January 1, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
July 21, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Chotisak and Chutima were early signers of FACT’s petition against all censorship. We’re very happy for them. When will the next Thai Rosa Parks just be too damned tired to stand up for the Royal anthem? Not standing is not a crime! We would be curious to know if a law such as the Film Act is used to compel theatre owners to play the anthem before each showing? Or is it just meaninglessly repeated social convention…as is standing?]
Prachatai: July 20, 2012
The public prosecutor has decided to drop a lèse majesté case against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend who did not stand up for the royal anthem in a Bangkok cinema in 2007.
Wisit Sukyukhon, a public prosecutor, sent a letter on 11 April this year to Pathumwan police who first took up the case, to inform them about the decision.
On 20 Sept 2007, at a cinema in the Central World shopping complex in downtown Bangkok, Chotisak, 26, and his female friend, whose name is withheld, had a heated argument with Navamintr Witthayakul, 40, who was among the audience, after the two ignored Navamintr’s demand for them to stand up for the royal anthem which precedes every movie shown in Thailand’s cinemas.
Chotisak called the police and filed complaints at Pathumwan police station against Navamintr for verbal and physical abuse, damage to personal property and coercion, while Navamintr filed a lèse majesté complaint against them.
In April 2008, Chotisak and his friend were charged with lèse majesté by the police.
In Sept 2008, the public prosecutor dropped the physical abuse charges against Navamintr, and in Oct 2008 the police forwarded the lèse majesté case against Chotisak and his friend to the public prosecutor.
According to the letter, the prosecutor believes that by not standing up for the royal anthem, and by saying ‘Why is it necessary to stand up when it is not required by law?’, the actions of the accused did not constitute insults or defamation.
Although the behaviour of the accused was improper and should not be copied by others, their actions cannot be pinpointed as having the intention to insult the King, and there is insufficient evidence to justify their prosecution, the prosecutor says.
In a similar case on the iLaw website, one moviegoer at the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin on 15 Jun 2008 did not stand up for the royal anthem, lifted both her feet onto the next chair, and after the anthem was over, shouted vulgar words.
On 19 Oct 2009, the court found her guilty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced her to three years in prison, but the jail term was reduced by half and suspended for two years as she had pleaded guilty and had a history of mental illness, according to the testimony of doctors from Srithanya and Trang Hospitals.
July 21, 2012
[FACT comments: We’re tempted to call this bus censorship. Its goals may be noble but who will decide what films are “appropriate” for bus passengers? After all, Thai soap operas are notorious for domestic violence. This is a little too politically-correct for us. Don’t like the movie, read a book, sleep or look at the scenery.]
บขส.รับปากยุติฉายหนังรุนแรง เรตอาร์ หลังจากคุณศจินทร์ (ภาพด้านบน) รณรงค์เรียกร้องผ่าน change.org
