02 October 2022

Wildtype 2022


Wildtype 2022
Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds

Wildtype, a two-day programme of new short films, began yesterday. Like last year’s event, Wildtype 2022 includes a strand dedicated to political documentaries, which is this year titled Politicx. Wildtype, curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, is an offshoot of Sonthaya Subyen’s Filmvirus group.

Politicx begins with Kanyarat Theerakrittayakorn’s Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds (เจริญวิริญาพรมาหาทำใน 3 โลก), a quest to reveal the true identity of the mysterious Viriyaporn Boonprasert, the pseudonymous director whose satirical films have perplexed Thailand’s close-knit cinephile community. There’s no Scooby Doo-style unmasking moment, though plausible suspicions are raised, followed by bemused denials.

Red Poetry: Verse 1
Red's Scar

The most directly political films in Politicx are both named after the pro-democracy red-shirt movement. Supamok Silarak’s Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้) documents the activities (or, in art terms, happenings) of Vitthaya Klangnil and Yotsunthon Ruttapradit, who formed the group Artn’t. The film shows the Thai flag they exhibited, with transparent material in place of the central blue stripe. Vitthaya is also shown carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges they faced. In the heartbreaking Red’s Scar (บาดแผลสีแดง), Nutcha Tantivitayapitak interviews a protester falsely accused of arson following the 2010 massacre. Tragically, his mother and son both died while he was in jail.

Wildtype 2022 runs until 9th October. Politicx was shown yesterday at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok and Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration. It will be shown again on 8th October at Mueang Thong Rama in Phayao and Bookhemian in Phuket.

01 October 2022

“A relentless barrage of highly personal attacks...”


The Mail on Sunday

The long-running BBC1 satirical panel show Have I Got News for You marked the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership with a special episode titled Have I Got News for Boris on 2nd September. The programme recounted Johnson’s numerous scandals (such as unlawfully proroguing parliament and breaking coronavirus pandemic restrictions), though two words in the script—“cosmic cunt”—led to tabloid outrage two days later. The Mail on Sunday’s front-page headline on 4th September was “BBC COMIC’S C-WORD JIBE AGAINST PM”.

The Mail accused presenter Jack Dee of insulting Johnson, though in fact the alliterative pejorative was a quote from The Times, which attributed it to an unnamed cabinet minister in an article published on 9th July. The Mail’s hyperbolic description of the show as “a relentless barrage of highly personal attacks” and “a torrent of ‘spiteful and crass insults’” is an indication of its anti-BBC bias.

Daily Star / The Sun

There have been two previous front-page tabloid headlines about the c-word. On 4th February 2017, The Sun (“BECKS C-WORD FURY AT ‘SIR’ SNUB”) reported a leaked email in which ex-footballer David Beckham called the Honours Committee “unappreciative cunts”. (Beckham had obtained an injunction preventing The Times from publishing the email, though other papers were not bound by it.) On 15th May 2015, the Daily Star (“BEEB CALLS FARAGE C-WORD ON TELLY”) gleefully highlighted a slip of the tongue by journalist Norman Smith, who referred to politician Nigel Farage as a “cunt” rather than a ‘cult’ during a live BBC News TV report.

20 September 2022

16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส


Rap Against Dictatorship

Rap Against Dictatorship released their new single 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส (‘it’s been 16 years, ai sat’) yesterday, on the sixteenth anniversary of the 2006 coup. The title echoes a lyric from another recent single, Long Live the People—“7-8 ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์” (‘it’s been 7-8 years, ai hia’)—and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์ (‘it’s been 4 years, ai hia’) concert. (Ai sat and ai hia are both strong Thai insults.)

In their most famous music video, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), Rap Against Dictatorship recreated an infamous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. For the 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส video, they have recreated the moment when Nuamthong Praiwan crashed his taxi into a tank to protest against the coup. The song is dedicated to Nuamthong, as was the documentary Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย เรื่องเศร้าของลุงนวมทอง), and the video includes extracts from his suicide note, as does the short film Letter from the Silence (จดหมายจากความเงียบ).

