29 November 2022

Mob Type —
บันทึกการต่อสู้ของประชาชน ผ่านศิลปะตัวอักษร


Mob Type 33712

The design collective PrachathipaType—a pun on prachathipatai, the Thai word for ‘democracy’—specialises in pro-democracy typefaces. Working with some of the organsiations leading the recent anti-government protests, they have effectively created the visual identity of the reform movement. The new book Mob Type – บันทึกการต่อสู้ของประชาชน ผ่านศิลปะตัวอักษร (‘recording the people’s struggle through the art of lettering’) is a collection of these type specimens and logos, and it was launched at the 2022 Bangkok Art Book Fair (which ran from 25th-27th November at Bangkok CityCity Gallery).

PrachathipaType designed a new font, PrachathipaTape (ประชาธิปะเทป), for Rap Against Dictatorship’s music video Homeland (บ้านเกิดเมืองนอน). They also collaborated with the band on แบบเรียนพยัญชนะไทย (‘Thai consonant textbook’). Their 33712 typeface (named after the 33.712 billion baht allocated for the monarchy in the national budget) was used to recreate a notice from a leaked photograph published by the German newspaper Bild (‘picture’) in 2019. The 33712 typeface also appears in Rap Against Dictatorship’s music video Budget (งบประมาณ).

Patani Colonial Territory


Patani Colonial Territory Patani Colonial Territory

Thai police yesterday raided a coffee shop in Yala province and seized sets of a new card game, Patani Colonial Territory. The officers arrived at the cafe, in Bannang Sata market, at 5pm. The owner initially refused to cooperate with them, as a search warrant had not been obtained, though after several hours of questioning at the local police station, the game was confiscated pending an investigation.

The game was designed as an educational tool, to provoke discussion about the contested history of the Patani region. (‘Patani’ refers to a formerly independent Malay Muslim sultanate that is now part of Thailand. Therefore, beyond the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat—which comprise the Patani region—‘Patani’ is regarded as a controversial, politicised term with separatist connotations.)

Patani Colonial Territory was produced by the game company Chachiluk in collaboration with the book publisher KOPI, funded by the Progressive Movement’s Common School project. Fifty sets of the game (each of which is a pack of fifty-two cards) have been distributed as part of a soft launch, with plans for a more widespread release in a few months’ time. The game has been criticised by the royalist Thai Pakdee Party whose leader, Warong Dechgitvigrom, lodged a complaint against it at the Ministry of Interior yesterday.

The Patani region was represented by a major exhibition in 2017, Patani Semasa (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย), though the organisers considered it too sensitive to release an exhibition catalogue at the time. (It was eventually published in Malaysia when the exhibition transferred there in 2019.) Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s art also deals with Patani politics and society, and a monograph of his work, The Patani Art of Struggle (ศิลปะปาตานี วิถีแห่งการดิ้นรน), was published in 2020.

28 November 2022

There’s Always Spring



There’s Always Spring (เมื่อถึงเวลาดอกไม้จะบาน), published last month by Mob Data Thailand, provides a record of the current anti-government protest movement. Mob Data Thailand collates details of all rallies held throughout the country, and the book highlights the major demonstrations that have taken place over the last two years.

There’s Always Spring is particularly valuable as a record of the origins of the protest movement, which was triggered by the dissolution of the Future Forward Party in February 2020. This is in contrast to other books on the protests, namely EBB and #WhatsHappeningInThailand, which focus only on the period from mid-2020 onwards.

What all three books have in common are their optimistic titles. There’s Always Spring suggests that the winter of repression is coming to an end. (Its epilogue, Winter Never Lasts Forever/ไม่มีอะไรคงอยู่ตลอดไป, states this more directly.) Similarly, EBB refers to ‘ebb and flow’ (the sense that receding waves, like persecuted protesters, will eventually return), and #WhatsHappeningInThailand’s subtitle is และแล้วความหวังก็ปรากฏ (‘and then hope appeared’).

