Infographic: Thai junta leader to cut short 'boring' Friday night rants

A screencap of Thai military junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha's weekly TV address

Originally published at Siam Voices on June 1, 2015

As Thai military junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha considers shortening his weekly TV addresses, we look how much air time he has already racked up.

Every Friday evening, the dulcet tones of synthesized strings of a pop ballad ring in the program that has been a mainstay on Thai television for a year now, and a man starts talking and talking... and talking about the work he has done in the past week. The weekly spot is part of the Thai military government's media propaganda routine, replacing the much-loved soap operas that are usually shown at this time.

Since the military coup of May 22, 2014, as part of the junta's efforts to "Return Happiness" to the Thai people in order to win backs the hearts and minds it has continuouslyintimidated, Thai junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha appears every Friday night at around 8.3opm to address the nation in his show "Returning Happiness to the Nation's People" ("คืนความสุข ให้คนในชาติ").

Weekly programs where Thai prime ministers provide updates about the work of their government are not a novelty, as previous civilian governments have done so before. The main difference is that their programs ran on Sunday on one state-owned TV station. Gen. Prayuth on the other hand appears on nearly all Thai free TV channels on Friday evening, a time slot normally reserved for the "lakorns", the soap operas that are hugely popular, but can also be rather questionable - so questionable, in fact, that Gen. Prayuth himself offered to write some new scripts himself.

On the program - which is pre-recorded in front of a green screen - Gen. Prayuth discusses the week's progress of his administration on a variety of issues. On some episodes, he's joined by other members of the junta or the cabinet to provide their updates. But more often than not, his rapid-fire remarks veer off-script into bizarre side notes and furious tirades (so much so that the English subtitles hardly keep up with him), further cementing his mercurial rhetoric and his compulsive loquaciousness.

And more often than not, his weekly addresses vary in length, but tend to be on the longer side, as our infographic shows:

Those times are soon coming to an end though, or at least they appear to be cut short:

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is considering cutting the length of his weekly national address by half and may move it out of the prime-time slot. Prayut said yesterday he would try to keep his speech to about 30 minutes during the programme [...]

When asked if he watched the pre-recorded programme, the prime minister said: "I do and I feel bored."

"Prayut to rethink time and length of his weekly TV show", The Nation, May 29, 2015

While the junta leader is seemingly omnipresent on TV, it is not known if a lot of people are actually tuning to hear his words of "wisdom" - it could be possible that the majority actually doesn't watch, most likely in disappointment at being deprived of their beloved "lakorns". And TV executives aren't really happy about this either, considering that these shows score the highest ratings and contribute to the largest advertising revenues:

"It was popular during the first few weeks, but since it's been a year now, it has lost its appeal," Sirote Klampaiboon, an independent scholar and TV host, said last week. Forcing all channels to relay the programme could be considered as monopolising information, Sirote said. (...)

The programme, which usually drags on for more than an hour, has impacted the TV industry, he said. The operators all paid a fortune to bid for a spot on the digital TV platform last year in the hope that they could create content and attract viewers. Undoubtedly, airtime was valuable, he said. The operators held the rights to exploit the resources they had paid for, but the programme hosted by the premier prevented them from doing so, he added.

"Not every TV viewer is happy with Prayut 'Returning Happiness to the People'", The Nation, May 31, 2015

In a related development, the military government's daily TV show "Thailand Moves Forward", also aired on all state-owned channels, is getting another 15 minutes of air time.

Thailand: Uniform protest student accused of insulting monarchy

Originally published at Siam Voices on September 17, 2013 On Monday we reported on the Thammasat University student and her provocative poster campaign against student uniforms.

Now, the controversial student known as "Aum Neko" is facing more trouble:

A TV show host has accused the student known for her campaign against mandatory uniform wearing of insulting the monarchy.

Ms. Ponnipa Supatnukul, 41, the host of a talk show called "Best of Your Life" which is broadcast on a satellite TV channel, filed the complaint to the police in Nonthaburi Province, invoking Article 112 of the Criminal Codes which criminalises insults to the Royal Family. (...)

The student, who goes by her nickname Aum Neko, was interviewed in a talk show hosted by Ms. Pontipa 3 months ago, according to Ms. Pontipa. In the show, she said, she talked to Ms. Aum and 20 other Thammasat students about the impact of economic slowdown on students′ livelihood.

Ms. Pontipa claimed that Ms. Aum shocked everyone by "talking outside the topic" and "insulting the higher institution", a term referring to the monarchy. Ms. Aum's words were "so shocking we could not broadcast the show", Ms. Pontipa said, but she has nevertheless stored footage of the interview.

She claimed that she decided to pursue a legal action against Ms. Aum because she was incensed by the student′s continued defamation of the monarchy. Ms. Pontipa also alleged that Ms. Aum is encouraging other students to commit similar crimes.

"Lese Majeste Complaint Against Reformist Student", Khaosod English, September 16, 2013

The complainant made sure that the filing of her charge was well-documented as she let somebody film the process at the police station and posted it later on Facebook. She also had a few press members in tow.

Ms. Ponnipa also provided the officer with documents given by an unnamed Thammasat lecturer that includes personal details about "Aum Neko" including her actual gender by birth (she is a transgender woman), her actual name, birth date and personal ID number - which Ms. Ponnipa also willingly let the cameras film (a reason why I decided against embedding the video, as it was accompanied by an audible cackle by one of the bystanders).

While the nature of the offending comments allegedly made by the student has yet to be disclosed, Prachatai reports that the complainant pointed to a Facebook post by "Aum Neko" that apparently crossed the line for the TV host, as it criticized the pre-screening of Royal tribute movies at cinemas, where standing up is mandatory. In the same report, "Aum Neko" herself has expressed "shock and much anger" as she cannot believe that others would resort to "dirty means" in order to discredit her.

One really has to question the motives and the way Ms. Ponnipa filed her lèse majesté charge, since she was sitting on the alleged offensive remarks for months just to use them against her right now after the anti-uniform campaign gained more attention. Also, she repeatedly showed suggestive pictures of the accused, trying to make the point that such an offence can only be made by an (from her viewpoint) "immoral" person, while repeatedly positively mentioning the virtues of His Majesty and her perceived duty to protect it.

