Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Art Wall” , by Manit Sriwanichpoom in the Silpa Wattanatham column of Siamrath news magazine, Yr. 61, Vol. 15, Dec. 2013 – 2 Jan. 2014.

                If we look in a positive way at the political situation todaywe have to say that Taksin Shinawatr and his ways –generally known as the ‘Taksin regime’ – bring innumerable benefits to Thai society, because this individual makes us more clearly know our own society, like a giant mirror reflecting the whole country.    Where is the scar, where the blemish, the disfiguring marks?  Where is the beauty? Where is the ugliness?  It reflects back completely with nothing hidden.  Whoever thinks that he or she is right, or smart, good or special, better than other people, will be tested in times of crisis like this.  And those who think that they can hide their evil under academic cloaks, their masks will be ripped off to reveal what they really are.
                This test of Thai society is unusual.  I believe that no other country in the world has ever had to be tested with someone like Taksin Shinawatr in the globalized digital world.  Some try to compare him with Silvio Berlusconi, another communications technology tycoon, but compared with the former Italian prime minister, Taksin is at another level of savagery altogether.  Just consider Taksin’s war on drugs and the cases of Kru Seh and Takbai.

                Even though a million Thai people rose up against Taksin’s tyranny, he has been able to command his government from abroad, just as if he were seated in his office at Government House.  He can order the government of Thailand to change the law as he wishes.  It is like watching a Hollywood movie which only children would believe. But it’s very sad because this is the real world, and there is more at stake than just a fairy tale on the silver screen.
                The case of the attempt to smuggle through a mass amnesty bill at four o’clock in the morning on November 1st last year is a benchmark to show Thai society about the interesting problem of corruption.  Anyone who says Thai people accept cheating and corruption as long as it benefits them personally will have to think again.  That includes Taksin.  He too will have to think again.  Thai people are long-suffering up to a point, and then they won’t put up with it any more.  They came out a million strong in the streets to tell Taksin and Yingluck : ‘You have enough already! Stop destroying the rule of law!’ This is a phenomenon that shocked the government and its supporters. And this is a historical moment that many Thai people are proud of, because they feel that Thai society still has hope.

                On the other hand, observe the nor-por-shor’s side, the red shirts and the red academics.  They have also been tested and their true mettle revealed.  It isn’t unreasonable to conclude that they are merely tools, props, intended to keep Taksin and his regime going.  (Some people changed the abbreviation nor-por-shor to nor-tor-shor, which is a more accurate abbreviation for ‘Taksin’s National Way to Oppose Democracy’.) Even with the evidence of the wholesale amnesty bill, which made it clear that Yingluck and Puer Thai are all and only for Taksin, their supporters still uphold them.  And they go on ranting about how they reject the decision of the Constitutional Court which objected to the attempt to change the source of the Senate in order to create a cozy husband-wife parliament in the future.
                To call a spade a space, the nor-por-shor and the red shirts are not fighting for justice or any sort of class struggle.  If they were really fighting for justice, they would already have called for their government to take corrective action.  For more than two years, with an overwhelming majority in parliament, not one in this group came forward to make the smallest call for reform.  So it is not surprising that those among the red shirts who truly love justice and want a better society have changed sides, one or two persons at a time.  Unfortunately, however, those broken-hearted red shirts did not dare to stand up and call upon their government to do the right thing.  Some just shut their mouths.  Some were preoccupied with cases of lése majestè, and they knew that Yingluck’s government would never address this issue.  At last, red shirts are reduced to little more than a power base for their cheating and fraudulent government.  What happened to all the discourse about amaht/prai (lords and peasants)?  The peasants are now the lords.  There don’t seem to be any peasants left! 

                The mistake of the red shirts is that they tie up democracy with the person of Taksin Shinawatr. They are choking on this and can’t spit it out.  Hoisted on their own petard.  A real democratic regime which they hoped to realize had no chance of seeing the light of day, because Taksin looks at democracy and elections simply as tools by which he can seize power in order to feast upon the wealth of the state. Taksin is completely unprincipled where politics is concerned.  You red shirts and red academics are fooling  yourselves, hoping to use Taksin to overcome the amaht/lords. You should think again, though. The passage of time has already shown that it will be Taksin who is using all of you!
                From November to December of last year if you had only paid a bit of attention you would have seen a lot of movement in the art world, especially in Silpakorn University, which used to be called the ‘art for art’s sake’ camp.  They didn’t mess with politics.  If we look at the origins of Silpakorn University, created by Prof. Silpa Bhirasri, their objective was originally to create skilled artisans who could serve the Crown or the government in the period when the nation was being re-imagined.  Standing in opposition to the state was never a part of the SU curriculum or art activities for artists, but rather, promotion of the bureaucratic state and art exhibitions lauding the monarch, the national religion and the environment.  

But when Amarit Chusuwan became the dean of the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Art,  the walls of Silpakorn University, which stand opposite the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, were found sprayed with graffiti: “SU Opposes the Amnesty Act!”   So we begin to see clear signs that the teachers and students of our leading art university are taking a political stand.  This has never been so clearly announced before.
                On Wednesday, 20 November last year, Acharn Amarit organized activities for artist friends and student artists from many institutions to bring them together and paint the ‘100 Meters, 100 Artists’ wall in front of the kor-por-por-sor stage at the Democracy Monument on Rachadamnoen Avenue. These artists included national artist  Preecha Taothong (his art is all about Buddhism – nothing about politics); Parinya Tantisuk (he has always made abstract art, strictly non-political); Sakwudt Wisatemanee (a portrait painter); Chalit Nakpawan (he paints in an abstract style); Jitsingh Somboon (fashion design); and Wasan Sittiket and Sutee Kunawichaiyanont  (these two have long made political art).  And there were many student artists as well.
                There were six topics for pictures which reflected Thai history dating from 14 October, 1973; 6 October, 1976; Black May, 1992; the Pantamitr mobs, the Red demonstrations, and the situation today.  Though most of these artists had never made [explicitly] political art before, they knew very well that such images perforce must use very simple, direct symbols.  There can be no ‘beating around the bush’ when communicating meaning to the people generally.
                On this outstanding ‘art wall’ you can’t miss ‘Taksin Riding the Red Crab’, by Acharn Sutee Kunawichaiyanont  and his students. In this picture, Taksin, like a blood-thirsty Dracula, opens his jaws to show red blood oozing through his teeth and streaming down from the corners of his gaping mouth. He drives the giant red crab, which resembles a sort of spaceship. He uses the huge pincers of the crab to grasp a map of Thailand.

                Another image is a scorching and direct summary because they have been observing what has taken place in the ‘red shirt demonstrators’ up to the present.  It hits square in the middle, showing the Yingluck government, the red shirts and the ‘men in black’ as red worms gobbling up Thai society. Thai people are represented as figures, completely riddled with holes, a family, father, mother and child.  In the background hundreds of red politicians raise their hands, as if voting in parliament. The artists include Chalit Nakpawan, Kantapat Wirun kawat, Suraporn Lertwongpaitoon and Somsak Saensukcharoenpol.
                As I said, Taksin and the wholesale amnesty act certainly made the political situation in Thailand much clearer.  This is a story of a fight with vastly integrated corruption and fraud.  The rule of law is destroyed.  Democracy is destroyed, and destroyed are the values and ethics that have been the basis for our happy society.

                The arrogance of Taksin and his cohorts awakened the people, including a great number of artists who rose up, leaving their homes and marching out with the people in the streets, They have been shouting for the world to hear:  We won’t tolerate the cheaters! We reject the Taksin regime!

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