Dean attempts to seize students’ art projects; claims they could violate the law

The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, and several other faculty personnel attempted on Monday (22 March) to remove students’ art projects from the Media Arts and Design Department building without first informing the students, while the Faculty claims that some items were removed because they could violate the law.

Faculty personnel claimed that they removed the artwork in order to clean up the premises. However, students said that there is no reason for the Faculty to remove the students’ projects, and that students have always worked in the courtyard in front of the building. The claim that the projects need to be removed for cleanliness is therefore unacceptable. Students also said that police officers came to the building to monitor the students the night before as they were working on their projects.

One student also lay down on the street to block the vehicle being used to transport the projects from leaving the building’s car park.

Voice TV reported that one of the projects removed was an installation art project which looks like a body bound and wrapped in white cloth, and that the projects were taken apart and put in black trash bags.

Thasnai Sethaseree, a lecturer in the Media Arts and Design Department, came to help the students negotiate with the Faculty personnel to prevent the projects from being taken.

Thasnai Sethaseree (right) speaking to the Deputy Dean of Administration of the Faculty of Fine Arts (left)

“Are you a professor too? Do you love art? Do you love and respect human beings? Art is no one’s master, and art is no one’s slave. How many times have you threatened students? Are you threstening education?” Thasnai said during the incident.

“Art has faced enough shame because of people who do not love liberty. The students have just finished their thesis exhibition. Some classes are still not over and they have to keep working. What job is it of a lecturer to clean up for them? What job is it of the Dean to pick up trash. You’re an artist. You’re a teacher. First, respect people. Second, respect other artists. Third, respect artwork, whether it is made by students or people who have not studies art.”

Thasnai said that he already knew about the police officers coming onto campus at night to monitor students as they worked on their projects around the university art gallery and the department building. He also said that he needed to support the students, because the Dean’s action is a violation of the students’ freedom and affects their lives on campus.

The students whose projects were going to be removed then went to the Phupingrajanivej Police Station to file charges of theft and destruction of property against Asawinee Wanjing, the Faculty Dean, Pakornpatara Janthakhaisorn, the Deputy Dean of Administration, Pongsiri Kiddee, the Deputy Dean of Student Development, Sulalak Khaopong, the Faculty Secretary, and Chaiyan Khomkaew, a staff member the university art gallery, as their projects were damaged during the incident and some were missing.

The students speaking to police officers at the Phupingrajanivej Police Station

The Faculty of Fine Arts issued a statement following the incident claiming that Faculty personnel were preparing the gallery premises for the students’ thesis exhibition, which is to take place between March – May 2021, and found items in the area that could be “in danger of violating the law”, such as a modified Thai national flag with “inappropriate messages,” so they removed the items from the premises to be claimed by their owners.

Meanwhile students from the Faculty of Fine Arts issued a statement demanding that the Faculty administration investigate the incident, publicly apologize to the students, and for the three members of the Faculty Executive Board involved in the incident to resign.

The students also demand that the Faculty give an explanation of how Faculty workshop spaces can be used and of the use of Faculty space by lecturers other than for academic purposes, and that the faculty must publicly declare within 3 days their budget expenditures since the three lecturers became members of the executive board. 

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