20 October 2022

“ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง...”


I Will Survive

Charges against five musicians were filed with Thai police on the same day, 27th September. Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former MP from the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party, accused four singers of violating the Computer Crime Act after videos of their concert were uploaded online. And the royalist King Protection Group filed a lèse-majesté charge against rapper P9D in relation to one of his songs.

Pramote Prathan (known as Oat), Pongkool Suebsung (Pop), Pongsak Rattanaphong (Aof), and Thanakrit Panitchwit (Wan) performed together at the I Will Survive (4 แยกปากหวาน ตอน) concert on 17th September at Royal Paragon Hall in Bangkok. Coincidentally, this was the same venue at which comedian Udom Taephanich held his Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13) show, which was also the subject of a recent police complaint.

Sonthiya accused the four singers of publishing inaccurate or misleading information online, which would be a violation of the Computer Crime Act. He cited lyrics such as “ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง” (‘our country is about to collapse’), “แปดปี ไม่มีความหมาย” (‘eight pointless years’, describing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s time in office), and “นาฬิกายังไม่คืน” (‘the watches have not been returned’, a reference to deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan’s claim that his luxury watches were merely borrowed from a friend).

On the same day, the King Protection Group filed a police complaint against P9D, alleging that his song Kuay Rai A (ควยไรอะ) violated the lèse-majesté law. The pressure group intentionally avoided naming the track, hoping to prevent the ‘Streisand effect’ whereby censorship paradoxically draws more attention to the forbidden material. This was unnecessary, though, as the rapper—mindful of the severity of lèse-majesté sentences—has since deleted it from all social media and online music sites.

18 October 2022

Deaw 13


Deaw 13

Udom Taephanich, the popular stand-up comedian, is under investigation today after a pro-government campaigner filed criminal charges against him. Udom ended his Netflix comedy special Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13), released on 11th October, with a mildly satirical routine about PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Srisuwan Janya, head of the ultra-conservative Constitution Protection Association pressure group, accused Udom of endangering national security by encouraging his audience to join the recent anti-government protests. When he filed the charges at the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok today, he was kicked and punched by a red-shirt supporter.

Srisuwan has been called “Thailand’s complainer-in-chief”, and Udom began his show with a comment on the campaigner’s love of the media spotlight. The live show was filmed while some coronavirus restrictions were still in place, and Udom joked that he was happy to be back on stage: “I’ve been craving this. Now I understand how Srisuwan Janya feels.”

Srisuwan Janya

After comparing Prayut and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, to unqualified pilots, Udom suggested that they should resign: “both of you, the pilot and copilot, please eject yourselves from the plane.” Noticing that one man in the audience was not clapping, Udom asked him if he was a soldier, and—ironically, given today’s events—told him: “Don’t report me, okay?”

Udom is not especially known for political satire, and Thai comedy generally tends to be more slapstick than satirical, perhaps to avoid charges of defamation, which is a criminal offence under Thai law. But a Prayut lookalike did appear in Udom’s spoof music video Sud-Swing Ringo Eto Bump (สุดสวิงริงโก้อีโต้บั๊มพ์).

17 October 2022

Ad Carabao


Yuenyong Opakul / Natthapat Suwanprateep

Yuenyong Opakul, better known as Ad Carabao, is facing a defamation charge after insulting the governor of Suphan Buri. Yuenyong, a veteran singer/songwriter and founder member of the iconic ‘songs for life’ band Carabao, is Thailand’s most famous rock star.

While playing a concert at a birthday party in the Song Phi Nong district of Suphan Buri on 12th October, Yuengyong criticised governor Natthapat Suwanprateep, who was in the audience as a guest at the party. Calling the governor “ai sat” (a strong insult), the singer complained that he had been denied permission to perform at the annual Don Chedi Royal Monument fair earlier this year.