25 November 2022

Chronicle of a Summer


Chronicle of a Summer

Doc Club and Pub, the boutique Bangkok cinema, will be screening the classic Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un été) every day from today until 7th December. This self-reflexive documentary is an experiment in cinematic truth, which director Jean Rouch readily acknowledged was a contradiction in terms. It was the first example of cinéma vérité, a French movement that developed in parallel with the non-participatory ‘direct cinema’ approach pioneered in the US. Chronicle of a Summer, one of Dateline Bangkok’s 100 greatest films, was previously shown by Doc Club at Warehouse 30 in 2018.

24 November 2022

A Message from Ukraine:
Speeches, 2019–2022


A Message from Ukraine

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24th February, Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky has recorded daily video addresses to his people and delivered more than 100 speeches to international forums. A Message from Ukraine: Speeches, 2019–2022, an authorised anthology sold to raise money for the war effort, reprints sixteen of his speeches in translation, beginning with his inaugural parliamentary address after his landslide election victory in 2019.

Whichever country he addresses as he pleads for military support, Zelensky—or rather, his chief speechwriter, Dmytro Lytvyn—tailors his message to suit his audience. So, he quoted Winston Churchill to the British parliament and Martin Luther King to the US Congress. His historical analogies are also tailor-made. Speaking to the German Bundestag, he compared Russia’s gas pipline to the Berlin Wall; addressing the Israeli Knesset, he cited Russian propaganda that evoked the Holocaust.

In his introduction to the book, Zelensky describes his message as “abrupt, intense, jarring.” The contrast with his former career, as a comedy actor, couldn’t be more stark. (Life imitated art, after he played an unlikely president in his sitcom Servant of the People/Слуга народу.) Of course, he writes with optimistic fervour about victory over Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling A Message from Ukraine “a book about how we can build the future.”

22 November 2022

“What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister...”


Ehud Olmert

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and winner of the country’s 1st November election, has won his defamation case against another former PM, Ehud Olmert. Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court yesterday awarded Netanyahu 62,000 shekels ($17,850) in compensation, though this was less than 10% of the 837,000 shekels he had sued for.

In an interview with Gadi Sukenik on the show המהדורה המרכזית (‘the main edition’), Olmert said that Netanyahu was mentally ill: “What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister and his wife and son.” The interview was broadcast by Democrat TV on 12th April last year. In a second interview nine days later, on Keshet 12’s Ofira and Berkovich (אופירה וברקוביץ') show, he refused to retract the claim and scoffed at the prospect of being sued by Netanyahu.

19 November 2022

APEC 2022


Giant Swing

The regional APEC summit is currently taking place in Bangkok, and anti-government protesters yesterday held a demonstration near Democracy Monument. They also beheaded Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in effigy with a cardboard guillotine attached to the Giant Swing. (The stunt was photographed by Prachatai and filmed by Khaosod English.)

Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, one of whom was blinded in one eye after being hit by a rubber bullet at close range. (Similarly, Tanat Thanakitamnuay was also blinded after being hit by a rubber bullet at a protest last year.) This was the first use of rubber bullets by riot police since June.

Democracy after Death:
The Tragedy of Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan


The Power of Doc

There will be a rare screening of Neti Wichiansaen’s film Democracy after Death: The Tragedy of Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย เรื่องเศร้าของลุงนวมทอง) tomorrow in Chiang Mai. The documentary covers almost a decade of divisive Thai politics, a period bookended by the coups of 2006 and 2014. It describes the 2010 military crackdown as “the most brutal political massacre in Thai history” and—like Thunska Pansittivorakul’s The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย)—it blames former prime minister Abhisit personally for the incident: “Directly responsible, Abhisit Vejjajiva holds Thailand’s new record of the number of people shot by the military.”

The film is significant for its inclusion of sensitive political events excluded from Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย). It also serves as a counterpoint to Ing Kanjanavanit’s Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์): whereas Bangkok Joyride is pro-PDRC, Democracy after Death is equally biased in favour of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra, noting sympathetically that he “was forced to leave and has had to remain outside Thailand” though ignoring his corruption conviction. These events are all narrated in a voiceover addressed to Nuamthong Praiwan, a pro-democracy protester who committed suicide in 2006. Nuamthong was also the subject of Prap Boonpan’s short film Letter from the Silence (จดหมายจากความเงียบ) and Rap Against Dictatorship’s recent music video 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส (‘it’s been 16 years, ai sat’).