There have been lèse majesté complaints in the past of similar frivolous and spiteful nature: just last Friday a court acquitted a man of lèse majesté, after his own brother filed charges against him in what was a very apparent a long-standing sibling rivalry turned ugly. (It is worth noting that the alleged anti-monarchy comments in this case were made in private, which would have had catastrophic ramifications in case of a conviction). The man was imprisoned for a whole year and repeatedly denied bail while his case was pending.

Another example is the case of actor Pongpat Wachirabanjong's rousing pro-monarchy speech in 2010 (“If you hate our Father, if you don’t love our Father anymore, then you should get out of here!“), after which one person (mostly likely facetiously) accused him of improper language. Unsurprisingly, the case was dropped.

These and many more cases show one of several weak points of the Kingdom's draconian law that can be punished with up to 15 years in prison: since anybody can file a charge against anybody, the police have to investigate every complaint and nearly all cases end up in court. The probability of this law being used out of contempt against outspokenness is very high and ultimately can undermine the purpose of the law: to protect the country's monarchy.

Thai TV shows on-screen murder and utter lack of ethical priorities

Originally published at Siam Voices on August 9, 2013 The broadcast of CCTV footage of a murder on Thai television again raises questions about media ethics in Thailand, especially considering what they have censored instead.

The footage shows a quiet evening in the office of a car repair shop in Chon Buri descending into violence as a man suddenly stands up from his chair, pulls out a gun and shoots at two women sitting on the sofa opposite of him, later to be revealed as his fiancé and her mother. One of them immediately slumps, the other managed to run out to the door, only to collapse in front of it. The shooter follows her to the garage and walks away from the scene.

The fact that I was able to describe the scene in its gruesome detail (and omitted a lot of other details, such as the exact address of the crime scene and names of those involved) is 'thanks' to free-to-air Channel 3, who showed the complete footage of the murder in its entirety without any cuts or prior note of warning. The only censorship measure that was taken here was to blur the gun!

This scene shows an absurd disconnect between what has been censored and what may should have been omitted. While the blurring of firearms being drawn on people in both fictional and non-fictional programs is a regular occurrence (as is the minimal pixelation of bodies at crime scenes), it really begs the question if it was necessary to show the moments of two people's deaths.

However, this is not the first time Thai media outlets have shown poor ethical judgment in reporting on crime stories. In February of this year the newspaper Daily News reported on a gang rape victim by fully disclosing her name and personal details, which were later removed following heavy criticism by its readers. Before that, a 12-year-old girl, freed from years of slavery and torture, was paraded almost naked by local police in front of the media to show her mutilated body - oblivious of potentially adding further trauma to her.

In general, it appears that victims of crimes in Thailand cannot expect any protection by the media as there are no apparent stop-gap between the media and police, who provide all the details (and access to the crime scenes) of the case that is then replicated in the news almost word for word.

Considering what else is being arbitrarily censored on Thai TV (e.g. smoking and bare female breasts) one really has to ask where the ethical priorities lie in Thai media - if there are any at all!

Thai TV station red-faced after Thatcher-Streep gaffe

Originally published at Siam Voices on April 9, 2013 Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away on Monday at the age of 87 and with the passing of a historical figure like her, the mechanisms of the media go into full swing as her political legacies are discussed with either passion or loathing (while social media discussed whether or not the etiquette-based courtesy should be better dropped).

Of course, the Thai mainstream also runs its tributes and obituaries. However, when people tuned into the army-owned Channel 5 for the news on the death of Thatcher - they saw this:

Yes, this is NOT the late Thatcher but rather US actress Meryl Streep portraying her in the 2011 movie The Iron Lady. After one viewer snapped a screenshot of this and posted it on Facebook, a flood of schadenfreude was poured onto Channel 5 by Thai netizens.

(READ MORE: Taiwan TV shows queen in reports on Thatcher death)

Obviously, this was the result of a quick Google picture search and taking the next best picture that showed up. But it does beg the question whether or not this will be the last time that a TV newsroom will make such a (admittedly hilarious) mistake and confuse the real world figures with the actors playing them - we probably can expect to see future mix-ups like Hellen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II or Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela!

But let's not go too hard on the Thai media. The BBC had a howler of its own on Monday afternoon:

P.S.: One could argue that a picture shown on CNN with Thatcher standing next to late BBC personality and now notorious Jimmy Saville isn't much better either...

After the Thai TV monarchy debate, controversy is growing

Originally published at Siam Voices on March 22, 2013 A Thai TV program discussing the role of the monarchy has sparked growing controversy, with reactionary voices sparking a police investigation. The public broadcaster ThaiPBS aired a week-long special of its interview and  discussion program "Tob Jote Prathet Thai" ("ตอบโจทย์ประเทศไทย", roughly translated to "Answering Thailand's Issues") about the royal institution. The series culminated in a two-episode debate between Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul and royalist critic Sulak Sivaraksa, focusing on the draconian lése majesté law. However, ThaiPBS decided not to air the last part of the series, citing fears it could "spark social unrest". (Read our previous post here).

During the whole run, the program was deemed controversial as it was both commended and condemned for openly discussing the role of the monarchy in Thailand on national television. Similar condemnation and commendation was aimed at ThaiPBS after their decision to cancel the airing of Friday's episode, which sparked rumors about political intervention. A collateral damage was the show "Tob Jote" itself, when host Pinyo Traisuriyathamma announced shortly after the cancellation that he and his team would no longer produce any episodes of the program.

However, much to the surprise of everyone, ThaiPBS eventually reversed its decision and aired the second part of the Somsak-vs-Sulak debate on Monday night without any prior notice and promotion. An executive explained before the broadcast that by showing the final part, the audience would understand that part of the political crisis and divide stems form the lèse majesté law, and its abuse actually harms the royal institution.

The controversy over the show is now growing as a group of 100 "fed-up" ultra-royalists, led by self-proclaimed monarchy-defender Dr. Tul Sittisomwong (whose stances on pro-LM and against LM reform have been well documented), protested at the ThaiPBS headquarters on Wednesday and have called for the executives to resign. We have also already mentioned the 40 appointed (as in NOT democratically elected) senators claim that the show's content is deemed lèse majesté.