The governor has since issued a video statement, saying that Suphan Buri had been subject to coronavirus restrictions at the time of the fair, which prevented large public performances. Yuengyong apologised via a written statement on Carabao’s Facebook page two days ago: “จึงขอกราบขออภัยท่านผู้ว่าฯ... ส่วนเรื่องคดีความผมพร้อมอ้าแขนรับความ” (‘I apologise to the governor... regarding a lawsuit, I am ready to face the charges’). Natthapat yesterday filed a criminal defamation charge against the singer, and police are currently investigating.

15 October 2022

ตุลาประชาชน


Mirror Foundation

Last year, the Ministry of Education investigated a series of eight children’s picture books on the specious grounds that they contained “distortion that incites youths to be led astray.” One of the books was seized by police from a public library. Now, the series has been expanded, with a new set of eight titles under the theme of ตุลาประชาชน (‘October people’) published by the Mirror Foundation.

As before, the books introduce young children to progressive political and social issues. A Life (ชีวิตเล็กๆ เด็กชายวาฤทธิ์ สมน้อย), illustrated by Phetladda Kaeochin, describes the childhood of Warit Somnoi, a fifteen-year-old who tragically died after being hit by a live bullet at an anti-government protest. The Folding Chair Stars (ดาว เก้าอี้), illustrated by Ting Chu and We Are All Human (เราล้วนคือคน), illustrated by Summer Panadd both tell the story of the 6th October 1976 massacre, albeit in a child-friendly way. The latter, co-written by Jinglebell, also features the new generation of student protesters such as Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul. (All three books were written by the same author, under the pseudonym สองขา, meaning ‘two legs’.) Another—Where Have You Gone? (พี่หนูอยู่ที่ไหน), written by สาริน (‘Sarin’) and illustrated by Koobta—is about a young son whose brother was killed in the massacre.

The other books in the new series are: H Is for Hope: The ABC of Democracy (a milder version of PrachathipaType’s แบบเรียนพยัญชนะไทย/‘Thai consonant textbook’), Arkong’s Tale (อ อากง; a biography of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died in jail while serving a twenty-year sentence for lèse-majesté), A Day with Grandma (ยายลี มีหมา แมว มด ลิง และขุนทอง), and See You Later (แล้วเราจะพบกันใหม่). They are similar to the ‘sheep village’ (羊村) books released in Hong Kong last year, though ominously the publishers of those titles were jailed last month.

14 October 2022

6 Oct:
Facing Demons


6 Oct

Last year, Thammasat University cancelled the annual exhibition commemorating the 6th October 1976 massacre, so the organisers created a ‘museum in a box’. This year, Thammasat’s football pitch was mysteriously fenced off on the anniversary of the massacre, and the commemoration is taking place at the Kinjai Contemporary gallery in Bangkok instead.

Kinjai’s photography exhibition 6 Oct: Facing Demons (6 ตุลา เผชิญหน้าปิศาจ) is comprised almost entirely of previously unpublished news photographs of the massacre. This is refreshing, as it expands the historical record beyond the limited set of images that usually represent the event. Thus, Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of a hanging man—which has arguably become a cliché—is not included in 6 Oct. In its place is another powerful, award-winning image, though one that’s much less known: a Village Scout hammering a wooden stake into a dead student’s body, photographed by Preecha Karnsompot.

Also, the 6 Oct archive photographs have all been enlarged and restored. Again, this is a significant development, as images of the massacre are usually poorly-reproduced prints. (When Preecha’s photograph was published in a book by the Thai Journalists Association—๔ทศวรรษภาพข่าว/‘four decades of Thai photojournalism’—the editors lamented that the images had to be sourced from reproductions.) The enlargements reveal previously hidden elements, which become new focal points (or what Roland Barthes called ‘punctums’), hence the exhibition’s strapline: ‘the devil is in the details’.

6 Oct 6 Oct
6 Oct 6 Oct

This is also an unusually provocative exhibition. A photograph of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X) at a Village Scout meeting is captioned “the King of Thai Politics”, implying a royal intervention. On an adjacent wall, an image of the massacre is juxtaposed with a photograph of the 2010 military crackdown, indicating that the cycle of Thai state violence continues. Also, the taboo against showing the front page of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) is now a thing of the past, as a reproduction of the newspaper is displayed on the street outside the gallery.