The 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส music video also features archive footage of some of the major political events of the past sixteen years, including the Ratchaprasong massacre, the announcement of the 2014 coup, and a Harry Potter-themed monarchy-reform protest. Young Ohm’s single Bangkok Legacy (บางกอก เลกาซี่) also includes a reference to the Ratchaprasong massacre: “คงแยกไม่ออก ระหว่างทหารกับฆาตกร” (‘there is no distinction between soldiers and murderers’).

16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส features guest vocals by Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, whose single 12345 I Love You has become an anthem of the anti-government protest movement. Footage of the recent protests also appears in two previous Rap Against Dictatorship music videos, Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า)—which references Chaiamorn in its lyrics—and Reform (ปฏิรูป).

12 September 2022

Silhouette of Memory


Silhouette of Memory Silhouette of Memory

Pornchai Lerdthamsiri’s Silhouette of Memory (เงาภาพ) features oil and watercolour paintings spanning the last sixteen years of Thai politics, from the 2006 coup onwards. The exhibition is at Kinjai Contemporary in Bangkok from 2nd to 17th September. (The gallery is also home to the Museum of Popular History, a collection of memorabilia and ephemera from contemporary Thai politics.)

Pornchai illustrates the resurgence of the yellow-shirt movement and their occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008, and the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of PM Samak Sundaravej that same year, though his main focus is the red-shirt protests. He captures the optimism of the red-shirt rallies in the first few months of 2010, followed by their violent suppression by the military. In one painting, soldiers are shown firing from the SkyTrain platform at wounded civilians sheltering at Wat Pathum Wanaram. (Wittawat Tongkeaw’s painting Interregnum/สิ้นสุดพุทธาวาส was also inspired by the Wat Pathum Wanaram incident.)

Silhouette of Memory Silhouette of Memory

Alongside these older works in oil are fifty new watercolour paintings documenting the recent student protests against Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government. Whereas other artists—including Wittawat, Lucky Leg, Tawan Wattuya, and Jirapatt Aungsumalee—have painted portraits of individual protest leaders, Pornchai’s watercolours show the protesters en masse. He also depicts the use of water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse the protests.

11 September 2022

“I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep...”


Sheep Village

Five publishers of children’s picture books were each given nineteen-month prison sentences in Hong Kong yesterday. They had been held in custody since their arrest more than a year ago, and were all convicted of sedition after a two-month trial. The defendants were members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, which has since been disbanded. They had published three books about a ‘sheep village’ (羊村) facing attack by wolves, a metaphor for China’s dominance over Hong Kong.

One of the titles, 羊村守衛者 (‘guardians of sheep village’), is an allegory of Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests. Another, 羊村十二勇士 (‘twelve warriors of sheep village’), refers to a dozen Hong Kongers who were arrested in 2020 when they attempted to escape into exile by speedboat. The last book in the series, 羊村清道夫 (‘the cleaners of sheep village’), is a reference to medical workers who went on strike in an attempt to force Hong Kong to close its border with China at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

District Court Judge Kwok Wai Kin condemned the publishers for what he described as “a brain-washing exercise with a view to guiding the very young children to accept their views and values”. The defendants—Man-ling Lai, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan, Tsz-ho Fong, and Melody Yeung—had all pleaded not guilty, and Yeung said in court: “My only regret is I couldn’t publish more picture books before getting arrested.” Referring to the political analogy in the books, she added: “I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep.”

22 August 2022

ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า


CD

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า EP was released on CD by t_047 last year. The title track, which was also released as a single, translates as ‘no one in the sky’, and in Thailand the sky is often used as a metaphor for the monarchy. The lyrics also criticise “people who claim to be deities which I find so lame”. But, perhaps to avoid accusations of lèse-majesté, the band added a disclaimer on their YouTube channel: “ไม่ได้มีเจตนาเพื่อโจมตีบุคคลใดบุคคลหนึ่ง แต่มีความตั้งใจตักเตือนบุคคลหลายกลุ่ม ที่ตั้งตนสูงส่งกว่าสามัญชนคนธรรมดา” (‘it was not intended to attack any individual, but with the intention of admonishing many groups who elevate themselves above ordinary people’).

