03 September 2023

Letter to Freedom

When most of us say ‘or I’ll eat my hat’, we don’t expect to be literally force-fed our headgear if we’re proven wrong. Architect Duangrit Bunnag, on the other hand, is clearly a man of his word.

Duangrit was a prominent Pheu Thai supporter who firmly believed the party’s categorical assurances that there was no backroom deal with the military. On 27th March, he tweeted: “ถ้าเพื่อไทยจับมือกับ พปชร. ผมจะยอมให้เอาขี้ปาหัว” (‘if Pheu Thai joins forces with Palang Pracharath, I will let people throw poo at my head’).

Pheu Thai broke its pledge, and invited the military parties Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation to form a coalition government. But unlike Pheu Thai, Duangrit kept his word, releasing a statement titled Letter to Freedom (จดหมายสู่อิสรภาพ) pledging to allow people to fling excrement at him.

Yesterday at exactly 3:14pm, Duangrit sat in a protective suit and mask for precisely eleven minutes, while people flung cow dung at him. The timing had political significance, as Pheu Thai’s coalition consists of 314 parliamentary seats and eleven parties, and the 4kg of dung represented his opinion of the four parties at the heart of the coalition: Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharath, and United Thai Nation.

Duangrit designed the Jam Factory and the original Thailand Creative and Design Center. Yesterday’s event—which was both public self-flagellation and scatological performance art—took place at Mirror Art, part of the Mirror Foundation charity in Bangkok.

29 August 2023

Letter to Freedom

Letter to Freedom

Architect Duangrit Bunnag posted a written statement on X this morning, pledging to honour an earlier ‘I’ll eat my hat’-style comment. Duangrit, prominent a Pheu Thai supporter, had been so confident that the party would never go into coalition with the military that he pledged to allow people to fling excrement at him if he was proved wrong. On 27th March, he tweeted: “ถ้าเพื่อไทยจับมือกับ พปชร. ผมจะยอมให้เอาขี้ปาหัว” (‘if Pheu Thai joins forces with Palang Pracharath, I will let people throw poo at my head’).

Despite categorical assurances to the contrary, Pheu Thai invited the military parties Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation to form a coalition government. Unlike Pheu Thai, Duangrit has kept his word, in a statement titled Letter to Freedom (จดหมายสู่อิสรภาพ).

In his open letter, Duangrit (who designed the Jam Factory and the original Thailand Creative and Design Center) announced that he will turn excrement-flinging into performance art on 2nd September. At precisely 3:14pm, for exactly eleven minutes, he will subject himself to whatever is thrown at him, in an event at Mirror Art, part of the Mirror Foundation charity in Bangkok. The timing of the event has political significance, as Pheu Thai’s coalition has 314 parliamentary seats and eleven parties. The gallery will supply 4kg of cow dung, representing the four parties at the heart of the coalition: Pheu Thai, Bhumjaithai, Palang Pracharath, and United Thai Nation.

28 August 2023


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…”


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” (‘illigitimate’). Later that day, Prachatai reported Sondhi’s comments on its website, though its headline omitted the word ‘illigitimate’.

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

In the past, other news organisations have 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.

24 August 2023

๕๐ ปี ๑๔ ตุลา
(‘50 years of 14th Oct.’)

Sunset at Chaophraya II

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 14th October 1973 protest, when half a million people gathered at Democracy Monument in Bangkok calling for an end to Thanom Kittikachorn’s military dictatorship. After King Rama IX intervened, Thanom fled into exile, though seventy-seven protesters were shot dead by the army. A screening programme at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, ๕๐ ปี ๑๔ ตุลา (‘50 years of 14th Oct.’), will commemorate the anniversary next month.

The season includes The Moonhunter (14 ตุลา สงครามประชาชน), a prestigious biopic of protest leader Seksan Prasertkul, screening in 35mm. Sunset at Chaophraya II (คู่กรรม ภาค ๒) is overshadowed by The Moonhunter but is arguably a better film, ending with a realistic and violent recreation of the 1973 massacre. Angel (เทพธิดาโรงแรม) features documentary footage of the protest intercut with a social realist narrative. Tongpan (ทองปาน) was produced in the brief period of political freedom after the events of 1973.

The Moonhunter will be shown on 15th and 19th October, Sunset at Chaophraya II on 13th and 25th October, Angel on 13th and 24th October, and Tongpan on 21st October. Tongpan will be screened in 16mm. (It has been shown at the Film Archive before, and at Noir Row Art Space, Cinema Oasis, and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.)

