The Artistic Side of Thai Political Crisis

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer


BANGKOK — One of the most problematic aspects of the decade-long political feud in Thailand is that many people cling to their own perceived political truths with no room for differing views. The result is little dialogue, not to mention sympathy.

These people can best be understood using a few Western artistic schools as a guide. Ten years is a long period of time for any society to be trapped in a pithole of crisis, and the sooner people can recognize our perceptive shortcomings the better.


The Impressionists: These Thais heavily rely on their impression to interpret political situation. If their perception is that junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha is a gentlemanly officer who is sacrificing his time to save the kingdom from bloodshed and self destruction, then no mount of stats, facts or repression can sway their established opinion.

\The same goes with Thaksin-Yingluck Shinawatra fans. No amount of abuse of power or corruption allegations or court cases can shake their belief in the siblings as heroes. To these people, if their impression is that the sky is green, then it’s just green. There’s enough information ghettos on cyberspace for these two groups in endlessly dwell in their own world of good versus evil – the only choice to is decide which side is good or evil.


The Expressionists: Too busy to listen to differing views, the Expressionists indulge themselves in spreading their one-sided views on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube to satisfy their artistic, oops, political urges. The military junta may believe in ramming propaganda into our skulls, most recently with one-sided info about its draft charter to be broadcast twice daily Feb. 3-15, but they are not alone. Many netizens are very determined to only say nice things about whoever they’re rooting for. People like exiled former Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who is perceived as being pro-Thaksin/Yingluck, have recently been attacked by those genuinely pro-Thaksin/Yingluck for merely some general criticism of the Shinawatras.

To the political expressionists, listening to differing political views is a waste of time and not part of their daily repertoire.


The Realists: The political realists see society as static. They have neither dreams nor aspirations for a better Thailand. Corrupt politicians will always be corrupt, coups will recur every few years and Thais will never be ready for democracy because they’re irresponsible, naive, little-educated and probably corrupt. They are apolitical.

These people can’t seem to grasp that no society is static, that in terms of rights and liberties, Thailand has progressed much since the days of absolute monarchy less than a century ago at least excluding May 2014 through the present.  


The Surrealists: Dictator Prayuth regularly suggests the public should be grateful for having him stage the coup and rule over us (with an iron fist covered with a thin Thai silk glove). This definitely qualifies the junta leader a surrealist. Prayuth and his men can go on talking about how they respect human rights and how selfless they are in working toward achieving 99.9 percent democracy for Thailand while arresting opponents and forbidding political assembly of five or more persons. Listening to Prayuth talk is a surreal experience in itself, bordering on political Dadaism.

While I respect people’s rights to perceive Thailand however they wish, it would be scandalous to tell Van Gogh, Rothko or Dali that there’s only one way to represent and express reality. For now, Thailand seems trapped in Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” where time itself seems to have melted and things refuse to move on.



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