Thai Patriots Network activist Ratree Pipattanapaiboon has talked about her experience while serving two years out of a six-year prison term in Cambodia on charges of illegal entry, spying and entering a military area without permission. Three days after being granted a royal pardon, Ms Ratree looked back at her gruelling time behind bars after she and six other Thais, were arrested on Dec 29, 2010. She spoke to ASTV's Kon Cha Thueng Chan (Before Monday) TV show on Sunday night. Here are excerpts from her interview.
Ratree: Barred from talking to inmates
How is your health? It's fine, though I've lost about 5kg in weight. It's because I'm a vegetarian and usually had one meal a day. Moreover, I've refrained from eating dessert since last year. Not having sweets is one of my dhamma practices.
Were you treated as a prisoner of conscience and did you receive good treatment?
Yes. At the start there were 20 prisoners in my detention quarters but the authorities moved most of the inmates elsewhere to clear space for me. In the end, I was living with only three other female inmates of good class.
How was the food at the prison?
During the first months, staff from the Thai embassy brought the food for me. But the deliveries later stopped because the embassy was short of money and staff. So I had to cook for myself, even though I didn't know how to.
Where did you cook?
I did it in front of my living quarters. I bought equipment sold inside the prison. There are shops selling vegetables and many other things.
Were you worried about how long you would be jailed, or were you confident you would get help because Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth had accompanied your group [on the December 2010 border trip]?
I first thought that staying there for more than three days was already too much. When my detention went beyond three days, I thought five days would be too much. Then, five days passed and I hoped it would not exceed 10. I just kept thinking this way, by extending the detention period bit by bit. But after four months, I gave up hope, thinking any amount of time would be fine for me. That kept me from getting stressed.
How often did you meet Veera Somkwamkid [who was arrested along with Ms Ratree and remains in jail in Cambodia]?
Very rarely. I met him when then-Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya visited us in February 2011 and on religious days when we made merit.
Did you ask Veera how he was being treated?
His mother told me he was being strictly monitored. Books and newspapers were not allowed. Other inmates were ordered not to talk to him or they would be punished.
What did you do in the prison?
I was also prohibited from talking to other inmates, especially the Thais. I was allowed to talk to the three Cambodians in my living quarters. But I spent most of the time reading.
Did the authorities try to talk you into pleading guilty before you asked for a royal pardon?
No, they never did that.
Did you get angry with the Abhisit Vejjajiva government?
Yes, but not because they did not help us. I'm angry because they did not do enough to protect the country's sovereignty. It's true two of us lost our freedom but we might have lost more because the government did not protect the interests of the country seriously.
What will you do next?
I will continue the way I have been going. I want to tell the Thai people that their duties are not only to protect their rights but they also need to protect the rights of the nation.
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Writer: Post reporters