The program also provoked army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to break his months of relative silence and to revert to his usual brazen rhetoric and also slammed the program and its makers. As seen in this video, Prayuth struggled to find the right words, in order not to be too harsh, but nevertheless said this:

"The TV show and its contents are allowed by law but we should consider if it was appropriate. If you think Thailand and its monarchy and its laws are making you uncomfortable, then you should go live elsewhere," Prayuth told reporters.

"Thai TV show draws army wrath for lese-majeste debate", by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Reuters, March 20, 2013

The hawkish general has been previously quoted saying that victims of the lèse majesté law "should not be whining" because "they know it better." He has also said the following (as previously blogged here), which kind of foreshadows his own words from this week and may should adhere to his own advice then:

"(...) คือกฎหมายเราและประเทศไทยก็คือประเทศไทย ผมไม่เข้า(ใจ)ว่าหลายๆคนอยากจะให้ประเทศไทยเป็นเหมือนประเทศอื่น มีเสรีทุกเรื่อง แล้วถามว่ามันจะอยู่กันยังไงผมไม่รู้ ขนาดแบบนี้ยังอยู่กันไม่ได้เลย” พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ กล่าว

"(...) Our laws are our laws and Thailand is Thailand. I don’t understand why so many people want Thailand to be like other countries – to have freedom in everything – how can we live? I don’t know… I can’t live even like it is now already!” said Gen. Prayuth

‘ประยุทธ์’แจงปิดวิทยุชุมชนหมิ่นยันทำตามกฎหมาย“, Krungthep Turakij, April 29, 2011

The absolute low points so far in terms of reactions came from Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and the Royal Thai Police, which are under his watch. They claim to found content in the show that is deemed lèse majesté and have now started to take action:

An initial check of the tapes of the fourth and fifth episodes of the monarchy-debate series found that some statements by guests on the programme were in violation of the law. [Royal Thai Police spokesman Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo] said that because the programme has attracted a huge public interest and the issue has ramifications on national security, the police have appointed a team of 50 investigators led by Pol General Chatchawan Suksomjit with Pol Lt-General Saritchai Anekwiang as deputy investigator. Police from stations across the country have been instructed to accept complaints about the programme from members of the public.

The national police chief ordered the team to conduct a speedy yet careful investigation and report on their progress within 30 days.

The public is also warned against disseminating information on the Internet that might be deemed insulting to the monarchy and in violation of the Computer Crime Act. Anyone found involved in the dissemination of the lese majeste content would also face action.

"Monarchy debate broke law: police", The Nation, March 22, 2013

This is basically calling for a crackdown on the program, its makers, the guests, and all online discussions about the content of the show!

As a countermeasure, ThaiPBS has meanwhile set up a legal team.

Chalerm defended the police action, saying that it was his order to transcribe the two episodes and pledged to take legal action against whoever on that show broke the law. He also makes the bizarre statement that the government doesn't need to get involved, since he is in charge of the police, despite also being deputy prime minister. He also said this:

"Don't they have anything better to do than criticise the monarchy? It is their right to do so but there must be some limit," he continued. "Thailand has a population of 64 million. Why give so much attention to the opinions of a small group of people?"

"Monarchy debate broke law: police", The Nation, March 22, 2013

The same can be asked about the initial 20 (!), then 100 "fed-up" royalists protesting at ThaiPBS. These self-proclaimed defenders of the monarchy fail to understand that a reform of Article 112 of the Criminal Code does not seek to abolish or to overthrow the monarchy; that criticism of the draconian law does not equal disloyalty to the crown and the country; and that a public discourse about the vaguely written, arbitrarily applied law is essential if Thailand is to move forward.

No country for bold stances: Thai TV station cancels royalty debate

Originally published at Siam Voices on March 19, 2013 For the second time this year, a television program was forced off the air in Thailand due to the perceived politically controversial content. However, this episode is much more than just a cancelled show - it was a test on how much it was possible to have a debate on the most sensitive and serious issue in Thailand, writes Saksith Saiyasombut

In general, programming of the Thai Public Broadcast Service (ThaiPBS) is considered to be of decent quality, aimed at an informed audience or those that want to be informed. This, is a unique approach among the roughly half dozen free-TV channels, whose TV listings are mostly dominated by the infamous lakorn soap operas and variety shows. However, it is also said that this great programing is watched by hardly anyone for the exact same reasons.

The channel has seen many transformations in its young, turbulent history - from an independent, hard-hitting bedrock of Thai TV journalism to the slow neutering under Thaksin Shinawatra's ShinCorp to the eventual takeover the military junta in 2006. The most recent chapter is going to leave another mark on the channel's track record, albeit not a very positive one.

Over the past week, the ThaiPBS interview and discussion show "Tob Jote Prathet Thai" ("ตอบโจทย์ประเทศไทย") or roughly translated to "Answering Thailand's Issues", had a week-long special series discussing and debating the role of the constitutional monarchy in Thailand. This is a very hot topic considering the current political climate where the long-held notion that the King and the royal institution are above politics is being challenged and defended with equal passion.

On the first three days of this series, host Pinyo Traisuriyathamma interviewed former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai, Thammasat historian and academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul, and self-proclaimed "ultra-royalist" and former palace police chief Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn, while the last two episodes had Somsak and veteran social activist and monarchy critic Sulak Sivaraksa mostly debating Thailand's still existing draconian lèse majesté law (a summary can be read here).

It turned out that the program attracted attention for the right reasons, as the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee notes:

Clearly the programme is pushing the envelope. And envelope-pushing is what we need when the same old blabbering inside our old, cobwebbed envelope isn't taking us anywhere. The highlights of the five-night series were on Thursday and Friday, when Mr Sulak and Mr Somsak sat next to each other debating, eyeing up and staring down, hands moving in a complex telegraphy of their thought. (...) What's most important, however, is the fact that they said many things we never thought we'd hear on television. (...) the mentions of the monarchy were as frank, or as evasive, as the law allows. Of course they both wish the law would allow more, that's the gist of it all.

(...) We as the citizens, and we as journalists, who can now take comfort in the fact that some of the "sensitive" issues often talked about in murmurs, with hand covering mouth, or online, or totally underground, have made their way to national TV, in HD to boot. Television is known for accommodating emotion (think drama series) but in the right setting, it also encourages reason as a condition of being persuasive. It's official: this five-day talk has raised the bar on possible discussion about the monarchy.

