Interview with Thanthawut’s son

On 3 Oct, Prachatai interviewed the only son of Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul, a lèse majesté prisoner sentenced to 13 years in jail, when he came with his grandpa to visit his father at Bangkok Remand Prison for the first time since the end of his school semester.

Prachatai first met Web, his nickname, almost two years earlier at the Criminal Court when he attended the hearing of his father’s verdict.  The boy did not say much, and answered questions briefly or not at all.


File photo from Thai E-news

Now 12 years old, he seems not to be a shy little boy anymore; looking rather cheerful and even a bit troublesome.

While waiting to visit his father, he played with his 1,000-baht-plus Samsung mobile phone.  He said that he had been given a daily allowance of 40 baht for breakfast and lunch, and had saved 5 baht every day, until he could buy the phone.  He complained that he should have waited a little longer, because the prices of mobile phone had come down a lot lately.  He also said that he wanted to find a job during the school vacation.  When someone jokingly told him that he could be hired for typing work, he seemed very tempted, but he had no computer of his own to do the job.

Web was taken into the care of a sympathetic red-shirt family when Thanthawut was arrested on 1 April 2010 and detained without bail until convicted about a year later.

He only comes to live with his grandparents during his school vacations.  The fact that he was not adopted by his paternal family was due to internal family problems.  His mother left him and his father years ago.

During his detention, Thanthawut has rarely been visited by family members or relatives, except his 74-year-old father Kee Chiang who has recently come out to join activities organized by the network of family members of lèse majesté prisoners.     

His lawyers applied for a royal pardon for him on 21 Sept, after he had withdrawn his appeal.

We talked after lunch, for which he had had rice with braised chicken in sauce, a dish which had some meaning for him.

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How do you feel to have visited your father today?

Feel good to see him.  I’m glad.

Do you normally come to visit him often?

If the school is open, I don’t come.  I come only during school vacations.

What do you have to say to your father?

A lot.

Like what?

(He laughed and did not answer)

Did he tell you to do anything?

He told me not to be disobedient with Grandpa.  And if there’s anything to do, I have to help Grandpa and Grandma.

Do you remember when your father was arrested? How did you feel on that day?

I do.  I felt strange and wondered what they came for and why they made the arrest.

You were taken [along with Tantawut] to spend the night with the police.  Did they treat you well?

They treated us like we knew each other.

When you knew that your father had to go to jail, what was that like?

Well! Eh! What has he done wrong?  I only saw him work in front of his computer.  He never told me what he had done wrong.

At first it must have been difficult to adjust?

It felt strange to have to be away from him, because up till then I had lived with him all the time.

How close were you?

We’d almost never been apart.  I’d been with him since I could remember.  

What was your life like together?

In the morning he’d always take me to school, and pick me up in the evening.  When we got home, we’d eat and do this and that.  We didn’t go out very often.  He had to work on his computer.  The most familiar sound was the sound of his typing.

Did he teach you to use the computer?

Since I could remember, he’d teach me to use the computer, to learn how to type.  I remember the first programme I learned was a typing programme.

Did you like it?

It was annoying at first, but later it was OK.

Did you play games?

We each had our own computer.  But the games he let me play were calculation games things like that.

That doesn’t sound like fun, the games your Dad let you play?

Yes, that’s right.

Before you had your own computer.  Do you have one now?

Everything was taken [by the police].  The monitors.  The machines.

After your Dad was arrested, have you had chance to use a computer again?

I borrowed one when I had to do my homework.  I borrowed it from Auntie whom I live with.  It was only once in a while, but lately my teachers have assigned more homework, so I have to borrow it more frequently.

Do you want to have your own computer?

Yes.  So I don’t have to borrow one and bother people.

What do you do on weekends when you live with the auntie?

Nothing.  When I finish with my things, I stay on my bed.

What would you like to do?

I’d like to play ping-pong.  I played it in school, but teachers didn’t want us to play, because the examinations were coming.  But after the examinations, we didn’t get to play anyway, because we don’t go to school after the end of semester.

Was your father hard on you?  

No.  He’s like grandpa.

What’s grandpa like?

Very kind.

What’s life like without your father?

It’s strange.  Not like before.  My daily routine has changed…(silence).

Have you been worried that your friends or teachers might ask questions [about his father]?

No.

Have they asked?

No.

Are you good at school?

I don’t know.  You have to see for yourself.

Can you tell us how you did on the exams?

It’d be sad.  I don’t look at it. When the grades come out, I xerox them for Dad.  Got only a C for English.  It’s sad.  Got B’s for the others.

Have you often cried?

When?

Since when your Dad’s been away.

Once.  When I got to the new home.  It felt lonely.  Better to cry.  (He laughed)  

Crying out loud?

No. Silently.

Why did you cry?

It’s sad.  My surroundings had completely changed.  The smell was strange, not like before.

Is it hard to adapt to living with other people?

Yes, because it was so different.  But now it’s OK. I’ve got used to it.

When you see father through the glass window, would you like to hug him?

(Tears brimming)  I hugged him in court.

Do you have any plans about what you will do when your Dad comes out?

We may live with grandpa and grandma.  We don’t have our condominium any more.  

What would you like to be when you grow up?

I once wanted to be a pilot.  Now I want to be a cook.

Why?

Cooking is an art, and it’s fun.

What is your inspiration?

I saw Dad cooking.

What was he best at?

Fried chicken wings in sauce. (His grandpa sitting alongside said ‘It’s my recipe’)

 

Source: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2012/10/42979

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