Little Foot: A Fable from the Cells of Detention (Parts 1-4)

Translator’s Note: The fable below was originally published in Thai on Prachatai in four parts in October, December, January, and February. I translated each part as it was released, and English versions of the first three parts were published on Prachatai as well (See here, here, and here). The fourth part is translated and all four parts are assembled here as a whole (until now) story.

The author, Pornthip (Golf) M., is a detainee currently being held in a case of alleged lèse majesté under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that, “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished (with) imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Golf was arrested on 15 August 2014 due to her involvement in the performance of a play, ‘The Wolf Bride,’ in the events commemorating the fortieth anniversary of 14 October 1973 in 2013. Her detention was renewed 6 times before the prosecutor charged her, along with Patiwat (Bank) S., with one count of violating Article 112 on 25 October 2014. Her lawyers have opposed their continued detention and requested bail numerous times. Each time, the Court has refused bail on the basis that the complaint against them is grave and there is concern that they may flee. On 29 December 2014, they pled guilty to the charge against them in the Criminal Court in Bangkok. As they pled guilty, there will be no trial. Instead, they will be sentenced on 23 February 2015.

Golf is from Phitsanulok and her family has a cassava farm. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University. Since the end of secondary school, she has been involved in social activism and various outreach activities. She has many artistic abilities, including drawing and writing fables. But she has a special fondness for performance, and founded and worked with Prakai Fai theatre troupe before it dissolved in 2012. She once gave an interview about her dreams and said that she, “wanted to perform plays in the provinces, perform in different places. And, importantly, I want to perform plays for children to watch. I want to tell children new fables -- fables of ordinary people who change the world.”

She wrote the fable while in detention and sent it via postal mail to a close friend. A letter can only be one piece of paper, so she writes in installments. Each installment is stamped with “Inspected” by the prison authorities before it is placed in the outgoing mail. Her note, “Please use polite and correct Thai language,” is so that those who write to her will follow the regulations of the prison, which cover both tone and usage. This is to both ensure that letters sent will reach her, and that neither she nor the authors will run afoul of the authorities.

The fable is about her dreams and is meant as encouragement for those outside the prison, especially children, with whom she often did activities before her arrest.

Readers will notice that she signs her fables “Kho. Yo. Pornthip.” Upon being taken into detention in Thailand, an individual loses her previous title. Rather than being “น.ส.” (No. So.) or “นางสาว” (Nang Sao) which corresponds to “Miss,” one becomes “ข.ญ.” (Kho. Yo.) or “ข ังหญิง” (Khang Ying), which means “female detainee.”

-- Tyrell Haberkorn



Central Women’s Prison

33/3 Ngam Wong Wan Road

Lad Yao


Bangkok 10900

3 October 2014

Once upon a time, a child was born in a village in which all of the inhabitants had hearts of darkness. This darkness could not be seen through their chests, but was expressed through their words and actions. They monitored their neighbors and gossiped about them. They slandered them. And all families acted sanctimoniously… But the heart of the little child was not the same color as theirs. His heart was the size of a fist. He was born with tiny feet. The villagers liked to mock the weak points of others and therefore called him ‘Little Foot.’ One cold day in winter, there was dew that had hardened into ice on the blades of grass, or what they referred to as frost. Little Foot woke up before the sky was light. He did not wake in order to admire the glistening beauty of the dew upon the blades of grass like the city people like to visit the village to do, but so that he could plan his new independent life. Little Foot picked up the cloth parcel he prepared the night before along with a flask of water and slowly walked to the steps of the house. He did not light a lamp, because there was electricity from solar panels. After turning off the switch at the top of the stairs, Little Foot groped his way awkwardly down the stairs. He fumbled along until his vision began to adjust to the darkness and he could see the road indistinctly. Little Foot then walked onto the small village road that was simply a ridge made by villagers who mowed the grass neatly. He walked barefoot, his little pair of those two small feet. His feet were stripped bare and he trod on a path shrouded in grass and sharp blades of ice. But Little Foot did not feel anything because the cold upon the carpet of grass numbed his feet. There were small slivers of pain, but he did not stop walking.

“Walk on in the darkness. To walk partially on the right path and partially on the wrong path is still better than not forging forward at all,” Little Foot thought in his heart …

Kho. Yo. Pornthip

Room 1/6, Phetch Building, Entry Zone

P.S. Please use polite and correct Thai language.

Note: The bolded words are those for which she had to use polite language in line with the regulation of the prison. While in English, there is only one register of third-person pronouns, in Thai there is a wide range that can be used to indicate status and social position. Her underlined words were the most neutral of these – “เขา” -- which I have translated as “he.” What word she would use if not restricted is left to the imagination.



Central Women’s Prison

Lad Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900

17 October 2014

To older sister xxxx. Pass it on to the children, too.

