03 February 2023

Peaceful Art Protest


Peaceful Art Protest

Russian police have seized nineteen posters from an art exhibition in St Petersburg. The anti-war artworks, by Yelena Osipova, were painted in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and her Peaceful Art Protest («МИРный арт-протест») exhibition opened on 31st January. The show had been scheduled to run until 24th February, though on the day after the opening, police closed the exhibition and confiscated all of the posters on display. Criticising the invasion of Ukraine is illegal in Russia: local newspapers that did so were banned last year.

The exhibition was held at the St Petersburg office of the opposition Yabloko party. (Their name is the Russian word for ‘apple’, though it might remind non-Russians of the Nadsat word ‘yarblockos’ from the novel and film A Clockwork Orange.) This was not the first time that police have raided art exhibitions in Russia: galleries were charged with blasphemy in 2006 and 2012, and an exhibition of satirical portraits was closed down in 2013. Paintings mocking President Vladimir Putin were censored in 2009 and 2010.

02 February 2023

“Exploitation of audio of President Trump…”


The Trump Tapes The Trump Tapes

Donald Trump is suing journalist Bob Woodward and the publisher Simon and Schuster for $50 million, alleging that Woodward’s audiobook The Trump Tapes was released without prior authorisation. Woodward interviewed Trump nineteen times as research for his book Rage, and the audiobook features complete recordings of those interviews. Trump’s lawsuit, filed on 30th January, accuses Woodward of “systematic usurpation, manipulation, and exploitation of audio of President Trump”, and claims that the publication of the tapes violated Trump’s copyright.

In many of the interviews, Woodward tells Trump: “I’m turning on my tape recorder”, a reminder that these are on-the-record conversations being recorded with consent. While he didn’t discuss the prospect of an audiobook with Trump, Woodward is legally entitled to release the tapes, because he—not Trump—recorded them. Just as the person who presses the camera shutter automatically assumes copyright of the resulting photograph (unless they waive that right), the person who presses ‘record’ owns the copyright of a sound recording (if the recording is made with permission).

31 January 2023

The Fall of Boris Johnson:
The Full Story


The Fall of Boris Johnson

In The Fall of Boris Johnson: The Full Story, Sebastian Payne gives a comprehensive insider’s account of the final months of Boris Johnson’s premiership, which he describes as “the most remarkable political defenestration in modern British political history.” Until recently, Payne was the Whitehall editor of the Financial Times and the host of the Payne’s Politics podcast; he interviewed Johnson for his first book, Broken Heartlands.

Payne concludes that there were “three Ps that brought down the prime minister — Paterson, partygate and Pincher”. He sees Johnson’s downfall as an inevitable result of the former PM’s belief that the rules don’t apply to him: “it was always going to come to a premature and sticky end... Johnson resists the idea that he has to bother with the consequences for his actions that normal people have to contend with.”

After Conservative MP Owen Paterson was accused of lobbying, Johnson authorised a scheme to rewrite the disciplinary process, a blatant “Tory ruse to save one of their own” that united both government and opposition MPs against it. The ‘partygate’ and Chris Pincher scandals were more personally damaging to Johnson, as in both cases he was, in Alan Clark’s famous phrase, “economical with the actualité.” He falsely claimed in parliament that no parties had taken place at Downing Street during the coronavirus lockdown, and he falsely denied any prior knowledge of MP Chris Pincher’s reputation for sexual harassment.

The heart of the book is an epic forty-page account of Johnson’s last two days in office. This detailed coverage of ‘the bunker’ expands on a similar report by Tim Shipman in The Sunday Times (from 10th July 2021). Payne and Shipman both quote Johnson’s arch response after Michael Gove asked if he would resign: “No, Mikey, mate, I’m afraid you are.” Payne also recounts Johnson telling Gove: “they’re going to have to prise me out of here.” Gove and Johnson’s relationship was one of the most fascinating in modern British politics, and Johnson is, as Payne puts it, “the most compelling political campaigner of his generation”.

Red Poetry


Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s documentary Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will have its premiere next month. The film documents the activities (or, in art terms, happenings) of student performance artists Vitthaya Klangnil and Yotsunthon Ruttapradit, who formed the group Artn’t. Vitthaya is shown carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges they faced after they exhibited a modified version of the Thai flag.

A shorter version of Supamok’s film, Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้), was shown last year at Wildtype 2022. The full-length version will have an open-air screening at Suan Anya in Chiang Mai on 8th February. (The Power of Doc, a programme of political documentaries, was shown at the same venue last year.)

