22 February 2024

Mokelung Rimnam


Mokelung Rimnam Mokelung Rimnam

Sopon Surariddhidhamrong, co-founder of the Mokelung Rimnam activist group campaigning for human rights and equality, has been charged with defamation after he distributed flyers resembling ‘wanted’ posters calling for the arrest of numerous senators. (Sopon is currently serving a jail sentence for lèse-majesté.)

On 1st August 2023, Sopon handed out flyers at the Seri Market in Bangkok, alleging that senators including Seree Suwanpanont were acting undemocratically. (The protest came shortly after the vast majority of senators refused to endorse Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister.) Seree sued for libel, claiming that the allegations damaged his reputation.

20 February 2024

Shakespeare Must Die


Shakespeare Must Die

The ban on Ing Kanjanavanit’s film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย) has finally been lifted by the Supreme Court. The court also ruled today that the Ministry of Culture, which banned the film in 2012, must pay 500,000 baht in damages to the filmmaker after her twelve-year crusade to reverse the ban (a campaign documented in her film Censor Must Die/เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย). The ban was upheld by the Administrative Court in 2017, though times have since changed, and Shakespeare Must Die appears to be an early beneficiary of a liberalised censorship policy announced by the National Soft Power Strategy Committee (คณะกรรมการยุทธศาสตร์ซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ) last month.

Shakespeare Must Die is a Thai adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with Pisarn Pattanapeeradej in the lead role. The play is presented in two parallel versions: a production in period costume, and a contemporary political interpretation. The period version is faithful to Shakespeare’s original, though it also breaks the fourth wall, with cutaways to the audience and an interval outside the theatre (featuring a cameo by the director).

In the contemporary sequences, Macbeth is reimagined as Mekhdeth, a prime minister facing a crisis. Street protesters shout “ok pbai!” (‘get out!’), and the protests are infiltrated by assassins listed in the credits as ‘men in black’. Ing has downplayed any direct link to Thai politics, though “Thaksin ok pbai!” was the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s rallying cry, and ‘men in black’ were blamed for instigating violence in 2010. Another satirical line in the script—“Dear Leader brings happy-ocracy!”—predicts Prayut Chan-o-cha’s propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย).

The parallels between Mekhdeth and Thaksin highlight the politically-motivated nature of the ban imposed on the film. Ironically, the project was initially funded by the Ministry of Culture, during Abhisit Vejjajiva’s premiership. (It received a grant from the ไทยเข้มแข็ง/‘strong Thailand’ stimulus package.) The Abhisit government was only too happy to greenlight a script criticising Thaksin, though by the time the film was finished, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck was in power, and her administration was somewhat less disposed to this anti-Thaksin satire, hence the ban.

Although the film was made twelve years ago, its message is arguably more timely than ever, as Thaksin’s influence over Thai politics continues. He returned to Thailand last year, and his Pheu Thai party is now leading a coalition with the political wing of the military junta. Not uncoincidentally, his prison sentence for corruption was commuted, and he was released on parole last weekend.

The film’s climax, a recreation of the 6th October 1976 massacre, is its most controversial sequence. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, taken during the massacre, shows a vigilante preparing to hit a corpse with a chair, and Shakespeare Must Die restages the incident. A hanging body (symbolising Shakespeare himself) is repeatedly hit with a chair, though rather than dwelling on the violence, Ing cuts to reaction shots of the crowd, which (as in 1976) resembles a baying mob.

The Supreme Court’s decision is a vindication of Shakespeare Must Die and a rejection of the censors’ initial view that the film’s references to 1976 were liable to cause division in society. But the verdict does not reject the principle of state censorship itself. The court ruled that audiences were aware of the historical context surrounding the 1976 massacre, therefore the film was not politically divisive, and thus it should not be banned. The unstated implication is that if another film were deemed to be divisive, it could be legally banned.

The director was interviewed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, and the book details the full story behind the ban. (It also includes an insider’s account from a member of the appeals committee, who was obliged to vote to uphold the ban.) Ing doesn’t mince her words in the interview, describing the censors as “a bunch of trembling morons with the power of life and death over our films.”

