An account of exileSubmitted by editor1 on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 13:10
Note: On 27 September, Chanoknan Ruamsap, a recent political science graduate from Chulalongkorn University and the former spokesperson for the New Democracy Movement, announced via her personal Facebook account that she had decided to go into exile after being summoned for an accusation of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, or committing lèse majesté. The below is a translation of the public statement she posted.—trans.
On 16 January 2018, I woke at 2 pm like every other day. When I rose, my partner was making breakfast for me like every other day. I went down to see my parents like every other day.
Left: Chanoknan Ruamsap; right: the summons
Except there was a slip to pick up an item at the post office. I thought it was a court summons to appear at the military court in the Rajabhakti case since the date was set for 26 January. Usually, a slip is left at the house and then I have to go pick it up at the post office. I drove to the post office. I opened the letter and read it. It was not a summons to the military court, but was a summons from Khan Na Yao police station to appear as a suspect. I skimmed the letter first. I was shocked and thought it was yet another ticket for bad driving. But when I read the accusation closely, I was rendered speechless. And confused. What had I done to be socked with 112? What had I done wrong? I was mute on the drive home. Right then, it seemed as though I was left with few choices: fight the case, go to prison, seek asylum. After reaching home, I talked with many people. I was hit with 112 from sharing a BBC news story while I was in Brazil in December 2016. A soldier by the name of Sombat Dangtha had filed a complaint against me at Khan Na Yao police station that month. Actually, I should have been arrested at the same time as Pai [Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who was accused and arrested in December 2016, sentenced to 5 years in August 2017, and then reduced to 2.5 years due to confession]. But internal problems at the police station delayed the summons. Everything got back on track at the end of last year, and new summons were issued in backlogged cases. That’s why I received the summons on that day.
Once we knew this, nearly everyone said I should leave. But in the end, it was my decision to make. Time was closing in and I had to decide quickly. I had less than 30 minutes to decide whether to stay, or to go. Knowing that I might not be able to come back made it tough. Once it was set, I went down to tell my parents. Everyone was shocked. But they agreed. No one wanted me to be locked up in prison for 5 years for sharing a BBC news story.
I remember that my mother said, when you go away this time, you aren’t coming back are you? I said, yes, that’s right, and cried. It seemed as though she was going to cry as well. My mother never expressed worry when I traveled abroad for long stretches. She knew that one day I would have to come home. But this time it was odd. There was a distance, a tremendous loneliness. I don’t know how to explain it.
My father … my father loves me the most in the world, and I love my father the most in the world. The news made him very sad and worried. I could tell from the look on his face. He does not usually express his emotions, but this time they were clear. He smoked cigarette after cigarette and drank a lot of beer in the spare hours between when I told him and when I left. He worried the most about where I was going. How was I going to survive? How was I going to live?
I had only a few hours to say goodbye to several close friends. Everyone had the same reaction: shocked, immobilized, speechless … me too.
On my first day here, I could only cry. I could not see a path ahead. Everything was confusing and in a flurry. I did not know how I was going to handle any of it. I asked myself over and over again if I had made the right decision to seek asylum. Or should I return, go to jail, and then be reunited with my friends and family? But the answer is that there is no going back. Even if I face a lot of difficulties, I believe that many who seek asylum face the same difficulties. There is nothing beautiful or easy about it. What I can say is that it was really terrible at first.
When people ask me how I am, my answer is not quite right. A multitude of emotions. Irritated. Angry. Irate. Regretful. Resentful. Frustrated. Disappointed, very disappointed with many people and many things that have taken place. But I am hopeful about the new things entering my life as well.
So far, in only a few days, a lot has fallen into place. My mindframe improved when I met up with the person I love, got to speak with my parents, and was urged on by those who truly understand me. Everything slowly began to get better. I am growing up. I am learning a lot from the new things in my life.