Continuing the themes of media and propaganda explored by Thasnai Sethaseree in Cold War, the exhibition brochure is designed to resemble a broadsheet newspaper. Chulayarnnon Siriphol has directed six short videos on different aspects of the exhibition, and a longer documentary titled ชวนอ่านภาพ 6 ตุลา (‘invitation to read images of 6th October’) in which Octobrists and current students interpret the photographs in the exhibition. 6 Oct opened on 1st October, and runs until 20th November (a week after the original closing date).

12 October 2022

Cold War:
The Mysterious


Cold War

Thasnai Sethaseree’s stunning exhibition Cold War: The Mysterious examines Thai politics and media in the Cold War era, focusing particularly on state suppression of the Communist insurgency in the 1970s. Thasnai has created a series of untitled paper collages, based on press photographs of the period, densely overlaid and partially obscured by brightly coloured paint.

For his Remembrance, 6 October 1976 series, he painted individual portraits of Manas Siansing, Watchari Petchsun, and other victims of the Thammasat University massacre. A painting of red droplets, symbolising blood, also commemorates the massacre.

Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Remembrance, 6 October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 RPropaganda Through Media

For the Dismantle (ปลด) group exhibition last year, Thasnai created collages of newspaper front pages dated 5th October 1976, the day before the Thammasat massacre. One of those works is included in Cold War, alongside seven collages of newspaper front pages dated 6th October 1976 (in a series titled Propaganda Through Media).

Most of the papers published on that day—เสียง ปวงชน (‘people’s voice’), ชาวไทย (‘people of Thailand’), Daily News (เดลินิวส์), Bangkok Daily Time (บางกอกเดลิไทม์), and Bangkok Post—were printed before the massacre began, though one title—Siam Rath (สยามรัฐ) managed to print a late edition that included coverage of the event. Infamously, it was the headline in that morning’s edition of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) that lit the touchpaper and provoked the massacre.

6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976
6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media

Cold War opened at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai on 12th March, and runs until Valentine’s Day 2023. This year, the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok has held a series of exhibitions on the Cold War, beginning with Future Tense.

11 October 2022

Nostalgia


Nostalgia

In Weerapat Sakolvaree’s new short film Nostalgia, a young man discovers that, whenever he fires a shooting-star toy into the sky, he becomes receptive to sounds that regress progressively further into Bangkok’s violent past. Like Chris Marker’s La jetée (‘the jetty’), the ironically-titled Nostalgia is comprised of a series of still photographs, though it also includes archive newsreel footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

Standing at the roadside in Din Daeng, the protagonist hears “fireworks and a lot of motorcycles.” These are sounds of the clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police that took place there last August. (Police fired rubber bullets at protesters on 10th, 11th, 13th, and 15th August 2021.) At Siam Square, he hears the sound of riot police deploying water cannon against protesters on 16th October 2020. At Lumpini Park, the sound of the 19th May 2010 military crackdown fills his ears, followed by the ‘Black May’ 1992 massacre at Democracy Monument, and the 6th October 1976 massacre at Thammasat University.

These locations are, to use the Dutch artist Armando’s term, ‘guilty landscapes’: silent witnesses to past traumas. Like the origami bird in Panya Zhu’s White Bird (นกตัวนั้นยังสบายดีไหม), the toy in Nostalgia is a conduit for sonic echoes of historical violence, which form an audio collage in Weerapat’s film. Nostalgia is also similar to Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), which likewise revisits Bangkok’s ‘guilty landscapes’. Nostalgia and Re-presentation both end with shots of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, hinting at the established hierarchies underlying Thai politics. In Nostalgia, the Throne Hall is seen from behind iron railings, a reminder that the building was closed to the public by royal decree.

Nostalgia was one of the standout films from this month’s Wildtype 2022 screening programme, shown as part of the Angry Young Citizen strand. It was screened at four venues on 1st October: Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, Lorem Ipsum in Hat Yai, and the Khon Kaen branch of TCDC. It was also shown at Bookhemian in Phuket on 8th October.

