Street artists harassed, followed for highlighting abducted Thai activist

A mural by street artist Mue Bon whose work on a Bangkok wall was destroyed. Photo: Mue Bon / Facebook
A mural by street artist Mue Bon whose work on a Bangkok wall was destroyed. Photo: Mue Bon / Facebook

On the wall, a bird character paints a missing person poster for an abducted Thai exile. Painted on an abandoned Bangkok building, the mural only survived a few days before it was mysteriously destroyed.

The artist, Mue Bon, is among several artists and activists claiming they have been followed by security forces since they called attention to the abduction of Wanchalerm Satsaksit earlier this month in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. 

“Art must be so powerful. Whitewashing it is not enough. It better be smashed. So violent!” Mue Bon wrote online afterward, posting a collage of his work being destroyed. 

A few days earlier, he wrote that undercover security forces had harassed him while he was painting the mural.

“Yesterday there were some plainclothes officers who helped take care of me while I was working, without setting an appointment with me,” Mue Bon wrote online Thursday. “They told me to whitewash my work, or else I would be charged with trespassing.”

Mue Bon had not replied to messages seeking comment as of publication time. 

Last week, well-known street artist Headache Stencil said he had been followed by four men and shared images of them from his condo’s CCTV system. He said the four men told the security guard they were police officers. 

That was one day after the artist marked the 88th anniversary of the 1932 revolution by projecting images of one of its leaders, democracy icon Pridi Banomyong, on a wall at the Grand Palace. The images also showed the revolutionaries’ proclamation demanding the end of absolute monarchy.

Earlier this month Headache Stencil’s mural depicting Wanchalerm’s face was painted over.

Headache Stencil’s mural calling justice for disappeared Wanchalerm Satsaksit before and after it’s whitewashed. Photo: Headache Stencil / Facebook
Headache Stencil’s mural calling justice for disappeared Wanchalerm Satsaksit before and after it’s whitewashed. Photo: Headache Stencil / Facebook

“You have guns. We have paints.
You have officers. We have friends.
You have power. We have pride.
You want to cover the sky with your hands.
We’ll open people’s eyes with art!” Headache Stencil wrote Monday.

It wasn’t the first time he’s been harassed by authorities. The artist rose to fame in February 2018 with a stenciled mural over Sukhumvit Road mocking then-junta deputy leader Prawit Wongsuwan for his watch scandal. The mural was painted over within hours and he temporarily went underground.

Thai dissident Wanchalerm Satsaksit was seen being forced into a black vehicle on June 4 outside his residence in Phnom Penh. The 37-year-old activist had been living in exile several years since the 2014 coup, when he refused to report to the National Council for Peace and Order. He was accused of defying a junta order and a warrant was issued for his arrest. 

He remained politically active in exile, criticizing the government and political establishment. Government figures have denied having any knowledge of his disappearance and deferred to Cambodia to look into it.

Related

Family of abducted activist remains hopeful, demands his release
#SaveWanchalerm: Bangkok protest to demand answers on abducted exile

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CITY: BANGKOKCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: POLITICS

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