BANGKOK — Two years ago police vans became large canvases for anti-government protesters, who painted them with wrathful words and the colors of the flag.
Although such sights are now gone from Ratchadamnoen Avenue, they live on in the work of Manit Sriwanichpoom, who captured the turmoil which set the stage for the ongoing unrest of today.
His recent collection, from the 2011 election up to March’s solar eclipse, are brought through Manit’s experienced lens in his latest exhibition “Fear” to reflect the unsaid terrors lying in the minds of his fellow citizens. It opens Saturday at three Bangkok venues including his own Kathmandu Gallery.
More than the 2014 street protests which precipitated the military coup d’etat, the collection includes various political issues which have ignited during the past five years.
“Transitions cause fear in Thailand such as coups, the upcoming referendum, and the royal succession,” said the 54-year-old photographer. “The most crucial fear can’t be talked about negatively or even positively, as it would be harmful to the speaker.”
Through capturing history in his photos, Manit poses questions on democracy in Thailand. For example, why is the memory of the PCAD’s seven-month occupation now fading? Why is Thailand still where it is more than 40 years after people rose up against military dictatorship in 1973? And why is the public haunted by the previous elected government’s rice subsidy program?
The way out? Manit doesn’t seem to offer one. He sounds just as hopeless about elected politicians’ ability to move the nation forward.
“Politicians from elections diminish democracy. Instead of solidifying democracy, the power given is abused to serve their own interests and scare people,” Manit said. “Real democracy requires people’s participation in every aspect and their right to inspect. Thailand is still far from that point, and elected governments never succeed in getting there.”
A photographer with over three decades experience, Manit doesn’t shy from stating his political views in his work. One entry in his iconic Pink Man series featured its eponymous man in a bright pink suit inserted into horrifying photos of the 1976 massacre of students to reflect surging consumerism.
It will also show in Singapore at Yavuz Gallery from July 30 to Sept. 18.
The opening reception party is from 6pm to 9pm on Saturday at Kathmandu Photo Gallery located on Pan Road just off lower Silom Road, across from the Hindu temple.
It’s reachable from BTS Surasak, Sala Daeng or MRT Silom.