By Thorn Pitidol,

On the state’s affairs front, CRES extends its emergency rule, and thus continues its special power to invite any suspect who threatens national security (i.e. Reds) to stay under arrest or detention without warrant or charge (see a post below: CRES has decided again).

What’s happening within Thai society is equally noticeable. The Thai entertainment industry can perhaps provide a good reflection on this. Today, I bring you some of the news from Thai media outlets, especially from the ASTV-Manager website, the cyber-homeland of the PADs (Yellow Shirts). It’s important to note first that the news and comments on this website cannot represent the whole picture of Thai society. Still, the ASTV-Manager website is really famous among the Thai middle class, and students abroad. In fact, it’s been the most popular Thai news website for the last seven years (see the stats here, http://directory.truehits.net/shownewsdetail.php?id=1109).

The entertainment section of the ASTV-manager website has been instrumental in the web-site’s popularity. I remember that 7-8 years ago, when my friends and I just started using the internet to read news and stories online regularly, most of us got to know www.manager.co.th through its celebrity gossip column ‘Sor-Jed’, which is famous for its notorious and sex-related content. Nowadays, Sor-Jed is still there, but the website is perhaps more popular for its association with  PAD. For a while now the entertainment section of the ASTV-Manager website, and its readers, has been diligently performing the so-called PAD’s sacred task of Reds-Hunting. 

This started from a story of a singer called Mint Mintita Wattnanakul (AF3), a singer and actress, and a daughter of an actor Kovit Wattanakul.

(credit: www.kapook.com)

Mint and her dad were first accused of being ‘Reds’ in the ‘Sor-Jed’ column. And incidents during the Nataraja Award ceremony, the same ceremony in which Pongpat Wachirabunjong made his hugely famous (among the Thais) speech “if you don’t love the father, just get out of here”, (please see the video with English sub-title though the hyperlink, warning: plenty of scenes with tears) made her life much worse. Her dad, Kovit, was spotted leaving the ceremony early, and was rumored to be leaving because of his dissatisfaction with Pongpat’s speech. And Mint was spotted as not being able to sing His Majesty’s Song “Kwam Fun Un Soong-Sud (The Highest Dream)” while she was performing the song on the stage with other stars for the ceremony (see min 7.50 of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmvYxLDochI). Her response was that she did not have enough time to prepare for this song, as she was informed of her role in the show very late. Still, as a result of these incidents, Mint has been a subject of hot debates among Thais, and her controversial status already caused her to lose a starring role in two TV dramas. She recently said “if I have lost all my opportunities in the Thai entertainment industry, then I will go back to live my life as a normal student”.

In addition to Mint, even one of the all-time most popular singers in Thailand, “Bird Thongchai McIntyre“, is also affected from the accusation of him being “Reds”. Thongchai recently had to come out to refuse the rumor that he supported the Red-shirt movement. Thongchai said “I have no color, and I am loyal to the King“. Some of the PAD supporters, however, do not seem to believe him. I recently found him to be still on the list of Reds supporters to be condemned) on this facebook page; “Please help spread the words on the Reds’ Evilness”

Now, let’s come to a more recent event, a story of “Mark Thawkumlue”, a contestant in the present season of Academy Fantasia (AF7) show on Truevisions.

Mark, a high-school boy from Chiang Mai, was found to had criticised another Mark, who is the present Prime Minister, on his Facebook with something equivalent to the F-word. Mark T rudely criticised Mark A (the PM) on his facebook because he believed that Mark A should have resigned, and if Mark A resigned, the protest would not have ended with the Reds’ “fires”.

This news, and the labeling of him as a ‘Red’, was spread through the ASTV-Manager website (see mark1), and there has been huge pressure on True AF (the organiser of Thai AF show) to expel him from the AF7 show. True AF, however, decided to keep him, stating that he did not break any of the show’s rules. ASTV-Manager continues to put pressure on Mark and True AF by spreading another news that Mark T once posted his opinion on his Facebook saying that “…when will the picture be taken down from all the houses” (see mark2). Interestingly, since all this news about him came out in the Thai media, Mark’s popularity on the show rose tremendously. He has so far received the most votes, almost twice more (17 percent versus 9.5 percent) than the second most popular contestant (see the AF7 website here).

Finally, the latest incident from Thursday (July7, 2010), the ASTV-manager website posted a specific attack on Ben Anderson’s first genuine genius Thailand has produced since 1960s, Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

(credit: www.onopen.com)

The topic of the news posted on the ASTV-manager website read “Jei got annoyed while on-air because he could not accept a different opinion on the Red-shirts protest”. Basically, the story presented is that Apichatpong (Jeoi) was interviewed by the Manager radio station (owned by ASTV), and was asked by the DJ questions regarding the interview he gave after he received the award at the Cannes Festival. Apichatpong mentioned that he was simply trying to explain the truth about Thailand to the foreign journalists, and it’s important for the Thais to be honest in saying things about the country, for example, to accept that there is a large inequality in our society. Apichatpong also stressed that it’s important to accept that a class struggle is the root of the present conflict, and the Thais should not see all the Reds as just simply being “bought”. At this point one the manager radio’s DJs responded by lecturing Apichatpong that the Red-Shirts movement has nothing to do with the issues of class and inequality, and that Apichatpong has a moral responsibility to help tell this truth to the Thai public.

Apichatpong said he was stating his opinion and everyone should be able to express their view. The comments posted on the ASTV-Manager website on this news is full of criticism and contempt from readers regarding Apichatpong, for example, “Jeoi, you are Reds that pretend to be neutral”; or “Jeoi, you are so naive to relate the Red-shirts with class struggles when it’s all about Thaksin”.

Like other countries’ entertainment industry, the entertainment world can be a bit surreal. But, certainly, it can also reflect a current taste of the audiences.