12 February 2024

The Sarawak Report:
The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé



British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown has been sentenced in absentia to two years in jail by a Malaysian court. She was sued for defamation by Nur Zahirah, Sultanah of the Malaysian state of Terengganu, on 21st November 2018, a few months after the publication of her book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé.

Rewcastle Brown’s investigative reporting exposed the 1MDB scandal that led to the imprisonment of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on corruption charges. Less than a week before Rewcastle Brown’s conviction on 7th February, Razak’s twelve-year sentence was reduced by half.

The Sultanah—wife of Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin—had originally sought 100m ringgit in libel damages, though the High Court ruled in Rewcastle Brown’s favour, dismissing the case. The Court of Appeal overturned that decision on 12th December last year, and awarded damages of 300,000 ringgit.

The case stems from a single sentence in The Sarawak Report implying that the Sultanah was instrumental in the establishment of 1MDB, referring to “the wife of the sultan, whose acquiescence was needed to set up the fund” (p. 3). After the initial lawsuit, Rewcastle Brown clarified that she should have named the Sultan’s sister rather than his wife, and the text was changed in later editions. She also explained that the ambiguous pronoun “whose” referred to Sultan Mizan himself.

06 February 2024

Office of the Attorney General:
“The police notified Thaksin about the allegation...”


Chosun Media

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is expected to be paroled later this month, though in another twist to his legal drama, he also faces lèse-majesté charges that could extend his custodial sentence. Thaksin returned from self-imposed exile in August last year, and the Supreme Court sentenced him to an eight-year prison term for corruption and abuse of power.

However, on his first day in jail, Thaksin was transferred to a police hospital for unspecified medical reasons, and has remained there ever since. After he applied for a royal pardon, his eight-year sentence was reduced to one year, and the Department of Corrections confirmed last month that, given his age (seventy-four), he was eligible for parole. (These events were presumably not unrelated to Pheu Thai’s cooperation with the military’s political wing.)

This apparent leniency may have reached its limit, as the Office of the Attorney General announced today that an investigation will be opened into lèse-majesté charges first filed against Thaksin in 2016. Prayuth Pecharakun, spokesman for the OAG, said that “senior officials from the Office of the Attorney General and the police notified Thaksin about the allegation” on 17th January, and the charges relate to an interview he gave to South Korean media in 2015, when he accused members of the Privy Council of orchestrating the 2006 and 2014 coups.

05 February 2024

Red Poetry
ยังมีจิตใจจะใฝ่ฝัน
(‘still having a mind that will dream’)


Red Poetry
Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will be shown in Phatthalung this weekend. The feature-length documentary is a profile of performance artist Vitthaya Klangnil, who co-founded the group Artn’t. A shorter version of the film—Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้)—was screened at Wildtype 2022.

The documentary shows the intense endurance and commitment Vitthaya invests in his protest art. A durational performance—sitting in front of Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate for nine full days—led to his collapse from exhaustion. In another action, he climbed onto Chiang Mai University’s main entrance, repeatedly slapped himself in the face, and fell into a pond. When he reported to the police to answer charges of sedition, he vomited blue paint outside the police station.

The film ends with Vitthaya’s most extreme action: carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges he faced after he exhibited a modified version of the Thai flag in 2021. He was convicted of lèse-majesté last year, and received a suspended sentence.

Red Poetry will be shown at the Swiftlet Book Shop on 10th February, at an event titled Red Poetry ยังมีจิตใจจะใฝ่ฝัน (‘Red Poetry: still having a mind that will dream’). Swiftlet was also the venue for the inaugural Phatthalung Micro Cinema screening last month.)

Supamok’s film was screened three times as part of the 27th Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 27): in the online Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน), at the main festival itself, and in the Short 27 Awarded Film Screening programme. It has previously been shown in Chiang Mai and Salaya.

27 January 2024

E. Jean Carroll:
“Donald Trump assaulted me, and... he said it never happened.”



Donald Trump has been ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages, after Carroll sued the former US president for libel. Carroll had accused Trump of sexually assaulting her, and that claim was vindicated last year when Trump was found guilty in a civil trial. Despite the guilty verdict, Trump continued to deny ever having met Carroll, compounding his defamation of her.

The damages awarded yesterday, determined by a jury in New York, include $65 million in punitive retribution, as a punishment for Trump’s repeated denials that the assault took place. Giving evidence in court, Carroll said: “I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened.” (Trump is also counter-suing Carroll, over an interview she gave to CNN last year.)

