Sunday 30 September 2012

A celebration of the life of Thai political prisoner Ah Kong Pt. 2

This is part two of the English translation of the funeral book of Thai political prisoner Amphon Tangnoppakul (aka Ah Kong), who died in a Bangkok prison hospital May 8th 2012. Part one can be found here

This funeral book was produced by Ah Kong's wife, Rosmalin (aka Pa Ou), and it is with her kind permission it's reproduced here as a tribute to his life.

"I am almost two years younger than Ah Po. My mother told me I was born 28 February 1952, but on the registration it says 1951. Only the year is recorded, too, but mother said she could remember because I was her first child. Nevermind, though, it doesn’t matter what year it was. A birthday is not as important as a death day. When I will die--that’s what I don’t know.

I was born in Bangkok, and lived at the Air Defense Artillery Batallion at Kiak Kai Intersection{1} from when I was a child. My father was a soldier. When I was first old enough to remember anything my father was still a Corporal, then a Sergeant, and then a Master Sergeant, and on from there until he passed away at the rank of Lieutenant. My mother was a typical housewife.

Pa Ou

My family had many hardships and many kids--eight or nine, because my mother never used birth control. I was the oldest and had to care for my younger siblings. I carried a baby on my hip with me wherever I went. We had no television at home in those days. If I wanted to watch it I had to go to a store, and I had to bring a baby with me on my hip. The baby would start to cry, people would start to stare, and I had to rush right out again.

There was a period where I sold coconut cakes{2} with my next oldest sister. I was around ten or eleven, and she was around nine. We would wake up at 4 a.m., walk from Kiak Kai to pick up the coconut cakes at Bang Krabue{1}. My father’s younger sister was the one who made them. We sold them to earn money to help out the family. Every morning we hauled them back home, each carrying a basket on our side, and using our free hands to carry a third basket between us. My sister wore short skirts--sometimes she would get so focused on carrying the baskets she would lose her skirt along the way home!

By the time we walked back it would be 6 or 7 a.m., and 8 or 9 a.m. by the time we had sold all the cakes. Older folks will remember this.

We were always struggling in those days. My mother earned money washing and ironing soldiers’ uniforms. In those days the uniforms had to be starched totally stiff--you could practically stand them up!

My family moved to Chonburi I was about fifteen. At first we rented a house. My father hadn’t moved there to be with us yet. My father was not stationed at the Batallion very often. He was never in one place very long, because he had to follow his commanding officers around. Sometimes the whole family moved around with him.

We had to move often, but the reason we moved to Chonburi was because my mother was from there. We had been there about two years when we moved to a military base, but I stayed behind there in our rented house for a while longer, and moved later.

After that my father and mother split up. My father went to live with his new wife. My mother also moved, but she didn’t have a new husband. My mother went to work as a cook in factories. It became my duty to care for the family, with all my younger brothers and sisters and my grandmother, too. My brothers and sisters were afraid of me. You might say they both feared and respected me. But there was still some skipping of school and that sort of thing!

At the house we had a large wardrobe. One time when I was yelling at the kids to go to school, I noticed everyone had disappeared. I thought, “Huh, why did everyone leave for school so early today?” Then when I went to open the wardrobe, it turned out they were squeezed into every corner of the thing, top and bottom. They used to call me the cleaner--they would see me and say, “Here comes the cleaner!” before hurrying off to school.

With so many brothers and sisters, as the eldest I had to help the family. I only completed fourth grade, even though as the daughter of a soldier I could’ve gone to school. But I didn’t get to go to school because I had to care for my siblings.

When I was sixteen, going on seventeen, I went to work in a lumber mill.

I worked at the lumber mill for only a year, and then I got married."

Translator’s notes
{1} Kiak Kai and Bang Krabue are intersections on Sam Sen Road in Bangkok, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River.
{2} A confectionary made with flour and coconut cream, steamed in small cups (ขนมถวย).

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