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Chula’s fiery young activist wants to make a difference


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Chula’s fiery young activist wants to make a difference

By KASAMAKORN CHANWANPEN
THE SUNDAY NATION

 

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LOVE him or loathe him, it has to be admitted that 21-year-old student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is making more waves than most people his age.

 

Despite his youth and a controversial approach that some might describe as naive, Netiwit received the honour of being mentioned by the most powerful leader in the government.

 

Earlier this month, Netiwit was elected president of the student council at Chulalongkorn University and immediately announced the reversal of certain traditions at this most conservative of institutions. 

 

The freshman at the university’s Faculty of Political Science met with some fierce criticism. 

 
Among those critics was Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also referred to the young activist as he addressed future education, expressing concern and dissatisfaction over Netiwit’s anti-establishment stance.

 

So has all this been all planned and organised? What’s his deal exactly? Netiwit told The Sunday Nation it was a mixture of accidental and intentional.

 

“I started receiving media attention in 2012 when I appeared on a news programme hosted by famous news anchor Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda,” the student activist recounted. “It was over the issue of student hairstyles. Then it [my suggestion] was accepted by the then education minister, resulting in the change in policy which allows student to wear longer hair today.”

 

Despite this success, Netiwit referred to his first appearance in one of the most popular news shows as an “accident”.

 

“I didn’t really know anything back then. I was just saying students should be able to have any hairstyles they like. Go mohawk or whatever. And I got media attention,” he said.

 

That early victory could have been a one-time thing, a mere flash in the pan. But the young activist, wise beyond his years, did not let the chance slip by.

 

“I saw immediately that my time had come. If I stopped pushing, then I’d just lose the opportunity. It would just be tongue-in-cheek,” Netiwit said. “I don’t like that. I like to take things seriously. So I went on pushing the agendas I believed mattered.”

 

Since then Netiwit has been widely perceived as an anti-establishment activist. He is known as an opponent of military conscription which has become notorious as each year a number of draftees are reported to have been abused, assaulted or even killed.

 

Netiwit also founded Education for Liberation of Siam, an activist group that harbours many progressive young people who are outspoken in their criticism of not only the Thai education, but also the political characteristics that weaken it.

 

What makes such a young person stand out from his peers and make such an impact seems to be the simple fact that he has the guts to “walk the talk”, even if sometimes it means he has to walk alone.

 

“We complain a lot. At school, we nag about this lousy system, incompetent teachers, nonsense rules, but then we don’t do anything about it,” Netiwit said.

 

“I’m not like that. I don’t put up with those things. I take action. I show them what I want and how bad I want it. I speak the forbidden truth, although sometimes I end up being hated for it.”

 

Despite his long-time activism around school and social issues, Netiwit said that he had only been drawn to politics three years ago when the 2014 coup was staged. Before that, he thought politics was for “idiots”, and wanted no part in it.

 

“I was never interested in politics. I didn’t even follow the news. But after the coup, I saw that the self-proclaimed liberals in this country had some weaknesses. They didn’t get together and take solid action. They didn’t do their job in protecting democracy. So, I want to make a change here,” he said.

 

Netiwit said the coup-installed regime had been strengthened as people lost faith in democracy and elections. “So, I want to be one model among many other people who try to take an active role in politics. I want to bring back hope and encourage people to participate in politics. This is what will save democracy in the long run.”

 

So when junta leader Prayut mentioned him recently in his lecture about education, Netiwit said it was a good call.

 

“I see myself as some symbol. I want to better the democratic movement in this country. So when Prayut showed that he recognised me, I hope it got the liberal force to think about making an impact and influence.”

 

He explained that he was part of no group, but a man of his own. Netiwit wants those self-proclaimed liberals to reconsider why he was where he was and what they were doing.

 

“The movement has to be about hundreds or thousands of people. It should not be one or two people standing out from the crowd. This only means that the movement is weak,” he said.

 

Netiwit stressed that his interests always lay in everything but politics –from education, environment, to religion. But now it has to be his priority because democracy is what this country needs the most, he said.

 

“We need to respect one another. And yet, we don’t even have that,” he said, adding that if this continues we can forget everything else.

 

“We cannot have hope in school or that the country will be better. So it’s just impossible to not get involved in politics because it involves us; it undermines our rights today. I can’t just sit around studying. I have to take action.”

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30315142

 

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2017-05-14
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I am wondering how long it is going to take before the very admiral courage of his convictions lands him in jail.

If the majority of Thai people had the balls to stand up in a similar way, the country probably wouldn't be in the state it is today.

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“We complain a lot. At school, we nag about this lousy system, incompetent teachers, nonsense rules, but then we don’t do anything about it,” Netiwit said.

 

Unfortunately nobody else does anything about it either, and some are paid to

 

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Netiwit said that he had only been drawn to politics three years ago when the 2014 coup was staged. Before that, he thought politics was for “idiots”, and wanted no part in it.

So Netiwit does have something in common with the Prime Minister.
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