Daylight’s arrival was marked by the emergence of orange, ombre, red, and pink along the horizon. Mist hid the very white clouds. The hardened frost slowly melted into dew. Little Foot raised his head to look at the sky and said, “It’s time. I need to go, what should I do?” Little Foot pooped at the same time every morning. He turned left, turned right and walked to the bushes at the side of the path. He put his things down, pulled down his pants, and squatted. He went immediately. A large pile of poop was cause for amusement in Little Foot’s heart. He conjured up a picture of a person who did not pay attention to where he was walking who stepped right into it. Little Foot used twigs nearby to wipe himself. He put on his pants, picked up his belongings, and walked again through the frigid air. Even though the air made him feel very cold, his joy when he thought about the pile of poop propelled him swiftly form the scene of the incident. In truth, Little Foot wanted to secretly watch the unlucky ones who stepped into it. But he had already firmly made up his mind that day to walk on, no dilly-dallying. The amusement was therefore confined to his heart… The cold air kept his sweat from leaking out of his skin. Instead, his breath puffed out as steam from his mouth and nose. Clear mucus came from his nose as well. Sunshine softly touched his face. Like a child playing hide-and-seek, sometimes the sun hid in the valleys and then it would emerge to be seen. The path became wider than before. All that was behind Little Foot were lofty trees, the forest, and the path he had already walked upon. He could no longer see the village. Walking since before sunrise until now made Little Foot’s belly grumble. He looked around and headed towards a large tree a little further up at the edge of the path. He sat down, opened the banana leaf packet of food and ate ravenously. The scent of the banana leaf remained on the rice before it entered his mouth. He left half the salted mackerel uneaten because it was too salty. But when he ate it with hard kernels of rice that were grown in the hills, the taste was right … it was delicious!! Little Foot did not get up, but gulped water down his throat and rested.

Kho. Yo. Pornthip M.

P.S. Please use polite and correct Thai language.



Central Women’s Prison

Phetch Dormitory, R. 1/6

26 December 2014

It is time to entrust the children with more of the fable. It’s for you, as well.

Little Foot was proud and pleased with himself after he released the big pile of poop. A monster was knocking on the door of his heart. He walked a distance away but could still see the monument he made. He curled his body up and went into a bush and waited to see who would walk without looking and step into it…it would be grotesquely fun… he laughed in his heart as he thought about it. The monster laughed even louder than him. Ha ha! But his thoughts and the sound of laughter stopped short …a herd of cows! A herd of cows was headed in this direction. And a calf, white like a tuft of cotton wool and who looked as though he had just emerged from his mother’s womb, suddenly stood still in the pile of poop and lifted his tail. “Uh…” Little Foot cried out when Small Cow deposited a bigger pile on top of his own and covered it ... Nothing was left of his well-laid plan … Little Foot jumped up. Hands on his waist, he fixed his eyes upon the herd of cows in irritation. He wrinkled his nose, readied his feet and stomped forward with a frown. He thought, “How dare that Small Cow leave his poop on top of mine?” Fueled by fury, his pace quickened. There were no more joyful matters to restrain him. He did not know how long clear snot had been running down his face, he simply wiped his cheeks with his sleeve. Ombre light began to diffuse across the horizon and Little Foot’s stomach started to grumble. Yes! It was time to eat. He looked for a tree with a canopy that was not too dense so that he could sun himself while he ate. He unwrapped the tightly-packed banana leaf bundle dense with fat grains of rice. The scent of the banana leaf still adhered to every mouthful of rice he ate. He alternated rice with salted mackerel, bought from a truck that came to the village from somewhere else once a month. He only ate half of the very salty mackerel. His stomach grew taut and his eyelids began to droop. The bulge of his round belly pushed his small shirt out of his pants. He lay down on a dry log and closed his eyes. His belly was free. But the sounds of little birds woke him so that he could continue walking. Little Foot was irritated by the scorn of Tiny Bird, who said his wee feet could not carry him very far. “Uh … Tiny Bird, one glance and you know how fast and far I can walk?” Little Foot furrowed his brow, determined to go right along the path. He walked to the rhythm of the sound of his breath, accompanied by the steadily increasing light of the sun.

Kho. Yo. Pornthip M.

P.S. Please use polite and correct Thai language.




Central Women’s Prison

Phetch Dormitory, Room 1/6

Entry Zone

Once upon a time … a truly once upon a time fable. It is heaps more fun to tell the fable than to write it down. I miss the children, a lot, and I have figured out what to tell them. Tell them that I went to slay a dragon and I am in the labyrinth right now. Ha ha ha. I will get on with the story.

The sun grew brighter until it was directly overhead. Little Foot looked up at it. But the sun  sometimes hid behind clouds and mountains. His stomach did not yet cry out, but the heat from the sun forced him to halt. Even during winter, the sun’s rays were unexpectedly hot. He stopped to eat once again. He ate rice and the other half of the salted mackerel, and still had a bit of rice left over (about a handful). He did not know if he would have anything to eat tonight. Once he finished eating, he stood up to continue walking so he would reach a place where humans dwelled. He was confident that he never lost his way.  The gravel path would lead him to one particular place. “Those who forged the path perhaps knew where he would end up. Now he is merely walking according to the path.” It is important that he not allow the insulting words of Tiny Bird to be true. Certainly, he must speed up his pace. But doing so did not make the mischievous eyes of monster cease to function. The “persimmon orchard” likely belongs to someone. Surely it does. It would not just spring up into an orderly orchard like without the energy of humans to dig and plant many persimmon trees like this. Even a sizeable elephant could not create anything like this. The little monster looked pleased with himself once again. “It would be good to have persimmons to eat on the way.” And with that, a spirit of risk took hold. He slowly tiptoed underneath a persimmon tree and gazed in every direction. No one was around. He clambered up a tree and plucked two persimmons, which he wrapped in his shirt. He quickly jumped down and ran from the scene of the incident with his filched persimmons. Victory was his. He hopped and danced with his stolen bundle. Nothing could be as exciting as this. There is no greater triumph than stealing without getting caught. Ha ha ha. The monster and Little Foot laughed and cavorted with joy together. Their delight helped shorten the path, quite a lot. Take a guess at what is next. I believe that you can guess the rest of this story, without doubt. Ha ha ha.

Kho. Yo. Pornthip M.

P.S. Please use correct and polite Thai language.