(English summary at the end)
หลังจากที่มีการรณรงค์ผ่าน change.org เพียงไม่กี่วัน การเรียกร้องให้ บขส. ยุติการฉายหนังรุนแรงบนรถทัวร์ ของคุณแม่อย่าง คุณศจินทร์ ประชาสันติ์ ก็ประสบผลสำเร็จ
โดยเมื่อวันนี่ 18 กรกฎาคม คุณศจินทร์ได้รับจดหมายจาก คุณวุฒิชาติ กัลยาณมิตร กรรมการผู้จัดการใหญ่ของบริษัทขนส่งจำกัด แจ้งว่าตน ได้รับข้อเรียกร้องทั้งหมดของทุกคนและได้สั่งการให้ฝ่ายธุรกิจเดินรถหามาตรการเข้มงวดให้พนักงานประจำรถมีความระมัดระวังในการนำภาพยนตร์ไปเปิดให้บริการบนรถโดยสาร พรอ้มทั้งกล่าวว่าตนไม่ได้นิ่งนอนใจ และต้องการพัฒนาการบริการของ บขส. ให้ดีขึ้น
คุณวุฒิชาติ ยังได้ให้สัมภาษณ์หนังสือพิมพ์มติชนเพิ่มเติม http://bit.ly/NnEqlg
ถือว่าเป็นความสำเร็จครั้งสำคัญหลังจากก่อนหน้านี้คุณศจินทร์ คุณแม่วัย 32ปี ได้พยายามส่งจดหมายถึง บขส. หลายต่อหลายครั้ง แต่ไม่เคยได้รับการตอบกลับแต่อย่างใด
แต่เมื่อเริ่มรณรงค์บน change.org เพียงไม่กี่วัน ก็มีผู้ร่วมลงนามสนับสนุนเกือบ 300 คน ทำให้การเรียกร้องของคนคนเดียว กลายเป็นการเรียกร้องของคนหลายคน เพราะทุกครั้งที่ทุกคนคลิกสนับสนุน หมายถึงอีกหนึ่งอีเมล์จากคุณส่งตรงไปถึงคุณวุฒิชาติ
คุณศจินทร์ กล่าวว่า ทันทีที่ได้รับจดหมาย รู้สึกยินดีเป็นอย่างมาก และอยากจะบอกเล่าต่อทุกท่านแทบจะทันทีที่ทำได้ เพราะนี่แสดงให้เห็นว่า พลังเสียงของทุกท่านได้ยินไปถึงบริษัทแล้ว
เพื่อให้เกิดความมั่นใจคุณศจินทร์ต้องการให้มีการจัดทำแนวนโยบายออกมาเป็นลายลักษณ์อักษรเผยแพร่ต่อสาธารณะผ่านเว็บไซต์และสื่อประเภทอื่นๆ และจะติดต่อแจ้งไปทาง บขส. และคุณวุฒิชัยเพิ่มเติม
Change.org รู้สึกดีใจที่มีส่วนช่วยให้ปัญหาที่ดูเล็กแต่เป็นปัญหาที่อยู่ในใจหลายๆคนได้รับการแก้ไข การรณรงค์ที่เริ่มจากคนธรรมดาๆ อย่างคุณศจินทร์ กับการพูดถึงปัญหาใกล้ตัวอย่างเรื่องการฉายหนังบนรถทัวร์ เป็นการณรงค์ที่มีพลังมากที่สุด เพราะว่าประชาชนทั่วไปจะเข้าใจ และเห็นอกเห็นใจ รวมทั้งอาจเคยประสบปัญหาแบบเดียวกัน และพร้อมที่จะร่วมสนับสนุน
Less than a week since Sajin Prachason launched her campaign on Change.org, bus operator Transport Co has agreed to ban inappropriate movies on its coaches.
For almost a year Sajin has been campaigning to stop operators showing violent movies after she saw children distressed during a long bus trip. She is delighted that it took just days to win using Change.org.
Sajin thanked everyone who signed her petition saying “without all your signatures, change would not have happened”. She found using Change.org very easy, and was amazed how quickly hundreds joined her campaign. President of Transport Co Wuthichart Kalayanamit automatically received an email every time someone signed the petition, and he told Sajin that he was responding to those emails when he put a stop to the movies.
What do you want Changed? Start your campaign now – it takes less than three minutes to start a petition, and like Sajin, you could win small but important change in just days.
Share this campaign on Facebook
Change.org (เซ็งจ์ ดอท อ็อก) ประเทศไทยพร้อมแล้ว คลิกไปที่ www.change.org/th เพื่อติดตามแคมเปญรณรงค์ล่าสุดของไทย แล้วเริ่มสร้างแคมเปญของคุณเองได้เลย Change.org คือใคร http://www.change.org/th/เกี่ยวกับเรา
Find out more about Change.org http://www.change.org/about
Global Voices: July 18, 2012
The Malaysian social and alternative media sphere is describing an impending ‘National Harmony Act,’ as “Orwellian” and “draconian.”
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that Malaysia’s Sedition Act of 1948 is to be repealed, and replaced with the National Harmony Act (NHA.)
