Bangkok governor backs down, decides art world just too cruel

A letter — and a poem — signed by more than 500 artists and industry professionals seem to have had their intended effect: Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang has publicly backtracked on plans for a government takeover of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC).

He even did it a day before they actually delivered the letter. Problem is, the artists just aren’t buying it.

Chumphon Apisuk, a performance artist and member of the board that runs the local art center, led a group of a dozen artists to submit the letter this morning at Government House. In it, they request that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha personally intercede and keep BACC an artist-run operation.

The message pulls no punches, essentially stating that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has no clue how to properly manage the center.

“The government sector doesn’t possess the ability or knowledge to run an art organization,” says the statement, a copy of which was obtained by Coconuts.

“The fact that Governor Asawin Kwanmuang attacked the administration of the BACC without consulting the board, which consists of highly honorable individuals and art experts, is highly inappropriate.”

Along with the letter, the network also submitted a poem by S.E.A Write Award-winning poet Naowarat Pongpaiboon. The documents were received by one of the government’s secretaries.

Photo: Courtesy

Chumphon denied Asawin’s previous claim that BACC has been running at a loss under the artists’ management, adding that the board has been raising approximately THB40 million (about US$1.25 million) annually on their own, on top of the yearly THB40 million budget provided by the government.

The center holds more than a hundred exhibitions and attracts nearly two million visitors each year.

Amid the mounting outrage, planned protest at Government House, and an online campaign that has drawn thousands of the signatures from the public, the governor yesterday took to Facebook to say he would no longer pursue plans to administer the center.

“I have never thought of ruining a space that displays our country’s art and culture, but I wanted to improve this venue to get the most use,” he said in a Facebook post. Among the ideas he had floated was raising money by utilizing the facility as a co-working space.

“If the citizens do not agree, BMA will not take part in improving the venue in question,” he said.

But Kullaya Kassakul, a representative of the artists’ network, today told Coconuts that the artists don’t really believe that BMA is dropping their plan.

“We think that they’re probably waiting for the rage to die down,” she said.

Meanwhile, Chumphon said today that the artists will keep their eyes on the plan and continue their protest against the takeover.


Thai artists campaign against government takeover of art center with poetry

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