Yellow fear? Or yellow fear campaign?

25 01 2013

In a letter to the Bangkok Post a few days ago, Manit Sriwanichpoom, the producer of “Shakespeare Must Die,” gets hot under the collar about a letter from one Somsak Pola, published a week ago, claiming it “is factually wrong as well as offensive and damaging to us.” Somsak was commenting on a letter by Democrat Party MPs that PPT also commented on.

Mostly, we don’t think the claims are worth repeating as we are unable to verify them (see our earlier post where we make our position clear on this film). In any case, debates about censorship of this film or that program are easily resolved if there is no censorship. However, there is one aspect that caught our attention as it is right from the Democrat Party/People’s Alliance for Democracy playbook.

… We’re living in a land gripped by fear. Never mind small people like us, even Constitution Court judges and their families are threatened and an opposition lawyer is attacked by thugs and hospitalised. Propelled by fear, to preserve businesses, careers and life itself, self-censorship is rife…. There is no meaningful freedom of expression, not for the media and not for artists, under this government.

It is remarkable that Manit declares, like Korn Chatikavanij, a “police state” or a “land gripped by fear” but fails to mention the mas arrests and killing of protesters in 2010 under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, which, perhaps not coincidentally funded the banned film, being the “last film to receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture’s film fund…” That fund was controversial, with the government doling out money to royalist and royal film makers. Shakespeare Must Die’s credits also indicated that the making of the film was  supported by the Thai khemkaeng project, also established by the Abhisit government and highly controversial.

That people continue to be harassed by the use of the lese majeste law is a travesty, and this has a deep impact on self-censorship, but notions that Thailand is a land “gripped by fear” seems to us to be more relevant in describing Manit’s funders rather than the present rather timid government. Such claims amount to yellow-shirted propaganda exercises.

Is being bored lese majeste?

14 12 2009

Also available as ความเซ็งเข้าข่ายหมิ่นฯอีกด้วยหรือ

PPT saw this short note in the Jakarta Post (13 December 2009: “Learning to experience life as art”) in an article about the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition in Brisbane, Australia. For the Thailand part of the exhibit, it said this:

A series of 14 black-and-white photographs taken in 2006 by Manit Sriwanichpoom of Thailand is titled Waiting for the King. In Thailand, the 82-year-old monarch is much revered and there is a law prohibiting any expression of disrespect for the monarchy. The photographs show the faces of ordinary Thai people who are gathered and waiting near the palace for him to pass by on his birthday.

“Many stay overnight, or wait up to seven hours, and yet the king passes by in seconds and they hardly catch a glimpse of him,” Manit said. “These photos cannot be exhibited in Thailand, because they could be interpreted as disrespect for the king, because it will be thought that I should have shown people smiling and waving, rather than looking rather tired and bored.”

Manit Sriwanichpoom is the photographer responsible for, amongst other interesting collections, the Pink Man. But can he be right that “looking rather tired and bored” now constitutes lese majeste?

Update: Can lese majeste be retrospective? Watch this from Bob Hope in Ubon in 1967 (the link is fixed), making jokes about the king…. Thanks to for the link.

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