Democracy after Death’s director is living in exile, due to an outstanding lèse-majesté prosecution. As in Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship (ยานศรนารายณ์), the film’s credits have been self-censored to avoid potentially incriminating any of the cast or crew. It will be shown in an open-air screening at Suan Anya tomorrow evening, as part of The Power of Doc, a weekend of political documentaries showing at various venues around Chiang Mai University.

14 November 2022

Bangkok Art Biennale 2022:
Chaos:Calm


Bangkok Art Biennale 2022

After Beyond Bliss (สุขสะพรั่ง พลังอาร์ต) in 2018 and Escape Routes (ศิลป์สร้าง ทางสุข) in 2020, the third Bangkok Art Biennale’s theme is Chaos:Calm (โกลาหล:สงบสุข). As in previous years, the Biennale (บางกอก อาร์ต เบียนนาเล่) is being held at multiple venues around the city, from galleries to temples. The event opened on 22nd October, and runs until 23rd February next year.

A video installation by Wantanee Siripattananantakul, The Web of Time, is one of the highlights of the 200 artworks on display. The half-hour, two-channel video, on show at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (QSNCC), comprises three short films linking human history and the natural world. As the Biennale catalogue explains, in one segment an African grey parrot “becomes like a medium casting a watchful eye on the events happening in the world.” The parrot and its silhouette observe news footage of recent protests, including a report by BBC correspondent Jonathan Head on anti-government demonstrations in Siam Square.

Andres Serrano was one of the featured artists in 2020, and this year’s event includes another controversial American photographer: Robert Mapplethorpe. A handful of Mapplethorpe’s portraits—though not his more explict works, of course—are on display in a self-contained gallery within the QSNCC exhibition. Works by the provocative British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman are on show in a similar space: etchings and meticulous miniature dioramas that continue their career-long fascination with Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War (Los desastres de la guerra).

11 November 2022

Confidence Man:
The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America


Confidence Man

Dozens of books have been written about Donald Trump. Seventeen of them have been reviewed on Dateline Bangkok: Fire and Fury, Too Much and Never Enough, Fear, Rage, Peril, I Alone Can Fix It, A Very Stable Genius, Inside Trump’s White House, The United States of Trump, Trump’s Enemies, The Trump White House, The Room Where It Happened, Team of Five, American Carnage, TrumpNation, and The Cost. Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America was the most eagerly anticipated of them all, and is likely to be one of the few Trump titles that stand the test of time.

Confidence Man, like post-Trump America, is split in two. Trump’s presidency is covered in the second half, while the first explores his formative influences. An early memory—of an engineer being ignored at the opening of a bridge he designed—led to perhaps the closest thing to a Trump doctrine: “I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.” This event, recalled by Trump in a 1980 interview, is doubly revealing. Firstly, it was being made a “sucker”, roasted by President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, that fuelled his presidential ambitions. Also, almost every detail of Trump’s bridge anecdote was inaccurate, showing him to be “an unreliable narrator of his own history from its early moments.”

Haberman has covered Trump since his days as a New York tabloid mainstay in the 1990s. Throughout his presidency, writing for The New York Times, she was the best-sourced White House correspondent, and her reputation elevates Confidence Man above previous Trump books. (For comparison, Haberman’s coverage of Trump is as authoritative as that of UK political journalists Tim Shipman on Brexit and Andrew Rawnsley on New Labour.) The book’s scoops include the first direct confirmation that Trump contemplated refusing to vacate the White House: “He informed aides he had no intention of departing the White House for Biden. “I'm just not going to leave,” he told one.”

Trump’s term of office was so extraordinary—Haberman describes him as “unlike any president in American history”—that one book can barely do it justice. Numerous major incidents, that deserve their own chapters, are mentioned only in passing. The Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example (during which “senior Trump aides said they felt physically sick”), is relegated to a single paragraph. So Bob Woodward’s trilogy (Fear, Rage, and Peril) is a more comprehensive account of the Trump presidency, but Confidence Man is the definitive Trump biography.