The Sedition Act, a hangover from Malaysia’s era of colonial rule, was originally introduced to quell opposition against the British, but is infamous for its vague definitions and use by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to silence political opposition.
Rather than celebration, there is widespread concern that the new National Harmony Act will not prove any better than its predecessor. Barisan Nasional has dismantled several existing laws only to replace them with barely improved or even worse versions. For example the Internal Security Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act and the Evidence Act amendments.
Many Malaysian netizens are concerned that the NHA is yet another example of double-talk.
Mustafa K. Anuar, writing for Aliran describes it as a ‘Seduction Act in the offing’, identifying the widespread cynicism towards the new Act as predictable:
In the recent past, the promise of a repeal of certain undemocratic laws such as the equally draconian Internal Security Act turned out to be a nightmare for Malaysians, especially human rights activists, as the replacements are either the same or even worse than the laws they replaced.
A political cartoon by well-known Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, depicting what many Malaysians fear from the planned National Harmony Act. [Zunar Kartunis Fan Club’ Facebook page]
Phil Robertson, the deputy director Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, also summed up this worrying legislative trend in the alternative media website The Malaysian Insider:
He said “the government should realise that change for change’s sake is not enough”, adding that the drafting of replacement laws “has gone on behind closed doors with little input from civil society.”
As reported by Malaysiakini (paywall-protected site), Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing (as well as Lim Chee Wee, head of the Malaysian Bar Council) has suggested that the government should just repeal the Sedition Act, rather than replace it with more legislation prone to selective enforcement:
“We have seen a politician or two and some religious leaders raise the bogey of Christian proselytisation of Muslims and proffer no substantive proof in support and yet they have not been hauled up for seditious speech.
“Don’t replace obsolete laws with newfangled ones, especially if you cannot be counted on to enforce them with equity,” he contended.
Commenters on the Malaysiakini article seem to agree:
Hang Babeuf: Of course, the National Harmony Act provokes scepticism. Just look at the name.
Absalom: If you want national harmony, you don’t need an Act, for that’s all it is, an act.
Ez24get: National Harmony Act – harmony for whom? Harmony for the corrupt BN as nobody could question or take away their gravy train?
Similar sentiments are expressed in yet another Malaysiakini commenter round-up:
Kee Thuan Chye: The Sedition Act should be repealed, not put into a new wine bottle with a nicer-sounding name. A repressive law by any other name still stinks just as bad.
Abasir: Deja vu! We’ve been here before. Remember how he introduced the so-called Peaceful Assembly Act following which a well-publicised peaceful assembly of citizens was deliberately trapped, gassed, beaten by gangs of unnamed men in uniform and thugs in mufti?
Kgen: Knowing Najib, the false democrat, the new Act will be even worse than the old Act. Just like the Peaceful Assembly Act, which is even harsher than the existing Police Act.
However, PM Najib Razak claims that the Act will “ensure the best balance between the need to guarantee the freedom of speech for every citizen and the need to handle the complexity of plurality existing in the country”, as reported by the state news agency Bernama:
”With this new act we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines. It will also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony… and mutual respect in the Malaysian society made up of various races and religions.”
Najib also stated that the government wants to invite views and opinions from Malaysian individuals and organisations on the legislation, naming the Attorney-General’s Chambers as the agency responsible for consulting with such stakeholders.
Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, a minister in the Prime Minister’s department, stated that unlike the to-be-repealed Sedition Act, the NHA will allow for criticism of the Malaysian government:
There should be no absolute freedom to the extent we can call people pariah, pimps and so on.It is [obvious] we want to protect the Institution of the Malay Rulers. They are above politics and this country practises Constitutional Monarchy
According to Mohamed Nazri, the new Act is not expected to be tabled until next year. It is therefore likely that the Sedition Act will remain in place until after the 13th Malaysian General Election, which must be held before March 2013.