The programme also includes two documentaries: the feature-length อนุทินวีรชน 14 ตุลาคม (‘diary of 14th October heroes’), showing on 14th October; and the short film วันมหาวิปโยค (‘the tragic day’), on 15th October. อนุทินวีรชน 14 ตุลาคม features unique colour and black-and-white footage of the massacre, while วันมหาวิปโยค includes colour footage of the atmosphere among the protesters.

Thai Cinema Uncensored includes a complete survey of films related to 14th October 1973 and its aftermath. Thai Film Archive director Chalida Uabumrungrit analysed the two documentaries in the Thai Film Journal (วารสารหนังไทย, vol. 18). The Colors of October (สีสันแห่งเดือนตุลา) exhibition at g23 in Bangkok also marks the 50th anniversary of the event.

23 August 2023

Songs of Angry People

Uruphong Raksasad’s documentary Songs of Angry People will have its world premiere at the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival in South Korea next month. The film, screening on 15th and 17th September, is a record of the protest movement that began in 2020, when students campaigned for reform of the monarchy and a return to democracy.

Songs of Angry People is only the second feature-length documentary covering the protests, after Supong Jitmuang’s Mob 2020–2021. Uruphong’s previous films include Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา) and Worship (บูชา). The festival runs from 14th to 21st September, with screenings taking place near the demilitarised zone on the border with North Korea.

Thunska Pansittivorakul’s latest documentary, Damnatio Memoriae (ไม่พึงปรารถนา)—screening on 17th, 19th, and 20th September—will also have its world premiere at the festival. Thunska’s previous films include Danse Macabre (มรณสติ), Avalon (แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์), Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา), Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), Reincarnate (จุติ), and This Area is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน).

Prime Minister Strettha Thavisin

Srettha Thavisin

Srettha Thavisin was elected Prime Minister yesterday, ensuring that Pheu Thai’s coalition will form the next government. Srettha won the bicameral parliamentary vote just a few hours after former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s de facto leader, returned to Thailand. The timing was not a coincidence: it seems clear that Thaksin’s return was conditional on Pheu Thai inviting the political wings of the military junta into its coalition.

Srettha, along with other Pheu Thai executives, had categorically ruled out working with either of the military parties, Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation. After both parties joined the bloc, Srettha argued that “it is necessary to forget what we said.” With the military parties on board, a majority (153) of the junta-appointed senators endorsed Srettha’s nomination as PM, whereas Move Forward’s prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat secured only thirteen senators’ votes last month.

The military seemingly regard Pheu Thai as the lesser of two evils, and struck a deal to prevent Move Forward, the election winners, from forming a government. Quid pro quo: in exchange for abandoning Move Forward in favour of the military parties, Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate has been elected and Thaksin has returned to Thailand, presumably with assurances that his eight-year prison sentence will be overturned.

But at what cost? Pheu Thai has invited the fox into the henhouse, and the military will resist any proposed democratic reforms, so plans to draft a new constitution are likely to be scaled back. An elected Pheu Thai government was deposed by the 2014 coup, but the military parties will now remain at the cabinet table, in a Faustian pact that the party’s grassroots supporters are unlikely to forget.

22 August 2023

Thaksin Shinawatra:
“It’s time for me to be with the Thai people...”

Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin Shinawatra’s private jet landed in Bangkok at 9am this morning, ending fifteen years of the former prime minister’s self-imposed exile. “It’s time for me to be with the Thai people,” Thaksin told Nikkei Asia, before boarding his flight to Thailand. He was taken from the airport to the Supreme Court, where his eight-year sentence for corruption and abuse of power was confirmed, though his voluntary return suggests that he is confident of a royal pardon. (His first act after walking out of the airport terminal was a performative prostration before a portrait of King Rama X.)

Thaksin has been the single most influential figure in Thai politics over the past two decades. In 2001, he won the country’s first landslide election victory, and he became the first elected PM to serve a full term in office. The protest movements that have polarised contemporary Thai politics are defined entirely by their stances on Thaksin and his regime: the People’s Alliance for Democracy started its campaign after he sold his stake in Shin Corp., the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship protests escalated when his assets were frozen, and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee opposed a plan to vacate his corruption conviction.