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า music video features footage of riot police deploying water cannon against anti-government protesters. The EP also includes ความฝันยามรุ่งสาง (‘dreaming at dawn’), which was one of several singles released on the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

15 August 2022

Uninspired by Current Events:
Sorry Stories


Uninspired by Current Events

Saratta Chuengsatiansup, the artist behind the Uninspired by Current Events page on Facebook, has released a book of his work. Uninspired by Current Events: Sorry Stories reproduces some of the digital artworks he has been posting daily since last year, alongside a handful of new images.

Despite the ironic disclaimer in its title, Uninspired by Current Events provides a topical, satirical commentary on Thai news and politics. The book also features short poems, in both English and Thai, to accompany each illustration, and the poetry is as sharp and subversive as the images themselves.

14 August 2022

WeVo


WeVo

An exhibition in Bangkok yesterday and today marked two years since the formation of WeVo (We Volunteer), a group of volunteer guards who provide protection for protesters at anti-government rallies. The guards, led by Piyarat Chongthep, have previously been labelled agitators, and they were accused of using violent tactics—throwing firecrackers and other projectiles—to repel riot police (on 28th February last year, for example).

The 2nd Anniversary of We Volunteer (งานครบรอบ 2 ปีกลุ่ม We Volunteer) exhibition was held at the Jam Factory. Rubber bullets fired by riot police were on display, as was the mock guillotine previously seen at Democracy Monument on 18th July last year. Supong Jitmuang’s documentary Mob 2020-2021 was shown at the event yesterday.

12 August 2022

Quote of the day...


Quote of the day

“Prayut will respect the court’s opinions because he has never thought of himself as being above the law.”
— Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana

Today sees the resurrection of Dateline Bangkok’s ‘quote of the day’ feature, an occasional series of I-can’t-believe-they-said-that quotes from Thailand. A government spokesman was quoted by the Bangkok Post newspaper today, assuring Prayut Chan-o-cha’s critics that the Prime Minister “has never thought of himself as being above the law.” This is, to say the least, somewhat ironic given Prayut’s role as leader of the junta that overthrew an elected government in 2014.

Prayut himself has provided two previous quotes of the day: he claimed that “we respect democracy” barely a fortnight after his coup, and he admitted that the army still used GT200 devices three years after they were exposed as a hoax. Other quotes of the day from yesteryear: a PAD leader said that Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admitted to violating the Computer Crime Act, Suthep Thaugsuban hypocritically condemned protesters for blocking roads, an Election Commission spokesman claimed that an election would lead to a coup, and a Ministry of Culture official dismissed the work of Thailand’s most acclaimed filmmaker.

02 July 2022

Mob 2020-2021


Moving Images Screening Night

Mob 2020-2021

The third Moving Images Screening Night (คืนฉายภาพเคลื่อนไหว) took place at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok on 30th June. (The first Moving Images Screening Night, on 28th April, featured Jittarin Wuthiphan’s powerful short film Still on My Mind, his record of a mob in Phuket attacking a man they accused of disrespecting King Rama IX. The second event, on 25th May, included Suwaporn Worrasit’s Ratchadamnoen Route View 2482+.) Each screening is divided into two themed programmes, which for the third event were Eclipse and Lucid Memory.

The highlight of the evening was Supong Jitmuang’s Mob 2020-2021, a chronicle of the current student protest movement. Supong told me that the film is “handmade”, emphasising the intricate nature of this two-hour documentary. Audience members received a Moving Images Screening Night brochure (Phase 01: Program Book), which the organisers also describe as “handmade”: a zine-style publication with a limited print run. Mob 2020-2021 postcards were also available.

Mob 2020-2021 covers the first twelve months of the anti-government protest movement. Supong and his camera were at Thammasat University on 19th September 2020, for the overnight rally that later occupied Sanam Luang. On 14th October 2020, he filmed the march to Government House, after which a state of emergency was declared. On 17th November 2020, he was on the front line when protesters used inflatable ducks to protect themselves from water cannon fired by riot police. (Sorayos Prapapan’s short film Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship documents the same event.)