10 November 2022

26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival


26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival

The 26th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26) runs from 17th December until Christmas Day at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. This year’s Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน)—screenings of all films submitted, in alphabetical order—will take place online via Zoom from 8th November to 2nd December. There are more than 400 titles in the Short Film Marathon, only a fraction of which will be selected for the main event in Salaya.

4+2563

4+2563 หลักฐานเล่าสมัย (‘4+2020: contemporary evidence’), by the Filmocracy group, was shown on 8th November, and features an interview with the founder of the Museum of Popular History. He discusses some of the political ephemera from his collection, including a Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra calendar.

Coup d'etat

Natthapol Kitwarasai’s Coup d’état was shown this evening. A soldier rummages through an old man’s meagre possessions in this dialogue-free, black-and-white film. The man watches impassively, apparently oblivious to the trespassing soldier, and spends his time sleeping and swimming, which symbolise freedom for the director. Although the drama is metaphorical, the film opens with photographs of the military leaders who instigated Thailand’s many coups.

Nostalgia

Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia, first shown at Wildtype 2022 last month, will be screened on 16th November. In a series of still images, a young man discovers that, whenever he fires a shooting-star toy into the sky, he becomes receptive to sounds that regress progressively further into Bangkok’s violent past. The toy is a conduit for these sonic echoes of historical violence, which form an audio collage in Weerapat’s film.

On 22nd November there will be screenings of two documentaries from the Resurgent Truth (คืนความจริง) series produced by Pheu Thai to mark the 11th anniversary of the 2010 massacre: เสธ.แดง ทหารของประชาชน (‘the people’s soldier’) on the death of Khattiya Sawasdipol, and เสื้อแดง ความจริงที่ถูกบิดเบือน (‘red-shirts: the distorted truth’) on the demonisation of red-shirt protesters as terrorists.

07 November 2022

King Protection Group


Amarat Chokepamitkul

A royalist pressure group has filed lèse-majesté charges against Move Forward MP Amarat Chokepamitkul. She spoke in parliament on 2nd November about the Criminal Court’s reluctance to issue summonses for royal travel and financial documents, thus preventing them from being admitted as exculpatory evidence in lèse-majesté trials. Her statement was cut short by Chuan Leekpai, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Amarat shared an online video of her speech from Matichon, which the King Protection Group submitted to police the next day. (Their complaint seemingly disregards an MP’s right of parliamentary privilege.) Last month, the same pressure group filed charges against the rapper P9D, alleging that his song Kuay Rai A (ควยไรอะ) violated the lèse-majesté law.

06 November 2022

อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน



Two Thai bands, Getsunova and Three Men Down, collaborated on the single อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน (‘how long is ‘soon’?’), released this time last year. The title is a despairing reply to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s lyric “ขอเวลาอีกไม่นาน” (‘give us a little more time’) from his propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย). Prayut’s song promised that his junta would not outstay its welcome; the bands’ response is: after all these years, how much longer will it be?

Like Paeng Surachet’s กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ (‘very brave, very good, thank you’), อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน uses heartbreak as a political metaphor. Paeng’s song is about splitting up with an unfaithful partner, though it could also be read as a statement of the singer’s feelings about the monarchy. Similarly, อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน describes the agony of waiting for a girlfriend to change her wayward behaviour, just as Thailand waits in vain for Prayut to improve the country:

“เธอขอเวลาปรับปรุงตัวเองข้อเสียทุกอย่าง
แค่ขอเวลาไม่นาน
เธอสัญญา เธอสัญญา จะทำตามอย่างว่ามา
ฉันก็รอ ฉันก็รอ อดทนอย่างไม่ท้อ
ยอมให้โอกาส ปล่อยเธอทำผิดซ้ำๆ
ให้ฉันต้องเจ็บและช้ำจนใจมันเริ่มหมดหวัง
เพราะผ่านมานานแสนนาน”

(‘she asked for time to improve herself
only asked for a short time
she promised she’d do as she said
I waited patiently without giving up
I let her make the same mistakes over and over
it hurts so much and my heart’s lost all hope
because a long time has passed’).