30 January 2023

India:
The Modi Question


India: The Modi Question
India: The Modi Question

Screenings of a new BBC documentary that includes serious allegations against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been prevented at several Indian universities, and students have been arrested at one campus. The programme reveals that Rob Young, the UK’s High Commissioner to India in 2002, wrote a confidential report concluding that “Narendra Modi is directly responsible” for the deaths of more than 1,000 people at a mass riot in Gujarat earlier that year.

India: The Modi Question, directed by Richard Cookson and Sadhana Subramaniam, was broadcast in the UK on BBC2 in two parts, on 17th and 24th January. It quotes from Young’s report, which alleged that Modi met senior police officers and “ordered them not to intervene in the rioting.” Students at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi were detained by police to prevent an outdoor screening of the documentary on 25th January.

The situation recalls that of another BBC documentary, India’s Daughter, which was also censored in India. In that case, however, the Indian government banned the programme from being broadcast on television, whereas India: The Modi Question was never scheduled for transmission in India. Modi has been PM since 2014, and was Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time of the riot. A cartoonist was arrested for caricaturing him in 2011, during his time as Chief Minister.

27 January 2023

Future Fest 2023


Future Fest

Future Fest, the annual arts festival organised by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s Progressive Movement Foundation, will take place next month at Sermsuk Warehouse in Bangkok. A weekend of film screenings includes four recent short films with political themes: Bangkok Dystopia (บางกอกดิสโทเปีย) and Pirab (พิราบ) on 11th February, followed on the next day by Nostalgia and Two Little Soldiers (สาวสะเมิน).

Patipol Teekayuwat’s Bangkok Dystopia was previously shown at Wildtype 2018 and at the 21st Short Film and Video Festival. Prasit Promnumpol’s Pirab was shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya in 2017. Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia was shown last year at the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival and at Wildtype 2022. Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Two Little Soldiers was shown at the Bangkok Art Biennale in 2020, and last year at Gallery Seescape in Chiang Mai.

13 January 2023

Jacinda Ardern:
I Know This to Be True
— On Kindness, Empathy and Strength


Jacinda Ardern: I Know This to Be True

Geoff Blackwell interviewed New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 8th November 2019 as part of his I Know This to Be True project for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a series of interviews published in 2020 and intended to “inspire a new generation of leaders.” Video extracts from those interviews were then repurposed for Live to Lead, a Netflix series directed by Blackwell, which was released on New Year’s Eve 2022.

In his (short) Ardern interview book, Blackwell asks about her personal values, and she explains that she is “really driven by empathy... that’s probably the quality we need the most.” Similarly, in another 2019 interview, she told author Supriya Vani: “the world needs empathetic leadership now, perhaps more than ever.” (Vani’s Ardern biography is subtitled Leading with Empathy, and Blackwell’s subtitle has a similar theme: On Kindness, Empathy and Strength.)

Blackwell’s and Vani’s interviews are both rather soft and apolitical, focussing on Ardern as an inspirational leader. But Ardern does make a surprisingly candid admission in answer to Blackwell’s question about trusting her instincts: “All I could be was myself. And that’s all I’ve ever tried to be. And if that means I’m successful on behalf of New Zealand, that’s great, and if it means that I’m not, then I’ll still sleep at night.”

11 January 2023

Jacinda Ardern:
Leading with Empathy


Jacinda Ardern: Leading with Empathy

Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s Prime Minister in 2017 on a wave of ‘Jacindamania’, and her relentless positivity boosted her reputation on the world stage. (She has been a guest on The Late Show, and Spitting Image caricatured her quite convincingly as Mary Poppins.) She passed gun-control laws with incredible speed, and was equally successful in minimising the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months, rising inflation and a looming recession have sharply dented her domestic popularity, though this has not affected her international image.

She has consistently refused to cooperate with her biographers, though Jacinda Ardern: Leading with Empathy was promoted in 2021 as “[t]he first biography to be based on interviews with Ardern”. At a press conference on 21st July 2021, Ardern made clear that she was misled by the authors, who had not told her they were writing a biography: “certainly the claim that it was an exclusive interview for the purpose of writing a book of that nature is not true”. Co-author Supriya Vani interviewed Ardern in 2019, on the understanding that the book was about female leaders in general. Co-author Carl A. Harte claimed that coronavirus restrictions precluded interviews with other leaders, though Ardern was interviewed via Skype, which the pandemic would not have prevented.