ในวันพรุ่งนี้จะมีการสืบพยานโจทก์นัดแรกคดีเอกชัย ห. คนขายซีดีสารคดีเรื่อง สถาบันกษัตริย์ไทย ซึ่งผลิตโดยช่อง ABC ออสเตรเลีย
เอกชัยถูกจับที่สนามหลวงเมื่อมีนาคม 2554 ด้วยข้อหาตามมาตรา 112 และพรบ.ภาพยนตร์ ฐานขายวีดิทัศน์ที่มีเนื้อหาหมิ่นประมาท ดูหมิ่น อาฆาตมาดร้าย พระมหากษัตริย์ พระราชินี และรัชทายาทและขายวิดิทัศน์โดยไม่ได้รับอนุญาต ต่อมา เอกชัยได้สิทธิประกันตัว
ข้อสังเกตประการหนึ่งในคดี คือ เนื้อหาของสื่อที่ทำให้ถูกฟ้องไม่ได้เป็นข้อมูลและความเห็นของเอกชัย แต่เป็นเนื้อหาสารคดีที่ผลิตและเผยแพร่ที่ออสเตรเลีย
ท่านที่สนใจสังเกตการณ์คดี สามารถเข้าร่วมฟังการพิจารณาคดีได้ที่ศาลอาญารัชดา ห้อง 802 เวลา 9.00 น. เป็นต้นไป
โดยการพิจารณาคดีจะมีขึ้นระหว่างวันที่ 17 – 20 กรกฎาคม 2555
WE URGE ALL READERS TO SPEND AT LEAST ONE MORNING OR AFTERNOON SESSION TO SUPPORT EAKACHAI AND TO STAND UP FOR FREE SPEECH.
July 17 is the first day of witness hearings of Ekkachai Hongkangwan, accused under Article 112 for selling CDs with offensive contents related to the King, Queen and the Heir Apparent. Ekkachai explained that the CDs he was selling were a news documentary about the Thai Monarchy from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He was also charged under the Film Act for selling CDs without license.
July 17-20, 9:00am, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya) on Ratchadapisek Road near Lat Phrao MTR station, Exit 4. The trial is being heard in courtroom 802 unless public demand forces a change.
More detail: http://freedom.ilaw.or.th/case/68#detail
July 9, 2012
A Reluctant Provocateur Tweaks Thailand
Wall Street Journal: July 4, 2012
“If (Suha Arafat) really wants to know what happened to her husband (we need) to find a sample — I mean, an exhumation… should provide us with a sample that should have a very high quantity of polonium if he was poisoned,” he said.
Thai photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom says he’s reluctant to assume the mantle of “artist provocateur,” but in light of his recent work, and the controversy that surrounds it, he admits that he can’t dismiss it either.
One of Thailand’s leading contemporary photographers, Mr. Manit runs Bangkok’s bohemian Kathmandu Gallery and was among the seven artists chosen to represent the country in its first appearance at the Venice Biennale in 2003. He has held solo exhibitions at Galerie VU in Paris, Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography and the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan. His work was the subject of a solo retrospective at the Singapore Museum of Art in 2010.
In April, the 50-year-old artist and his wife Samanrat Kanjanavanit, a Thai filmmaker better known as Ing K, made headlines around the world when their film “Shakespeare Must Die” was banned by Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, which issued a statement saying that its content would “cause divisiveness among the people of the nation.” The movie, shot and produced by Mr. Manit, reimagines Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in Thai, with a contemporary setting and political shadings.
He first came to international notice with the launch of his “Pink Man” project in 1997, a photo series featuring the paunchy Thai poet Sompong Thawee dressed in a hot pink three-piece suit. In the various Pink Man works that followed, the eponymous anti-hero is seen pushing his matching pink shopping cart through Southeast Asian cities, landscapes and archival images of historical atrocity – all part of a playful but trenchant criticism of the materialism and apathy of the Thai upper crust.