18 January 2024

Phatthalung Micro Cinema 0.5


Phatthalung Micro Cinema
112 News from Heaven

The first independent film event organised by Phatthalung Micro Cinema will be held on 20th January at Swiftlet Book Shop in Phatthalung. For this soft launch, no. 0.5 in their screening programme, they will show three short films, including the premiere of Vichart Somkaew’s documentary 112 News from Heaven.

On 112 News from Heaven’s soundtrack, an announcer reads a bulletin of royal news, a daily staple of the Thai airwaves. This is juxtaposed with captions documenting the convictions of activists charged with lèse-majesté (article 112 of the criminal code). Vichart’s Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป) used a similar technique, with captions honouring victims of political injustice.

Today saw the harshest sentence ever given to a lèse-majesté convict, as Mongkhon Thirakot received a fifty-year jail term. He was found guilty last year, in relation to fourteen Facebook posts, and was originally sentenced to twenty-eight years: two years per conviction, to be served consecutively. He appealed the verdict, and today the Appeals Court added an extra twenty-two years to his sentence.

05 January 2024

“Only movies with content that may affect the monarchy will remain prohibited...”


Democracy Monument

Thailand’s film censorship system is likely to be liberalised this year, after an announcement from the government’s National Soft Power Strategy Committee (คณะกรรมการยุทธศาสตร์ซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ) yesterday. According to the NSPSC, more representatives from the film industry will be permitted to sit on the film censorship board, and the board’s focus will shift from censorship to classification.

The NSPSC, chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, was established on 13th September last year. It assesses policy recommendations submitted by its subsidiary, the National Soft Power Development Committee (คณะกรรมการพัฒนาซอฟต์พาวเวอร์แห่งชาติ), chaired by Paetongtarn Shinawatra (the leader of Pheu Thai).

Yesterday, Paetongtarn announced that sensitive themes such as sex and religion will no longer be subject to censorship: “Only movies with content that may affect the monarchy will remain prohibited from being screened in Thailand.” (Unsurprisingly, the issue of lèse-majesté remains untouchable.)

Thai Cinema Uncensored, the first comprehensive history of Thai film censorship, documents the arbitrary nature of film regulation in Thailand, and the inconsistencies of the censorship board’s judgements. The proposals unveiled yesterday appear to address many of these problems inherent in the state censorship system, though they fall short of the self-regulation called for by the film industry.

02 December 2023

James Dyson v. Daily Mirror:
“The scope for honest comment... was very considerable indeed.”


Daily Mirror

James Dyson has lost his libel case against the Daily Mirror. Dyson had sued the newspaper over a column by Brian Reade published last year describing his business strategy as “screw your country, and if anyone complains, tell them to suck it up.”

The article was published on the Mirror’s website on 28th January last year, and appeared in the following day’s print edition (p. 19). Judge Robert Jay ruled that the column was an expression of personal opinion, and therefore not defamatory: “The scope for honest comment, however wounding and unbalanced, was very considerable indeed.”

Jay became famous as counsel to the 2011–2012 Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and practices, when his questioning of witnesses was televised. A year ago, Dyson lost another libel case, against Channel 4 and ITN.

23 November 2023

Red Poetry


Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will be shown in Salaya this weekend. The feature-length documentary is a profile of performance artist Vitthaya Klangnil, who formed the group Artn’t with fellow student Yotsunthon Ruttapradit. A shorter version—Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้)—was screened last year at Wildtype 2022.

The documentary, filmed in 2021, shows the intense endurance and commitment Vitthaya invests in his protest art. A durational performance—sitting near Chiang Mai’s Tha Pae Gate for nine full days—led to his collapse from exhaustion. In another action, he climbed onto Chiang Mai University’s main entrance, repeatedly slapped himself in the face, and jumped into a pond. When he reported to the police to answer charges of sedition, he vomited blue paint outside the police station.

The film ends with Vitthaya carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges he faced after he exhibited a modified version of the Thai flag in 2021. He was convicted of lèse-majesté earlier this year, and received a suspended sentence.

Red Poetry will be shown at Die Kommune on 25th November, at a screening organised by Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies. It has previously been screened in Chiang Mai earlier this year, and it had an online screening as part of this year’s Short Film Marathon (หนังสั้นมาราธอน).