More plausibly, the pandemic prevented the authors from visiting New Zealand while researching the book, though surprisingly this did not affect the amount of ‘colour’ and atmospheric detail they included. Ardern’s childhood home, Murupara, for example, is described as “a place that feels as if it is drifting, somehow behind in time... The town’s beauty is itself beguiling, but the land here has its dark secrets.” These lengthy descriptions, and others, are all examples of armchair tourism, and further padding is provided by extraneous career summaries of several former New Zealand politicians.

Vani wrote an online article for Writer’s Digest on 9th June 2021 titled How to Write a Biography of a World Leader. Her first tip was: “make sure you can resonate with the qualities of the leader to ensure you’re writing a positive biography.” Unfortunately, she followed her own advice, and her Ardern book borders on the hagiographic. (It often refers to Ardern by her first name, emphasises her “kindness” and “well-rounded humanity”, and even compares her to Churchill.) But on its own terms, as an inspirational account of empathetic leadership, the book is well written and researched. Perhaps Ardern’s relentless positivity rubbed off on Vani; if so, it was more appropriate to her first book, Battling Injustice.

10 January 2023

Out of the Blue:
The Inside Story of the Unexpected Rise and Rapid Fall of Liz Truss


Out of the Blue

“A book is being written about the Prime Minister’s time in office. Apparently, it’s going to be out by Christmas. Is that the release date or the title?”

Opposition leader Keir Starmer’s quip during Prime Minister’s Questions on 19th October last year was even more prescient than he imagined. Although Liz Truss assured him that she was “a fighter, not a quitter”, she resigned as PM the very next day. Truss channelled the defiant words of former politician Peter Mandelson, and Starmer copied his joke from Private Eye magazine (no. 1,584), which described the Truss book as “out on 8 December. (The book, that is, not its subject)”.

Like the PM, the book, Out of the Blue, was out sooner than expected, released last November. (The subtitle was also changed—from The Inside Story of Liz Truss and Her Astonishing Rise to Power to The Inside Story of the Unexpected Rise and Rapid Fall of Liz Truss—to reflect her sudden downfall.) Truss served just forty-four days in office, and the book was written almost as rapidly. Authors Harry Cole and James Healey make no bones about this: “We decided to write this book quickly, so those of you expecting Robert Caro will be disappointed.” But there’s nothing remotely rushed about this extremely well-sourced biography.

The most toxic element of the ‘mini budget’ that ultimately led to Truss’s resignation—the removal of the maximum 45p tax rate—was swiftly abandoned, and the book quotes Truss telling her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng: “we need to rip off the plaster.” Similarly, in a Sunday Times article published online on Christmas Eve 2022, Tim Shipman quoted Truss as saying: “we’ve got to tear the plaster off.” These two accounts validate each other, though on 10th December last year the Financial Times implied that the decision was made by Chancellor himself: a FT Weekend Magazine article on Truss’s premiership by George Parker, Sebastian Payne, and Laura Hughes referred to “Kwarteng’s U-turn on the top rate of tax”.

Cole and Healey interviewed Truss twice for their book, the second session taking place shortly after the mini budget. In a Spectator article published on 29th October last year, Healey wrote that his abiding memory of that interview was “the unnerving calm of the Prime Minister even as the markets were in full panic mode.” They also spoke to Kwarteng and former PM Boris Johnson, amongst others. Although Truss cooperated with the writers to some extent, Out of the Blue is an objective portrait rather than an authorised biography. It’s the absolute ideal model for a biography of a living person: exclusive access (via multiple interviews with the subject), without sacrificing any editorial independence.

In fact, although both authors are right-of-centre journalists and Cole (political editor of The Sun) reportedly received regular off-the-record briefings from Truss, they are largely critical of her time in office. They describe the mini-budget, for example, as “one of the worst errors of the past 100 years in British policy making.” They even question her integrity, accusing her of a “fatal error—and one that involves a question of honesty”, namely the deliberate downplaying of her planned fiscal reforms.

07 January 2023

Mob 2020–2021


Mob 2020-2021

Supong Jitmuang’s film Mob 2020–2021 will be shown tomorrow at the Hom Theatre, a small corrugated-iron screening space in Uttaradit, one of Thailand’s northern provinces. The documentary was previously shown last year in Bangkok at the 2nd Anniversary of We Volunteer (งานครบรอบ 2 ปีกลุ่ม We Volunteer) exhibition, Moving Images Screening Night (คืนฉายภาพเคลื่อนไหว), and the Kinjai Contemporary gallery.

