A conversation with the 22-year-old university student, Rung Panusaya, who dreams of a bright future of Thailand.

20 August 2021

Amnesty International Thailand

“If politics was good, what would you like to do now?” I asked,

“I want to learn the violin again and learn Spanish,” Rung said.

When talking about Rung Panusaya, we would think of a young woman with her determined stare hidden behind the glasses. She comes with her red dress and her long hair flutters in the wind while she is giving her speech. Her voice is full of strength even when she is arrested and taken away in a police vehicle. 

She is student who“breaks the ceiling of fear”. Apart from her political movements, today I invited Rung for a conversation about her life as a young woman who is a fan of Harry Potter and who wants to learn Spanish when Thai politics change to a better direction. 

Rung told me that, of all three sisters, she is the youngest sibling who gets spoiled often by her family. During her childhood, she has freedom and full support from her middle-class family. She got a chance to learn musical instruments, drawing, and to live a life in the world full of enjoyment. 

“Actually, when I was young, I was shy and timid. Now I still have that feeling, but it gets better,” Rung said with a relaxing tone of voice unlike when she gave a speech on the stage to the thousands of hopeful eyes that were watching her. “When I was young, I danced on the stage for my school handwashing campaign and I performed Khon, the masked dance, which is a part of elective subjects in grade 9.”


What about your school life? How was it?

“I was teased because I was timid. I also didn’t know how to use swear words. I was very polite back then when it comes to speaking. If someone teased me, I’d just tell them that ‘I’m okay,’ up to the point that it had become one of my habits. Even when someone stepped on my feet, I’d also say, ‘I’m fine,’” Rung laughed. 

“It wasn’t until the junior high that I realized it wasn’t good for myself if I allowed people to tease me. I should fight back though I literally don’t know how.  So, when I figured out that I’ve that stern look on my face which could be used as a weapon to fight back, I use it. I remembered that I went to school and left my pencil case on the table, then a boy ran my way and took it with him.”

“Back then I didn’t do anything. I just looked him in the eye and then he slowly walked back to me to return my pencil case. From then, no one messed with me anymore. And I was like “okay, this way works for me,”

When Rung grew up, she has become a student who loves participating in the TU cheer club (Thammasat University Cheer Club). She loves creating cheering messages and cartoons for the cheer flip signs. She used to have a dream to become an animator because she is a big fan of anime. However, she realized it was not her cup of tea when she started learning to draw. “I don’t want to turn the thing that gives me joy into the thing that makes me suffer. 


Were you an exchange student?

“Yes! I participated in the exchange program during my high school,” Rung said

“Was it fun?” I asked

“Not at all,” Rung speaks casually with giggles though the following sentences sound really awful. 

“I changed the host family once. The first host stole a lot of my money. When I moved to the second family, I needed to move to the new school too. I had no friends at all! Then, I was sexually harassed by the exchange student who lived in the same house as me. There was a rule which doesn’t allow the romantic relationship between the exchange students living in the same house, but it was me who got kicked out from that house. I didn’t understand why it had to be me when he was the one who made a move on me. So, I gave up then and flied back to Thailand. I was just 16 years old back then, so I ended up living there only 5 months.” 


How was your university life? Did you remember the first time being at Thammasat University? 

“At first glance, I was quite lost. I didn’t know where I should go and where I was,”  

Rung smiled when we travelled back in time to talk about the place that would change her life forever. 

“I was so confused of how I should behave and whom I should talk to. It took me only a week to adjust to the new environment because I met a group of nice friends and I was happy with that,”

After graduated from Suankularb Wittayalai Nonthaburi School, Rung has furthered her study in the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University. Her study focuses on culture and human behavior.  

“The study traced back to how humans were born and our evolutionary. It was fun,”

“Do you like it?”

“No, I don’t really like humanities. I prefer sociology, you know, to study about social structures, something like that. I think it is too difficult to understand the human culture,”

“Is there anything you like about being human?”

Rung stopped and pondered for a moment then replied. 

“I think humans are weird. Actually, I don’t like humans. I am more afraid of them. They are so selfish. They take everything and never actually give. Not even for a single entity. They take all the natural resources. I’d say humans are more frightening than interesting but I’d also want to understand the reasons to such behaviors.” 