The protests intensified last summer, and Mob 2020-2021 shows the rally at Democracy Monument on 18th July 2021 marking the first anniversary of the anti-government campaign. Last August, there were almost daily confrontations between riot police and protesters, but rather than filming each event, Supong summarises them in a general written caption noting the “multiple continuous clashes that lasted many weeks” (Hopefully, the ongoing Sound of ‘Din’ Daeng documentary series will cover this period, and the violent tactics employed by the riot police, in more detail.)

The closest equivalent to Mob 2020-2021 is probably Ing Kanjanavanit’s Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์) though, of course, the two directors are from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Two renditions of Do You Hear the People Sing? in Mob 2020-2021, for example, serve as a counterpoint to Bangkok Joyride’s fetishisation of the national anthem. Bangkok Joyride and Mob 2020-2021 both provide an exhaustive record of street politics, though Mob 2020-2021 is a more objective account.

Mob 2020-2021 is the first feature-length documentary covering the recent protest movement. (The only other example, The Evil of Time’s Growth, focuses solely on the Thalufah group.) It’s an invaluable record of a profound social and political change in Thailand. Supong’s film also includes a written timeline of the protests, and its matter-of-fact neutrality is maintained throughout, except for a single reference to the “parasitic” government.

21 June 2022

ลุกไหม้สิ! ซิการ์



ลุกไหม้สิ! ซิการ์ (‘burning cigar!’), a short collection of poems written anonymously by ‘Chatchon’ in 2010 and 2020, offers a literary commentary on Thailand’s political protests. The bulk of the poems are reflections on the red-shirt rallies that culminated in the May 2010 military massacre. Uneducated People! highlights the condescension aimed at the pro-democracy movement by the rival yellow-shirts. ความสงสัย (‘doubtfulness’) addresses the killing of protesters on 10th April 2010 (an event also memorialised by Tawan Wattuya’s Amnesia and Parinot Kunakornwong’s 10th April). เด็กหนุ่มในบทกวี (‘the boy in the poem’) is a remembrance of the final week of the 2010 massacre (as was Pisitakun Kuantalaeng’s installation Ten Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic]).

Similarly, the poems written in 2020 address the student-led protest groups that have formed over the last two years. One poem is dedicated to Arnon Nampa, one of the protest leaders, who is himself a poet. Another is titled เก่งมาก กล้ามาก ขอบใจ (‘very good, very brave, thank you’), clearly evoking a comment made by the King to one of his supporters during a walkabout on 23rd October 2020—“กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ” (‘very brave, very good, thank you’)—which is also the title of a song by Paeng Surachet. This poem also quotes the protest chant “1 2 3 4 5 I Hear Too”, a pun on the Bottom Blues single 12345 I Love You. (“I Hear Too” is a homophone for ‘ai hia Tu’, an insult directed at Prayut Chan-o-cha.)

18 June 2022

Pääministerin morsian



Matti Vanhanen, Prime Minister of Finland from 2003 to 2010, was largely seen as rather bland during his two terms in office. That reputation was briefly tested when a book by his former girlfriend, a caterer called Susan Kuronen, was published in 2007.

There was nothing scandalous about Vanhanen’s relationship with Kuronen—he and his wife were already divorced—so her somewhat tawdry kiss-and-tell book, Pääministerin morsian (‘the Prime Minister’s bride’), had no real public-interest defence. In fact, more than 50,000 Finns signed a petition calling on bookshops to refuse to stock it.

Vanhanen sued the publisher for invasion of privacy, as the book included personal text messages he had sent to Kuronen during their relationship. He sought $1,450 in damages (plus $83,200 in royalties and profits), and initially lost the case, though he won on appeal, a decision upheld by Finland’s Supreme Court in 2010. Kuronen lost her appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, seven years after Vanhanen’s lawsuit was first filed.

Boiled Angels

The case has interesting parallels with former UK prime minister John Major. Like Vanhanen, Major was perceived as grey and dull (a reputation caricatured by Spitting Image), and he also sued over reports of an alleged affair with a caterer. In that case, however, the allegation was false, though Major was having an affair with one of his ministers, Edwina Currie, at the time.

