The student daring to challenge Thailand’s monarchy

Published:Thursday, 17 Sep 2020 04:09

The student daring to challenge Thailand’s monarchy

“There was fear lurking inside me, deep fear of the consequences,” says Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

In August, the 21-year-old nervously stepped onto a stage in Thailand and delivered an open challenge to the monarchy.

To the cheering of thousands of students of one of Thailand’s top universities, she read out a now-famous 10-point manifesto, calling for reform of the monarchy.

It was a shocking move. Thais are taught from birth to revere and love the monarchy, but also to fear the consequences of speaking about it.

‘Life would never be the same’

Thailand is one of the few countries with a lese majeste law. Anyone criticising the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent could be jailed for up to 15 years.

But in the past few months, pro-democracy protests have swept the country, and students like Panusaya are at the heart of it.

“I knew my life would never be the same,” she later told BBC News Thai.