The power of the young

26 08 2022

Again, PPT is recommending some reading. Both articles are about young activists, and both are products of a new generation of scholar/activists.

The first is by Jasmine Chia, at Foreign Policy, and titled “How Thai Activists Troll the Monarchy.” Jasmine argues that since 2020, protesters have used humor and wit to critique the country’s politics and the monarchy. It is argued that dissent has entered the mainstream. In so doing,

protesters grew creative in how they approached these topics. “Kuan teen exists in Thai politics because we are not able to communicate directly, even though we all know what we are talking about,” said Attapon Buapat, nicknamed Kru Yai, a prominent pro-democracy activist and satirist. Buapat rose to fame with his own kuan teen skits at public rallies, featuring cobras, Deksomboon soy sauce, and Red Bull bottles—items instantly recognizable in Thailand as parodies of backstabbing politicians, military bosses, and tycoons, respectively. “I don’t have to explain anything,” Buapat said. “Thais immediately understand.”

The other article is “The Artivism of Incantations in Isan,” by Peera Songkünnatham, and appears at The Jugaad Project. A more academic article, it has an abstract:

Artivism is not necessarily a harmonious intersection between art and activism—it may also result from a head-on collision. This article explores the art of Patiwat “Molam Bank” Saraiyaem, a Thai folk poet-singer and former student activist who has shied away from the label “activist.” How does one soldier on doing activism with a wounded soul? My answer: through the power of ritual poetry and performance in restoring wholeness as well as acknowledging brokenness. This argument is constructed through description, comparison, and analysis of the words, the emoting, and the reception in two incantatory poems by Patiwat. In the first, Patiwat remakes the baisi su kuan rite to call democracy’s spirit essence back to the demos’s expansive body, with rallygoers as the audience-turned-agents. In the second, Patiwat remixes benediction and malediction in a double act of cleansing the traumatized self, with myself as a reader-turned-translator. Isan, the term meaning the Northeast as well as the hybrid Lao vernacular of the region, serves as a key to unlock an understanding of how Patiwat’s art both serves Thai pro-democracy activism and resists its dominant language and emotional regimen, sparking as a byproduct new activist possibilities in and beyond Isan.

Both worth reading.

Silencing reformists and media

12 12 2021

Activists Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and Attapon Buapat of the Ratsadorn Group for Abolition of Section 112 have submitted a petition to the Office of Attorney-General calling on it to “consider taking steps to rescind the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the sustained calls for monarchical reform, specifically pertaining to the sought-after abolition to the Criminal Code Section 112, better known as the lese majeste law, were allegedly designed to ‘undermine democratic rule with the monarch as head of state’.”

Attapol observed that the Court’s “ruling would be merely used as a legal, political tool against any opponents to those who may have been supportive of the lese majeste law, which, he said, has obviously stifled the people’s freedom of expression and violated the human rights for them to take part in peaceful gatherings and demands for an end to it.”

He’s right, but it does far more than that.

Former Constitutional Court president has recently stated that:

the media can be considered as an accomplice in crime if they published messages about the monarchy that are outlawed. However, t[h]e question of intent would also be taken into account when considering the case.

So he suggested that the media avoid reporting what may be regarded as illegal. The ten demands for monarchy reform can be reported with care. The parts that infringe the monarchy will have to be censored.

The mainstream media is likely to be tamed and silenced even further, with the regime relying on self-censorship by journalists, editors, and media companies. It is already happening.

Updated: New year, new charges

6 01 2021

The Voice of America has reported the fact that “Thai authorities January 1 made their 38th arrest of a pro-democracy activist in recent weeks under the country’s tough lèse majesté law…”.

This refers to the case of “Nut,” the “Facebook administrator of a protest group and [who] was bailed out January 2 after being charged under Section 112 for selling a calendar using the movement’s satirical rubber duck symbol to allegedly mock the monarchy.”

As the report indicates, “In just a matter of weeks 112 charges have continued to surge…”, with several of those charged facing multiple cases.

The regime and palace have been panicked by widespread anti-monarchism. Human Rights Watch’s Sunai Phasuk made the obvious point: “Even the slightest critical reference to the monarchy is now punishable…”.

In Nut’s case, Chulalongkorn University’s Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang pointed out that the police who filed the charge “couldn’t even answer to the lawyer how this [calendar] violated Section 112. This was purely political…”. In other words, the cops are under orders to arrest people and charge them under 112 even if they are clueless about the actual “offense.” It is Orwellian “protection” of the monarch.

Read more on lese majeste charges here.

It isn’t clear that the tactics being used by the regime and palace are effective:

Authorities are now struggling to catch up with protesters whose attacks on the monarchy – and the law which shields it – are visible both on banners hung from bridges and across the internet in memes and hashtags.

Recent social media posts from across the country also show defaced portraits of the king and queen, often featuring additional photos of them in crop tops and so on.

Attapon Buapat, a protest leader who has been charged under the 112 law, says:

People do not fear 112 anymore…. Everyone fighting this battle has been prepared for our freedoms and rights to be violated one day. We have stepped beyond that fear for quite some time now. Whatever will be, will be….

Update: Prachatai reports on three new 112 cases. They say this means 40 cases. We think there are maybe more than this. Difficult to keep up. The first is that of Nut or Nat mentioned above. The second refers to 3 January, when “Thanakon (last name withheld), 17, also received a summons on a Section 112 charge issued by Buppharam Police Station.” Thai Lawyers for Human Rights say “the charge is likely to be related to a demonstration on 6 December 2020 at Wongwian Yai.” The third case is “Jiratita (last name withheld), 23, [who] was also charged with royal defamation for a speech given at the protest on 2 December 2020 at the Lad Phrao intersection.” It seems that this latter charge relates to complaints made by a member of the public.

Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Shinawat Chankrachang and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul were also hit with 112 charges for their involvement in this protest. Parit is now facing 12 counts of lese majeste, Arnon 8 counts, Panusaya 6 counts, and Panupong 5.

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