Thailand’s military and royalist establishment has pulled out all the stops to eradicate Thaksin’s legacy, to no avail. The PAD and PDRC protests paved the way for coups in 2006 and 2014, respectively. The Constitutional Court dissolved three of his proxy parties: Thai Rak Thai, the People Power Party, and Thai Raksa Chart. Despite all this, parties funded by Thaksin won every election from 2001 to 2019, and he has hand-picked four prime ministers: Samak Sundaravej, Somchai Wongsawat, Yingluck Shinawatra—and now Srettha Thavisin, who won a parliamentary vote this afternoon. After trying and failing to remove Thaksin, the military has struck a deal with him instead, to prevent the election winners, Move Forward, from assuming office.

21 August 2023

Srettha Thavisin:
“It is necessary to forget what we said...”

The new coalition government led by Pheu Thai was unveiled at a press conference this afternoon. There will be a total of eleven parties in the bloc, including United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharath, the political wings of the military junta.

Before the announcement, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, one of Pheu Thai’s most senior executives, acknowledged that collaborating with the two military parties was a violation of its principles. She told reporters yesterday: “Of course, Pheu Thai has [a] price to pay, that is the criticism of the people. We humbly accept [this] and apologise for making many disappointed and sad.”

Being propped up by Pheu Thai is a humiliation for the military, which deposed Thaksin Shinawatra—Paetongtarn’s father and the party’s de facto leader—in the 2006 coup and ousted Pheu Thai itself in another coup eight years later. But this is outweighed by the extraordinary staying power of the two military parties: despite losing the election, they are able to remain in government, and will each receive four cabinet posts.

The reputational damage caused by today’s announcement is far worse for Pheu Thai: for months, its executives had categorically ruled out working with either UTN or Palang Pracharath, and now it has signed a deal with both of them. At a separate press conference after the coalition announcement, Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate stressed that the two parties were needed to secure a majority government, “so, it is necessary to forget what we said.”

The coalition has 314 MPs, and the presence of UTN and Palang Pracharath makes it almost certain that senators will endorse Srettha in tomorrow’s prime ministerial vote. The election winners, Move Forward, have been relegated to the opposition alongside the Democrats and five smaller parties.

20 August 2023

Please... See Us

Please... See Us

Chaweng Chaiyawan’s powerful short film Please... See Us (หว่างีมอละ) will be shown tonight in an outdoor screening at the Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, as part of an all-day, all-night arts festival running for twenty-four hours. The event, organised by Neo Lanna, is raising awareness of a petition for a new, more democratic constitution.

The current charter was drafted by the military junta, and rewriting it was one of the manifesto policies of this year’s election winners, Move Forward. But they have since been relegated to the opposition by runner-up Pheu Thai, and Pheu Thai’s willingness to form a coalition with military parties such as United Thai Nation has raised doubts about the chances of the constitution being completely rewritten.

Please... See Us includes an extended sequence in which a real pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand. This transgressive film was previously shown at Wildtype 2021, Signes de Nuit (‘signs of the night’), and the 25th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

18 August 2023

“UTN will join the Pheu Thai government...”

Democracy Monument

United Thai Nation has joined Pheu Thai’s coalition, confirming a longstanding suspicion that Pheu Thai would rely on the support of pro-military parties to form the next government. UTN spokesman Akaradej Wongpitakroj told a press conference yesterday afternoon: “We want the country to move forward so UTN will join the Pheu Thai government”. UTN’s thirty-six MPs brings the coalition’s total to 274, which is a majority in the House of Representatives. More pressingly, UTN’s involvement will make the junta-appointed senators more likely to endorse Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate, Srettha Thavisin.

UTN was founded as a political vehicle for Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led a coup against Pheu Thai in 2014, though Prayut announced his retirement last month. Pheu Thai’s executives had categorically denied any plans to work with either of the two military parties—UTN and Palang Pracharath—though their coalition lacked a parliamentary majority. (Despite the support of Bhumjaithai and seven smaller parties, they had only 238 seats.) This made an alliance with the military almost inevitable, though it has angered many pro-democracy Pheu Thai voters.

On 16th August, the Constitutional Court declined to rule on parliament’s rejection of Move Forward’s second attempt to nominate Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister, arguing that Pita himself had not personally petitioned the court. With no legal requirement for parliament to vote again on Pita’s nomination, Pheu Thai will instead nominate Srettha on 22nd August. Palang Pracharath’s MPs have confirmed that they will vote for Srettha, though he will not receive Move Forward’s votes as Pheu Thai withdrew from Move Forward’s anti-military bloc.