26 December 2022

The Trump Tapes:
Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump



Bob Woodward interviewed President Donald Trump an unprecedented nineteen times for his book Rage, published in 2020. Woodward has now released his recordings of eighteen of those interviews as an audiobook, The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward's Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump. (One of the Rage interviews was not recorded, though Woodward summarises it based on his contemporaneous notes. A 2016 interview with Trump before the presidential election is also included.)

Trump cooperated extensively with Rage in an attempt to avoid a repeat of Woodward’s previous book, Fear, which was written without his cooperation. (A recording of a phone call, in which Trump blamed his advisor Kellyanne Conway for not passing on Woodward’s initial interview request, was released by The Washington Post in 2018.) In his spoken epilogue, Woodward says: “It is still somewhat of a puzzle to me why he talked to me, and at such length. I think he honestly believed he could talk me into telling the story of his presidency as he would like it to be seen and remembered in history.”

As was the case with Woodward’s Fear, Trump likewise didn’t cooperate with Woodward’s Washington Post colleagues Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig for their book A Very Stable Genius. (He describes them to Woodward as “two sleazebags”, adding for good measure: “Rucker, he’s a sleazebucket. I know him well. He never writes good.”) Yet he did speak to Rucker and Leonnig for their next book, I Alone Can Fix It, just as he spoke to Woodward for Rage. Interestingly, Woodward repeatedly asks Trump, in vain, for a transcript of his February 2020 phone call with Chinese President Xi, though Rucker and Leonnig were seemingly able to obtain it.

Trump’s astonishing indiscretion is immediately apparent from the recordings. As Woodward says at the beginning of his spoken introduction, Trump is “staggeringly incautious,” and this is evident throughout the eleven hours of audio. The interviews were mostly conducted over the phone, often in the evenings when Trump was in his private quarters at the White House, which presumably contributed to the informal nature of the conversations. (There are echoes of the “unsolicited phone calls without presumption of confidentiality” that Trump made to Michael Wolff during the writing of Fire and Fury, though in Woodward’s case he always reminds Trump that he’s recording the calls.)

In his commentary, Woodward also decribes Trump as “at times staggeringly repetitive, as if saying something often and loud enough will make something true.” Maggie Haberman also mentions this tendency—which is a deliberate rhetorical device—in her recent Trump biography, Confidence Man: “He started to explain why he doesn’t like when audiotapes of his interviews are released. Being on camera was “much different,” he said. “Whereas,” he said, in a “written interview, I’ll repeat it twenty times, because I want to drum it into your beautiful brain. Do you understand that?” He repeated himself again.”

Rage was originally intended as a study of Trump’s foreign policy. (Woodward had previously written a similar book on Obama.) But after the coronavirus epidemic began in early 2020, Woodward shifted the focus to Trump’s covid response. Throughout February and March 2020, Trump had publicly insisted that the virus would spontaneously disappear, though on 20th March 2020 he confirmed to Woodward: “This thing is vicious, the most contagious virus anyone’s ever seen.” Even allowing for Trump’s usual exaggerations, that’s a dangerous discrepancy between his public and private statements, and he didn’t publicly admit the severity of the situation until eleven days later.

In Rage, Woodward concluded that President Trump was “the wrong man for the job.” In his epilogue to The Trump Tapes, he acknowledges that that was an understatement: “I realise that I didn’t go far enough. Trump is an unparalleled danger.” The Trump Tapes was released on ten CDs last month, and a book of transcripts, The Trump Tapes: The Historical Record, will be published early next year.

18 December 2022

Kongkraphan


Kongkraphan

Kongkraphan, the new album by artist and musician Pisitakun Kuantalaeng, commemorates the military’s violent suppression of red-shirt demonstrators in 2010. The titles of each of the eight tracks refer to dates on which protesters were shot by the army, and they include samples of audio recorded during the protests. The album title translates as ‘invulnerable’, a reference to the military’s impunity.

The opening track, 10/04/2010, begins with the sound of a protester on 10th April 2010 imploring the soldiers: “Why are you shooting?” The remaining seven tracks cover the final week of the conflict, from 13th to 19th May 2010, with each song representing a different day (13/5/2010, 14/05/2010, 15/05/2010, 16/05/2010, 17/05/2010, 18/05/2010, and 19/05/2010). 13/5/2010 revisits the death of Khattiya Sawasdipol, a former army officer who was shot by a sniper after he joined the red-shirts. A prolonged car horn can be heard in 15/05/2010; the driver was shot, and his head slumped onto the steering wheel, setting off the horn.