In the อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน music video, three young children present their progressive ideas to improve Thai society, only to be dismissed by their conservative teachers. The three kids look remarkably like younger versions of anti-government protest leaders Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul, Parit Chirawak, and Arnon Nampa: could the video be an origin story for the protest movement? A schoolchild’s progressive policy ideas dismissed by an authoritarian teacher was also the central theme of Duangporn Pakavirojkul’s short film Demockrazy (ประชาทิปตาย).

31 October 2022

TrumpNation:
The Art of Being the Donald


TrumpNation

Timothy L. O’Brien’s book TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald was first published in 2005, when Donald Trump’s self-cultivated public image was that of a billionaire real-estate developer. Citing three anonymous sources, O’Brien claimed that Trump was worth, at most, a quarter of a billion dollars, writing (on page 154): “Three people with direct knowledge of Donald’s finances... told me that they thought his net worth was somewhere between $150 million and $250 million. By anyone’s standards this still qualified Donald as comfortably wealthy, but none of these people thought he was remotely close to being a billionaire.”

Trump sued O’Brien and the publisher, Warner Books, for defamation, seeking an astronomical and absurdly unrealistic $5 billion in damages. In his deposition, he made the audacious claim that his net worth “goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings,” a remark that has since been widely quoted. The case was dismissed not because Trump proved his billionaire status—he didn’t—but because O’Brien proved that his estimate of Trump’s net worth had not been malicious. (The book is written in a tabloid style—with spoof trivia quizzes, for example—though it’s based on interviews with Trump and access to Trump Organization records.)

Trump later sued Michael Wolff to prevent the publication of Fire and Fury and his brother sued their niece, Mary Trump, to block the release of Too Much and Never Enough. In both cases, the lawsuits backfired, as the publication dates were brought forward. He withdrew a lawsuit against comedian Bill Maher, who had joked that he was the son of an orangutan, and his new $475 million lawsuit against CNN is equally unrealistic. On the other hand, Trump’s wife, Melania, has had more success as a libel litigant, winning $3 million from the Daily Mail and undisclosed “substantial damages” from The Daily Telegraph.

TrumpNation was reprinted with a new introduction in 2016, when Trump won the Republican presidential nomination. It’s the sixteenth Trump book reviewed on Dateline Bangkok, the others being Fire and Fury, Too Much and Never Enough, Fear, Rage, Peril, I Alone Can Fix It, A Very Stable Genius, Inside Trump’s White House, The United States of Trump, Trump’s Enemies, The Trump White House, The Room Where It Happened, Team of Five, American Carnage, and The Cost

26 October 2022

Thai Film Archive


L'Atalante Ugetsu

Two classics of world cinema will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya later this year. L’Atalante is playing on 2nd and 20th November. Ugetsu (雨月物語) will be screened in 16mm on 6th and 11th December. (Ugetsu was previously shown at the Japan Foundation in 2013 and 2014.)

Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante, his only feature-length film, was an influential early example of French poetic realism, and was originally released only a few weeks before the director died of tuberculosis. Ugetsu, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, is a key example of the Japanese kaidan-eiga (‘ghost story’) genre. (Mizoguchi also made one of the first kaidan-eiga films, in 1926; like his contemporary, Yasujiro Ozu, his career spanned Japanese cinema’s two golden ages, the 1920s and 1950s.)

22 October 2022

สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ



สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ (‘freedom colouring book’), written by Suwicha and illustrated by PHAR (both of which are pen names), isn’t a regular children’s colouring book. It was released this month by the band The Commoner, and it introduces young children to Thai politics, with illustrations of anthropomorphised animals representing anti-government protesters.

The concept is presumably modelled on the set of children’s picture books released last year by Family Club (and the additional new titles from the Mirror Foundation), which also present progressive political issues in a child-friendly way. สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ is especially similar to The Adventures of Little Duck (เป็ดน้อย) from that series, and both books show water cannon being deployed against the protesters.

