Submitted on Sat, 26 Mar 2016 - 11:57 AM
A military-sponsored major production doesn’t even bother to conceal its political propaganda in the form of a weepy stage play. The show seems to be a response to the popular current of pondering the question, “What is the Military For?” from an article published by Nidhi Eoseewong.
Remember when Prayut told us all to watch the military K-drama “Descendants of the Sun”? Well, since he’s head of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), he’d want to watch “The Last Blanket,” too.
“The Last Blanket” (ผ้าห่มผืนสุดท้าย), a stage play running from 17 March to 3 April at the Rachadalai Theatre, is funded by ISOC, which has also sponsored other mass-media art projects, such as Latitude No. 6, a film released last year that pushed vague messages of unity and love regarding the Deep South conflict.
However, “The Last Blanket” seems to be a response to the popular current of pondering the question, “What is the Military For?” from an article published by Nidhi Eoseewong. In it, Nidhi condemns the military as a modern construction that guzzles up funds, takes power in times of political vacuums, and wages war instead of protecting sovereignty. In the age of political and regional integration (ASEAN, EU), Nidhi finds no use for the military. Of course, that’s not true—the military makes a great subject for military-funded movies and plays.
“The Last Blanket,” with the tagline “When was the last time you sang the national anthem at the top of your lungs?” tells in flashbacks the story of three Thai soldiers stationed in the Deep South who are killed in action. Private Top, an initially reluctant, lazy soldier who is assigned by his sergeant to return the bodies of three soldiers to their families, as well as write a report on the fallen men.
Private Top unravels the story of Colonel Tome, an estranged father whose relationship with his rebellious daughter is on the rocks, Dr. Tor, a doctor-turned-medical officer who joined the military to impress his childhood love, and brothers Second Lieutenants Pong and Pae, whose mother has moved to the super dangerous South to be with her sons.
In all three story threads, the enlisted (not drafted) soldiers all volunteer to go to the Deep South, and any semblance to reality is already ridiculously, completely one. Is self-sacrifice for a faceless bomb and a tri-colour flag justified? Of course it is, you scum-of-the-land. How dare you ask that? Now go and take a selfie at the photo spot in the lobby while holding one of these placards.
Cutesy placards to take pictures with in front of the theatre. The second one reads “[I] love with all my heart Thai soldiers who love the nation.”
One suspects that the intended audience for the play is not much different from the playwright himself, celebrity Kitti Chiawongsakul, who publicly participated in the PDRC anti-election protests in 2014. During that time he wrote a poem under the pen name “3 a.m. Poet” (กวีตีสาม) where the narrator is willing to die if he can take with him a non-royalist, or “demon.”
Kitti Chiawongsakul (Source)
In an interview with Matichon, Kitti states that he does not hope to profit from this play, since it is for “societal good.” He insists that this play is not a trend along with other pro-military works, and that the script was written even before “there were soldiers” (i.e. before the junta). Kitti even says that he did not initially like soldiers himself personally, but was touched by interviews and research. “It’s a job that requires a lot of love for one’s fellow man,” he said. To those who “don’t like soldiers,” Kitti says that under the uniforms, everyone is still human, so don’t let your own prejudices cloud you with hate. “It’s an honour to die for your country, to have one’s last blanket be the country’s flag.”
Such blatant, devious, sugar-coated (in this case, tear-coated) techniques will convince no one but the choir. When I mean choir, I mean that group of old yellow-shirted ladies who also definitely went to the PDRC as a clique and now are sitting in the expensive seats on the first floor, and who are also asking me to take a picture of them with the “We (Heart) Thai Soldiers” cardboard sign.
When the daughter yells at her old colonel dad “Why did you even become a soldier? It’s hurt our whole family so much!” He answers in a shaking voice, “for Nation, Religions, and Monarchy.” Of course there are no follow-up questions, and father and child hug, everything completely reconciled. Duh. How could there be any other option, don’t ask anarchist questions. Go on, cry! What are you waiting for?! There are three coffins on the stage in dim lighting, with all the characters in black and crying. Did I mention that the dead soldiers’ “Last Blankets” are the flag? How could you not cry? Alert, there’s a person up in the cheap seats who’s not crying! How could you not cry? The colonel lost his hearing due to the bombs and that’s why he has to yell at his daughter all the time! Of course they love each other! LOOK at how he sacrificed one of his senses for the land! Of course your sense of hearing is not too much to give! You better be friggin’ overwhelmed with feelings right now or else I’ll brand you as a treacherous usurper. WHERE ARE YOUR TEARS? CRY! CRY! CRY! AND SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS! That’s not at the top of your lungs. I need you to go all the way. TOP OF YOUR LUNGS, WITH A TREMBLING VOICE SO I KNOW YOU’RE DEVOTED. CRY! CRY! SING! CRY! SING! CRY! AND TAKE A SELFIE WITH THIS CARDBOARD SIGN! BUT NOW STOP BEING SAD AND BE CUTE ABOUT IT! CUTE! SELFIE! SAD! CRY! SING!