BANGKOK — Showbiz is typically all about staying “neutral” and away from politics, but a veteran actress is having none of that. Intira “Sai” Charoenpura not only supports the ongoing protests against the government, but also funds them out of her own pocket.
Sai is known for playing the title character in “Nang Nak” (1999) and Princess Loekhin in parts two to five of “The Legend of King Naresuan.” Now she is one of the rare individuals who publicly acknowledges giving financial support to the student-led movement, even though the activism came at a cost to herself.
“Even though I can’t do as much as an activist, as long as I am a citizen, politics can’t be separated from my life,” Sai said in an interview with Matichon, a sister publication of Khaosod English.
“Otherwise people will think, oh celebrities can’t get political, but doctors, nurses, and police can,” she said. “Some people say artists and celebrities have more to lose by speaking out. But I think everyone has something to lose.”
One of her latest gestures of support was the rally on Aug. 27, when protesters camped out overnight at the October 14th Memorial before their leaders had to answer the police summons the following morning.
In a series of Facebook posts, Sai said she donated or contributed funds for practically all types of items needed for the protest including electric fans, an air-conditioned toilet truck, food and snacks, first aid kits, and even a projector for an outdoor film screening.
“Let’s go to #SleepInCampNotInJail. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, night meals, ice cream, drinks, handkerchiefs, bathrooms, an open-air cinema, I’ve arranged it all,” she posted.
When the government threatened to expose the “pipeline” that funded the protests, Sai immediately identified herself as such.
“I want the kids to know that someone understands them and is taking care of them,” she wrote online Friday. “I know how hurtful and alone it is to be seen as demanding and troublesome. I went through it myself and I don’t want you to experience the same thing.”
In turn, her fans have been supporting her Coffee Tree cafe. Some even bought up entire cakes displayed for sale there.
Sai takes photos with other protesters at the Aug. 16, 2020 pro-democracy rally.
In the interview with Matichon, Sai said she planned to continue supporting the activist in any way she can.
She even has a podcast where she answers questions sent into her by fans such as “How should I feel when my favorite celeb is a salim?” Salim is a derogatory term for pro-establishment supporters.
“The youth nowadays have been intensely shaped by the state, propaganda, their school curriculums, society, and the environment,” the actress said. “They’ve come so far.”
“Adults need to listen to them. Poo yai still think just because they’re older, that they know more,” she continued. “But if the kids haven’t been oppressed, then they wouldn’t be pushing back
For her part, Sai says she’s lost colleagues in the heavily pro-establishment entertainment industry.
“They said to me, ‘if I knew you were this kind of person, I wouldn’t have worked with you at all,” she said. “It hurt because my professionalism became meaningless. It’s just, ‘you’ll love me if I think the same thing as you.’ My work or abilities have nothing to do with it.”