Movie Night at One Nimman


Movie Night at One Nimman Movie Night at One Nimman

A season of outdoor film screenings is being held at One Nimman in Chiang Mai, with classic Thai films projected in 35mm every Wednesday evening. Movie Night at One Nimman (เชียงใหม่ กลางแปลง) began on 21st September with Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Monrak Transistor (มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์). Of the films already scheduled, the highlight is Wisit Sasanatieng’s Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร), screening on 26th October.

Wisit’s Citizen Dog (หมานคร) and Nonzee Nimibutr’s Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters [sic] (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง) will also be shown, when the season continues next month. Monrak Transistor and Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters were both also included in the recent กรุงเทพ กลางแปลง (‘Bangkok open air’) season.

10 October 2022

“A serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting...”


CNN

Two CNN journalists were deported from Thailand today, after being accused of trespassing, unethical reporting, and working without permission. They had entered a nursery in Nong Bua Lamphu and filmed the aftermath of a killing spree that had taken place there two days earlier.

On Thursday, a former police officer, Panya Khamrab, stabbed twenty-four toddlers to death at the nursery. CNN reporter Anna Coren and cameraman Daniel Hodge entered the building on Saturday, filming unsupervised at a crime scene that had been cordoned off by police. In her report, Coren described, and Hodge filmed, “the bloodstains splattered across the floor.” (CNN has since deleted the video from its website.)

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand took the unusual step of issuing a statement strongly criticising the CNN journalists, describing their actions as “unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting.” In its initial response to this and other criticism, CNN attempted to justify the filming, stating that “three public health officials exiting the building spoke to the team and told them they could film inside.”

Clearly, insofar as permission was given, it was cursory and informal. A later, more conciliatory CNN statement clarified that “these officials were not authorized to grant this permission.” The two journalists were arrested on trespassing charges, and were also found to be working without visas. They were given a nominal fine of 5,000 baht, on the condition that they filmed an apology. (Coren offered her “deepest apologies to the people of Thailand, especially the families of the victims of this tragedy.”)

07 October 2022

“What’s being alleged is that Dyson is guilty of wrongdoing...”



James Dyson is suing Channel 4 and ITN for libel over their coverage of labour abuses at a Malaysian factory. In a report broadcast on 10th February, Channel 4 News claimed that “behind the professional image Dyson likes to portray, there’s a dark side to its supply chain, with claims of exploitation, intimidation, and even torture.”

Dyson’s defamation lawsuit does not dispute the allegations made by the factory workers. Instead, the case concerns the programme’s focus on Dyson’s company rather than the factory owner, ATA. At a court hearing in London yesterday, Dyson’s lawyer highlighted the news report’s conflation of ATA and Dyson: “Nobody disputes that this was taking place at ATA... What’s being alleged is that Dyson is guilty of wrongdoing.”

06 October 2022

6th October 1976 Filmography


By the Time It Gets Dark / Sun Rises When Day Breaks / Salang Bunnag
46 Years, 46 Films

Today is the 46th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 Thammasat University massacre. Coincidentally, the tragedy has since been referenced in forty-six films, documentaries, and music videos, which are all listed in this filmography. Many of these titles are discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, which features a comprehensive survey of Thai political cinema.

04 October 2022

“The big lie...”


State of the Union

Donald Trump has launched a defamation lawsuit against CNN, accusing them of maliciously comparing him to Hitler. CNN has used the phrase ‘the big lie’ as an umbrella term to describe Trump’s false statements about the 2020 presidential election result, to distinguish these immensely consequential falsehoods from the 30,000 other misleading claims he made during his presidency (as catalogued by The Washington Post). Trump’s lawsuit alleges, however, that ‘the big lie’ “is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.”

