25 October 2023

รำลึก 19 ปี ตากใบ
(‘remembering 19 years of Tak Bai’)

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

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

รำลึก 19 ปี ตากใบ (‘remembering 19 years of Tak Bai’), an exhibition at Patani Artspace, opens today to commemorate the anniversary, and closes on 16th December. Video and photographs are included, and this afternoon there will also be a rare opportunity to play Patani Colonial Territory. (The card game, which was banned last year, was designed as an educational tool to provoke discussion about the contested history of the Patani region.)

The Heard the Unheard (สดับเสียงเงียบ) exhibition at Silpakorn and Thammasat universities earlier this year also commemorated the nineteenth anniversary. Tak Bai photographs were shown at the Deep South (ลึกลงไป ใต้ชายแดน) exhibition last year in Bangkok. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia series incorporates press 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) features 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 in situ. It was first installed, just 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 recreated at Patani Artspace and then mounted on a plinth containing Pattani soil at the Patani Semasa (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย) exhibition.

Two other 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 in Chiang Mai. (The exhibition catalogue gives Violence in Tak Bai a milder alternative title, Remember at Tak Bai.)