12 August 2023

Pheu Thai:
“We won’t betray the people...”

Multiple Thai news organisations are reporting today that Pheu Thai has invited one or even both of the political wings of the military junta—the Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation parties—into its coalition government. After withdrawing from election-winner Move Forward’s anti-military bloc, Pheu Thai first formed a partnership with Bhumjaithai, which was later joined by seven smaller parties, though with only 238 seats they have so far been unable to form a majority government.

Joining Pheu Thai’s coalition is, on one level, a humiliation for the military, which deposed Thaksin Shinawatra, the party’s de facto leader, in the 2006 coup. But this is outweighed by the extraordinary staying power of the military parties: despite coming a distant fourth and fifth in the election, they are able to remain in government, propped up by Pheu Thai, an ostensibly pro-democracy party. Exactly how much leverage the military has, and how much Pheu Thai is prepared to sacrifice to secure Thaksin’s return from self-imposed exile, will only be apparent once the new cabinet is announced.

The reputational damage caused by the coalition is far worse for Pheu Thai, whose executives had repeatedly and categorically denied persistent rumours of a deal with the military parties. At a press conference on 29th May, Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew claimed: “There’s no such deal... Pheu Thai doesn’t make such a deal”. He also promised, in a phrase that has come back to haunt him: “We won’t betray the people”. The party’s about-turn will indeed be seen as a betrayal by many of their grassroots supporters, whose endorsement of Pheu Thai was a protest vote against the military’s involvement in politics.

11 August 2023

Pheu Thai:
“We’re willing to join hands with every party...”

Varawut Silpa-archa / Cholnan Srikaew / Phumtham Wechayachai

Pheu Thai’s coalition now consists of nine parties, giving the bloc a total of 238 seats. Bhumjaithai was the first to join, adding their seventy-one seats to Pheu Thai’s 141. They were followed by seven smaller parties: Chart Thai Pattana, the most recent addition, has ten MPs, though the others are all in single figures. At a press conference on 9th August, Pheu Thai’s deputy leader Phumtham Wechayachai said: “We’re willing to join hands with every party, whether it is the opposition or independent.” This all-embracing position doesn’t extend to Move Forward, which was ejected from the previous coalition despite winning the most seats in the election.

It’s mathematically impossible for Pheu Thai’s coalition to reach a 251-seat parliamentary majority without the support of either Palang Pracharath, United Thai Nation, or the Democrats. Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation are the political wings of the junta that launched a coup against Pheu Thai in 2014, and Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew has repeatedly pledged never to cooperate with either of them. The Democrats were the main rivals of Pheu Thai and its predecessors for more than a decade, and were in power when the red-shirts—Pheu Thai’s grassroots supporters—were massacred in 2010. After breaking off its engagement to Move Forward, Pheu Thai is on the verge of sleeping with the enemy.

08 August 2023

Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will be shown in Chiang Mai this weekend, at a rooftop screening organised by Untitled for Film. The feature-length documentary profiles the activities 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 shown last year at Wildtype 2022.

The documentary, filmed in 2021, shows the level of 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 jumped into a pond below. 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.

Red Poetry will be screened on 13th August at Chiang Mai University’s Department of Media Arts and Design, followed by a post-screening discussion with the director. This is its third under-the-radar screening in Chiang Mai, the city in which it was filmed: it was previously shown at Chiang Mai University Art Center and at Suan Anya. There are currently no plans to show it in Bangkok, where it might attract unwanted attention. It would almost certainly be cut or banned if submitted to the censors, not least because in one sequence, during the Tha Pae Gate performance, Vitthaya and a royalist passerby debate the hypothetical scenario of Thailand as a republic.

07 August 2023

“Bhumjaithai will follow Pheu Thai's proposal...”

Anutin Charnvirakul / Cholnan Srikaew

The leaders of Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai held a joint press conference this afternoon, to announce that they had formed a coalition, following Pheu Thai’s withdrawal from the previous eight-party bloc led by the election winners, Move Forward. Bhumjaithai’s seventy-one MPs, added to Pheu Thai’s 141, give the new alliance only 212 seats—100 fewer than the Move Forward coalition, and less than the 251 required for a parliamentary majority. At the press conference, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul pledged to support Pheu Thai’s candidate when parliament next votes to appoint the new PM: “Bhumjaithai will follow Pheu Thai’s proposal and present a candidate who can be approved by the members of parliament, as confirmed by Pheu Thai”.

