This was highlighted most recently by the spate of graffiti in Bangkok denouncing construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta for the alleged killing of a protected black panther in a world heritage sanctuary.
The incident that sparked the outrage occurred in February this year, when the skin of an endangered black panther was discovered by rangers at the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Thong Pha Phum district of Kanchanaburi province.
The carcass was found at the camp of Italian-Thai Development Plc President Premchai Karnasuta, who along with two of his employees were arrested and now face an array of charges for allegedly hunting protected wildlife inside the park. At the jungle camp set up by the trio, park rangers found an array of protected animal’s carcasses, including the rare black panther, a Khalij pheasant and a barking deer.
However, Mr Premchai has proclaimed his innocence, telling the press: “I believe I am innocent. I am sorry for tiring you reporters, I am sorry that the society has viewed me in this light. I can’t talk much because it concerns the case. But I reiterate my innocence.”
This contentious case has provoked Thai street artists, especially in the capital Bangkok, to express their anger and despair at their nation’s justice system and accuse it of giving favourable treatment to the wealthy.
The resulting street art – which appeared on abandoned walls, bus stops, Italian-Thai Development signs and at the company’s construction sites – quickly went viral across Thai social media.
But graffiti with a social conscience is not restricted to the capital, indeed here in Phuket street art of all kinds has become increasingly popular in recent years. Most recently, a group of Phuket graffiti artists has painted their thoughts on walls in the heart of Phuket Old Town.
The Drawing Room Phuket, an art gallery in Phuket Old Town, has also been covered with “black panther” street art. Agradeth “Amann” Tanhemnayoo, a professional graffiti artist who leads the group of local street artists, said that he and his friends decided to paint the “black panther” graffiti because they could no longer stand idle in the face of a corrupt justice system where rich people can buy their way out of trouble.
“I’m glad to be a part of this activity and to express our thoughts about this injustice. No matter if this piece will be famous or not, I’m happy to be a part of this… like many street artists who have also done this around the country. It was great. There were some other young people in town that joined us during the activity as well,” said Amann.
“At the beginning, we were not sure if we could finish it, because there were some people riding a motorcycle monitoring us, but in the end, it was well done,” he added.
“Freedom and justice is a matter that affects every person in this country. This case about the black panther shows us that, in the end, the poor will go to jail and the rich people can buy freedom with their money. No matter poor or rich, you have to be held responsible for what you have done.”
“It’s funny [that political graffiti is monitored and at times suppressed by authorities] while real crimes, like hunting protected animals, seem to be treated less seriously.”
After the street art session, the crew continued their activism with a charity event that evening at Seng Duan. The event featured an exhibition and artworks were auctioned to raise money to be donated to the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, a Thai animals rights group.
The team have continued their activism on the black panther case by creating T-shirts featuring a black panther face below an image of a tilted scale of justice and the slogan “The loss is more than just a death”. The income generated from T-shirt sales will be also be donated to the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation.
If you would like to buy a T-shirt in support of this cause, you can contact KK Stadium Goods at 399/22 Yaowarat Rd, Talat Yai, Phuket or call 096 272 6620. You can also order online through Instagram @kkstadiumgoods or Facebook at: facebook.com/HLOYJINGNGEA/ or facebook.com/KKStadiumgoods/
By Kamin Nattha