The severe humidity and crushing heat did not stop Moui and I from sharing our work experiences, the things we do are at times are so contradictory of each other. I sipped the hot black coffee, twirling my kretek with my fingers, and uncomfortably shifting my weight around the plastic chair, Moui mentioned a single name which further stirred my curiosity. CHIT PHUMISAK. I attended a memorial to Chit in Bangkok last year; however this time I detected a fiery glint in her eyes, so I leaned forward to listen further.
The story goes…
In 1930, Chit Phumisak was born poor in the Prachinburi Province of Thailand. Little did he know that decades later people would refer him as an intense writer possessing the poetic touch to reach the lives of many, while others say that Chit is the Che Guevara of Thailand. Many Thais have uttered his name, either in reference to a song, a poem, or attempting to inspire others against injustices. Regardless; his words carry substance, enlightenment and remembrance for many.
Chit advocated, supported the rights of students, the poor, the ostracized, and those living in societal branding as blacksheeps ~ mavericks, outcasts because of independent thoughts. In his university days as a student editor, Chit was thrown down a flight of stairs by intolerant and raging students; and lived in an unsettling abusive environment which strives on the arrogance of misguided nationalistic pride.
Moui stopped briefly for a glass of water, to clear her throat, before launching into her story-telling; in that animated adoring Moui-style…
Chit survived but was eventually thrown into a prison called Lard Yao. The prison was congested with intellectual rebels, Communists, Marxists, and people with provocative, progressive visions who do not bow to the government’s desire for conformity and obedience.
Moui’s father, Somwang, met Chit, shared the same prison cell with more than a dozen prisoners of conscious, and quickly became friends. At Chit’s request, Somwang imparted a wealth of knowledge of the Chinese culture, history and language, while Chit in return taught him English. Ironic that an institution of suppression became what the prisoners would call “Lard Yao University” ~ not even rusted bars, deplorable living conditions and strict wardens could subdue the desire to learn, debate and share.
Shortly after his release, he fled to the safety of the mountains. During the government’s brutal purge of communists and opposition, Chit was attacked and slain on May 5, 1966.
Moui paused, this time to take a deep breath, somewhat submerged in her private thoughts. I understand, I know that feeling of mixed emotions all too well.
People like Chit come and go, perhaps a rarity in Thailand. Chit lived his life the best that he could, and was foully assaulted by an Institution that feared him and many others who believed in living a life as equals and of acceptance. Chit did not set his country on fire nor did he attack others; he merely stimulated the passion of intellectual wisdom, advocated the reality of societal evolution, inspired self-determination, and of respect for humanity. Somwang is inspired, has been for decades, and so is his daughter. And so am I.
Rest well, Chit. You are in my thoughts.