Hitler did indeed use the term ‘the big lie’ in his autobiography Mein Kampf (‘my struggle’), though he regarded it as a Jewish propaganda tactic, not as a strategy that he himself endorsed. (Specifically, he argued that General Erich Ludendorff was made a scapegoat for Germany’s defeat in World War I, and that this ‘big lie’ was paradoxically more believable.) Thus, ‘the big lie’ has no fascistic implications, as the term was used only pejoratively by Hitler. On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly described the mainstream media as “the enemy of the people”, a phrase associated with Communist dictators such as Stalin.

Trump’s lawsuit, issued yesterday, cites several CNN blog posts by Chris Cillizza, and also singles out an episode of State of the Union as defamatory. In the episode, broadcast on 16th Janaury, host Jake Tapper referred to Trump’s “deranged election lies.” Trump is seeking $475 million in damages, though the ubiquity of the phrase ‘the big lie’—it has been used by many writers and news organisations, not only CNN—makes it highly likely that the case will be dismissed.

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 / The Mail on Sunday

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 Sunday 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.

23 September 2022

The Lord of the Rings:
The Rings of Power


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies) were prequels to his Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), making the blockbuster new Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a prequel to the prequels. Released on 2nd September and directed by J.A. Bayona (who made The Impossible), the series is Prime Video’s first major franchise, and another escalation in the vast original-content budgets of the streaming platforms.

At a cost of $465 million, the first season of The Rings of Power averages $58 million per episode. (Compare that to Boardwalk Empire, with its $18 million pilot, which set records a decade ago.) So, on a per-episode basis, The Rings of Power is the most expensive show in the history of television. Yet it feels entirely cinematic rather than televisual: as in the original film trilogies, there are sweeping aerial shots of New Zealand’s vistas (filmed with drones this time, rather than helicopters) and theme music by Howard Shore. This epic spectacle is impressive, though stilted performances in the Elven sequences highlight the lack of A-list actors.

21 September 2022

“Shamefully presents a negative image of Thai society...”


Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture

As incredible as it may seem, thirty years ago a dictionary was burnt in the streets of Bangkok and banned by Thai police. The Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture was published in 1992, and soon attracted controversy in Thailand, as its entry for Bangkok described the city as “a place where there are a lot of PROSTITUTES”. (The capitalisation indicated a cross-reference; it was not for emphasis.)

This mention of the city’s somewhat seedy reputation (on p. 79 of the hardback edition) infuriated some Bangkokians, who burnt the dictionary in protest, and it was officially banned on 4th July 1993. The publishers quickly removed the offending text, in time for the paperback edition.

Censorship in Thailand is frequently a face-saving measure, a form of reputation management to ensure that negative images are whitewashed from cultural representations of the country. As discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, this results in media, literature, and films “that present a rose-tinted view, rather than holding a mirror up to society.”

This has been the case for almost a century, as the silent film Suvarna of Siam (นางสาวสุวรรณ) was censored in 1923 to prevent the portrayal of capital punishment in the country. Similarly, one of the reasons given for the censorship of Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was that it “shamefully presents a negative image of Thai society for foreign audiences.”

Bangkok Inside Out was banned here for the same reason, after the Ministry of Culture objected to its photo of a go-go bar. More than fifty years ago, the travelogue Bangkok After Dark (written by Fred Poole under the pen name Andrew Harris) was also banned for its focus on the city’s red-light districts.

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.”

03 September 2022

Nevermind


Nevermind

A lawsuit against grunge rock band Nirvana was dismissed by a Central District of California judge yesterday. Spencer Elden, who was photographed as a baby for the cover of the classic album Nevermind in 1991, had filed three legal actions against the band, seeking compensation for alleged sexual exploitation. Judge Fernando Olguin ruled that the ten-year statute of limitations had expired, and therefore “it would be futile to afford plaintiff a fourth opportunity to file an amended complaint.”

Although Elden was clearly unable to consent to the use of his image at the time, he has since publicly endorsed the album cover, somewhat negating the accusations in his lawsuit. Nevermind is one of the most acclaimed albums of the 1990s, and its lead single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is one of the most iconic songs of the decade.