Help a Thai activist ‘Da Torpedo’ combat cancer

It’s not an understatement to describe Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul – also known as Da Torpedo – as living history in contemporary Thailand. But she is facing an uncertain future as she battles terminal cancer.

Daranee was born into an impoverished Chinese family, but through sheer determination she financed herself through a Master’s degree.

She has strong and straightforward personality. And because of the hardships she has faced in life, she will not compromise, and is determined to take on what she perceives as injustices. This has caused her problems on numerous occasions: she resigned from her second master’s program because of what she saw as unfairness in the way the program was being run, she quit her job as a journalist because she refused to write what the authorities demanded, she was imprisoned for her anti-coup activities, and once in prison she was targeted by the authorities for not abiding by their rules.

Daranee was among the first group of people to oppose the military dictatorship in 2006. After she quit her job in journalism, Daranee used her savings in the anti-coup struggle. Each day she would get up on stage to address the rallies. Whatever the day, whatever the time, she would not give up, no matter how small the audience. It was a tough and difficult journey, but she kept learning, she kept improving.

While she is famous for her political activism and her spells in prison, what is perhaps less well known is that Daranee is an avid reader. She rented a 2-bedroom apartment with one room for her to live in, while the other housed her books. History and politics are her particular areas of knowledge.

Her activism arose out of a realisation that Thailand was politically unjust. These wounds had been festering since the Revolution of 1932, but came to a head in 2006. She sought conversations with other progressive individuals and academics. She attended public seminars and read widely on the subject, expanding her knowledge and horizons. Several academics in particular fed her hunger, providing her with a crucial part of the jigsaw – the role of the revered institution of monarchy -- to complete her understanding of Thailand’s political landscape.

Is this inclusive way of thinking and understanding about Thai politics too uncommon among many other Thais? The only difference may be that Daranee dared to raise questions – critical questions, something regarded as a good practise by philosophy professors, who encourage their students to do question common assumptions. Daranee is a fighter who dared to push the ceiling, following in a long line of revolutionaries.

We should remember that the post 2006-coup context differs from today. At the time a lot of people were trying to push against that ceiling – to speak about what could not be spoken. The thirst for knowledge was overwhelming. Many things were new to the people at that time. Some of the activists made it. Some were thrown into prison. And some even paid their price with their lives.

Daranee’s actions brought attention to many Thai people the cruelty and backwardness of their own society. Her political expression led to a conviction for insulting the monarchy (Lèse-majesté) resulting in an eight-year prison sentence.

We cannot totally understand the impact those eight years had on her. What it means to spend eight years incarcerated as a political prisoner is beyond most of our imaginations.
When released from the prison, one of the things Daranee learnt was that mobile phones were no longer with buttons. Calls are now answered through swiping. It took her a while to get accustomed to this new practise. It is a concrete example of what that length of time had entailed.

Daranee was released with nothing in which to start her new life. Despite her former notoriety, many people now do not know her, or have forgotten her. Some remember her merely as the prisoner with severe penalty. Looking for a job has been a challenge because of her criminal record. She has survived through selling things at public events and through participating in political activism. But one thing has never wavered: her interest and close observation of politics. She continues to ponder different activism strategies silently. Looking to improve the lives of those in the grassroots is as strong as it was eight years ago.

Because of her impoverished financial situation, Daranee wasn’t able to see a doctor for a health check-up when she was released. A malignant tumour, that had grown in the last years of her prison sentence, went undiagnosed. The toll of poor prison conditions, with enduring stresses and a lengthy consumption of painkillers, all contributed to the worsening of her health. Now three years later, the symptoms of cancer have become apparent.

The pro-democracy fighter is still fighting, with an even great personal battle to fight. Medical treatment proceeds as slowly as the state welfare allows. There is not only the crucial cost of medical treatment, but other expenses are also involved.

Many people pay a high price on the road to democracy, and certainly not just Daranee. But this is her story: a friend, a comrade who is struggling and is weary physically and mentally. We want to send a message so that concerned individuals may express solidarity with this unique fighting spirit, so that she could receive proper quality medical care, live a decent life, and also so that the remaining time may be spent completing one last project, her book, ‘The Last Stage of the Fight’.

With sincere gratitude and appreciation on behalf of Daranee.

From a friend

*For more info about Daranee’s lese majeste case, please see https://freedom.ilaw.or.th/en/case/34#progress_of_case

Donations ()

  • Anonymous 
    • £300 
    • 4 mos
  • Chaiwat Tr 
    • £10 
    • 4 mos
  • Thai Alliance for Human Rights 
    • £235 
    • 4 mos
  • Visuta Engkagul 
    • £35 
    • 4 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • £100 
    • 4 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Ei Wang 
Organizer
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Kwanravee Wangudom 
Beneficiary
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