Pisitakun previously documented the final week of the massacre in a series of posters and stickers, released as a box set titled Ten Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic] marking the tenth anniversary of the events. His album Absolute Coup was equally political, with each track named after the various institutions that he deemed responsible for laying the groundwork for Thailand’s numerous military coups.

12 December 2022

15th World Film Festival of Bangkok


15th World Film Festival of Bangkok

The 15th World Film Festival of Bangkok (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์โลกแห่งกรุงเทพฯ ครั้งที่ 15) opened on 2nd December, and closed yesterday with an award for veteran Thai New Wave director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and the Thai premiere of Sorayos Prapapan’s Arnold Is a Model Student (อานนเป็นนักเรียนตัวอย่าง). There had been a five-year hiatus since the 14th festival, which was held in 2017.

In his acceptance speech, Apichatpong recalled the Ministry of Culture’s dismissal of his work, and told young directors, in both Thai and English, “don’t give a damn” about such attitudes. Phantoms of Nabua (ผีนาบัว), perhaps Apichatpong’s greatest short film, will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 23rd December as part of the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26).

Kriengsak Silakong, the World Film Festival’s founder and organiser, sadly died earlier this year, and the Lotus award for lifetime achievement has been renamed in his honour. (Kriengsak’s final public appearance was in February this year, when he interviewed Apichatpong at the Thai premiere of Memoria.) Like the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th festivals, this year’s event was held at CentralWorld’s SF World cinema. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.)

Arnold Is a Model Student

Over the past decade, Sorayos has made witty, satirical short films such as Dossier of the Dossier (เอกสารประกอบการตัดสินใจ), Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้), and New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่). He has also dabbled in documentary filmmaking, with Prelude of the Moving Zoo and Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. His debut feature Arnold Is a Model Student combines both of these elements, sharp satire mixed with found footage. The film was conceived in the aftermath of the 2014 coup, when the military’s authority was accepted unquestioningly by large swathes of the population. Eight years later, the film is complete and the junta leader remains in power.

The eponymous Arnold coasts through his final school year, while his classmates rebel against institutional authoritarianism, personified by the matronly teacher Ms Wanee, who tells them: “Know your place and you will be successful.” This somewhat feudalistic attitude persists in wider Thai society, and is inculcated by an education system that encourages conformity. The film’s parody of a traditional instructional video—“How to Behave Elegantly Like a Thai”, in which Ms Wanee teaches students to prostrate before their elders—seems absurd, though it’s based on a real video made by the Ministry of Culture (as seen in the documentary Censor Must Die/เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย).

The film’s high school is a microcosm of Thailand—as in the recent music videos อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน (‘how long is ‘soon’?’) and อนาคตคือ (‘the future is...’)—and the connection to contemporary politics is clear. Arnold attends a REDEM rally, and symbols of state authority are visible throughout the school, from a large portrait of Rama X in the headmaster’s office to the number 112 on a table in the computer lab. (The lèse-majesté law is article 112 of the criminal code.) When the fictional high school students organise a protest, their headmaster orders them back to class. Cut to: documentary footage of water cannon being deployed against anti-government protesters, with riot police shouting “Disperse now!”

02 December 2022

No God No King Only Human



No God No King Only Human, edited and published by Korn Karava, was launched at the 2022 Bangkok Art Book Fair last week. Limited to 500 numbered copies (mine being no. 340), it features photographs of anti-government, pro-reform protests taken over the past two years.

Visually speaking, the protests are inherently photogenic, with swirling tear gas deployed by riot police and fireworks used as projectiles by demonstrators. (Nontawat Numbenchapol’s Thalugaz documentary Rarely Make History includes equally spectacular imagery.) But, as the book reminds us, this is the aesthetics of violence, and other photographs document the impact of rubber bullets fired by the police.

There have been other books with photographs of the protests, such as There’s Always Spring (เมื่อถึงเวลาดอกไม้จะบาน), EBB, and #WhatsHappeningInThailand, all of which are small, slim paperbacks. No God No King Only Human, on the other hand, is a lavish coffee-table book. (It’s the first in a potential series of volumes on the protest movement.)

The title is a slogan adapted from the video game BioShock. (Appropriating popular culture is a notable aspect of the demonstrations, from the three-finger salute taken from The Hunger Games to the Bottom Blues song 12345 I Love You.) The title of Elevenfinger’s CD No God No King Only Humans is based on the same slogan.

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’).

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.