Chonthicha “Lookkate” Jangrew has lost count of the number of times she’s been arrested while participating in Thailand’s pro-democracy movement since a 2014 coup. But no charge—from sedition to illegal assembly—has stopped her from protesting the country’s conservative royal- and military-linked government.

Last May, Lookkate was back on the streets, but this time it was to hand out campaign flyers as a parliamentary candidate for the Move Forward Party. The upstart progressive party sought to transform the energy of years of pro-democracy activism into real political power through the 2023 national election.

“I have to say that I never thought of being a politician at all,” says Lookkate, 31. But, she adds, “I realized one thing: if we want to make a sound, we cannot only make change on the street. We also need to get into power, and use this power to make a change—to build a society that we want to see.”

In a victory that stunned most of Thailand and observers around the world, Move Forward emerged as the biggest vote getter, winning a plurality of 151 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives by appealing to a broad swath of youth and urban voters. Political newcomers like Lookkate became lawmakers, but the conservative establishment ended up preventing the party from forming a coalition government. Its Prime Minister candidate failed to get the support of the military-backed Senate, and it has since faced legal challenges, including the threat of dissolution over its push for monarchy reform.

Andre Malerba for TIME

Now, Lookkate uses her official capacity as a member of the opposition to advocate for human rights and social equality. She’s joined committees on refugee aid and helped to draft labor reform, and she’s continued to fight for freedom of expression, introducing an amnesty bill for thousands of activists charged or imprisoned for political reasons over the past two decades.

While the future of Move Forward—as well as that of Thailand—remains uncertain, Lookkate wants to show the country’s youth that the pro-democracy movement will persist.

“What we, as people in power, right now have to do,” Lookkate says, “is to keep their hope alive.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at

How Viral Librarian Mychal Threets Found His Joy
Poet Mosab Abu Toha Is Documenting War in Verse
Simone Manuel's Mission to Get Everybody to Swim
The Young Billionaire Using AI to Secure the Future of Japanese Businesses
RAYE Can’t Escape Her Success