Despite its wrong caption, Thai Rath’s photo of a former PAD guard grabbing the hair of a red-shirt woman and dragging her along the road during the military crackdown in April has won the Best Photo of the Year Award from the Mass Media Photographers Association of Thailand (MPA). The MPA President explained it won because it is so vividly emotional that no description is necessary. Abhisit will preside over the ceremony on June 18.
On June 14, the MPA announced the results of its 13th annual contest (2008-2009). For this year, 600 photos and 46 television news clips were submitted to the contest which offered 35 prizes of about 700,000 baht in total.
The Best Photo of the Year went to the photo titled ‘Intolerable’ which captured the moment when a former yellow-shirt guard Kaweekrai Chokepatthanakasemsuk grabbed the hair of a red-shirt woman Mintra Soros, dragging her along Ratchaprarob Road on April 13 after she had reportedly reviled soldiers who were dispersing the red-shirt demonstrators. The photo was taken by Thai Rath’s crime reporter Prasith Niwesthong who will receive the King’s Cup together with a prize of 100,000 baht.
MPA President Wichai Walaphol explained that the jury decided to award the prize because the photo was outstanding and complete in terms of photographical composition captured during the melee. It can be seen in the photo that there were many photographers on the scene, but the photographer who took this photo stood in a particular spot, so he could take this unique picture. This photo is so emotionally descriptive that no description is necessary. The jurists voted for it unanimously, he said.
The ceremony to present the awards will be presided over by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on June 18 at the Sofitel Centara Grand Bangkok Hotel, and will be broadcast live via Channel 7 from 16.30 to 18.30.
The ‘Intolerable’ photo was published on the front page of Thai Rath on April 14, 2009, issue, and was wrongly captioned as:
‘Intolerable: after the red-shirt mob resorted to the tactic of parking a gas truck near the Din Daeng tunnel to ignite it, residents of the Din Daeng flats were enraged and gathered to clash with the mob.’
Later, on April 16, on web-boards including Pantip’s Ratchadamnern (thread no. P7756828) and Prachatai (thread no. 796863) posters examined the incident and found that the incident took place around Soi 12 of Ratchaprarob Road, quite far from the scene as described by the newspaper and other media outlets.
It was also found that the man wearing the green t-shirt who pulled the hair of the woman was Kaweekrai Chokepatthanakasemsuk, 30, former guard of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, not a Din Daeng resident as was insinuated in Thai Rath’s report.
And on April 24, PAD-associated ASTV news anchor Anchalee Phaireerak interviewed Kaweekrai by phone about the incident.
Matichon also reported Kaweekrai’s message posted on his Hi5 which says, ‘I don’t take pity on myself for the condemnation people have for me as I deserve it. But I admit that I don’t feel sorry for the woman.’ Kaweekrai claimed to have inquired at Phya Thai Police Station whether Mintra had filed any complaint, and if so, he would turn himself to the police immediately.
Somsak Jeamtheerasakul, lecturer and political critic at Thammasat University, wrote on Prachatai and Same Sky web-boards in protest of the MPA’s judgment. He noted that the Thai Rath photo was retouched: Kaweekrai’s camera and camera bag were deleted from the picture.
Captured frame from a video clip
He said the photo and its incorrect caption misled the public into understanding that the man was one of the residents who were resentful of the red shirts’ gas truck incident or other actions during that time, and came out to handle the ‘mob’ themselves.
It was later found out that the man was a hardcore PAD fanatic who had long been against the red shirts regardless of whatever they might do on April 13, he wrote.
The man himself even wrote on his Hi5 which has already been closed that he had even sniped at the red-shirt rallies without any provocation:
‘I have done a lot more to you folks than what you’ve seen when I pulled the ‘grass’ on the woman’s head, but it just has not made the news, like when you gathered at the national stadium, I sniped at you people when you were on your way home. I regret that I missed the targets. I always have future plans. I think I alone can make a lot of trouble for many of you.’
Mass media photographs are part of the reportage of the facts, as are the titles and captions. This photo, therefore, does not convey the facts, but a misrepresentation and a falsehood, Somsak argued.
In his already removed Hi5, Kaweekrai wrote that (apart from what Somsak has quoted):
‘I dare you [red shirts] to find me to take revenge for that woman. […] Damn! I feel overjoyed to see that the woman, instead of getting sympathy from society, was exploited by the opposition, and was despised, instead of me alone. Stupid woman! 555.’
Khao Sod reported that on April 23, Phuea Thai MPs brought the red-shirt woman Mintra Soros to a press conference at Parliament House. Mintra was asked whether she had spit in the man’s face. When she denied that, some reporters insisted that there were witnesses and photographic evidence showing that Mintra had spit in his face first.
The newspaper noted that during the press conference Mintra’s face did not appear downcast, showing no sign of having been overwhelmed by the attack; rather, she responded eloquently to the reporters’ questions. She also had chewing gum in her mouth and avoided all eye contact with the reporters.
According to Khao Sod, the press conference went on with some verbal hassles between the MPs accusing the reporters of being partial and the latter accusing the former of distorting the facts.
When photos and video clips of the incident first came out, it was widely speculated that the man was a soldier in plain clothes, or a reporter, thanks to his appearance. (That may explain why Thai Rath’s photo was retouched: to make him look like an ordinary ‘resentful’ civilian resident. – Prachatai)
Kaweekrai has created a new Hi5 account at http://thaksindeathsoon.hi5.com/friend/p433366694--กวีไกร--html.
At some pro-PAD websites such as, for example, Thaksin Get Out and Manager blog service, Kaweekrai has been cheered for his action. He wrote at Thaksin Get Out that he apologized for the public perception that he was involved with the PAD. He has tried to delete his photos taken at PAD rallies from the internet, and asks others to help delete them, in order to prevent the red shirts from making use of them.