Note: The fable below was originally published in Thai on Prachatai on 13 October 2014. The author, Pornthip, or Golf, is a detainee currently being held in pre-charge detention in an Article 112 case. She was arrested on 15 August 2014 and her detention has been renewed 6 times; the prosecutor has to decide whether or not to prosecute her by 25 October. Her lawyers have opposed her continued detention and requested bail four times. Each time, the Court has refused bail on the basis that the complaint against her is grave and there is concern that she may flee.
Golf was arrested due to her involvement in the performance of the play, ‘The Wolf Bride,’ in the events commemorating the fortieth anniversary of 14 October 1973 last year.
Golf is from Phitsanulok and her family has a cassava farm. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University. Since the end of secondary school, she has been involved in social activism and various outreach activities. She has many artistic abilities, including drawing and writing fables. But she has a special fondness for performance, and founded Prakai Fai theatre troupe before it dissolved in 2012. She once gave an interview about her dreams and said that she, “wanted to perform plays in the provinces, perform in different places. And, importantly, I want to perform plays for children to watch. I want to tell children new fables -- fables of ordinary people who change the world.”
She wrote the fable translated below while in detention and sent it via postal mail to a close friend. The fable is about her dreams and is encouragement for those outside the prison, especially children, with whom she often did activities. The underlined words, which are bolded in the translation below, are those that she had to use polite language in line with the regulation of the prison. While in English, there is only one register of third-person pronouns, in Thai there is a wide range that can be used to indicate status and social position. Her underlined words were the most neutral of these – “เขา” -- which I have translated as he.” What word she would use if not restricted is left to the imagination.
The letter from golf. On top of the letter stamped "Approved" by the prison authority.
Central Women’s Prison
33/3 Ngam Wong Wan Road
3 October 2014
Once upon a time, a child was born in a village in which all of the inhabitants had hearts of darkness. This darkness could not be seen through their chests, but was expressed through their words and actions. They monitored their neighbors and gossiped about them. They slandered them. And all families acted sanctimoniously… But the heart of the little child was not the same color as theirs. His heart was the size of a fist. He was born with tiny feet. The villagers liked to mock the weak points of others and therefore called him ‘Little Foot.’ One cold day in winter, there was dew that had hardened into ice on the blades of grass, or what they referred to as frost. Little Foot woke up before the sky was light. He did not wake in order to admire the glistening beauty of the dew upon the blades of grass like the city people like to visit the village to do, but so that he could plan his new independent life. Little Foot picked up the cloth parcel he prepared the night before along with a flask of water and slowly walked to the steps of the house. He did not light a lamp, because there was electricity from solar panels. After turning off the switch at the top of the stairs, Little Foot groped his way awkwardly down the stairs. He fumbled along until his vision began to adjust to the darkness and he could see the road indistinctly. Little Foot then walked onto the small village road that was simply a ridge made by villagers who mowed the grass neatly. He walked barefoot, his little pair of those two small feet. His feet were stripped bare and he trod on a path shrouded in grass and sharp blades of ice. But Little Foot did not feel anything because the cold upon the carpet of grass numbed his feet. There were small slivers of pain, but he did not stop walking.
“Walk on in the darkness. To walk partially on the right path and partially on the wrong path is still better than not forging forward at all,” Little Foot thought in his heart …
P.S. Please use polite and correct Thai language
Kho. Yo.* Pornthip
Room 1/6, Phetch Building, Entry Zone
* Upon being taken into detention in Thailand, an individual loses her previous title. Rather than being “น.ส.” (No. So.) or “นางสาว,” (Nang Sao) which corresponds to “Miss,” one becomes “ข.ญ.,” (Kho. Yo.) or “ขังหญิง” (Khang Ying), which means “female detainee.” – trans.
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn
Golf (right) at the Ratchada Criminal Court (file photo)