"Everyone wins in the Thai PBS royalty debate. Right?", by Kong Rithdee, Bangkok Post, March 16, 2013

Given the current political climate, this TV show had its opponents: as many as 20 (yes, you read that right!) royalist protestors demonstrated in front of ThaiPBS on Friday evening before the airing of the last episode and demanded for the show to be taken off the air. They claimed that the monarchy should not be dragged into any political discussion and that the discussion about (an amendment) to the lèse majesté law is the first step towards dismantling the monarchy - a deliberate disinformation.

Nevertheless, the small but vocal group got its way and apparently ThaiPBS caved, deciding just moments before it was to go on air that the second part of the debate between Sulak and Somsak was to be cancelled on Friday evening, citing fears that the program could "spark social conflict" - an often-heard and convenient phrase to shut down any public discourse that could be deemed uncomfortable.

Unsurprisingly, the decision caused instant controversy. It was met with shock, anger and ridicule online, with some also pointing out that this has been the second recent cancellation of a TV program on Thai airwaves for apparent political reasons, the first being soap opera "Nua Mek 2" which took an apparent jab at the existing government (read more on this here).

Meanwhile, the team of "Tob Jote Prathet Thai" have announced the cancellation of the whole show altogether following Friday's incident. Pinyo Traisuriyathamma has said there was no political or royal interference, but the decision was made by the channel executives.

Whether it was political interference  or just pre-emptive obedience by the ThaiPBS higher-ups, the cancellation of an open and straight public debate about the role of the monarchy in the Thai state is a cruel reminder that a certain section of the Thai population is still not ready to face differing notions about Thailand's power structure. While ThaiPBS is to be commended on tackling a thorny issue, it has made a number of discouraging steps backwards by deciding to cancel the show.

UPDATE (Tuesday, March 19): In yet another reversal, ThaiPBS decided to show the last part of the series after all on Monday - without any advertisements or announcements. Here's the YouTube video to the full debate with Somsak Jeamteerasakul and Sulak Sivaraksa:

Before that earlier on Monday, Thai Rath reports that a group of 40 appointed (read: NOT democratically elected!) senators have slammed the "Tob Jote" program for "insulting the monarchy" and see the content as a violation of the lèse majesté law - showing once again that certain groups of people are incapable of a constructive discourse and (deliberately perhaps?) do not know that it is legal to talk about lèse majesté and other issues.

UPDATE 2 (Wednesday, March 20): The pattern of "one step forward, several steps back" has been repeated again, as all videos linked here have been pulled. But since this is the internet, the video have been reposted multiple times already and have been linked here as well.

Thai army ordered to stand down after bullying yellow shirt paper

Originally published at Siam Voices on January 14, 2013 This past weekend, around 40-50 military officers suddenly showed up in front of the building of ASTV-Manager protesting the paper's harsh criticism of the army and the 'slandering' of their armed forces chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The soldiers from the 1st army region assembled on Friday afternoon after the newspaper compared Prayuth's most recent outburst to a "woman in her periods". A second protest was staged on Saturday morning at the same spot and they threatened to repeat it again every day until the paper apologizes.

The show of force by the officers in green came after a public tit-for-tat between General Prayuth and the newspaper, the latter attacking the armed forces for their handling of the border conflict with neighboring Cambodia over the ancient Buddhist Hindu temple Preah Vihear. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold hearings in April, after the Cambodia has requested the ICJ to reinterpret aspects of the 1962 ruling in their favor. A decision is expected to take place in October later this year.

Just to be very clear, the publication the soldiers were protesting is far from being the beacon of the Thai press media: ASTV-Manager is the press outlet of the ultra-nationalistic and ill-named "People's Alliance for Democracy" (PAD), also commonly known as the yellow shirts. Apart from their regular anti-democratic diatribes and low punches as seen above (that reflects its comments section), the Preah Vihear temple conflict is one of the issues the political pressure group is using to rally up supporters - just that it's one of the less popular ones compared to those that have a distinct anti-Thaksin and nowadays anti-Yingluck agenda to it.

The last PAD protest over the temple conflict was in early 2011, following another deadly clash at the border between Thai and Cambodian troops. At the short-lived and small protest sit-in, the yellow shirts were at times calling for an open war with Cambodia. Frustrated with their diminished relevance in Thai (street) politics, it was also during that time when they broke off their formerly close alliances with the Democrat Party (which were in power back then) and with hawkish factions of the military, as the PAD accused both of not doing enough for the "interest of the country" over the border conflict.

In the run-up to the ICJ hearings - to which the PAD has urged the government not to accept anything at all by the ICJ in the irrationale fear of losing sovereignty - the PAD's news-outlets are repeating their diatribes against Cambodia, the ICJ and also the army as they started criticizing General Prayuth, which deteriorated into the spat and ultimately to the soldiers' protest, who see not only their army chief being attacked but also the institution of the armed forces as a whole:

The green-uniformed protesters on Saturday said the article has damaged their morale because the army chief is like their "second father". They demanded the media outlet issue an apology to the general.

They also denied being ordered by their superiors to stage the event. Gen Prayuth told reporters earlier that the soldiers were free to hold such rallies because they were trying to protect the armed forces, not just him. (...)

"If [the PAD] were the government, I would have to listen to it. But since it is not, I have no idea what to do with it," Gen Prayuth said during a visit to the border area earlier in the week.

"Prayuth to troops: Stand down at ASTV", Bangkok Post, January 12, 2013

Despite the fact that Prayuth has ordered the soldiers to cease from any more protests, the public display by the soldiers underlines the over-confident self-perception of the armed forces' role in Thai society that they are above from criticism - given Prayuth's erratic outbursts at the media (read here, here and here) that is hardly surprising. While this is mouthpiece of an ultra-nationalistic pressure group we're talking about, having 50 troops show up at their doorstep isn't right either! And to make matters worse, the army is now asking for forgiveness "confidence in the army" - quite an ambitious request after this weekend.

Generally, the reactions by fellow Thai journalists on this incident were swift and clear:

The TJA statement called for the army to respect freedom of the press. If the army feels the media have violated its rights, it can file a complaint with the National Press Council. As well, it said the army chief should listen to media coverage that fairly reflected the army's and his performance without bias and in a constructive way.

