On October 16, 2020, I was arrested and later sent to the Border Patrol Police Bureau in the outer Bangkok area. I did not plan to join the protest group on the Pathumwan intersection. But later, when I found out that the police were using violence against the protesters, I, in a comfortable outfit, rushed out of my hotel room with only one umbrella and one handkerchief. I took a motorcycle ride forgetting that I had an umbrella because I thought all about the protesters that may have resisted back into Chulalongkorn University. I called my friend and told him I would be there in 20 minutes. I ended up stuck in the middle of chaos. I then saw a group of police. I did not want them to come closer; I took a white ribbon out of my pocket, show it to them. I confused them. And later, it was a moment that I was being arrested. I was not surprised at all. This article will help you find out why?
The pro-democracy protest started to be noted extensively earlier this year in January, students from several universities organized their event. On February 24, I delivered a small Hyde park at Chulalongkorn University. I did not directly rebuke the government, but I told a story about how Galileo ended up in prison but later became a symbol of a renaissance era. The story I told became an inspiration for my blog post, “Ignorance is our last enemy.”
Ignorance is our last enemy
First, we need to make it clear about this word, ignorance.
“Ignorance” is a state of mind that can happen to everyone. It was attached to us since we were born, and we live with them until the last day of our lives. What is it? How well do we know it? Why do people spend time talking about knowledge but disclose nothing at all about ignorance? I did not use the word ignorance, or stupid, or foolish as a curse. I do not curse people by saying, “You Hungry!” or “You Sleepy!”—the same reason for not denouncing people with the word stupid. When you know you are hungry, you eat. When you know you are sleepy, you sleep. That is simple. We do not punch people when hungry or play football when feeling drowsy. Is not that easy?
For me, ignorance is just a state of mind that we know nothing about. Knowing nothing can get you into difficulty, low quality of life, violence, we named them difficulty because they are difficult to face. And people hate difficulty. By eliminating ignorance, learning will take us away from those difficulties. One way to learn is to look around you and understand the context because people’s perceptions are relative. Different observers have a different point of view. That was a simple physics fact that illustrates Einstein’s General Relativity theory.
In my article, I asserted how ignorance could not be totally eliminated at all. We need to learn how to live with them like we learn how to live with feeling hungry or angry. When you face ignorance both inside you or inside the other people, what you could do is to understand.
However, ignorance is not the only difficulty we are facing. Essential factors appear in the form of “Power.” In the middle age, the church sustained their power by putting dogmatism into people’s mind; it is what it is. No question is needed; it just is. Telling people that there is more to know is against the church’s way. When Galileo discovered that the moon is another world, he created a new taboo for the church. The star in the night sky is not just a decoration for the earth, but it is a star, like our sun. This created unimaginable possibilities, and how come the Bible did not explain this? This is the reason why ignorance is a common state in a dogmatism society.
The white ribbon
I believe Thai society is still a dogmatism society; at least it smells like that. We were told they believe the absolute truth. Our education spends pages of text-book saying how Thai never being colonized (And that is not true at all). Our history class never encouraged us to be skeptical.
Allow me to raise the fact that I have more than three years of experience in the science communication field. I can say that we are all about feelings, not reasoning. We need the destruction more than understanding the argumentation.
This society was challenged by the series of “mind-blogging” movements. Dr.Kanokrat Lertchoosakul explains this phenomenon in an interview, saying that this was a long war, not a short one. The victory requires a long-term societal adjustment. Dr.Prajak Kongkirati also calls this phenomenon a history-making event in his interview with BBC.
From my perspective, I believe the younger generation now thinks that this is enough with dogmatism. We were told what is believed to be the absolute truth since the 2014 coup d’etat. We were told how Thailand is a beautiful country, despite how many problems we are facing. The poverty, corruption, economy, and the ugliest hidden truth of the untold 1976 Massacre event at Thammasat University, forced us to speak out. We are in a game-changing period of time, and we need to place something in history which will be told for generations. We know that this might take years to recognize, but this could be our first step—the step out of the box. And here we are, a series of “mind-blogging” missions.
