Son’s hunger strike to “Free My Dad”-Bangkok Post

February 18, 2012


Panitan’s experiment with truth

Kultida Samabuddhi

Bangkok Post: February 17, 2012

Panitan Prueksakasemsuk completed his 112 hours of hunger protest in front of the Criminal Court yesterday morning.

The 20-year-old wants the court to grant bail to his father, Somyot, a labour activist-turned-lese majeste suspect, who has been detained since his arrest in April last year.

Right after the end of Mr Panitan’s hunger strike, Mr Somyot’s lawyer submitted another bail request. This was the eighth attempt, the previous seven requests had all been rejected.

“To demonstrate that the right to bail is more important than my suffering, I declared a 112-hour hunger strike,” the Thammasat law student said before starting his fast.

The 112 hours is a symbolic reference to Section 112 of the Criminal Code under which Mr Somyot has been charged.

The lese majeste lawsuits against Mr Somyot involve two articles published in a pro-red shirt magazine of which he was the publisher.

The son’s 112-hour fast has come to an end and the father is still behind bars.

“What will you do if the court refuses to release your father after you finish the hunger strike?” a reporter from Prachatai online news asked Mr Panitan.

“I will think of something. I will consult my mentors and friends to see what else I can do,” he replied.

His plan for future activities might upset many people, especially the red shirt opponents, who are already annoyed by Mr Panitan’s campaign to free his father, who has been a staunch red shirt supporter.

As far as I am concerned, so long as he resorts to non-violent means of protest, Mr Panitan will have my full support.

I have read about non-violent actions from My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi and learned about ahimsa from a course I took when I was at university.

I also remember the hunger strike by democracy activist Chalard Vorachat during the 1992 uprising against unelected prime minister Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon. However, what I read and learned about non-violence seemed to me a thing of the past, like some unrealistic approach described in an old textbook.

But this young activist has brought it all back to life.

Thailand has gone through several violent confrontations between the pro- and anti-government camps and between state authorities and political demonstrators in recent years.

The mainstream media is flooded with the war of words between political rivals who use the harshest epithets in the hope of demolishing their opponents.

And the online community is full of sarcasm while witch-hunters try to get rid of people who subscribe to views different from theirs.

It seems that violent action, both physical and verbal, has now spread to every part of our society.

We are familiar with violent thoughts, violent action and violent words. We have lost the ability to think of alternative means to express our demands or to bring about change in a more peaceful and powerful way.

But Mr Panitan chose to adopt that alternative path to protest against what he views as injustice, to call for change, and to bring justice to his father.

The young man held a hunger strike not only as an activist, but also as a son fighting for his beloved father. And that helped add a little drama to his peaceful protest.

At a glance, Mr Panitan’s hunger strike might be seen as a fight for a personal cause. But it is not just that.

The young man hopes his protest will draw the public’s attention to the prejudice against lese majeste suspects and the problems related to lese majeste lawsuits. Whether you agree with Mr Panitan’s petition or not, his “experiment with truth” deserves support.

His 112-hour hunger strike should remind us that there is a more decent and powerful way to fight for our causes.

His example of non-violence is a path we should all take, in order to avoid another bloodshed in our nation.


Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.


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