At the same time, it said, all media (...) should refrain from distorting the facts or abusing the dignity and human rights of people appearing in the news. They should also refrain from using rude or insulting words, it said.

"Journalists decry threats", Bangkok Post, January 12, 2013

While this response is in principle correct, it begs the question where the TJA was during other (arguably equally severe) interferences and threats to the media and freedom of speech in the past few years? Where was the TJA on the countless lèse majesté cases affecting free speech and charges made against journalists? Where were they when on the verdict of Prachatai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, held liable for online comments she didn't make? Did they say anything about the media interferences by the Abhisit administration? Was there any criticism made over the apparent failure by Thai TV to inform about a potential tsunami warning? And what did the TJA say when (of all people) journalism students were protesting against reforms of the lèse majesté law?

UPDATE: As soon as this post was published on Monday afternoon, news came out that army chief Prayuth has "apologized". However, he merely did only excuse his choices of words ("a lousy newspaper"), but not the message itself.

Thailand in 2012 - Some personal thoughts (Part 2)

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 29, 2012 This is the second and final part of the Siam Voices year-in-review. Yesterday in part 1, we looked at the year of prime minister's government, that of the opposition and the prevailing impunity over the 2010 crackdown.

Lese majeste: Cowardice in the face of first victim

One topic we expected to continue to play a role in 2012 is the draconian lèse majesté law and its unjust application to crack down on alleged dissent voices. And in many ways - despite the release of Thai-American Joe Gordon and an 'only' suspended sentence against Prachatai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn for not deleting monarchy-insulting web comments quickly enough - it unfortunately still made headlines for the wrong reasons.

The death of Amphon "Akong" Tangnoppakul marked what could be argued the first victim of lèse majesté. The 64-year-old retiree was serving a 20 year sentence for allegedly sending four defamatory text messages to the personal secretary of Abhisit Vejjajiva (despite inconclusive evidence). Having repeatedly being denied bail and suffering bad health, Akong died in detention on May 8. Obviously, his death sparked universal condemnation against the law - almost: Thailand politicians showed little sympathy and interest to do something about the arbitrary law, with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra insisting not to do anything to change Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

Up until this point, the heated discussion about how to amend or if not abolish the law altogether was ongoing. Leading this debate was the Nitirat group, a collective of reformist law academics from Thammasat University, amidst considerable uproar. And it was that university that had a reputation for being one of the more liberal institutions in this country that was struggling and battling with itself, which led to one of the most astonishing sights of this year: of all people, journalism students (!) were seen protesting against Nitirat and the reform of the lèse majesté law by saying “Don’t use knowledge to distort morality!”

The chances that the law will be somehow changed (or even just remotely touched by politicians) remain slim as two incidents have shown that it is untouchable: the Constitutional Court rejected a petition by Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Ekachai Hongkangwan, both currently on trial for lèse majesté, as it does not see the constitutional right to free speech being violated by Article 112 of the Criminal Code. In another story, a bill petition proposing to amend the law - signed by over 30,000 - was dismissed by the speaker of the parliament.

Meanwhile earlier this week, a former stockbroker has been sentenced to four years in prison under the equally flawed Computer Crimes Act for spreading "false information".

Emerging neighbors: Thailand's geo-political opportunities and blunders

This past year showed the rapid rise of neighboring Myanmar, as the country carefully progresses economically and politically - despite the unmasking of the ugly side of the Burmese pro-democracy movement regarding the genocide against the Rohingya - and other countries of course are in a gold rush mood, as they see new investment opportunities and also to grow their regional influence.

Thailand was one of the few countries that already did business with its neighbor before the change and the upcoming industrial area and deep sea port in Dawei on Myanmar's west coast is the biggest of them. But we reported at the beginning of this year that the mega-project ran into some problems and also caused the Thai government to reconsider their commitment. However, after a visit by Prime Minister Yingluck to Myanmar it seems to be on track again.

A different story shows how Thailand has lost some regional credibility: When NASA planned to use the Thai naval airbase in U-Tapao for atmospheric research study, the opposition Democrat Party drummed up nationalistic outrage and tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists came out crawling again - conveniently forgetting that...

Officials have noted that the Democrats, now opposed to the NASA initiative, approved the program while in power in 2010 and that it would not entail the use of military aircraft.

"Baseless controversy over Thailand's U-Tapao", Asia Times One, June 22, 2012

It was petty domestic political squabbles that eventually led the annoyed NASA to kill the project and gave Thailand a huge slap to the face geo-politically for not being able to sort itself out.

While the prime minister was busy traveling the world this year to bolster economical ties (read our exclusive report on her visit to Germany and France here), Thailand needs to take charge in the ASEAN region (and without looking down on its neighbors), if it doesn't want to loose relevancy.

The exploits of "ThaiMiniCult" in 2012: Mammophobia!

Of course it wouldn't be Siam Voices if we wouldn't monitor the self-proclaimed cultural heralds of everything “Thai”-ness - or in short "ThaiMiniCult". And while this year they have been noticeably less outraged in quantity, there were still instances when we could only shake our heads.

There was for example the ThaiMiniCult that was rumored (and thank god it was only a rumor) to order that "100 per cent males" shouldn't play transgender roles on TV. Or some arbitrary survey that blames Facebook for teen pregnancies, only to find out that it was lazy journalism that caused that headline, while the real problem of nearly non-existing sexual education is being swept under the carpet. Or the MP that was caught looking up some naughty pictures on his phone in parliament.

But probably the most noticeable media outrage (and also the most-clicked Siam Voices story of 2012) was the 'controversy' over the literally bare-breasted painting performance on the TV show "Thailand's Got Talent" that caused one of the judges to throw a sanctimonious tantrum on national TV and a moral witch-hunt. In the end, it turns out that the producers have "hired" her for a staged controversy. However, given how Thais reacted (or claimed to react) to this brouhaha, it was in many ways revealing.

What else happened this year? (in no particular order)

- The four-part series on Thai Education Failures by our regular Siam Voices contributor Kaewmala is a must-read! Be it ridiculous O-Net questions, questionable standardization, our poor international performance and lacking English proficiencies - our archaic education system is in dire need of change! And what does the Pheu Thai government do? Give away free tablets...!

- A rape case in Krabi, the disgusting denial by the Thai tourism minister in order to 'protect' the image and a father's creative plea for justice.