As สมุดระบายสีเสรีภาพ is a colouring book, its illustrations are all black-and-white line drawings. The exception is the cover, with its symbolic colour scheme: an elephant character (seen elsewhere in the book driving a tank and squirting water at the protesters) is painted blue, and numerous prostrate onlookers are all yellow. (Both colours have political significance in Thailand.)

20 October 2022

“ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง...”


I Will Survive

Charges against five musicians were filed with Thai police on the same day, 27th September. Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former MP from the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party, accused four singers of violating the Computer Crime Act after videos of their concert were uploaded online. And the royalist King Protection Group filed a lèse-majesté charge against rapper P9D in relation to one of his songs.

Pramote Prathan (known as Oat), Pongkool Suebsung (Pop), Pongsak Rattanaphong (Aof), and Thanakrit Panitchwit (Wan) performed together at the I Will Survive (4 แยกปากหวาน ตอน) concert on 17th September at Royal Paragon Hall in Bangkok. Coincidentally, this was the same venue at which comedian Udom Taephanich held his Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13) show, which was also the subject of a recent police complaint.

Sonthiya accused the four singers of publishing inaccurate or misleading information online, which would be a violation of the Computer Crime Act. He cited lyrics such as “ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง” (‘our country is about to collapse’), “แปดปี ไม่มีความหมาย” (‘eight pointless years’, describing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s time in office), and “นาฬิกายังไม่คืน” (‘the watches have not been returned’, a reference to deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan’s claim that his luxury watches were merely borrowed from a friend).

On the same day, the King Protection Group filed a police complaint against P9D, alleging that his song Kuay Rai A (ควยไรอะ) violated the lèse-majesté law. The pressure group intentionally avoided naming the track, hoping to prevent the ‘Streisand effect’ whereby censorship paradoxically draws more attention to the forbidden material. This was unnecessary, though, as the rapper—mindful of the severity of lèse-majesté sentences—has since deleted it from all social media and online music sites.

18 October 2022

Deaw 13


Deaw 13

Udom Taephanich, the popular stand-up comedian, is under investigation today after a pro-government campaigner filed criminal charges against him. Udom ended his Netflix comedy special Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13), released on 11th October, with a mildly satirical routine about PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Srisuwan Janya, head of the ultra-conservative Constitution Protection Association pressure group, accused Udom of endangering national security by encouraging his audience to join the recent anti-government protests. When he filed the charges at the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok today, he was kicked and punched by a red-shirt supporter.

Srisuwan has been called “Thailand’s complainer-in-chief”, and Udom began his show with a comment on the campaigner’s love of the media spotlight. The live show was filmed while some coronavirus restrictions were still in place, and Udom joked that he was happy to be back on stage: “I’ve been craving this. Now I understand how Srisuwan Janya feels.”

Srisuwan Janya

After comparing Prayut and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, to unqualified pilots, Udom suggested that they should resign: “both of you, the pilot and copilot, please eject yourselves from the plane.” Noticing that one man in the audience was not clapping, Udom asked him if he was a soldier, and—ironically, given today’s events—told him: “Don’t report me, okay?”

Udom is not especially known for political satire, and Thai comedy generally tends to be more slapstick than satirical, perhaps to avoid charges of defamation, which is a criminal offence under Thai law. But a Prayut lookalike did appear in Udom’s spoof music video Sud-Swing Ringo Eto Bump (สุดสวิงริงโก้อีโต้บั๊มพ์).

17 October 2022

Ad Carabao


Yuenyong Opakul / Natthapat Suwanprateep

Yuenyong Opakul, better known as Ad Carabao, is facing a defamation charge after insulting the governor of Suphan Buri. Yuenyong, a veteran singer/songwriter and founder member of the iconic ‘songs for life’ band Carabao, is Thailand’s most famous rock star.

While playing a concert at a birthday party in the Song Phi Nong district of Suphan Buri on 12th October, Yuengyong criticised governor Natthapat Suwanprateep, who was in the audience as a guest at the party. Calling the governor “ai sat” (a strong insult), the singer complained that he had been denied permission to perform at the annual Don Chedi Royal Monument fair earlier this year.