12 June 2022

เดินไล่ตู่


Voice TV

Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters in Bangkok yesterday, in the first clashes between police and protesters this year. A few hundred people marched from Democracy Monument to Victory Monument yesterday afternoon, in an event promoted online as เดินไล่ตู่ (‘march to remove Tu’, a reference to Prime Minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha).

Most of the protesters had dispersed by the early evening, though some stragglers (a hard core of around fifty people) attempted to make their way to the PM’s residence at the military barracks on Viphavadi Rangsit Road. They threw fireworks and other projectiles at riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. A police pickup truck was also set alight.

Last night’s events were an echo of similar clashes that took place on multiple occasions last year, including almost daily street battles at Viphavadi Rangsit Road last August. Police fired rubber bullets against anti-Prayut protesters on 28th February; 20th March; 2nd May; 18th July; 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 15th August; and 14th November 2021.

26 May 2022

สงครามเย็น (ใน)ระหว่าง โบว์ขาว



Kanokrat Lertchoosakul’s book สงครามเย็น (ใน)ระหว่าง โบว์ขาว (‘the Cold War (in)between the white bow’), published last year, examines the roles of successive generations in the current Thai political protest movement. Kanokrat argues that the present government, which came to power in a military coup, is a remnant of the Cold War era, when authoritarianism was accepted by society at large. (Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul discusses this older generation’s submissive attitude in Thai Cinema Uncensored: “disruption of the flow and unity is a really big deal. Like my Mum... she is in the generation of Sarit [Thanarat], all these people who were very powerful.”) On the other hand, today’s students are much less tolerant of Thailand’s top-down culture, and in 2020 the Free Youth anti-government group encouraged high school students to wear white ribbons as a symbol of resistance.

What’s most remarkable about the book is its inclusion (on page 57) of the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) front page that sparked the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The newspaper falsely accused Thammasat University students of lèse-majesté, and vigilantes stormed the campus.) For more than thirty years, there was an unspoken prohibition against reproducing Dao Siam’s incendiary headline and photo. Sarakadee (สำรคดี) magazine broke the taboo in its June 2012 issue, though other publications have only recently followed suit. The front page has appeared in only three other books, all published within the last three years: 45 ปี 6 (‘45 years of 6th Oct.’), Prism of Photography (ปริซึมของภาพถ่าย), and Moments of Silence. Heavily obscured by overpainting, it’s also part of Thasnai Sethaseree’s new Cold War exhibition at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai.

22 May 2022

Lost, and Life Goes On


Lost, and Life Goes On
Lost, and Life Goes On

Amnesty International Thailand has organised a new exhibition commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of ‘Black May’, the massacre of anti-coup protesters that took place in Bangkok in 1992. Chamlong Srimuang led a crowd of more than 200,000 protesters at Sanam Luang on 17th May 1992, and the following morning the army fired live rounds into the crowd. The protest spread to Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, and the nearby Royal Hotel became a field hospital for the injured. After two more days of clashes, King Rama IX held a televised meeting with Chamlong and coup leader Suchinda Kraprayoon, after which Suchinda resigned as Prime Minister. This was the King’s most direct public intervention in politics, and footage of the two men kneeling in front of him created the impression that royal authority superseded political leadership.

The official death toll from ‘Black May’ was fifty-two, though there were persistent rumours of dozens more bodies piled into military trucks in the dead of night. (Such accounts are at the heart of Emma Larkin’s novel Comrade Aeon’s Field Guide to Bangkok.) The exhibition Lost, and Life Goes On (เลือนแต่ไม่ลืม), which opened yesterday at Palette Artspace in Bangkok, focuses on these missing victims who remain unaccounted for. In a video installation by Setthasiri Chanjaradpong, สุดปลายสาย (‘the end of the line’), a woman phones a suspected victim who never answers the call. The video periodically shows a live feed from a camera in the gallery, as if to say that anyone could disappear, as Thailand is still ruled by a coup leader.

Remember
Unexpected, Unfound, Unclear

The exhibition, which runs until 29th May, also includes a series of three Risograph prints by Thisismjtp: Unexpected (a reference to the violence of ‘Black May’), Unfound (referring to the missing victims), and Unclear (the state of limbo that still exists thirty years later). There are also portraits of eighteen victims by Thai Political Tarot (collectively titled Remember), newspapers from the period, and paintings based on news photographs. The opening day saw the premiere of a new half-hour documentary directed by Sumeth Suwanneth (also titled Lost, and Life Goes On), featuring interviews with relatives of victims of the massacre.

