Category: Thai culture

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Came across a great website today,, in BK Magazine. There’s a photo exposition, “Unposed Bangkok,” a collection of street photography, opening up October 1st and running to October 27 at the Bangkok Art & Culture Center.  This exhibition is curated by Manit Sriwanichpoom, of Pink Man fame.

Mr. Sriwanichpoom is a performance artist with an international presence where he uses the medium of photography to subvert consumerist culture. I guess it’s not surprising, after taking a gander at some of these photos, that irony and juxtaposition emerge as a central theme, as these elements figure prominently in Mr. Sriwanichpoom’s work.  And yet my favorite photo is Nappadol Weerakitti’s smoking man (below).  A simple photograph, accentuated with a vivid purple, of a candid moment of an elderly man.

I look forward to visiting this exhibition right down the street and talking to the photographers.

In the words of the organizers:

These images, along with their hidden nuances that reflect our society, its humor, satire as well as perfectly-timed coincidences, are created by a street photographer.

Selected photos below:

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Akkara Naktamna

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Noppadol Weerakitti

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Naruepol Nikomrat

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Visit Kulsiri

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Chatchai Boonyaprapatsara

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Piyatat Hemmatat

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Vinai Dithajohn

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Manit Sriwanichpoom


Anti-government protest in Lumpini Park

It’s protest season in full swing here in Bangkok and today it was anti-government protesters who assembled at Lumpini Park who provided the entertainment.  Under the majestic Rama VI statue there was ideology splashed everywhere.  With the Thai parliament opening this month, an Amnesty Bill is the first order of business, this bill is sponsored by the Pheu Thai Party to give amnesty to anybody accused of politically-related crimes from the time of the military coup that ousted Mr. Thaksin in 2006 to May 2011.  Royalists fear that this would pave the way for Thaksin Shinawatra to return.

Below are images from the protest:

AF9A0175 300x151 - Anti-government protest in Lumpini Park

 “Government project loan: 2 million million baht…debt… debt…”

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“Populist plan for Peu Tai — nationl debt: 100%”

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“Morality &  conscience…government power & benefit”

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“Confucius Peace Prize—debt, failed water management, agricultural price fixing, corruption 3 million for floods…”

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                           (Based on a Thai proverb:  “Cannot cover the whole elephant with a lotus leaf.”                                                                   Lotus leaves are placed on the deceased.)

“Threaten court…failed water management…cannot cover with democracy…”

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“Hello, Thaksin…Nahmahsahkahn (นมัสการ: Thai honorific for monks)”

Wirapol Sukphol and Thaksin are having a conversation.  Wirapol Sukphol was a monk who lived a scandalous life and was subsequently defrocked in absentia.

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“Things are so expensive…The government is trying to fix the problem…

 What is the government doing now?… Trying to reduce the cost of living?…

…The only thing the  government is reducing is Thaksin’s punishment…”

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“Politicians! Stop corruption!”

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“Government corruption with rice program…farmers are in trouble everywhere…

คนหนักแผ่นดิน  kohnnakpahndeen (deadwood)…

…White masks try to help the country!”

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“We stopped slavery a long time ago.  Red Shirts are just like the slaves of Thaksin.  So pathetic.”

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“Thaksin the prisoner has gone mad… he dreams of being a president…

He wants to be a dictator…Go to hell!  Go die!  …Don’t ever come back!”

(image of coffin)

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“Toxic rice phenomenon…


…This is the greatest cheating ever in Thailand…

…This disaster is 10 times worse than the tsunami…

…Keep your eyes on this issue.  Don’t blink.  This evil regime will come back again.”

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“If you want to see the light (Dthahsuwan: ตาสว่าง) listen to the radio channel by Mr. Choopong Teetuan (ชูพงษ์ ถี่ถ้วน) (Guest speaker)”

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“How can these Red Shirt leaders have graduated from military schools and not pay respect (jongratpakdee: จงรักภักดี)  to royalty—understood in Thai culture…”


A break for Shakespeare Must Die filmmakers

CMD Poster 212x300 - A break for Shakespeare Must Die filmmakers

Ing K & Manit Sriwanichpoom’s film Shakespeare Must Die, an adaptation of Macbeth serving as an allegory of Thaksin Shinawatra’s ruthless pursuit of power, was banned last year by the Thai Film Board.  The filmmaker’s then decided to chronicle their treatment by the authorities with Censor Must Die.  Shakespeare Must Die is a political film that was ironically partially funded by the government only to be later banned by the government.   It’s banning is much more about censorship within the Thai film community in general then it is about one film being denied an audience.  Theirs is but one voice among many that should be given time on the public stage.

