Demanding Democracy Is Seditious in Thailand

Most people feel that it is nearly impossible for unarmed citizens to overthrow and wrest power back from an armed dictatorship. To fight against dictatorship is tantamount to hanging one's life by a thread.

Immediately after the coup d'état on May 22, 2014, my friends and I began protests calling for democracy. We were well aware that this was dangerous, yet we held firm to our principles. We could not allow a dictator to simply snatch power from people. This is our time. We cannot sit here motionless.

The authorities did not stand still either. Some of us were arrested and detained in police stations and some in military camps. But it was not enough to stop us.

The one-year anniversary of the coup, May 22, 2015, was the turning point for our struggle. We held a peaceful protest and in response, military and police officials used force to disperse the event and arrest students and other citizens. Many were injured and taken to the hospital. Nearly two months later, some of the injuries have not healed.

Even though it was clear that force was used against us, none of the officials were punished. Worse yet, some of us were summoned to hear charges against us for violating the junta's order prohibiting political gatherings of more than five people. We are living in a society in which the wrongdoers can then accuse and prosecute their victims. When the state fails to provide justice, we must claim it ourselves.

On June 24, 2015, we went to the police station, but to file a complaint of brutality rather than respond to the summons against us. At last, our powerless bare hands which had been unable to shake the junta's power began to cause them worry. The next day, we went to the Democracy Monument and people streamed there to listen to our speeches and cheer. The roaring silence created by junta's suppression of people from speaking their minds was destroyed.

Our protest received widespread attention and the dictatorship grew anxious. If they allowed us to continue, more people might join us in the streets. So they arrested us: Seven students from Bangkok and seven students from Khon Kaen in the northeast. On the evening of June 26, we were first taken to the police station and accused of both violating the junta's ban on protests and of committing sedition. We were sent to military court at midnight, and then remained to prison. We stayed there for 12 days until being released on July 7, 2015. The charges against us remain.

Many in the prison thought that we were foolish to sacrifice our freedom for our ideals. But for me, every minute spent in prison is a minute well-spent in the struggle against the military dictatorship. I want to awaken the conscience of my fellow citizens and make them aware of the injustice we face from the dictatorship. If we can make Thai society realize this, then it will count as one battle won, of many to come.

Finally, the reason I must struggle is so that I can answer my children and grandchildren when they ask me where I was at the time of the coup and what did I do for them. The consequences from this coup will continue to be felt by the next generation. The responsibility of my generation is to do the best we can in our struggle against dictatorship, so that the burden, or less of the burden, will fall on their shoulders.

Rangsiman Rome is a 2015 graduate of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University in Bangkok and one of the "Thai 14," the fourteen students imprisoned for protesting against military dictatorship in June 2015.