Thailand in the 21st century is replete with two things: images and firearms. There are more pictures of people in this country than actual people, thanks to selfies, whether at protest sites or elsewhere. Meanwhile guns, M79s and hand grenades are so ubiquitous that even peaceful protesters do not have to look far for one when they’re in need. That the police should carry so many live rounds despite Chalerm Yubumrung’s instruction not to is, unfortunately, no surprise, since Mr Chalerm couldn’t even keep his own son away from guns.
The role of images and firearms is back in popular discussion. Last year I made a documentary with two friends. Our subject was the two cameramen who went out to film the Oct 14, 1973 student uprising that ended with a military crackdown. Our purpose was to remember the two men, Chin Klaipan and Taweesak Wiriyasiri, and the historical footage they shot, possibly the only remaining visual record of that seminal event.
But four days ago, when you turned on your computer or smartphone and saw the dozen video clips of the clash between police and protesters at Pan Fah Bridge, you realised how this seminal event we’re living through is influenced by the power of moving images — unlike 40 years ago.
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