21 August 2023

Heard the Unheard:
Tak Bai 2004

Heard the Unheard
Tak Bai: Taste of Memories

This year is the nineteenth anniversary of the tragedy that occurred at Tak Bai on 25th October 2004. More than 1,000 people protested outside the Tak Bai Provincial Police Station, and police responded with water cannon, tear gas, and ultimately live ammunition, killing five people. The surviving demonstrators were crammed into trucks and transported to Ingkhayuttha Borihan Fort military camp, though seventy-eight died of suffocation during the five-hour journey.

The authorities have never been held accountable for the deaths, and the Thaksin Shinawatra government prohibited the broadcasting of video footage of the incident. In defiance of the ban, the journal Same Sky (ฟ้าเดียวกัน) distributed a Tak Bai VCD—ความจริงที่ตากใบ (‘the truth at Tak Bai’)—with its October to December 2004 issue (vol. 2, no. 4). The footage was also included in Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), which led to the film being banned. (Thai Cinema Uncensored discusses the censorship of Tak Bai footage.)

Heard the Unheard: Tak Bai 2004 (สดับเสียงเงียบ จดจำตากใบ 2547) opens today at the Thammasat Museum of Anthropology, on the university’s Rangsit campus in Pathum Thani. The exhibition, commemorating the tragedy that took place at Tak Bai, runs until 30th September. It was previously held at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, from 9th to 14th March.

Heard the Unheard features the personal possessions of seventeen people who died at Tak Bai—including a ฿100 banknote retrieved from the body of a sixteen-year-old boy, Imron—displayed alongside recollections from the victims’ relatives. These items are also photographed in the new book Tak Bai: Taste of Memories (ลิ้มรสความทรงจำ: ตากใบ), edited by Kusra Kamawan Mukdawijitra.

Tak Bai photographs were shown at the Deep South (ลึกลงไป ใต้ชายแดน) exhibition in Bangkok last year. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia series features photographs of the incident, as does the interactive installation Black Air by Pimpaka Towira, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Koichi Shimizu, and Jakrawal Nilthamrong.

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s Violence in Tak Bai (ความรุนแรงที่ตากใบ) comprises white tombstones marking the graves of each victim, and his book The Patani Art of Struggle (سني ڤتاني چاراو او سها) shows three versions of the installation. It was first installed, only a few days after the massacre, at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani, and the grave markers were accompanied by rifles wrapped in white cloth. In 2017, it was first recreated at Patani Artspace and then mounted on a plinth containing Pattani soil at the Patani Semasa (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย) exhibition in Chiang Mai.

Two further art installations—Jakkhai Siributr’s 78 and Zakariya Amataya’s Report from a Partitioned Village (รายงานจากหมู่บ้านที่ถูกปิดล้อม)—both include lists of the Tak Bai victims’ names. Photophobia, 78, and Violence in Tak Bai were all included in the Patani Semasa exhibition; the exhibition catalogue gives Violence in Tak Bai a milder alternative title, Remember at Tak Bai.

1 comment(s):

Matthew Hunt said...

Deep South Museum and Archives: https://deepsouthmuseumandarchives.org

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