We will notice so many unconventional means of movements for Thai political movements. By using decentralization and subtexts, the sub-culture movement is the new projection of how the younger generation fights with the government. But In fact, we do not see the government or even the monarchy as our enemies. Our real enemies are ignorance—the ignorance of an old mindset that causes all these problems. We are trying to explain very clearly and transparently. By admitting that we all have the same goal of making Thai become a more skeptical-driven society, Everyone now uses their expression, resulting in very creative movements.
October 15, 2020, the first attempt to crackdown the protester was to declare a state of emergency in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Most protester-leaders were arrested that morning. I went to the Ratchaprasong intersection to fight against the government’s first attempt to get rid of us. At the front of the Apple store, I ended up in front of the police officers. I asked them if I could kindly tie a white ribbon to their wrist. Giving a white ribbon could be a symbol of peace. “Can I tie your wrist?” I asked—no response from the first officer. I knew that they were not taught to handle situations like this. I slowly placed that white ribbon on the floor, centimeters away from his boots. I looked him in the eye and said, “It is okay that you can not let me tie this to your wrist, but I hope one day we can still become friends, right?” I kept doing this until the third officer. He seemed to be the saddest man that day; I then asked him, “Hey, can I tie this to your wrist?” He did not refuse but said nothing, either. “Hey, are you letting me do this?” then he nodded. Okay, let’s do this; I slowly tied my white ribbon to his wrist and said, “You know, whatever will happen tonight, please know that we are harmless, right?”
Those were one of the mind-blogging situations for the day. That is how I communicate, not only with him but with society and myself. I do not know why the first two officers can not allow me to tie his wrist. I do not understand why the third officer let me do that. I think he also does not understand why his colleagues would not let me do it. Status quo is the term to describe that situation the best. The protester implies not necessarily to do that to the police. The police were not meant to behave like that to the protester. This creates a skeptical moment for all of us.
October 16, 2020, the scramble moment. I then again tried to give a white ribbon to the police. I wanted to show them again that we are not threatening them. It was our ignorance that did not allow us to break from the status quo and face the fact we do not need to do this. The police started to slowly back away from me while I was hanging the white ribbon around my hand, saluting three fingers. When I placed my white ribbon on the ground, the commander police, “Arrest him!”. I was then carried out from the street into the jail truck, left on the white ribbon on the ground in front of them.
I was released by the court another day. But the image of a teenager holding a white ribbon was one of the recognized pictures from the October 16, 2020 crackdown. It was a controversial situation, and some said I should have left the street. Some said the police were to blame. Some said the police officer needed to do that because it was an order to obey. However, we could not go back in time and change what had just happened.
My student friends I can prove are braver than I am also using this strategy to fight. They use each activity as a pinpoint in modern Thai history.
Our dawn future
Since we are here, I want to remind us all again that ignorance is in ourselves. But this is the question to the powers and authorities. And the time will not flow backward; why are we still using the same mindset at all?
The fighting between the old and the new is ordinary in human history. But what is essential is the pinpoint, the milestone in the face of history, which will later lead the next generation to the way they should head. It comes with a high cost, but doing nothing will cost massively higher.
I believe the situation is similar to the Hong Kong people. They fought because the fight will mark the pinpoint on their history no matter if they will win or lose. That was the best way to send a message to the people in the future that they are people who will not resist the power of the Chinese mainland.
When I was released on Saturday 17th, Pitch Pongsawat, one of my lecturers at Chulalongkorn University, explained in his Facebook status that students these days are too new for the older generation to understand. That reminds me of Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children,” ” You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
In our context, I will summarize three points. First, this is a long term strategy. There is a lot more to come. We know it can come with a high cost, but as I said, doing nothing will cost higher. Secondly, we are new. We can be too difficult for some people to understand. And the third, our last enemy is ignorance.
People may ask why the younger generation keeps on fighting. I can answer that we did not fight for a short term victory, but our fight will be for a more extended goal. This makes this country a genuinely democratic state and makes all human lives better in the future.