- Thais being outraged by five tourist douchebags cutting down a tree while most population doesn't give a damn about their own environmental lifestyle and willingly plastic-bags everything...!

- Thais being outraged at Lady Gaga for tweeting the intention of buying a fake Rolex while most of the population otherwise willingly ignores the countless counterfeit markets, and after campaigns by outraged religious groups in the Philippines and Indonesia to ban her concerts, looking rather silly and childish...!

- The Thai senator who accidentally shot his wife...or secretary...or cousin...with an uzi...or not...!

- In upside-down world news this year: The reactionary right-wing ASTV/Manager (media outlet of the anti-democratic yellow shirts) accuses the blatantly anti-Thaksin The Nation (an attempt of a newspaper) of being pro-Thaksin - mind blown!

- "Double, double toil and trouble;" - Thailand's movie adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" gets banned, but not for the depiction of regicide, rather for the depiction of another "Dear Leader" and the disparagement of his followers.

- Three Iranian terrorists literally blowing up their cover on Valentine's Day in the middle of Bangkok after a warning by the United States Embassy and the immediate arrest of a Hezbollah suspect a month before that and the tweeting motorcycle taxi driver that got the scoop of his lifetime. And deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung as the spiritual successor of the former Iraqi information minister by saying that there's "absolutely no terrorism" in the kingdom.

- Deputy prime minister Chalerm Yubamrung as our new regular contributor to the "Tongue-Thai’ed!"-segments and coming up with the most creative name for the new command center in the South!

- The tsunami scare in April and the failure of Thai TV to inform the public because of a royal cremation ceremony.

- The Dhammakāya Movement's newest revelation: the afterlife of Apple's Steve Jobs...!

- The visit of US President Barack Obama to Thailand, and his meeting with Yingluck Shinwatra and half of the internet not able to be mature about it.

- The Bangkok Futsal Arena fiasco, as the city has failed to construct a purposed-built arena in time for FIFA Futsal World Cup and thus embarrassing themselves on a world stage.

- The return of the fraudulent bomb-sniffing device also known as the GT200, essentially a horrendously overpriced empty plastic shell with a dowsing rod. It's ineffectiveness has been proven since 2010, but it has emerged that the bogus device is still in use by the armed forces for the simple reason that there's "no alternative" but to keep on using it until there's a replacement, while soldiers are unnecessarily risking their lives more than they should because of this fraud, whose UK manufacturer has been charged this year.

- Thailand has FINALLY reached the early 21st century with the arrival of real 3G network coverage after an eternal farce and one last court decision - while neighboring Laos is preparing for 4G already...!

- And last, but not least: The still undisputed, most coherent article by The Nation - EVER!

I’d like to thank my co-writers and editors at Siam Voices and Asian Correspondent for their contributions and work this year, and YOU, the readers, for the support, feedback, criticism, links and retweets! Here’s to an eventful, exciting 2013 that brings us news, changes, developments to discuss and report for all the right reasons! Happy New Year!

Thai Mental Health Dept: 'No more than 2 hours of political news to avoid stress'

By Saksith Saiyasombut

On the Friday the 13th, when the Constitutional Court was about to deliver the verdict against the Thai government and their proposals to amend the constitution that was feared to throw the country into yet another political crisis, the Mental Health Department of the Public Health Ministry recommended all Thais "not to follow political news for more than two hours in a sitting" to avoid being stressed out or even turning agressive in process amidst ongoing political conflict.

นพ.ยงยุทธ วงศ์ภิรมย์ศานติ์ หัวหน้าทีมโฆษกกรมสุขภาพจิต และนายกสมาคมจิตแพทย์แห่งประเทศไทย กล่าวว่า ระหว่างรอฟังคำวินิจฉัยของศาลรัฐธรรมนูญ  (...) แต่ต้องยอมรับว่ากรณีที่เกิดขึ้นประชาชนต่างมีความตื่นตัวทางการเมืองมากขึ้น ถือเป็นรากฐานสำคัญของการพัฒนาประเทศ แต่ทั้งนี้คงไม่สามารถคาดการณ์ได้ว่าจะเกิดอะไรขึ้นในอนาคต แต่เชื่อว่าประชาชนส่วนใหญ่ไม่ต้องการให้เกิดความรุนแรง ซึ่งการคาดการณ์ความรุนแรงที่จะเกิดขึ้นยิ่งทำให้วิตกกังวลและเครียด อาจส่งผลให้เกิดโรคเครียดทางการเมืองได้ (Political Stress Syndrome : PSS)

Yongyuth Wongpiromsan MD, head spokesman of the Mental Health Department and president of the Psychiatric Association of Thailand says that in anticipation of the verdict by the Constitutional Court, (...) but we have to accept that the people have increased political awareness which can be considered as an important foundation of the national progress. However, we cannot predict what will happen in the future but we believe that the majority of the people do not want violence. Thus, [reports about] expecting an outbreak of violence can cause anxiety and stress, which could result in Political Stress Syndrome (PSS)

"กรมสุขภาพจิต เตือนประชาชนระวังเครียดการเมือง", MCOT, July 13, 2012 - translation by me

Furthermore, the press release included a list of symptoms that could come with PSS, both physical (irregular breathing, abdominal pain and all sorts of other aches) and psychological (disenchantment, insomnia, anxiety and anger). Should one be unsure about his or her mental condition, he or she can take a test to measure if somebody has PSS or not and, when appropriate, seek counseling. The questions are:

1) "Do you feel anxiety when expressing political opinions?", 2) "Do you feel hopelessness regarding the current political situation?", 3) "Do political news make you feel easily upset or angry?", 4) "The political situation keeps you awake at night?", 5) "Are you unfocused at your job or daily activities when thinking about politics?" 6) "Politics causes fights and arguments with others" 7) "Are you feeling afraid when following political news" 8) "Are you repeatedly thinking about the political situation"

Now, given Thailand's recent history it would certainly not be a new phenomenon. Actually, it was coined by the same department right at the beginning of this political crisis back in 2006:

One-fourth of Thais are likely to develop political stress syndrome (PSS) - a new mental ailment triggered by fierce political tension, Mental Health Department chief said yesterday. (...) "The risk group includes politicians, protesters and supporters of the government, news addicts, and people with mental health problems," said M.L. Somchai Chakrabhand.