The only previous exhibition on ‘Black May’, Ratchadamnoen Memory (organised by the Campaign for Popular Democracy, and held at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel), took place a few months after the event. Audio recordings of the massacre were played during the recent Traces of Ratchadamnoen (ล่องรอยราชดำเนิน) exhibition. Vasan Sitthiket’s painting Death for Democracy 1992 (ตายเพื่อประชาธิปไตย 2535) was included in his BACC retrospective, and สร้างสาน ตำนานศิลป์ 20 ปี (‘creating a chronicle of 20 years of Thai art’) features other paintings inspired by the massacre.

08 May 2022

The Evil of Time's Growth


The Evil of Time's Growth

The Evil of Time’s Growth, a feature-length documentary marking the first anniversary of the Thalufah anti-government protest group, was screened at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok yesterday. It’s now available on the group’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The documentary, which is more than 2½ hours long, includes footage of Thalufah marches and demonstrations filmed throughout last year, and interviews with group members and supporters. The most violent incidents from the protests—rubber bullets fired by riot police, and arson by demonstrators—are not included.

Thalufah was founded by Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, and his interview was filmed in front of a large painting by Lucky Leg, which the artist donated to the group. The film was shown as part of The Battle Wound of Thalufah, an exhibition organised by the group, which opened on 31st March. Thalufah previously organised the Specter exhibition, which was later expanded. Rap Against Dictatorship’s single Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า) was a tribute to the group, as was the zine Break Through published last year.

[The Evil of Time’s Growth’s Thai title, การเติบโตของปีศาจแห่งการเวลา, is the direct equivalent of the English version, and includes the Thai word ปีศาจ (‘evil spirit’). But when promoting the film, Cartel Artspace replaced the letter with , a typo that changed the word’s meaning to ‘court’. In the English title, Growth is stylised as “GROIIITH”, a reference to the three-finger salute adopted by the protest movement.]

23 April 2022

Deep South


Deep South Deep South

The group exhibition Deep South (ลึกลงไป ใต้ชายแดน) opened at VS Gallery in Bangkok on 31st March, and runs until 11th June. Like the landmark Patani Semasa (ปาตานี ร่วมสมัย) exhibition and catalogue, Deep South aims to destigmatise Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat: in the exhibition brochure, curator Anuwat Apimukmongkon notes that many Bangkokians “dare not visit these cursed areas,” due to the ongoing separatist insurgency. In addition to paintings and installations by seven artists, the exhibition also features five news photographs of the 2004 Tak Bai incident, tinted red and displayed on the walls, floor, and ceiling.

Deep South Deep South

More than eighty protesters were killed at Tak Bai, most of whom died of suffocation after being crammed into military trucks. Video footage of the massacre was banned from television by Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Prime Minister at the time. Defying the ban, the journal Same Sky (ฟ้าเดียวกัน) distributed a VCD of Tak Bai footage, and this inspired Thunska Pansittivorakul to direct his political documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน). As he told me in an interview for my book Thai Cinema Uncensored: “Something happened in that VCD that touched me, the first time that I watched it. It’s something that I never knew from other media.”

Deep South Deep South

Other artists have also created works commemorating the events of Tak Bai. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Photophobia incorporates press photographs of the incident, as does Black Air by Pimpaka Towira, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Koichi Shimizu, and Jakrawal Nilthamrong. In Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh’s Violence in Tak Bai (ความรุนแรงที่ตากใบ), white tombstones mark the graves of each victim. Jakkhai Siributr’s 78 and Zakariya Amataya’s Report from a Partitioned Village (รายงานจากหมู่บ้านที่ถูกปิดล้อม) both include lists of the victims’ names.

