For Monarchy Reform Activist, Getting Hired Is All but Impossible

Jatuporn Saeoueng during the
Jatuporn Saeoueng during the "fashion walk" on Silom Road on Oct. 29, 2020.

BANGKOK — For over a year now, looking for a full-time job and planning for the future has all but become impossible for 25-year-old Jatuporn Saeoueng due to political charges and indictments made against her.

Jatuporn has been indicted for lese majeste for allegedly mocking the Queen by dressing like her and gracing a monarchy reform protest on Silom Road in October 2020, accompanied by a ‘lady in waiting’ on a red carpet.

She faced five other less severe charges and indictments including violating the coronavirus ban on public gatherings. Jatuporn, based in Buriram province, has to every now and then travel 338 kilometers for five to six hours to Bangkok to meet police, public attorney, and sign documents for her lese majeste charges.

Other charges found her traveling to another province, Khon Kaen. That is 193 kilometers from Buriram and another three hours for a one-way trip. Planning has become basically impossible, said Jatuporn on Monday, speaking on the phone from Buriram province.

“It’s very difficult to plan. Life is very difficult,” she said, adding that it’s due to a second factor – no one would hire her despite her skills and working experience as a sous chef in Thai kitchens.

She had worked in the past at a local hotel and later a restaurant, only to be asked to leave after the restaurant discovered that he led a monarchy reform protest in the province in August 2020. Since then she has been unemployed, unable to find work.

“I can’t find work since I have multiple legal charges … When [the potential employers] learn about the charges, they dare not hire me. This is not just a feeling. I have applied to four to five places and they told me to clear up [the legal charges] first,” she said.

In a related development, activist Yingcheep Atchanont posted on his Facebook page Sunday urging prospective employers to hire these indicted and charged monarchy reform activists, which he said are facing as many as 30 to 40 charges.

Yingcheep said employers could just pay salaries for the days they worked, minus the days they needed to sort out the legal charges and court cases.

At present, Jatuporn relies on some cash sent by her mother, but she insists she is not wealthy. Since finding a full-time job is impossible, Jatuporn is now considering some vegetable farming although she has no experience in farming.

Jatuporn had tried taking anti-depressant pills over the past year, but now decided to rely on scented candles and aromatic oil instead as she said she left lifeless after taking the pills. She also suffers from insomnia.

Money side, she admitted that a fund set up by activists have helped alleviate the financial burden because she could reimburse travel and accommodation costs when travelling to hear charges and subsequent legal meetings. Currently, she still owes a bank 12,000 baht, however.

“I have no savings left,” she admitted, saying at least she does not need to pay for her accommodation since she stays at a house owned by her parents.

“I eat instant noodles with eggs,” she said, despite the fact that she boasts of being able to cook tom yum kung and pad kraphao well.

She said the Thai judicial system does not allow people to sign legal documents at their local office, so sometimes she needs to travel all the way to Bangkok just to affix one signature.

What’s more, the monarchy reform activist, who identifies herself as a LGBT, once had a tattoo expressing love for the late king Rama IX on her chest, only to be removed after she joined the movement and changed her views about the monarchy, said her partner’s parents who have been ‘visited’ by police.

Police told them not to let their daughter be in a relationship with Jatuporn.

“I feel it will be a long struggle. It’s now entering the second year. I feel that they want me to waste time and feel exhausted – which is effective. But I will continue the fight.”

“I’ve come so far I can’t retreat.”