The governor has since issued a video statement, saying that Suphan Buri had been subject to coronavirus restrictions at the time of the fair, which prevented large public performances. Yuengyong apologised via a written statement on Carabao’s Facebook page two days ago: “จึงขอกราบขออภัยท่านผู้ว่าฯ... ส่วนเรื่องคดีความผมพร้อมอ้าแขนรับความ” (‘I apologise to the governor... regarding a lawsuit, I am ready to face the charges’). Natthapat yesterday filed a criminal defamation charge against the singer, and police are currently investigating.

15 October 2022

ตุลาประชาชน


Mirror Foundation

Last year, the Ministry of Education investigated a series of eight children’s picture books on the specious grounds that they contained “distortion that incites youths to be led astray.” One of the books was seized by police from a public library. Now, the series has been expanded, with a new set of eight titles under the theme of ตุลาประชาชน (‘October people’) published by the Mirror Foundation.

As before, the books introduce young children to progressive political and social issues. A Life (ชีวิตเล็กๆ เด็กชายวาฤทธิ์ สมน้อย), illustrated by Phetladda Kaeochin, describes the childhood of Warit Somnoi, a fifteen-year-old who tragically died after being hit by a live bullet at an anti-government protest. The Folding Chair Stars (ดาว เก้าอี้), illustrated by Ting Chu and We Are All Human (เราล้วนคือคน), illustrated by Summer Panadd both tell the story of the 6th October 1976 massacre, albeit in a child-friendly way. The latter, co-written by Jinglebell, also features the new generation of student protesters such as Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul. (All three books were written by the same author, under the pseudonym สองขา, meaning ‘two legs’.) Another—Where Have You Gone? (พี่หนูอยู่ที่ไหน), written by สาริน (‘Sarin’) and illustrated by Koobta—is about a young son whose brother was killed in the massacre.

The other books in the new series are: H Is for Hope: The ABC of Democracy (a milder version of PrachathipaType’s แบบเรียนพยัญชนะไทย/‘Thai consonant textbook’), Arkong’s Tale (อ อากง; a biography of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died in jail while serving a twenty-year sentence for lèse-majesté), A Day with Grandma (ยายลี มีหมา แมว มด ลิง และขุนทอง), and See You Later (แล้วเราจะพบกันใหม่). They are similar to the ‘sheep village’ (羊村) books released in Hong Kong last year, though ominously the publishers of those titles were jailed last month.

14 October 2022

6 Oct:
Facing Demons


6 Oct

Last year, Thammasat University cancelled the annual exhibition commemorating the 6th October 1976 massacre, so the organisers created a ‘museum in a box’. This year, Thammasat’s football pitch was mysteriously fenced off on the anniversary of the massacre, and the commemoration is taking place at the Kinjai Contemporary gallery in Bangkok instead.

Kinjai’s photography exhibition 6 Oct: Facing Demons (6 ตุลา เผชิญหน้าปิศาจ) is comprised almost entirely of previously unpublished news photographs of the massacre. This is refreshing, as it expands the historical record beyond the limited set of images that usually represent the event. Thus, Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of a hanging man—which has arguably become a cliché—is not included in 6 Oct. In its place is another powerful, award-winning image, though one that’s much less known: a Village Scout hammering a wooden stake into a dead student’s body, photographed by Preecha Karnsompot.

Also, the 6 Oct archive photographs have all been enlarged and restored. Again, this is a significant development, as images of the massacre are usually poorly-reproduced prints. (When Preecha’s photograph was published in a book by the Thai Journalists Association—๔ทศวรรษภาพข่าว/‘four decades of Thai photojournalism’—the editors lamented that the images had to be sourced from reproductions.) The enlargements reveal previously hidden elements, which become new focal points (or what Roland Barthes called ‘punctums’), hence the exhibition’s strapline: ‘the devil is in the details’.

6 Oct 6 Oct
6 Oct 6 Oct

This is also an unusually provocative exhibition. A photograph of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X) at a Village Scout meeting is captioned “the King of Thai Politics”, implying a royal intervention. On an adjacent wall, an image of the massacre is juxtaposed with a photograph of the 2010 military crackdown, indicating that the cycle of Thai state violence continues. Also, the taboo against showing the front page of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) is now a thing of the past, as a reproduction of the newspaper is displayed on the street outside the gallery.