22 November 2023

James Dyson v. Daily Mirror:
“These allegations represent a personal attack...”


Daily Mirror

James Dyson is suing the Daily Mirror newspaper over an article published last year describing his business strategy as “screw your country, and if anyone complains, tell them to suck it up.” The column, by Brian Reade, criticised poor public role models, and mentioned Dyson only briefly.

The article was published on the Mirror’s website on 28th January last year, and appeared in the print edition on the following day (p. 19). It has now been removed from the website, and deleted from online newspaper archives.

Dyson appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday, and issued a written statement about the article: “These allegations represent a personal attack on all that I have done and achieved in my lifetime and are highly distressing and hurtful.” He has accused the Mirror of defamation.

Dyson had previously filed a libel suit against Channel 4 and ITN, though that case was dismissed on 31st October last year. Judge Matthew Nicklin ruled that Dyson had not been personally implicated: “The broadcast is simply not about him, and no ordinary reasonable viewer could conclude that he was being in any way criticised.”

09 November 2023

Sondhi v. Prachatai


Prachatai

Thailand’s Criminal Court yesterday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul against the online news organisation Prachatai. Sondhi had filed the case in August, claiming that Prachatai misrepresented his opinion by falsely implying that he supported another coup.

In a Facebook post on 31st July, Sondhi speculated on the future of Thai politics, listing thirteen potential scenarios. The last of these was the possibility of another coup, which he described as “ไร้ความชอบธรรม” (‘illegitimate’). Later that day, the Prachatai website reported Sondhi’s comments about the chances of a coup, though its headline omitted the word ‘illegitimate’.

The Criminal Court noted that the first sentence of Prachatai’s article quoted his reference to an ‘illegitimate coup’, and that the article also went on to reproduce Sondhi’s list of thirteen scenarios in full, thus mitigating any potential misunderstanding caused by the headline. (Dateline Bangkok raised the same points a few days after Sondhi sued Prachatai.)

31 October 2023

The Disturbing Movie Iceberg



In 2021, a Reddit user known as Nice Guy Phil posted an infographic titled The Disturbing Movie Iceberg, an eight-tiered hierarchy of violent and offensive films. The metaphor in the title suggested that the films in tier one were ‘the tip of the iceberg’, while those in tier eight were the most disturbing films imaginable.

The chart generated a great deal of interest online, though most people who saw it were unaware of most of the films listed. In fact, it’s not advisable to seek out many of the films in the chart, and the only recommended films are those in tiers three and four. (The other tiers are either too mild to be considered truly disturbing, or too extreme to be considered narrative films.)

Tier one consists of mainstream horror movies that are entirely conventional and uncontroversial. Tier two features titles that are slightly more violent than those in tier one, including mainstream horror films that have been dismissed as ‘torture porn’.

Tiers three and four are the core of the list, and most viewers should confine themselves to these tiers. The exploitation films in tier three (such as Cannibal Holocaust) are not mainstream titles, though they have all been theatrically released. Tier four features fake snuff films released on video (including the Guinea Pig/ギニーピッグ series).

The titles in the remaining tiers are not commercial feature films, and should be avoided by most viewers. Tier five features Japanese porn videos, and tier six consists of mondo videos. The final two tiers contain extreme online material: fetish porn in tier seven, and death clips in tier eight.

(A compilation of footage from the 7th October Hamas attack on Israel, untitled though known colloquially as the ‘video of horrors’, would surely find a place in tier eight, though it has not been released to the public. The video, variations of which are between forty-four and forty-seven minutes long, was edited by Mattan Harel-Fisch and includes uncensored footage of the deaths of many Israelis on that day. It has been shown to journalists, politicians, and diplomats at various private screenings.)

13 October 2023

“Meloni, Salvini: bastardi...”
(‘Meloni, Salvini: bastards...’)


Piazzapulita

A political commentator was found guilty yesterday of defaming Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Speaking on the Piazzapulita (‘clean sweep’) talk show on 3rd December 2020, Roberto Saviano criticised Meloni and another far-right politician, Matteo Salvini, for their anti-immigration rhetoric: “Viene solo da dire: bastardi. Meloni, Salvini: bastardi. Come avete potuto?” (‘it just makes you say: bastards. Meloni, Salvini: bastards. How could you?’)

