Santi discusses his experiences as an educator, civil servant, and leftist activist in Thailand from the 1970s
This transcript is part of a group of transcripts.
The son of a public school teacher, Santi was born and raised in Chiang Mai; and followed in his father’s footsteps. He graduated from the Chiang Mai Teachers’ College in 1970 and worked as a public school teacher in a school in Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai. In 1997, Santi switched careers to go into the finance industry. He worked as a manager at a financial institution in Chiang Mai for 8 years before co-founding an education business with his friends. He also successfully ran for the office of mayor of a district in Chiang Mai, and remained involved with many other local groups that empowered the villagers in his area during his term.
He highlights 3 important factors that shaped his worldview and interest in socialism. First, he felt indebted to the society and always wanted to give back because he was aware that he was able to receive a good education in private schools throughout his childhood due to his father’s work benefits, from tax revenue. Second, Santi was a good friend of Mr. Insorn Buakeaw, a prominent figure in the Socialist Party of Thailand. Insorn had a strong influence on Santi’s interest in socialist ideologies. Third, against the backdrop of the rise of socialism and opposition to American imperialism in Thailand, Santi was surrounded by colleagues who cared about the problems of injustice and inequality pervasive in Thai society at the time. They formed the Group of Local Teachers for People (GLTP) in Chiang Mai in 1974.
Santi also shared about the violence induced by the right-wing group at the GLTP’s public seminar in 1975. The police and security officers’ discriminatory treatment of the GLTP members and the seminar attendees (all of whom were victims of the political violence), led Santi to realize the truth of Mao’s famous quote, that “power comes from the barrel of a gun.” He was one of many socialist activists who were arrested during the nationwide crackdown on leftist movements after the 6 October Massacre in 1976. He was detained in Chiang Mai for a month. While other leftist civil servants were transferred to other areas as part of the government’s plan to disarm the leftist movement, Santi was fortunate that his supervisor petitioned not to transfer him due to his irreplaceable expertise in curriculum development.
Since then, Santi continues to hold on to his values, but has changed his approach to advocating within his professional capacity. He feels that the problem of injustice and inequality engendered by the monopolies under capitalism remains pervasive in Thai society, albeit now disguised, while citizens still lack the ability to be self-sufficient.
Interviewer: Phianphachong Intarat
Consider how Santi’s views of Thai politics during and after the Cold War might have been shaped by his personal, socioeconomic and political background