Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Thailand's "Pink Man"

Pink Man performance by Sompong Thawee
If King Kong stood for untamed savagery and Godzilla for nature's revenge on nuclear age man, then Pink Man the monster is surely their exact opposite. There he stands, in his shiny pink suit, the sum total of contemporary man the monster, as built and bred by extreme capitalism. His whole being ruled by insatiable greed, unchecked by any belief system, social, religious or political, he has become one of the 'hungry ghosts' that dutiful Buddhists are supposed to pity and to save by sending them vibrations of love. Through such acts of kindness, we hope to save ourselves from Hell. But alas, we are already there, forever hungry in Hi-tech Hell. How strange that we yearn so much to kill Godzilla and King Kong, yet we condone the existence of Pink Man the monstrous Hungry Ghost. He roams our streets with impunity,and we do nothing.

The idea of Pink Man came to me when I went out shopping at the newest mall in town. This mall is very big - like a factory - so bright with thousands of fluorescent lamps,
all kinds of goods kept on shelves orderly. A lot of buyers were tirelessly enjoying filling their trolleys with goods, getting into long queues to pay - like going to an amusement park. To what extent has consumerism brainwashed us? That life values are measured by materials that one possesses.

Pink Man is my upset and alienated feeling towards the concept of consumerism which has been accepted simply and without consideration by Thai society. I feel that this system has enslaved us without our realization. Moreover, we are being forced to act in the same way : there is a move towards uniformity. Pink Man is wandering quietly and smilelessly, like a robot, in the opulent and busy business area of Silom street, where there is a lunch market named La-lai-sap (melting money) for office men and women.Pink, like in the photo, is considered generally by high class group of Thai people as tastelessness and vulgarity which is used commonly by night-life girls and comedians. In additional to this reason, I intentionally use Pink color in order to subvert the aesthetics of local art.
6 October 1976 was another black mark in Thai politics. After 14 October 1973, a new PM, new constitution and fresh elections gave hope for a change for the better. But from 1973 – 1976, a series of weak coalition governments floundered in a chain of musical chairs.

By 1976 the political mood was somber. A unified Vietnam after the Communist victory
and the killing fields in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge hung like a haunting specter over the region. With the withdrawal of US forces from Asia, South East Asian countries were living in apprehension.

This was also a period of newfound freedom for the students and intellectuals.

Still heady from their moral victory three years earlier, they engaged in open expression, organized demonstrations, strikes and demands for reform.

But by 6 October 1976, the winds of political change have shifted. The very people who backed the students three years ago were skeptical of them now in the light of the communist threat.

The conservative middle class found the strident left wing radicalism unsettling. There was a strong anti-communist sentiment in Thailand with an insurgency in the south.
The proximity of communist neighbors in Vietnam and Cambodia compounded the fears.
There was a rise of right wing groups at the village level and among technical and
vocational students to counter the left-wing groups, with frequent clashes between
the two. The weak government torn by factional strife was unable to rein in the two extremes.

In the midst of all this, Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn, the deposed dictator in 1973, returned to Thailand and was ordained as a monk.

With the bitter memories of 14 October 1973 still fresh in their minds, the students were incensed.

They massed for a huge protest in Thammasat University. By now, the students, with their left wing liberal attitudes, were treated with suspicion.

As in some other South East Asian countries it was easy to be tarred a communist just by opposing the establishment.

The spark that fired the pogrom was the burning by students of an effigy that allegedly resembled a member of royal family. In the eyes of the common people and the right wing groups the students had gone too far.

On evening of the 6 October 1976, right-wing groups, police and the military stormed the campus in an orgy of killings and unspeakable atrocities to the living and the dead. Hopes for a dawn of a new democracy were quickly crushed. Many intellectuals fled to the hills.

Relatives of the dead and missing bemoan the lack of public concern for the victims of the 6 October 1976 who were not held in the same regard as the martyrs of 14 October 1973. 6 October was like a nightmare society preferred to forget.

The only memorial for those who died on 6 October is in the grounds Thammasat University, near the 14 October memorial.

It's a simple a sculpture of the Thai date 6 October 2519 (1976.

1 comment:

Richaar de Pilchaar said...

This modified picture is probably the best image imaginable to describe the atrocities that happened on Oct 6, 1976 and the attitude of many Thai at that time.
I can only hope that the awareness of the Thai people has risen and that scenes like this will now definitely belong to the past.
Now is not the time to forget. It is the time to remember.