Saviano was fined €1,000, though he will only be liable to pay if he repeats his comments. Prosecutors had originally sought a €50,000 penalty. The clip from Piazzapulita is still accessible on the website of La7, the TV channel that broadcasts the programme. Meloni is also suing singer Brian Molko, who called her a fascist at a concert earlier this year.

29 September 2023

Nine Nasty Words —
English in the Gutter:
Then, Now, and Forever


Nine Nasty Words

How many swear words are still considered taboo? Any list of such terms should inevitably start with the seven words—including all the four-letter ones—that comedian George Carlin described on his album Occupation: Foole. That album was broadcast on 30th November 1973 by MBIA, a New York radio station, which ultimately led to a landmark Supreme Court verdict giving the Federal Communications Commission the authority to censor radio and network television.

In his book Nine Nasty Words — English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever, John McWhorter slightly expands the classic Carlin list: “I will zero in on not seven but nine of the bedrock swears of modern English, including what we more conventionally term slurs but which qualify as our newest profanity. Or, really, eleven if you count damn and hell.” He gives etymologies for each term, and his citations include literary references and early twentieth century popular culture.

McWhorter has interesting points to make about the c-word, refuting the common interpretation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “queynte” as a euphemism: “Chaucer did not bedeck his Canterbury Tales with casual references to cunts, despite how this gets around among English majors. It is easy to suppose, because Middle English spelling looks so odd to us and was not yet regularized, that his queynte was an eccentric spelling of cunt. However, it was actually what it looked like: the word quaint”.

Rebecca Roache’s For F*ck’s Sake, Philip Gooden’s Bad Words and What They Say about Us, Peter Silverton’s Filthy English, Ruth Wajnryb’s Language Most Foul, and David Sosa’s Bad Words cover similar ground to McWhorter. Geoffrey Hughes wrote An Encyclopedia of Swearing, expanded from his earlier Swearing. Forbidden Words, by Keith Allan and Kate Burridge, is the most authoritative book on linguistic taboos, and Allen also recently edited The Oxford Handbook of Taboo Words and Language.

27 September 2023

The History of Press Graphics 1819–1921:
The Golden Age of Graphic Journalism


The History of Press Graphics

Alexander Roob’s The History of Press Graphics 1819–1921: The Golden Age of Graphic Journalism, published earlier this year by Taschen, is a stunning 600-page survey of illustrations from nineteenth and early twentieth century newspapers and magazines. The book features hundreds of images, many of which are full-page and double-page reproductions, and includes a comprehensive bibliography.

A prologue outlines the early history of press graphics, from the late sixteenth century onwards, though the book’s starting point is 1819. This was the year of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester, England, and William Hone and George Cruikshank’s pamphlet The Political House That Jack Built, published in response to the tragedy, which “established the era of pictorial journalism”.

Roob examines the technical developments in printing over the period, from wood engraving and lithography in the 1870s to photoxylography a century later. There is also extensive coverage of caricature and political satire, including Charles Philipon’s cartoons of the French King Louis-Philippe.

La Caricature Le Charivari

Philipon was arrested for treason after drawing Louis-Philippe as a plasterer in La Caricature on 30th June 1831. At his trial, he mischievously demonstrated that the King’s likeness could be discerned in almost anything, even a pear, and that fruit became a symbol of Louis-Philippe in subsequent illustrations by Philipon and others. On 27th February 1834, Philipon’s magazine Le Charivari (‘hullabaloo’) published a front-page editorial about the King in the form of a calligram, with the text typeset to resemble a pear.

Philipon’s pear sketches, and a caricature of Louis-Philippe as Gargantua by Honoré Daumier, are reproduced in The Art of Controversy. There is a chapter on press graphics in History of Illustration. The History of Press Graphics 1819–1921 is published in a folio format, the same size as Taschen’s Information Graphics, History of Information Graphics, Understanding the World, and Logo Modernism.

25 September 2023

Gay Is OK!
A Christian Perspective


Gay Is OK! Peichi

Malaysia’s Court of Appeal today reinstated a ban on Ngeo Boon Lin’s book Gay Is OK! A Christian Perspective. The book was published in 2013 without incident, though it was banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2020. Navin Manogaran’s Tamil-language novel Peichi (பேய்ச்சி), published in 2019, was banned at the same time.