Throughout the conversation, Rung highlighted that she was very timid so I was wondering about her turning point. What changed and groomed her to be a girl on fire who resembles Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games today?

“I think it happened when I heard this sentence, ‘what are you so afraid of?’ I heard it from the TU cheer club. The CU-TU traditional football game would always have that cheer flip signs which would be transformed into political satire messages and cartoons. There was a year when the messages on the flip signs were ‘what are you so afraid of? Just a bunch of crazy kids who make fun of politics. It was also from when I talked to Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) about the Thai royal family. I was out in the balcony smoking cigarette with Penguin and we questioned why we can’t talk about the royal family and when we can talk about them in public. We figured out that people are still afraid of committing a crime because of the lese majeste law so people don’t discuss much about this matter in the public.”

“So, the turning point came that day when I talked to Penguin that, okay, we knew they try to scare us, but we didn’t have to play their game. So just fuck them. And there I went, up on the stage giving a speech,”


Before going there, what made you interested in the political situation in Thailand?

Rung mentioned that she met a friend during her high school after she came back from the exchange program. She got to be in the same class with her friend. Rung chose French major while her friend chose Japanese. 

We ended up working together in the TU cheer club. We work under the same section. 

“We are close and get along quite well. We also have the similar working habits. My friend comes from a lower-class family. She applied for an education loan provided by the Student Loan Fundto study at Thammasat. Back when we studied in school, she took a bus, transferred to a minibus, and to a motorcycle taxi just to go to school. Currently, she still needs to take a bus for 3 hours a day for a round trip to Thammasat University.”

“I have car so I’m okay to drive her home everyday if she wants me to. But she would say she wouldn’t want to bother me. It is almost impossible for her to hang out and go on a trip with friends. She couldn’t even afford food from a cheap a la carte restaurant. If she wants to go on a vacation, she needs to take some time to save up money.”

“Seeing her life makes me ponder like ‘why does she have to suffer so much in life?’ Everyone should get to live their lives to the fullest, shouldn’t they? Why does she have to come across all these difficulties?” Rung questioned. 

“All these are the reflection of the country’s economy.Also, Thailand doesn’t have the well-developed and inclusive social welfare to support people. If we have the inclusive social welfare, my friend might never have to suffer this much in her life. If the government provide monthly allowance, educational fee, and health care system for everyone, she will never come across such difficulties. 

“This is my turning point. Because of the difficulties that my friend has come across, I start to pay attention to the political situation. I want to explore and see what I can do to better the quality of lives for others. I want to help my friend.” 


Anymemorable stories from the past you did with your close friends?

Rung told us that she has 2 close friends. The first one was already mentioned earlier and the other one is Penguin Parit Chiwarak so I urge her to tell us the craziest stories she made with him and she said “the Club Revolution,”

“There was a time when I used to be in the same club as Penguin and worked under the same section. We tried to fight for the messages used in the cheer flip signs to be direct and succinct towards the royal family. However, the TU cheer club was sponsored by the alumniassociation, so it was impossible to discuss this matter. But I wanted to stand my ground.”

“Back then, I and my team tried to convince the team leader, but it doesn’t work. It was quite unfortunate that we failed but it was memorable. Even for that small thing, I still have a courage to take action to make change. So, this is like the beginning of my political movements that is not in the demonstration.”


Now, you are not just a part of the TU cheer club. You are the activist who is under the spotlight on the stage. Do you still feel timid?

“Me in the past would say I’m not afraid of anything because I’m trying to encourage everyone to be brave but, deep down inside, I know I’m always scared.” Rung said

“I’m always scared to be up on the stage. I’m scared of being issued an arrest warrant. I’m scared of being put to jail, but this is the same game as the enactment of lese majeste law. If these actions were meant to frighten us, to resist them, we should show that they mean nothing.”

“I think that the arrest warrant is also used as a tool to threaten people. To stop us. I know that this is a part of their game so I must resist. I must not let myself be threatened. I must encourage people around me because we all have that uncomfortable feeling.”

“It isn’t that I don’t have any feeling inside. I’m not that dauntless. Everyone has that feeling too but I think it worth the risk. You see, on that day, 19th of Aug, that I gave a speech and received so much of positive feedback that it has become the new political phenomenon in Thai society. So, I think that it’s okay if I’ve to be the one who received that warrant from the police.”