The announcement was originally scheduled for 3rd August, but was postponed at the last minute following the news that the Constitutional Court was investigating parliament’s rejection of Move Forward’s second attempt to nominate Pita Limjaroenrat as prime minister. After Pita was suspended, pending another Constitutional Court investigation (into his ownership of shares in iTV), Pheu Thai failed to secure enough support for its own PM candidate, Srettha Thavisin, as senators and government MPs refused to endorse any member of the Move Forward coalition. But, a week after Pheu Thai abandoned Move Forward, only one other party (Bhumjaithai) has so far been confirmed as a coalition partner, suggesting that negotiations are not going smoothly.

The marriage of convenience between Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai highlights how Move Forward, jilted at the altar, is one of the few principled parties in parliament. Pheu Thai and Bhumjaithai’s rivalry dates back to 2008, when the Constitutional Court dissolved the People Power Party. Newin Chidchob, who controlled an influential PPP faction, defected to Bhumjaithai and joined a coalition with the Democrats. Famously, Newin telephoned Thaksin Shinawatra, the PPP’s de facto leader, telling him: “It’s over, boss.” The remaining PPP members were reconstituted as Pheu Thai, and relegated to the opposition. Pheu Thai suffered a similar fate in 2019, when they were blocked from forming a government despite winning the most seats. Now, Move Forward is in the same position, thanks to Pheu Thai jumping ship.

Pheu Thai’s motivation, beyond simply seeking power at all costs, will only become clear once all its coalition partners are revealed. Over the past week, there have been contradictory leaks to the press from anonymous Pheu Thai sources, suggesting that Palang Pracharath either will or won’t join the coalition. Thaksin Shinawatra announced that he would return from self-imposed exile on 10th August, though this plan was cancelled, presumably because he no longer felt confident of a potential royal pardon for his corruption conviction. It’s conceivable that Pheu Thai’s jettisoning of Move Forward was part of a deal with the military to facilitate Thaksin’s return, and Pheu Thai may also be expected to bring Palang Pracharath into the fold for the same reason.

04 August 2023

The Edge of Daybreak

Chiang Mai Film Festival

Taiki Sakpisit’s The Edge of Daybreak (พญาโศกพิโยคค่ำ) will be shown in both Chiang Mai and Songkhla later this month, as part of the Chiang Mai Film Festival and Pak Taii Design Week’s Singorama programme. Like Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ) and Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Anatomy of Time (เวลา), The Edge of Daybreak shows the twilight years of a former soldier who fought against the Communist insurgency. It begins with a flashback to that era, narrated by the old man: “I was leading my unit into the woods to catch the students.”

In all three films, the ex-soldiers are largely bedridden, and it’s implied that their lingering illnesses are the result of karma. In The Edge of Daybreak, the former general’s family believe that they are cursed and, as if to confirm this, the exquisite black-and-white camerawork lingers on images of decay, such as rotting food and their crumbling home. The violent legacy of the anti-Communist purge is also a curse on the country itself, and Taiki’s film offers a reckoning with Thailand’s past and a commentary on its continuing military rule.


The Edge of Daybreak will be shown at Thailand Creative and Design Center’s Chiang Mai branch on 11th August, and at the Songkhla Art Center on 19th August. The Chiang Mai Film Festival runs from 8th to 12th August. It also includes Vichart Somkaew’s Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป) on 11th August; and Koraphat Cheeradit’s Yesterday Is Another Day and Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia, both screening on 12th August. Pak Taii Design Week runs from 12th to 20th August.

Yesterday Is Another Day and Nostalgia were both previously shown as part of The Political Wanderer, a programme of short films at Silpakorn University. Nostalgia has also been shown at Wildtype 2022, Future Fest 2023, and the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

“Giorgia Meloni... Fascista!”
(‘Giorgia Meloni... Fascist!’)

Sonic Park

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is suing Brian Molko, lead singer of the British rock band Placebo, for defamation after he called her a fascist at a concert in Italy last month. During the performance, Molko said: “Giorgia Meloni—pezzo di merda! Fascista! Razzista! Vaffanculo!” (‘Giorgia Meloni—piece of shit! Fascist! Racist! Go fuck yourself!’).

After the concert, at Sonic Park Stupinigi in Nichelino on 11th July, local police investigated Molko for defaming a public institution (namely, the office of the Prime Minister). Meloni has now filed a personal lawsuit against Molko, accusing him of libel. (More than a decade ago, Madonna was sued by French politician Marine Le Pen after depicting her as a Nazi at a concert.)

