Bangkok is not the only venue for staging protests against the detention of pro-democracy activists. In the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, a “Stand Against Detention” movement has seen protestors regularly meeting for non-violent demonstrations to demand their release as well.
Stand Against Detention participants at Ubon Ratchathani. Recently there has been a demand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well.
Over the past six months, before all were released just around the beginning of March, the authorities have detained a growing number of pro-democracy activists: Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok, Benja Apan, Athit, Chittakorn, and many others.
In response, supporters have organised new demonstrations to demand that activists be granted bail. This is how ‘Stand Against Detention’ came into being.
Protesters agree to stand together for a period of time each day to pressure the courts to grant detainees bail rights. Teerapol Anmai, a professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Ubon Ratchathani University, has been participating and talked to Prachatai about the activities they had been staging.
“We have been holding activities since May. We have not done it every day [because we] were tired from work. The main demonstrations have been on Wednesdays and Fridays when we all have free schedules. At first, we held activities in the city but later relocated to the front of the university because most of the participants are academics and students. It makes the traveling easier,” said Teerapol.
Prachatai: Have there been many people joining?
Teerapol: Sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on the day. The most were 30, the least 7. Participants are mostly students and academics. But there have also been others who come to stand together with us. Especially after reports of new arrests or police harassment in Bangkok, more people came than usual.
Have the authorities harassed you?
Plainclothes police officers come all the time. But there has been no harassment from the special police, the provincial investigation officers, who introduce themselves as police. Soldiers in civilian clothes came by in a black truck without a license plate. They took photos without explaining why.
How did you know they were military?
We were told by the plainclothes police officer who came to monitor the situation. Participants come and go but we are all familiar each other from previous political activities.
Do you feel lonely or upset when only a few people show up?
I don’t feel particularly lonely and doing nothing would make us feel much worse. “Stand Against Detention” is a part of the struggle, a form of non-violent resistance.
And there are things that encourage us. We get favourable responses from people passing by. Some roll down their windows and greet us with three-finger salutes. Some also park and come over to express their support.
Has anyone objected to the activity?
Only once, a father attending the graduation ceremony. He asked us if we didn’t think the detainees broke the law. We didn’t reply. We didn’t want to argue. This is the baby boomer generation.
Have there been any activities other than standing?
There have been book readings and readings of poetry in the end.
Participants read books during Stand Against Detention.
Will activities continue after all the political detainees are released?
There has not been a serious talk about this. But I think “Stand Against Detention” will continue, if only because of the Anchan case (a woman sentenced to 43 years in prison on royal defamation charges). She is now in prison because of Section 112 and we want people to know about her case.
The interview was translated and rewritten by Yiamyut Sutthichaya.