“The number of people in this country are so much more than us (people in the protests) and they will receive the direct consequence from my speech. This is gonna be good for them because they’ll be able to talk about the royal family freely. This topic will no longer be neither strange nor taboo to talk about anymore.” Rung smiled and emphasized that “I think it worth the risk,”

“I think we still have hope. I truly do believe that this pro-democratic protest will make some change in the society. We might even be able to win this time. I can see the potential from some people that they are good enough to change this society. So, I would like to stand my ground to fight with everyone. I don’t wanna leave anyone behind.”


How do your political movements change your life?

“To tell you the truth… A lot. A lot has changed. Even my own way of thinking and living. It’s more of like adjusting myself to be more flexible for the protest. Normally, I can spend my life the way I want. To be alone. To lay back, relax, and read some books. To drive around town. Now I must stay put and balance my life to match the protest schedule,”

“I consider the protest as my priority. The rest is put aside. Family, friends, and school come later,”

“No matter what I do, I’ll think of the protest first like ‘if it’s okay to do this or that activity in the protest,’” 

“Being put to jail for 2 times shaped me to be a better listener. I understand people better. I won’t judge them until I listen to them thoroughly. Each and every single one of people comes from different place. We are all different. We grow up from different background, so we have different way of thinking. There was a time when I don’t like the ideas of some people and I judged them because of that. But the thing is I should listen to them first to understand why they think that way. The reason why I don’t understand them is because I don’t know. Learning to understand people has extended my knowledge of learning about others and how to live with them.  


Rung’s private life

Apart from being a strong activist, Rung, deep down, is just a 22-year-old student so I asked her some casual questions. 

Of course, during the stressful situation like this, many are stressed out and so does Rung. I asked her how she took care of her mental health.

“I love watching ‘Rick and Morty,’ so much. I can put it on repeat. Now I’m also addicted to cigarettes. I can’t live without them in between my fingers. I feel insecure when not having them and I also love being with friends. I spent most of my nights being with friends. Last night, for example, I stayed up until 3am in the morning with my friends pouring our hearts out talking about guys,” 

“What’s the type of guys you feel attracted to?” I asked

Rung gave me a big smile and said “I like kind-hearted person. I’m the youngest child so I have that childish moment and I could be clingy some time. He should be a smart, kind, and mature guy. We should be able to understand each other. It shouldn’t be something that I should elaborate at all times of what I think and speak. If he is someone who can understand me totally, that’d be great. I’ve a lot of things to do so I want to make all choices by myself without being interrupted. If he’s a kinda person who is very supportive, that’d be super great.”

“So, what type of girlfriend are you?”

“I love to take care of others. I’m a kinda person who cares about others like ‘how do you feel? what do you think? What do you want? Anything I can do for you?’ I’m willing to help at all times,”


3 Second Rule with Rung Panusaya.

  • Which series/movies do you like?

ANS: Harry Potter

  • Which books do you like?

ANS: To Dream the Impossible Dream (ขอฝันใฝ่ในฝันอันเหลือเชื่อ)

  • Which characters in the Harry Potter that you like?

ANS: Hermione

  • Which songs would you like to send to your crush?

ANS: Aoi Jai Aei (โอ้ใจเอ๋ย) 

  • When you are in love what would you like to do for your crush?

ANS: Send him food

  • Who is your idol?

ANS: Penguin, Parit Chiwarak

  • Would you choose someone who loves you or someone you love?

ANS: Someone who loves me

  • Sweet or savory dish? 

ANS: Savory

  • Any subjects you like?

ANS: Arts

  • Any subjects you hate?

ANS: Mathematics

  • If you are a prime minister, what would you do?

ANS: Act on social welfare!!!

  • 3 words for yourself

ANS: kind-hearted, straightforward, and lovable 

  • Who would you like to thank to the most in your life?

ANS: I wanna thank a senior for seeing me for 3 years but never makes any commitment. 

  • What do you dream of becoming when you were a kid?

ANS: A President. 

  • If this country is a person, how she/he is like to you? 

ANS: Indifferent, ignorant, and fun-loving

  • If Thai politics is good, what would you like to do?

ANS: Learn violin again and learn Spanish. I think Spanish is very sexy to listen to. I also like Spanish songs.