03 August 2023

The Cost of Freedom

The Cost of Freedom Chain Film Festival

A new short film about student activist Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul will have its premiere in New York this weekend. The Cost of Freedom documents Panusaya’s protests calling for reform of the monarchy and the abolition of the lèse-majesté law (article 112 of the criminal code). The film’s poster shows “112” carved into Panusaya’s arm, and a similar photograph appears in Karntachat Raungratanaamporn’s photobook End in This Generation.

The Cost of Freedom, directed by Primrin Puarat and Onarisa Sapsompong, will be shown at the Chain Theatre on 6th August, as part of the Chain Film Festival. (The festival runs from 4th to 13th August.) Panusaya was also the subject of The Commoner’s single รุ้ง (‘rainbow’), and her portrait has been painted by Jirapatt Aungsumalee and Tawan Wattuya.

Pheu Thai:
“The new government will not have Move Forward in its coalition…”

Thalu Wang

The eight-party coalition formed after Thailand’s election has collapsed, after Pheu Thai withdrew from the bloc yesterday. Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew announced at a press conference that his party had been unable to secure support from governing parties or senators, who refused to endorse a coalition that included the Move Forward Party. Pheu Thai is preparing to unveil a new coalition, relegating Move Forward to the opposition.

Move Forward won the most seats in the 14th May election, though their prime ministerial candidate, Pita Limjaroenrat, lost a parliamentary vote on 13th July after criticism of his party’s pledge to amend the lèse-majesté law (article 112 of the criminal code). MPs and senators voted on 19th July to prevent a second round from taking place, and the legality of that decision is now under consideration by the Constitutional Court. When parliament votes again to select a new prime minister, Pheu Thai plans to nominate its candidate, Srettha Thavisin.

At yesterday’s press conference, Cholnan distanced his party from Move Forward and its lèse-majesté policy: “Pheu Thai and Mr Srettha will keep Section 112 intact and the new government will not have Move Forward in its coalition”. Pheu Thai’s withdrawal comes after Cholnan categorically denied persistent rumours that his party would abandon its alliance with Move Forward, a betrayal of principles that may cost Pheu Thai much of its grassroots support. (After the announcement, the Thalu Wang group staged a protest outside Pheu Thai’s headquarters in Bangkok, spraying the building with pig’s blood.)

01 August 2023

The Fight of His Life:
Inside Joe Biden’s White House

The Fight of His Life

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s Peril included coverage of the first few months of the Biden presidency, but Chris Whipple’s The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House is the first book to focus entirely on President Biden. Whipple covers the Biden administration from the election in November 2020 to last year’s midterms. Although he was granted an interview with Biden, it was conducted via email—preventing follow-up questions—presumably because White House staff were conscious of the President’s propensity for gaffes.

Whipple relies heavily on his more extensive access to Ron Klain, who was Biden’s chief of staff until earlier this year. He also interviewed numerous other senior figures in the administration, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, CIA director William Burns, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. Whipple reveals Biden’s uneasy relationship with the Secret Service: “Wary of his own Secret Service agents, the president no longer spoke freely in their presence.”

Whipple’s strongest criticism of Biden relates to the US troop pullout from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover of the country: “Both the decision to withdraw and its flawed execution belonged to him.” He presents conflicting accounts of the intelligence shown to the President prior to the withdrawal, which the White House regarded as flawed. Klain maintains: “Biden was being told by the military commanders [that] there would be a valiant defense of Kabul. That defense never showed up.” Blinken also blames “an intelligence assessment that proved to be wrong”.

This notion of an intelligence failure is rejected by the CIA: “President Biden, they insisted, was under no illusions. He understood the fragility of the Afghan military forces and had a clear-eyed view of the weaknesses of the Afghan political leadership.” Burns claims that the President was made fully aware of the risks, describing “a prescription for things unravelling pretty quickly... All of this, he said, was communicated to Joe Biden.” Similarly, Milley says that an imminent Taliban takeover had been foreseen: “The intelligence I saw predicted months”.

On the other hand, Whipple gives Biden considerable credit for his response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, even describing him in Churchillian terms: “Biden had a few things in common with Churchill”. Biden’s view of Russian President Vladimir Putin—that he has no soul—is well documented, though Whipple adds that Biden regards Putin as a dictator in the same mould as Adolf Hitler: “He thought the Russian tyrant personified the evil he’d seen memorialized at Dachau”.