Faces of Victims of 112: An Exhibition
112WATCH brings you “Faces of Victims of 112" using the visual medium to connect with the human stories of those charged of lèse-majesté.
The sharp rise of lèse-majesté was first detected in the aftermath of the 2006 coup that overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Then, the lèse-majesté law was used as a political weapon undermining political opponents, but as the Thai political crisis deepened, the use of lèse-majesté law became more frequent and discursive.
In 2011, I launched a nationwide campaign to reform Article 112 because of the state prosecuting “Uncle SMS.” Ten years have passed and the situation with lèse-majesté has not improved. The coup of 2014 that toppled the government of Yingluck, sister of Thaksin, indeed worsened the situation. King, Vajiralongkorn, at first seemed to want to protect his image by calling for a moratorium against the use of lèse-majesté law in late 2017. But following the mass protests that called for immediate royal reform, the law returned in late 2020. It is the intention of the state (particularly the palace) to continue to use lèse-majesté to curb criticism against the monarchy. The exploitation of Article 112 is unending. The impact it has caused on human rights has been immense. Since the return of the lèse-majesté law in 2020, lèse-majesté cases have mushroomed. In February 2023, 1,895 people were prosecuted in 1,180 political cases. Among these, 233 people were charged under the lèse-majesté law in 253 cases. Currently, the youngest accused of lèse-majesté is a 14-year-old girl.
It is now time for more vigorous advocacy in notifying the international community of the serious problems with Article 112 in Thailand. With the dire situation, in 2021 I set up this project – 112WATCH – as a platform to raise awareness regarding the issue of Article 112 by targeting multilateral diplomatic communities. It was an effort to gain consensus in efforts to deal with Article 112. 112WATCH seeks to achieve its key objective: to build an advocacy coalition to produce positive policy change regarding Article 112 in Thailand.
Aside from the task of building alliance, 112WATCH also aims to inform the public about the impact of the lèse-majesté law on the lives of individuals. I am also a target of the lèse-majesté law; now criminalised, unable to return home, and forced to become a refugee. In the past years there has been an increase in the number of Thai youths charged by the lèse-majesté law. Some have faced the consequences at home and face incarceration in Thailand, while others fled the country. Their fate is uncertain.
112WATCH brings you “Faces of Victims of 112.” We use the visual medium to connect with the human stories of those charged of lèse-majesté. Exhibiting the life of 25 Thais, in prison and in exile, we offer their stories, their fears and insecurities, as well as their hopes and strengths. What do they think about the law? How do they feel being in the position of enemy of state? What is their view on the lèse-majesté law? And what kind of support do they need from the international community?
Their stories are written in both English and Thai (hence 50 pieces). The pieces will be printed (colour) and framed.
The exhibit will be displayed at LeRoy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University School of the Arts, 2960 Broadway, New York City, NY 10027, from 18-25 September 2023. The grand opening and the reception will take place on 18 September, with Pavin delivering a short speech at the venue. It will also be displayed in a mobile form in Chicago (10 September) and Washington DC (15 September). Details will be announced later at the earliest convenience. Furthermore, these pieces will be made available online at 112WATCH webpage.
This exhibit will be the first step to more expanded cultural engagements with artists and various types of art forms, to raise awareness of the impact of Article 112 on ordinary lives.