There has been good news, alas.  Censor Must Die was not…censored.  Hopefully this is the beginning of more openness within the film industry here in Thailand.

I saw a screening and I highly recommend it for those interested in learning more about the process of vetting films in Thailand.  Quite memorable was hearing Ing K’s harrowing appeals to the Cultural Ministry.

There will be more from me about their work.

More information below from the filmmakers:

Censor Must Die is exempted from the film censorship process and has been given permission from the Film and Video Censorship Committee, by the power of the 2008 Royal Edict on Film and Video, Article 27(1)”, because “the producer of Censor Must Die made the film from events that really happened.”

“They killed Shakespeare, so they must die. Censor must die. Censor, not the censors, not the Film Board, but Censor the monstrous entity embedded in Thai society, a lumbering prehistoric beast with prejudices and a life of its own. It is this that must be slain by those among its victims who dare to challenge dinosaurs where angels fear to tread and reason does not exist.

When ‘Shakespeare Must Die’, a Thai adaptation of ‘Macbeth’, that supreme song of tyrannical rule, is banned by the Yingluck Shinawatra government for reasons of national security, producer Manit Sriwanichpoom begins an epic trek through the corridors of power to unban his Shakespearean horror movie; from the Cultural Ministry, that had funded and then banned his film, to the Senate and the Human Rights Commission, all the way to the Administrative Court where he is suing the government for abuse of power.

Wherever he went, amidst political upheaval in a land of fear, a camera followed him, into secret places long hidden from the sun, where witnesses are not welcome. The resulting cinema verite is the living story of a struggle for justice and human dignity, for the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which Thai filmmakers do not have.  This is cinematic democracy in action, in all its obscene and heartbreaking details; a dark record of events farcical enough to be enjoyed as a comedy.”


Pavin Chachavalpongpun on Royal Prerogative

In today’s Nation Pavin Chachavalpongpun accuses Sukhumbhand Paribatra, governor of Bangkok, of undermining Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration in his focusing on Bangkok flood relief at the expense of outlying areas.  That Paribatra is a pedigreed aristocrat doesn’t deter Chachavalpongpun’s strident criticism:

“…as Sukhumbhand continues to clash with the government, this attests to the fact that the elitist class possesses its own mind and the right to define the notion of interest – be it its own interest or that of the nation. This explains why Sukhumbhand has chosen not to listen to the government’s instructions.”

Chachavalpongpun, along with Thitinan Pongsudhirak and Thongchai Winichakul are among the most interesting voices in Thailand’s body politic.  I look forward to hearing more from them as Thailand struggles to develop a more democratic system of governance.


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There’s something terribly disarming about this woman becoming the next prime minister of Thailand with her looking so dignified and sexy at the same time.  I first learned of this Yingluck Shinawat, Thaksin’s younger sister, as I rode my bike down Petchburi Road her image lined the entire road one poster after another and I simply enjoyed looking at it.  Who wouldn’t want a prime minister like this?  I wonder what the Bangkok middle thinks of her as my impression of her is that she is hardly the frightening Red Shirt protester from the rice fields who arrived like locusts to burn down Central World last year:

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Her ties to her square-headed tyrant brother notwithstanding, she appears to be a very ordinary middle class Thai woman.  And this is a good thing.  The Democrats have a very big problem in their arrogance.  I have spoken to countless students and others who simply look at people from the north as simply idiots, “another species” as one student told me.  The Democrats need to be about building the middle class in the rest of Thailand, not simply about respecting “tradition” and looking at the vast majority of their countrymen with contempt.

Vote buying is still rampant and Thai democracy has a long, long way to go, but it is nice to see more political power diffused in a system where power has been concentrated in the hands of a few poo yai for too long.

We are all waiting to see what Yingluck is going to do about her brother coming back to Thailand.  One thing is for sure:  whatever Thaksin’s misgivings, he can rap:

Thailand has talent!

Bell Nuntita is her/his name and he/she’s become quite a hit in China.

A few of the money quotes:

“This transsexual is better looking than 70% of China’s females.”

“I am shocked. At the same time, I am enthralled/conquered! I’ve fallen for her…”