Women Of Our Future: Women In Politics With Ang-Ang (Akkarasorn Opilan)

Interviewee: Ang-Ang Opilan

Interviewer, Editor, Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul



Hi! My name is Ang-Ang and I’m a senior at Concordian International School here in Bangkok. I’m looking forward to studying either law, politics, or journalism in university!


What was your story growing up and how did it lead to your interest in politics?

I started out reading books such as Harry Potter and then branched out to sci-fi dystopian books such as The Giver and Animal Farm. These books allowed me to understand how the authors were creating a dystopia that reflects upon the systematic oppression and inequalities in our society. From then on, I read more about social issues around the world.


Since my family was also very close to the political scene in Thailand, I was able to attend many trips with the Future Forward Party, where I witnessed the inequalities and injustices in Thailand. Once I started taking action, I realised the importance of being an active citizen in politics. A small voice can mean a lot for some communities!


What does politics mean to you, and why do you think it's important to get involved?

Politics simply means power. Politics exists in our identity, families, schools, and society. This is why it’s important to get involved since there will always be power asymmetries in society (some will be oppressed and some will earn privileges from the system). Especially when we have privilege, we must utilise them to better the lives of people who are suffering from oppression. And for those who are oppressed or treated unfairly in the political system, we must raise our voices so that people with power can listen and

change.


When we have privilege, we must utilise them to better the lives of people who are suffering from oppression. And for those who are oppressed or treated unfairly in the political system, we must raise our voices so that people with power can listen and change.

- Ang-Ang (Akkarasorn Opilan)


What are Thai youths fighting for and what exactly defines a true democracy?

Thai youths are fighting for many things, namely democracy. There are also other things in the youth movement. For example, LGBT and gender equality, rights for ethnic minorities in Thailand, freedom of speech, right to fair trial, and the criminalisation of forced disappearances.


True democracy exists in theory, but not in practice. To me, democracy simply means that citizens of a country have the power to elect individuals that will fairly represent them. Most importantly, these elected parliamentarians will also listen to those who elect them and act upon the majority vote & consensus.



Why do you think a part of the Thai youth are still ignorant to socio-political issues and how does this reflect on the 'dek inter' community?

Privilege. It’s not wrong to have privilege; people in power have privilege that they are born with. But once we have privilege, it is hard to step outside our bubble and experience things we can do in the confines of our privilege.


I also recognise that a lot of “dek-inters” (Thai international school students) are unable to reach Thai news (e.g. Thairath, The Standard, or even news on Twitter) which deincentivises them from being aware of what is going on.


Why is ignorance an issue?

Ignorance, especially amongst the privileged, prevents the powerful group of a community from realizing the sufferings of minorities and those in lower socio-economic statuses. It prevents change from happening since people are not aware (or choose to ignore) the problems in society.


What does privilege mean to you? How and why should people use it?

Privilege is a right that is given (or you are born with) to a particular group of people. An example of a privilege in Thailand amongst “dek-inters” is English. To me, being able to speak, read, and write in English is such a privilege. It allows me to consume Western knowledge, gain and understand global perspectives, and most importantly, it allows me to take Thai issues to a global scale.


How does privilege and the generational gap affect peoples’ views on the ongoing protests and what do you think prevents people from taking action?

The generational gap means that the old are not willing to let go of conservative ideas that are no longer applicable to modern society, and the young are not willing to listen and compromise with conservative ideals.


The privileged have the power to change policies, and the voice that people in power will listen to, but they want to “อยู่ สบาย” (stay unbothered) since ignorance is a bliss.


The privileged have the power to change policies and the voice that people in power will listen to, but they want to "อยู่สบาย" (stay unbothered) since ignorance is a bliss.

- Ang-Ang (Akkarasorn Opilan)


How have you taken action in your community and what challenges have you faced along the way?

Along with Rosie, Polly, and Fin, we were able to create Choose Change, a platform that allows the high school community in Thailand (and 10+ other countries) to channel their concerns and passion for socio-economics, politics, and environment through writing, in order to encourage the young generation (especially Thai dek inters) to read more about social issues that have been happening.


I also attended protests, interviewed people whose rights have been taken away, and channeled their voices through news media and international platforms.



In terms of challenges, oftentimes I will hear the “older” generation say "go back to school", "learn more before you speak." These groups of people do not understand that academic excellence and activism can occur hand in hand.


However, perhaps the biggest challenge was being charged with the Lese-Majeste law, which has definitely brought me places (including therapy hahaha). But on a more serious note, this charge pushed me to work harder and solidified my goals of working in the legal/political scene in Thailand in the future.


Oftentimes I will hear the "older" generation say "go back to school", "learn more before you speak." These groups of people do not understand that academic excellence and activism can occur hand in hand.

- Ang-Ang (Akkarasorn Opilan)


How has the backlash and government response to your actions affected you and what prompts you to continue fighting despite this?

What prompted me to continue was the realization that I have been charged by one of the harshest laws. My reaction was simple: so what? Since I’ve been through the worst, there isn’t really anything holding me back.


When it comes to backlashes, I simply don’t read the comments on my Twitter. I am open minded to constructive criticisms, but have learnt that it’s a waste of my time to read people giving me irrational backlash. These mean comments don’t reflect me, but reflect the intellectual maturity of the person who typed it. If they are not mature enough to offer me constructive criticism by contacting me directly, they are not worth my time and emotions.


What prompted me to continue was the realization that I have been charged by one of the harshest laws. My reaction was simple: so what? Since I’ve been through the worst, there isn’t really anything holding me back.

- Ang-Ang (Akkarasorn Opilan)


What has been your experience working on Choose Change and how has that impacted you?

My experience has been great. Of course, there are ups and downs when it comes to being in such a large community, but our writers have taught me so much.


Today, we have more than 80 writers from 15 different countries and our viewership has greatly increased. Of course, numbers are not everything. I have received messages from so many people telling me how Choose Change, and the fact that it offers Thai news in English (and in a short and condensable format) has made them more aware of Thailand as a privileged individual - which of course is our goal!


How do we encourage young people to speak up and fight for their rights?

They must experience it first hand. Compassion cannot be taught so try having them talk to people who are outside of their confines of privilege.


Where and what do you see yourself doing in the future?

I have no idea! I can see myself being a journalist and writing about Thai issues in English for the international community; I can see myself being a human rights lawyer who will help kids like me in the future; I can see myself running for parliamentarian.


What kind of future do you want to see for Thailand?

Equity & fairness: I want to see a country with less polarised media. I want to see a country where it is actually a paradise for the LGBT+ community. I want to see FREE SPEECH! I want to see a decentralised government, a better education system, a more efficient public healthcare system, less monopolistic powers, more place & competition for small and medium enterprises to grow, and I want to see people living harmoniously with ethnic minorities (e.g. not taking away their lands).


 

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