The PSS, he said, was a new medical term developed by the department after studying the linkage between political tensions and people's mental health.

''Psychiatrists are afraid that people with accumulated PSS symptoms will resort to violent means to break the political dead end because they feel that a peaceful movement is not a solution to the impasse,'' he said. M.L. Somchai said it was the first time the department detected this kind of mental illness in the country.

"Crisis triggers 'political stress syndrome'", Bangkok Post, circa March 17, 2006 - found here

In conclusion, Yongyuth gives his advice on how to deal with PSS and also how everybody can contribute responsibly to reduce widespread political anxiety.

อย่างไรก็ตามการสื่อสารในเครือข่าย Internet ควรลดความรุนแรงในการแสดงอารมณ์และความคิดเห็นการแสดงออก (...) แต่จะส่งผลกระทบให้เกิดบรรยากาศของสังคมที่รุนแรงมากขึ้น ดังนั้น การสื่อสารในเครือข่ายฯ นี้ ควรเพิ่มความระมัดระวังในการออกความคิดเห็น ไม่ส่งต่อความคิดเห็นที่รุนแรงออกไป รวมทั้งช่วยกันตักเตือนการแสดงออกที่รุนแรง ซึ่งทุกคนสามารถช่วยให้สังคมไทยผ่านวิกฤติครั้งนี้ไปได้ ด้วยการแสดงออกอย่างสร้างสรรค์ แก้ไขความขัดแย้งโดยไม่ใช้ความรุนแรง ไม่สร้างความโกรธ ความเกลียดชัง ลดการเผชิญหน้า และร่วมกันหาทางออกให้กับประเทศ.

Nevertheless, when exchanging views on the internet, the intensity of the emotions and opinions expressed should be reduced (...) that can have a negative impact on the social mood, which would increase [the chance of] violence. Thus, these kind of online discussions should be more careful in their expression of opinions, they should not spread agressive views and help reminding those who do, so that everyone can help the Thai society to overcome this crisis by being constructive, by bridging the divide without violence, anger, hatred, confrontation in order to find a solution for the country together.

"กรมสุขภาพจิต เตือนประชาชนระวังเครียดการเมือง", MCOT, July 13, 2012 - translation by me

First off, PSS is not an officially recognized syndrome, rather it is a coined term to describe the accompanying side effects of a growing political consciousness (which has been acknowledged as a good thing above), where people do take interest in the political decision-making that has an influence on them and thus in return demand to have a say in that.

Also, the recent years have shown that there are more and more competing narratives about the recent history of Thailand and the directions this country should take in the coming years. Never before have important, but previously taboo issues (such as the often-mentioned lèse-majesté law) been debated so openly (as far as it is legally possible) in the public domain. Sure, it can get messy, sometimes downright nasty. But it is also a chance to show that there is no more only one single sovereign authority that defines things anymore!

Be it from the press - who should do their duty and, while optionally opinionated, report truthful (and not just "20 per cent" of it "when you read The Nation and Bangkok Post", as Thitinan remarked) - or from a fellow man, what is important is a tolerance to opinions and expressions that they do not agree with - a fundamental necessity in a democratic society.

However, sometimes emotions do outweigh reason and opposite opinions are viscerally condemned. Many political issues have deteriorated into short-tempered, easily trigged shouting matches - also by our law-makers - or have been taken to the streets in an apparent failure of the democratic institutions instead of a level-headed, fact-based approach. Critical thinking and the tolerance for inconvenient views are skills not necessarily paramount on the things to be taught in school and that lack now is being exposed in the most extreme fashion.

Nevertheless, at one point things can be overwhelming, tiredness and frustration can occur. Especially when things hardly change (like with lèse-majesté) or just simply a general anxiety (something I tried to explain during the flood crisis last year) that this simmering political crisis is always close to boil over again! In these moments, you can't help but take a break or reduce the daily news intake.

P.S: This warning probably comes a little bit too late for us journalists and regular readers to this and similar websites...!

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and also on his public Facebook page here.

On '100% Thai manliness' and the reality of LBGT in Thailand

Originally published at Siam Voices on June 7, 2012 On Wednesday, a rather confusing headline made the rounds when a Thai actor told that the country's Ministry of Culture (or as we call it here "ThaiMiniCult") ordered TV executives to ensure that "100 per cent male" actors should not play transgender roles on TV. Naturally, such a bold statement caused at least befuddlement and at most outrage among many people, given their track record in the past especially when it comes to the bare naked truth of sexuality.

However, soon after the news broke the actor in question went on record denying that he ever said the Ministry of Culture issued the order and that it was rather some pooyai (someone in high position, presumably a high ranking official) who asked him not to play transgender roles as he wished to see real transgender actors play their own roles. The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Culture also came out to deny that anyone in his office or their culture watch center ever issued any such ban.

I sat down with Siam Voices contributor Kaewmala to talk about this yet another strange news story involving ThaiMiniCult.

Saksith Saiyasombut: Well,  for a short moment there we thought the Thai Ministry of Culture came out with yet another stunning statement about banning "100 per cent manly" TV actors from playing transgender roles. What do you make of that?

Kaewmala: Probably like most people, my first reaction was "whadda...!!" There are times I wish I could really understand our Ministry of Culture, but other times the idea of knowing exactly what they think frightens me. We were quick to jump in to join the mocking of MiniCult because it's fun. In this case, we should give MiniCult the benefit of the doubt and take the actor's and the MiniCult boss's words for it that MiniCult didn't really issue a ban. (For my part, after having had a quick swipe at them, in an act to ask for forgiveness I mentally lit an incense stick and prostrated once to MiniCult. Just to show fair is fair, you know. They would appreciate that if they knew I prostrated appropriately in Thai style.)

In any case, the idea of “100% manliness” intrigues me. Whoever came up with that concept, I wonder if they used a scale, a measurement tool of some kind, to gauge the actor's manliness? In my (very) heterosexual female eyes, Mick does look quite manly (and handsome to boot) but I’d be hard-pressed to say his manliness is at 100%, 96.50% or 87.46%. I admit my masculinity radar isn’t quite accurate to the decimal point. Sometimes, I even find myself making mistakes; a man who looks so manly - actually those who look so super, hyper-manly - tend to be, um, not in the women’s way, you know.