His latest exhibition, currently on view at Bangkok’s H Gallery through July 30, offers two new provocative photo series in one. The first is a collection of dramatically lit female nudes and semi-nudes in saturated color. According to Mr. Manit, the hues and objects that accessorize the figures – such as red sickles, guns and designer handbags – are a critique of Thailand’s prime minister and the red-shirt political movement that supports her and her brother, ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra. The second series is composed of blurry monochrome photos of Thai phallic totems – inspired, the artist says, by a moment of middle-aged sexual insecurity.
Mr. Manit, who wore a bright red button-down shirt to the show’s opening, spoke with the Journal about obscenity, the hunger for power and why his iconic pink man is taking a break.
The Wall Street Journal: You worked as a photojournalist early in your career. How did that inform what you do as an artist?
Mr. Manit: To become an artist you need experience. Everything comes from your experience. When I graduated from art school, I knew I was young and that I didn’t really know much. I thought becoming a photojournalist would be a good way to see all kinds of things. I was sent out to cover stories and conflicts near the Thai border, and I got to travel to places in Thailand I had never had a chance to see. So it was a way to learn about my own culture and my own country. And that’s important. Also, when you work as a photojournalist, you have to know how to tell your story with one picture. It’s quite challenging to do well.
As an artist, you’re best known for Pink Man, but he hasn’t made any recent appearances in your work. Is Pink Man dead?
I’d rather not say that he is dead. But he is less active now. Pink Man was born and lived through a particular time. He was synchronized to a specific historical situation. He was a critique of the greed and consumerism of that period. At the current moment, the issues are more complex. It’s difficult to use him to make useful comments currently. Let’s say he’s resting.
Your photographs often have a strong social or political message. Do you feel social engagement is one of your responsibilities as an artist?
If you just ignore the lies and problems and let things happen around you, or sit back and complain without doing anything, well, I don’t think that’s fair. Everybody has to engage from their area of activity. I’m an artist; this is my area. So this is how I can contribute.
Why is your new exhibition titled “Obscene”?
Well, it’s a nude series. But I always try to put some stories into my work; and the story I’m trying to tell in this one is more obscene than the nudity. You know Thailand is now run by our first female prime minister. This is something we should all be proud of. But sadly, I don’t think many Thai people feel that way. Many people think that she doesn’t really have any qualifications for running the country other than her family name and her political backers. And that’s not enough.
Do you see your role as partly that of the provocateur?
I never saw myself that way, but looking at this new work, maybe I have to accept the title. If I provoke, it’s to get people to wake up.
At the moment in Thailand, both sides are fighting for their own power, not for the benefit of everyone. They don’t progress society. They put society in danger. And when big conflicts do happen, both sides gain their interests, because people are forced to choose sides. Then everyone bombards each other with hatred, and the elites on each side gain their power from the hatred and passion. You can see this happening in many societies. Maybe this is something you recognize from the situation in America?
Tell us about the origins of the other half of the exhibition, “Holy Machismo.”
Last year I turned 50. You know, man, when you come to a certain age, you start to worry that something inside you might be fading. As a man, maybe you worry about your testosterone levels. But it’s not just about sex drive. It’s scary to think that you might be losing your passion for life. I normally try to avoid putting personal stuff in my work. I used to do it when I was younger — you know the teenage thing, “Oh me, oh my, who am I?” Now I usually have other things I want to address. But I thought that this issue was universal and worth exploring.
Giant phalluses, hot-button political issues and a nude model used to critique the country’s first female prime minister – this is a pretty controversial show. Did you worry about how it might be received?
You can usually get away with expressing yourself freely in art galleries in Thailand. For film, there’s a mechanism in place for censorship. Raising questions in film scares them, because they fear the power of the medium. But we’re safer in art.
Edited from an interview with Patrick Brzeski
July 9, 2012
The New York Times: July 3, 2012
When government censors in Lebanon reviewed a new film, “Beirut Hotel,” there was one scene that particularly caught their attention — a reference to a USB memory stick with documents on it about the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The censors tipped off their colleagues in another department of the General Directorate of General Security, the country’s internal intelligence agency, which then demanded that the film’s producer turn over the USB stick.
