BANGKOK — Co-leader of the monarchy reform movement Arnon Nampa is out on bail for the second time. He faces multiple lese majeste charges, around thirty lese majeste cases, so many that Arnon said he does not know the exact number. That could see him return to prison for a very long time if found guilty.
Arnon answered a few questions filed by Khaosod English’s Pravit Rojanaphruk about the current state of the movement and his future.
How is your life different now that it is the second time that you were released on bail after spending months in prison? You posted on Facebook saying you may have to return to prison again. Why?
We are more composed this time. Through the time in prison, we thought more about how to continue the struggle, so we do not feel much while both inside and outside prison. I said I may be back [in prison] again [later this month] because that is the timeframe of the bail conditions [to be reconsidered by the court]. We also assessed the [political] situations and think it will get more intense starting May.
So, we think that if the political situation is ripe, the state may try to incarcerate so we cannot make a move or lead protests and make demands. This situation today is not like that. The struggles and demands have progressed and widened. Anyone could come out to act without leadership. Nevertheless, I do not think that is how the government sees it. They believe someone must be leading and that is our jinx.
What happened to the massive protests on the streets? Why do we not see it anymore?
I do not think the protesters have disappeared, but these days are not active on the streets. COVID-19 was a crucial reason. People are not ready to be [back] on the streets. However, if you look at the political sentiments on social media, at the demands and fund raising from the masses, we are still many.
I think it is growing gradually. Asked if the massive protests will return or not, I think when the situation reaches the point where people will have to take to the streets they will. People are waiting for the final countdown when the situation is ripe.
Where is the current stage of the struggle for monarchy reform? Is it still on course?
The next stage is we are trying to propose a draft bill to be considered by the parliament. Right now, there is a signature hunt to call for the abolition of the lese majeste law. Asked where we are now, I think we can push the legal [reform] side but we still have to also continue to explain our stance to the public. We will try to widen the debate about our struggles. I think we have opened up this space to a certain level already.
The past year saw some young activists moving towards becoming republicans. Why? What would you like to convey to those in power?
It is difficult to answer because there is a limit [imposed by the lese majeste] law, so we cannot say everything. You asked whether some have now subscribed to such ideology or not, the answer is yes to a certain level, but the number is not large to the point where there is a critical implication.
Asked what direction it will take; I think we still adhere to monarchy reforms under a democratic system. We hope those in power will listen to the voices of the youths who are making moves. We are serious and sincere in presenting and talking about the problems as well as discussing the solutions and want big people [or seniors] to be open minded and talk to us.
What is your future in case you do not end up serving a long sentence? Will you continue your profession as an attorney of law? Are you going to enter politics?
I have no plan to enter politics. Being an attorney of law is something I will continue to do but will also engage in other works to sustain myself… I will lead a normal life but will meet younger generations more frequently in order to exchange opinions and how to work together.
You are currently out on bail. Do you consider your life outside prison free?
It is apparent that being outside prison is freer. We can do many things. At least we can meet people and fully access the news. What is most important is being outside prison, we can seek evidence and meet witnesses to prepare to fight the charges. We are facing multiple charges, and this is what we can do.
You recently urged the main opposition Pheu Thai Party to push for monarchy reform. Do you think they will ever take it up? Why do you think the Pheu Thai Party still has no such policy when many of its supporters want to see the monarchy reformed?
As someone working with the [monarchy reform] movement we must try to sell our goods. What I meant is selling your views and aspirations to all political parties, so all parties adopt it as their party policy and forge social structure through the parliament. I admit that we have been unable to sell our dreams to all political parties, no matter what the reason is. But I think we must keep trying in order to find a peaceful solution for society.
If our proposals are not adopted by parties as their policy and demands are left to the streets, it will be very risky. Do not forget that our society has a rather unflattering history in [the state] dealing with street protests, particularly protests that are sensitive like demands for monarchy reforms.
Nevertheless, I think all pro-democracy political parties need the votes from the new generation. I think if we have enough time to explain, then it’s possible that the said political party will definitely buy our ideas. This is something we have to keep working hard on.