TRANG — Netizens on Monday raised a donation of 70,000 baht for a low-ranking soldier who was sent to jail after trying to enter a province under lockdown and visit his elderly mother.
Sgt. Maj. 1st Class Peerasak Champa, or “Sgt. Champa,” drew widespread sympathy on social media after the army put him in jail on Saturday, in what appeared to be a punishment for arguing with the provincial governor at the checkpoint.
Peerasak was briefly freed to visit his bedridden mother Monday – who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure – before returned to jail. He was to be incarcerated for 45 days.
The sergeant tried to cross the province border into Trang, which is currently under a travel lockdown, on Friday when he was stopped by Gov. Luechai Charoensap. Footage of the encounter soon went viral on the internet.
Although Peerasak insisted he had a permit by the army to enter Trang to see his mother, the governor said only essential workers are only allowed into the province.
“My orders override the Emergency Decree,” Luechai could be heard saying to Peerasak. “It’s a no. Only people who are coming in to perform their duties can come in.”
After the video surfaced, Peerasak’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Santi Sakuntanak of the 5th Infantry Division, said he ordered Peerasak to be jailed for disciplinary violations.
He also sent some of his troops to deliver care packages to Sukanjanathip Champa, Peerasak’s 61-year-old mother.
Sympathy and donations soon poured in for Peerasak. While some took issue with Peerasak’s attitude during the confrontation, most saw the punishment as unjust. In Thailand’s stratified society, arguing, talking back, or causing a “loss of face” to a superior or senior figure is largely frowned upon.
Even a commander of the army’s 4th Division – Peerasak’s former supervisor– posted messages showing his support for Peerasak. Lt. Sampan Dumjun also ordered one of Peerasak’s fellow squad members to collect donations for him.
The fund reached at least 70,000 baht by Monday.