Recently stripped of his MP’s status, one of the main leaders of the Red Shirt movement, Jatuporn Prompan, 46, opens up about the path that took him into politics, fears of assassination, Thaksin and the monarchy.
- By Monruedee Jansuttipan
- | Dec 23, 2011
My parents were both widowed before they married each other so I had lots of step-brothers and step-sisters.
I moved out of home when I was only eight to live with my brother in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Then I moved to Bangkok when my father died three years later.
I lived at Wat Bowonniwet where one of my brothers was a monk. I had the opportunity to attend a vocational school where I studied to become a building contractor.
My life was quite trashy during my years in vocational school. I got drunk and fought with other school’s students all the time. I needed to stop and find things in my life to help me regain my focus.
I became a volunteer teacher in a mountainous region near Chiangmai. It was really remote. All the teachers had to sleep in a cave because there was no house to stay in. We later built a little house where we could live.
I originally planned to stay around 5-6 months but ended up being there for three years. I was so happy, even though I didn’t get paid.
Being a volunteer taught me so much. It helped change me to become more calm and aware, to better understand myself and others. It taught me that if you want to sacrifice your time, you can’t think that you’re sacrificing anything.
I came back to Bangkok to continue my education. I decided to study political science at Ramkhamhaeng University because I had been bound up in politics since I was I kid. I always went to listen to political activists speaking in public in Bangkok and the South. Many were famous like M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, Samak Sundaravej, Uthai Pimjaichon or Chuan Leekpai.
I became well known after the Black May in 1992. I was the last speaker on the stage before Major General Chamlong Srimuang was arrested and the king had to intervene to stop the violence.
I didn’t think about being a politician. I was happy to keep helping my politician friends plan their campaigns instead.
I changed my mind because I realized it was easier to get things to happen as a politician instead of passing it on to someone else and expecting them to make it happen. I joined Palangtham before becoming part of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai.
The key to being a good speaker is to say what you truly believe. People have come so far, they now know as much as the politicians.
I have to use three phones because I know my main number is bugged. So I have two other numbers to secretly talk with my colleagues and supporters.
My life hasn’t been normal for so long. I can’t walk in public like I used to. It’s about safety, not just for me but also my friends and family as well.
If they want to kill me, just kill me. Don’t drag others into this.
I try to protect my family, my wife and three daughters. I try and ensure they stay away from what I am doing with the redshirts as much as possible. I don’t want to make trouble for their lives, so I try to keep them out of the public eye.
Since Seh Daeng was shot dead, I knew it could also happen to me any day. My feeling is beyond fear. You have no time to think about fear when you are shot. You have no feeling when you are dead.
I wasn’t paid by Thaksin. Death and freedom can’t be traded with money. Money is nothing if you’re dead or in a cage. I can find money on my own.
I told Thaksin, “Don’t start the movement with money.” If they come with money, they will run away when the first bullets start to fly. There wouldn’t have been 91 deaths during the 2010 protest if the protesters had been paid to be there.
I never considered toppling the royal institution. I used to live in Wat Bowon where the king and royal members often visited. I feel good about and respect the royal family.
We were framed with this allegation by those who want to destroy us. I even named my oldest daughter, 11, Porpiang [Sufficiency, after the King’s teachings]. How could I harbor the idea of trying to bring down the royal family?
My biggest achievement and happiest moment would be when I was a teacher. Teaching is all about giving.
If I can’t be a MP any more, I will drive the Red Shirt movement as I always have.
You don’t need to act as an enemy to those who have a different political standpoint. We can talk like friends who just have a different way of thinking.