Continuing the themes of media and propaganda explored by Thasnai Sethaseree in Cold War, the exhibition brochure is designed to resemble a broadsheet newspaper. Chulayarnnon Siriphol has directed six short videos on different aspects of the exhibition, and a longer documentary titled ชวนอ่านภาพ 6 ตุลา (‘invitation to read images of 6th October’) in which Octobrists and current students interpret the photographs in the exhibition. 6 Oct opened on 1st October, and runs until 20th November (a week after the original closing date).

12 October 2022

Cold War:
The Mysterious


Cold War

Thasnai Sethaseree’s stunning exhibition Cold War: The Mysterious examines Thai politics and media in the Cold War era, focusing particularly on state suppression of the Communist insurgency in the 1970s. Thasnai has created a series of untitled paper collages, based on press photographs of the period, densely overlaid and partially obscured by brightly coloured paint.

For his Remembrance, 6 October 1976 series, he painted individual portraits of Manas Siansing, Watchari Petchsun, and other victims of the Thammasat University massacre. A painting of red droplets, symbolising blood, also commemorates the massacre.

Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Remembrance, 6 October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 RPropaganda Through Media

For the Dismantle (ปลด) group exhibition last year, Thasnai created collages of newspaper front pages dated 5th October 1976, the day before the Thammasat massacre. One of those works is included in Cold War, alongside seven collages of newspaper front pages dated 6th October 1976 (in a series titled Propaganda Through Media).

Most of the papers published on that day—เสียง ปวงชน (‘people’s voice’), ชาวไทย (‘people of Thailand’), Daily News (เดลินิวส์), Bangkok Daily Time (บางกอกเดลิไทม์), and Bangkok Post—were printed before the massacre began, though one title—Siam Rath (สยามรัฐ) managed to print a late edition that included coverage of the event. Infamously, it was the headline in that morning’s edition of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) that lit the touchpaper and provoked the massacre.

6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976
6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media

Cold War opened at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai on 12th March, and runs until Valentine’s Day 2023. This year, the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok has held a series of exhibitions on the Cold War, beginning with Future Tense.

11 October 2022

Nostalgia


Nostalgia

In Weerapat Sakolvaree’s new short film Nostalgia, a young man discovers that, whenever he fires a shooting-star toy into the sky, he becomes receptive to sounds that regress progressively further into Bangkok’s violent past. Like Chris Marker’s La jetée (‘the jetty’), the ironically-titled Nostalgia is comprised of a series of still photographs, though it also includes archive newsreel footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

Standing at the roadside in Din Daeng, the protagonist hears “fireworks and a lot of motorcycles.” These are sounds of the clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police that took place there last August. (Police fired rubber bullets at protesters on 10th, 11th, 13th, and 15th August 2021.) At Siam Square, he hears the sound of riot police deploying water cannon against protesters on 16th October 2020. At Lumpini Park, the sound of the 19th May 2010 military crackdown fills his ears, followed by the ‘Black May’ 1992 massacre at Democracy Monument, and the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.

These locations are, to use the Dutch artist Armando’s term, ‘guilty landscapes’: silent witnesses to past traumas. Like the origami bird in Panya Zhu’s White Bird (นกตัวนั้นยังสบายดีไหม), the toy in Nostalgia is a conduit for sonic echoes of historical violence, which form an audio collage in Weerapat’s film. Nostalgia is also similar to Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), which likewise revisits Bangkok’s ‘guilty landscapes’. Nostalgia and Re-presentation both end with shots of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, hinting at the established hierarchies underlying Thai politics. In Nostalgia, the Throne Hall is seen from behind iron railings, a reminder that the building was closed to the public by royal decree.

Nostalgia was one of the standout films from this month’s Wildtype 2022 screening programme, shown as part of the Angry Young Citizen strand. It was screened at four venues on 1st October: Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, Lorem Ipsum in Hat Yai, and the Khon Kaen branch of TCDC. It was also shown at Bookhemian in Phuket on 8th October.