Last year, the High Court overturned the Gay Is OK! ban, though the Court of Appeal’s judgement today means that the book cannot be distributed in the country. Homosexuality remains prohibited in Malaysia, and the book’s title and central thesis are therefore at odds with the law.

Various books have been banned in Malaysia in recent years, including Sapuman and other comics by Zunar. The comic Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism was banned in 2019, the novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta (‘a woman in love’) was banned in 2014, and dozens of books were banned in 2017.

28 August 2023

Artn’t



Two performance artists have each been given suspended sentences, after being found guilty of violating the lèse-majesté law and the Flag Act. Vitthaya Klangnil and Yotsunthon Ruttapradit—both Chiang Mai University students and cofounders of the group Artn’tdisplayed a modified version of the Thai flag at CMU in 2021. The charges against them were filed by Srisuwan Janya, head of the Constitution Protection Association pressure group.

The Flag Act prohibits “any act in an insulting manner to the flag, the replica of the flag or the colour bands of the flag”. The Status in Statu (รัฐพิลึก) exhibition featured a roll of fabric modified in a similar way to Artn’t’s flag, but avoided prosecution. Supamok Silarak’s documentary Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) followed Vitthaya during the police investigation into his protest art.

26 August 2023

Sondhi Limthongkul:
“I will definitely sue…”


Prachatai

Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul has filed defamation charges against the online news organisation Prachatai. The lawsuit, issued on 22nd August, claims that Prachatai misrepresented Sondhi’s opinion and falsely implied that he supports another coup. Addressing Prachatai via Manager (ผู้จัดการรายวัน), the newspaper he owns, he said: “I will definitely sue... be prepared to receive a summons”.

In a Facebook post on 31st July, Sondhi had speculated on the future of Thai politics, listing thirteen potential scenarios, the last of which was a coup, which he described as “ไร้ความชอบธรรม” (‘illegitimate’). Later that day, Prachatai reported Sondhi’s comments on its website, though its headline omitted the word ‘illegitimate’.

Prachatai’s headline arguably did misrepresent Sondhi’s comments. But the first sentence of the article rectified this by quoting his reference to an ‘illegitimate coup’. The article also went on to quote Sondhi’s list of thirteen scenarios in full.

Whatever Sondhi’s current view on the legitimacy of coups, he has certainly supported them in the past. Prachatai quoted him on 21st January 2012, speaking on ASTV: “Soldiers, don’t sit still. Come out and seize power.” That was an unequivocal call for a coup, accurately summed up by Prachatai’s headline at the time: “Sondhi urges military to stage a coup”.

Other news organisations have also quoted Sondhi appearing to endorse coups. In an interview with the Bangkok Post exactly fifteen years ago (26th August 2008, p. 3), he said that “soldiers today are cowards”, implying that they were not brave enough to launch another coup. The New York Times quoted him saying: “I see a coup as not a bad thing,” and reported that “Sondhi publicly called for yet another military intervention” (3rd November 2020, p. 10; reprinted in the next day’s international edition, p. 3).

Sondhi’s PAD campaign paved the way for the 2006 coup, either intentionally or otherwise. At that time, Sondhi also sued another news outlet for defamation, claiming that Kom Chad Luek (คมชัดลึก) had misrepresented his comments about King Rama IX. In that case, the editor resigned and the newspaper suspended publication for five days.

20 August 2023

Don’t Expect Anything!



The entire cast of a new film have been arrested by the Burmese military government, on charges of blasphemy and insulting the dignity of the monkhood. Thirteen actors—including a twelve-year-old girl—and the film’s Swiss director, Didier Nusbaumer, were arrested on 8th August.

The feature-length drama Don’t Expect Anything! (ဘာမှမမျှော်လင့်ပါနဲ့) was uploaded to YouTube on 24th July, and remains online despite the arrests. It was produced by Dhamma Pictures, a non-profit organisation that promotes Buddhist teachings.

Representation of Buddhist monks is also a highly sensitive issue in the Thai film industry, most recently leading to censorship of the horror film Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์). Thai Cinema Uncensored includes a complete history of the various controversies surrounding the depiction of Buddhist monks on film.