?

Ekachai Hongkangwan at a police station on Feb. 10, 2018.

Anti-junta-cum-monarchy-reformist Ekachai Hongkangwan has emerged as one of the most persistent opponents to the conservative powers in Thailand over the years.

Just out of prison on bail earlier this week on Tuesday after spending five months in prison for posting obscene and sexually explicit story about sex in prison on Facebook, Ekachai told me with a nonchalant voice on the phone Friday that he’s most probably returning to prison anew. “Probably not by this year at least,” the 47-year-old activist said.

The former lese majeste convict had been detained on five separate charges and convictions now and I assume he knows his stuff. He said there are three more pending charges, including sedition, and 17 more charges in the pipeline.

“I am certain that soon I will be back [in prison] but probably not this year,” said Ekachai who quickly became active on Facebook after his temporary bail release and said to me he was surprised that many people came to greet him outside the prison when he was freed a few days ago. He said he was surprised but thankful that many turned up and wanted to tell them that if they are resolved to do something, then go the whole hog. “Do it with confidence,” said Ekachai.


I was thinking about factors that made Ekachai a formidable political activist and these are some factors. At the same time these factors are also constraints faced by many other Thais.

First, Ekachai’s parents are both deceased, he is alone, with no partner or a child. Over the years, I have heard countless stories, mostly told confidentially, that an activist or activist wannabe is being constrained by his parents, family, spouse, workplace, and more. Many were reminded to consider the costs that the family will face. Ekachai has little or none of that.

Second, Ekachai is financially independent and does not work for any company or government organizations. Many activists face financial and workplace constraints. Being a political activist is costly in Thailand especially when you end up in prison and no one wants to hire you afterward.

Ekachai, a former lottery seller with a college degree is “fortunate” that he has a bit of savings and no pressure from an employer to toe the line. The same cannot be said for many, including young student activists hoping for a professional career in non-politics-related fields in an era where your personal social media accounts such as Facebook are monitored by your prospective employer or employer.

Third, a spartan lifestyle. When you think about luxuries, more luxuries, and getting used to it, it is hard to be out on the protest sites day in and day out. I visited Ekachai’s humble shophouse in Ladprao area of Bangkok once and was struck by how spartan it was. The man also mostly eats like a working class.

Fourth, no political ambition. When the man is ideologically driven but showed no intention to join any political party over the years. He is just too blunt to act like he cares for the electorate.

He is too wild a loose cannon for any party system to manage him. A free spirit, the man, now with over 43,000 followers on Facebook and a household name among those in the anti-junta as well as monarchy-reform movement has emerged as a political voice, independent of constraints from family, company, political party, and beyond.


After spending more than three years in prison over the five incarcerations, Ekachai told me he will continue to do what he does.

“I feel like there’s not much more they can do to me,” Ekachai told me.

After so many troubles that he went through, you either end up broken or survive and become more immune to the pains. Ekachai appears to be the latter.