16 April 2022

The Battle Wound of Thalufah


The Battle Wound
The Battle Wound
The Battle Wound

The protest group Thalufah organised demonstrations near Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence on Vipavadee Rangsit Road last year. The Battle Wound of Thalufah, a new exhibition at Cartel Artspace in Bangkok, features t-shirts worn by the protesters and art installations created by the group. One of the t-shirts appears to be bloodstained, and gas masks are also on display—visible reminders that riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas against the demonstrators. (Similarly, Sirawith Seritiwat’s bloodstained shirt was shown along with anti-government t-shirts at the Never Again exhibition in 2019.)

Thalufah was founded by Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who has been convicted of lèse-majesté (article 112), and the exhibition features t-shirts with various anti-112 slogans. (A similarly uncompromising slogan also appears as graffiti in the photobook EBB by BEKOS.) In one corner, a television is tuned to channel 10, though it has no signal. Next to it are reproductions of a poster from The X Files, modified with screengrabs from a leaked video (which was also referenced in Nawat Lertsawaengkit’s painting Yellow! and Badmixy’s music video Next Love).

Behind a curtain, the two-minute video Sadistic Patriot plays on a loop, intercutting TV news footage of the military at a state occasion with hardcore clips from online pornography. A card on the wall explains that, while the state demands respect for Thailand’s tripartite motto, there is no reciprocation. According to Thalufah, this results in a coercive relationship between people and state, and “เป็นเหมือน Sex ที่เจ็บปวด” (‘it’s like painful sex’), hence the porn clips. (Thunska Pansittivorakul has also used porn as political satire, in films such as Santikhiri Sonata/สันติคีรี โซนาตา.)

Thalufah previously organised the Specter exhibition, which was later expanded. The Battle Wound of Thalufah opened on 31st March, and was originally scheduled to close on 30th April, though the event has now been extended. A feature-length documentary made by Thalufah, The Evil of Time’s Growth (การเติบโตของปีศาจแห่งการเวลา), will be shown at the gallery and streamed online via Facebook and YouTube on 7th May.

05 April 2022

“Pictures too horrific to print...”


The Times

For the first time, some UK newspapers have published photographs of casualties of the war in Ukraine, after bodies were discovered lying in the streets of Bucha. The area was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last week, though war photographers discovered evidence that Russian troops had killed hundreds of civilians, some of whom were also subjected to torture.

The first image from Bucha was published yesterday by The Sunday Times: a photograph by Ronaldo Schemidt of a dead man, lying face down, his hands tied behind his back. Images of other casualties, their hands similarly tied, appear today in the Irish Independent and The Times. Today’s Daily Mail prints a graphic close-up of a dead man’s bound hands.

The most widely reproduced image, taken by Schemidt, shows several bodies lying on their sides in the middle of the road. It appears on the front page of The Times today, and on the inside pages of The Daily Telegraph. The Financial Times front page shows a different view of the same scene, also taken by Schemidt. Picture editors must balance the instinct to reflect the reality of war with the sensitivites of their readers, and today’s Metro describes the Bucha photographs as “pictures too horrific to print”.

Previous wars have led to similar editorial dilemmas. A photo by Ken Jarecke of an Iraqi soldier’s charred body was rejected by all newspapers except The Observer (which printed it on 10th March 1991), and during the second Iraq war “a gruesome image of a young child’s head split open” was the subject of much debate in the media before finally being printed by The Guardian (on 28th March 2003). Following the 9/11 attack in 2001, the US media all agreed to avoid publishing any images of the victims—except the New York Daily News, which printed an image of a severed hand taken by Todd Maisel.

30 March 2022

#รัฐบาลเผด็จการ


Same Sky

Thai police have ordered Same Sky Books to remove a banner from its booth at the National Book Fair. The banner reproduced various anti-government social media hashtags, and the police singled out #รัฐบาลเผด็จการ (‘dictatorial government’) as particularly unacceptable.

The cloth banner, suspended from the ceiling, had been on display since the Book Fair opened at Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok on 26th March. The police asked Same Sky to remove it two days later. After some negotiation, the publisher reversed the banner yesterday, making the text unreadable and highlighting the act of censorship.

Ironically, of course, the authoritarian police action demonstrates the accuracy of the hashtag under dispute. Police also visited Same Sky’s booth at the 2014 Book Fair, forcing them to remove three t-shirts from sale. This year’s Book Fair runs until 6th April.