Saksith Saiyasombut: Traditional theater performances from around the world always had females roles played by men, is there anything similar in 'traditional' Thai culture?

Kaewmala: Have you ever seen Thai Li-ke? The theatrical performance where performers, male or female (100% or otherwise), are painted like in the Japanese Kabuki. The Li-ke heroes such as Lord Rama in Ramayana have white-painted faces, red-painted lips, arching eyebrows and so forth. The audience isn’t confused about their sexuality, I imagine. They know the roles they play are the roles on stage. Whatever sexual orientation or gender identity they might have off-stage is another thing, and people don’t really care.

In the old Siamese royal court, there used to be a tradition of female roles being played by boys or men. My knowledge about Thai classical theater performance is rather limited, so I can’t give you any deep insight on that.

Saksith Saiyasombut: Is Thai 'manliness' in any danger that it would need protection? And from what?

Kaewmala: Why would Thai men’s manliness need protection? I think it takes a straight man who is very secure of his sexuality to play a gender-bending role. Men who are secure about their sexuality are very sexy, irresistible even, to females (or other sexes) attracted to masculine men (Like a man who is a feminist is sexy to many women). And also, why assume that manliness is the exclusive domain of straight men? Many gay men are very manly. Men who want to play a katoey role wouldn't easily turn into a real katoey, if that's what some people fear.

Although there isn't really a need to protect Thai manliness, I think we can guess a little at the rationale of the pooyai who asked the actor not to play the katoey role. He is said to have given the reason that he wished the real katoeys to play the roles, which is really thoughtful, if  true.  A few questions arise, however. Does the pooyai want to save the job opportunity for the real transgender/transsexual people? Or does he want to preserve the purity of Thai manliness? Or a bit of both? We don't know enough about the pooyai to speculate whether he's a liberal progressive or a conservative by making such a request to the actor. But in general, a liberal progressive person is unlikely to intervene in other people's affairs, but there's no hard and fast rule on that either. My guess would be that he's more likely a conservative.

Conservatism is driven by the need to protect the sacred and to uphold the purity and sanctity of whatever is believed to be pure and sacred. Thai manliness in this case might be perceived as being in danger of being contaminated by a straight-male actor playing a transgender role, hence making it less sacred. Conservative people tend to like to keep things as they are. They don't like changes and prefer to see things in clear categories. Men as men. Women as women. Katoeys as katoeys. Mixing and crossing these set categories confuse and upset people who believe in the purity and sacredness of these categories that they want to keep separate. That's why you always hear cries how things are now "degenerated," "contaminated by foreign influences," etc.

You see, Thailand is well known for its openness to alternative sexualities and transgender people can live more or less openly here if they so choose but that doesn’t mean there aren’t prejudices against them. The state of being a transgender, transsexual, gay, tom, di, bisexual, or whatever that is not the mainstream heterosexual, is still perceived as a perversion. Mainstream Thai society still perceives them as freaks of nature. (It's like, "alright, alright, if that's what you want to be - but you aren't 100%, so stay away from us, in your place, you're so lucky we tolerate you.") And these prejudices are always looming shallow and deep in the background. Occasionally, it pops up in an advertisement, a government rule or regulation, a law, or some pooyai's mouth.

Saksith Saiyasombut: That's a good point, since Thai society has always been regarded as rather friendly towards people with different sexual orientations - especially judging by public presence of transgender people - is that really the case?

Kaewmala: Appearance can be misleading. Compared to many other societies, yes, Thai society is quite open in day-to-day treatment of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Thai transgender people aren’t killed or beat up because of their sexuality to the extent it happens in some other countries (though this kind of hate crimes also exists in Thailand to some extent). Instead, we have world-renowned katoey shows, arguably the best looking ladyboys on earth, and tourists the world over flock to see them in cabarets, in beauty pageant stages, etc. We have transgender people working prominently in shopping malls, in customer services, in beauty, entertainment and sex venues. But that’s pretty much where most of them are. Very few of them are in regular jobs, often not because they don’t want to, but the opportunities are limited. They are still discriminated against widely in terms of employment. Their opportunities are even officially restricted, in particular in government, police and military jobs. Military service regulations still include "katoey" as a prohibited disease and hence disqualifies anyone who is a katoey to apply for jobs in military service. Only months ago that the official branding of transgender people as “having a permanent mental disorder” on the military conscription exemption paper was finally put to stop. This paper has been the biggest obstacle for transgender people for a long time and has prevented them getting jobs, visas, doing legal transactions, etc.

In short, socially there is a fair amount of tolerance for people with different sexual identities but they are still lots of problems and unfair treatments going on based on attitudes and laws and official regulations in this country, most particularly concerning transgender people. It’s not all peaches! Things are changing gradually for the better however, like we just have the first transgender politician who won the provincial administration office in Nan. Hopefully she will bring positive changes, especially in terms of recognizing transwomen (transgender persons who have had sex change operations to become a woman) like her as legally female, so that they could have a legal identity as female, get married, and live fully as a woman, instead of legally as a man but for all practical purposes as a woman.

Saksith Saiyasombut: Ok, let's say whoever came up that "no-transgenders-played-by-straight-actors" - idea would now look very anti-transgender - but could it be possible that this initiative is meant to protect the real transgender actors from getting their jobs stolen from their non-transgender colleagues?

Kaewmala: That is possible. In the best case scenario, the idea is to protect job opportunities for transgender people in acting jobs. It would be a new thing, and seems like a very positive thing indeed. Like banning white people from painting their faces black to play black people as it happened in history in the West. What do you think is the chance of that being the case here?

For argument’s sake, if the reason is really to protect acting job opportunities for transgender people on the principle of equality and fairness, what about straight women playing lesbian, tom and dii roles? Can "100% manly" gay men play straight male and katoey roles? 

Is it supposed to be about gender equality, fair opportunity in employment, or gender-specific or sexual orientation-specific guidelines for the acting profession? And for what purpose exactly? If actors comply with pooyais' recommendations as it seems to be the case with this actor who made the news, where will this go and where will it end?

Kaewmala is a writer, a blogger and an avid twitterer. She blogs at and is a provocateur of Thai language, culture and politics @thai_talk. Kaewmala is the author of a book that looks at the linguistic and cultural aspects of Thai sexuality called “Sex Talk”.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and on Facebook here.