Of course, the film was fictional, and the stick nonexistent. And although the film contained risqué sex scenes compared with other Lebanese films, the censors banned it instead on grounds of national security for having simply mentioned the Hariri assassination — the defining event in recent Lebanese history.
The filmmaker, Danielle Arbid, said she moved to France in disgust. “Beirut Hotel,” released late last year, was her third feature film in a row to be banned in Lebanon. She joins a parade of artists to leave the country, following businesses and investors whose frustration with Beirut was more practical, and probably even more consequential.
With a new government dominated by allies of Hezbollah, long a proxy of Syria, censorship has been on the rise. Four new films have been banned this year — a record for the Media and Theater Department, as the censorship bureau is formally called.
Intellectually and artistically, Beirut has long been freer than other places in the Middle East; some now fear that is under threat as never before. With the rise of the Shiite Islamists of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims — traditionally moderate — have been increasingly challenged by extremists, from Salafi mullahs in Sidon to Al Qaeda in the northern city of Tripoli. All of them have been pushing back against secular license.
“Why freer? Why an -er on that word?” asked Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, a group dedicated to freedom of expression, and named in honor of a journalist and critic of Syria who was assassinated after Mr. Hariri. Most of the rest of the region has little or no bragging rights when it comes to freedom of expression.
Christian groups have also been joining the call for censorship. “The majority of complaints are initiated by the churches,” Mr. Mhanna said. It is perhaps the only thing religious parties on all sides seem to agree about. “When it comes to censorship, they’re all perfectly O.K. with that.”
After its civil war ended in 1990, Lebanon never did regain its role as the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, and as a natural bridge between East and West. That did not help matters, either — prosperity has always encouraged greater freedom. Then Lebanon’s economic collapse last year was set off by the new government’s refusal to cooperate with the United Nations special tribunal investigating the role of Syria and Hezbollah in Mr. Hariri’s assassination, after it indicted Hezbollah officials. The uprising in Syria next door worsened investor confidence even further.
For many businesses and even cultural institutions, places like Doha, Qatar, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates just seemed like a better bet, even though censorship is rife and political freedoms virtually nonexistent. Western museums and universities opened branches in the Persian Gulf states, not in the city once called the Paris of the Arab world.
In Beirut, the censors have banned “The Da Vinci Code” as anti-Christian and the TV series “The West Wing” as anti-Arab. The General Security directorate has broad powers in other areas, too, refusing permission, for instance, for the director Francis Ford Coppola to land his private jet in Beirut in 2009 because the engine included parts made in Israel; he had to land in Damascus instead, and travel overland.
After the civil war, says Sarkis Naoum, a columnist for the newspaper An-Nahar, “at first business did come back, but we did not regain our old position. In reality, the civil war did not end, just the military actions of the civil war ended.”
Sectarian squabbling between ministries adversely affected Lebanon in ways important to both the business and cultural communities. Internet speed is among the slowest in the world, 172nd among countries, according to Speedtest.net. “It takes me two days to download a short movie,” said Nadim Lahoud, a film producer. Cellphones and land line telephones are equally bad, and expensive.
“Nothing works in this country except the censorship bureau,” Ms. Arbid said by telephone.
Mr. Mhanna said infrastructure problems like that were cultural concerns as well, particularly Internet speed — which he feels the government keeps slow out of a misguided view by censors that it makes it easier to keep tabs on troublemakers. “Slow Internet service is one of the fundamental impediments to freedom of expression,” he said.
Mr. Lahoud decided to take on the censorship bureau directly, with a weekly dramatic series called “Mamnou3!” — a “mockumentary” set in a re-creation of the ’70s-styled office space of the censorship bureau, full of steel filing cabinets where the only computer is the size of a small refrigerator. (Mamnou means forbidden in Arabic.)
Financed by European Union grant money through the Samir Kassim Foundation, the series had its premiere on Monday — not on television, which would require approval of the bureau that it mocks, but online, promoted by social networking sites.
“We’re guessing they won’t do anything about it,” Mr. Lahoud said, “not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t have the capacity.”