Sickening glorification of a brutal murder
The recent murder of a karaoke bar worker in Khon Kaen has exposed a lot of concerning issues that underline the moral decline of our society.
The glorification of the alleged killers' ringleader, Preeyanuch "Preaw" Nonwangchai, by some social media users because of her young and attractive looks does not annoy me as much as news reports about small-minded merchants making money from accessories bearing images of Ms Preeyanuch.
Imagine if you were a member of the victim's family and happened to see these items on the street. How would you feel? One of the accessories is a key chain in the shape of a saw similar to the one the killers allegedly used to dismember the victim's body. Another despicable piece of merchandise is a colourful pillow-cum-blanket looking like the one that appeared in the widely circulated photo of Ms Preeyanuch holding while in police custody in Chiang Rai.
In hindsight, I would have thought that people would refrain from buying products that are in some sense linked to an alleged murderer. But this is clearly not the case here. The sellers, instead of being embarrassed by making a living out of the death of another human being, may be feeling thankful to the alleged killers for making sure their products sell.
A local TV channel recently conducted interviews with merchants at Sampheng Market in Bangkok who said they were very appreciative that Ms Preeyanuch was holding the pillow in the photo that has gone viral on Thai social media.
Selling merchandise is one thing. What surprises me the most is that there is substantial consumer demand and these merchants are actually making a profit from it. It makes me wonder, who is buying this stuff and what are they thinking? Did it ever cross their mind that this is wrong on so many ethical levels? Who in their right mind thinks this is fashionable? Where has this society's sympathy and empathy gone to?
Some may also argue that the TV channel should not have conducted the interviews in the first place because it is ethically wrong and will serve only its ratings. But I would argue that this has to be shown widely for the whole of society to see how sick this is. The glorification of murderers, especially serial slaughterers or good-looking killers, is nothing new to the world, but this is something that is comparatively new to Thai society. American killers such as Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer are famous for their unspeakable crimes and have continued to be glorified by US television.
Another infamous Thai dismembering case was that of physician Wisut Boonkasemsanti who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his wife in 2001 and was later released from prison. The case did not grab much media attention to the point of being merchandisable because social media was not a popular mode of communication and interaction at the time. Facebook was founded in 2004.
A lot has changed since then. According to Thoth Zocial, a Bangkok-based social media analytics developer, Thailand has remained in the top 10 worldwide for social media statistics on network usage and consumer adoption growth in 2017. As of May 1, social media users in Thailand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were up an average of 20% year-on-year, rising to 47 million, 11 million and 9 million respectively. Bangkok also remains the world's biggest city for Facebook users in 2017 with 27 million users.
Another photo of Ms Preeyanuch that went viral on Thai social media was one of her carrying a Chucky doll. I am sure it is one of the first photos everyone sees in their mind when thinking of the crime, but I'm not sure many will remember the victim's name.
It was Warisara "Amm" Klinjui by the way. She was 22 when her life was cut short because of the alleged killer's vengefulness, as was supposedly confessed by the ringleader. She was apparently mad that her boyfriend was sent to jail for drug offences last year because Warisara tipped police off about his illicit activities. But this is an alleged killer who now has celebrity status.
Even the police seemed to get it wrong when two police officers in Chiang Rai appeared in a selfie with Ms Preeyanuch and other suspects while holding them in custody.
Instead of receiving at least a suspension from their inappropriate behaviour as law enforcers, they were simply transferred to probably take selfies at another less prominent precinct.
The incident has prompted the Royal Thai Police to set up a committee to look into the controversial images of the policemen and the murder suspects and to issue an order instructing police officers not to take photos or clips with suspects or share media files involving them. But shouldn't this be one of the practices that police officers should be already following in the first place?
The media is also to blame for sparking this controversy. Some media outlets have portrayed the murder as being family oriented while branding the ringleader as "pretty".
Sakuntra Pleakaen, the victim's aunt, may have said the family forgave the suspects because they could not bring Warisara back, but this crime should serve as a reminder that our society should feel remorseful about how all of this has panned out.
This was a crime that has been wrongly glorified and commercialised because some of us have stopped thinking before sharing information, buying things and pursuing popularity.
Erich Parpart is a senior reporter, Bangkok Post.
Senior Reporter - Asia Focus
Senior Reporter - Asia Focus