The 2007 Silpathorn Award winner, Vasan Sitthiket, 56, made his name through provocative artworks that show money and politics raping (sometimes literally) Thailand. A supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), then the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), this artist-cum-poet-cum-activist just opened a new gallery in Bangkok, Rebel Art Space, to nurture other rebellious artists. 

Thai society is a gossip society. That’s why my works always speak bluntly. I want people to see and fix problems directly.

The massacre of October 6, 1976, changed me and made me focus on politics. Previously, I was interested in Buddhism and believed that suffering was only in our mind. But the massacre made me understand that those who are in power are the ones who make us suffer.

I dropped out of college to be a teacher in Kampaengpet with the hope that I could create works like Vincent Van Gogh, who didn’t go to art school. But witnessing villagers’ suffering, poverty and daily problems like husbands beating their wives made me realize the difficulty of expressing such things. So I finally came back to finish studying arts and started working as social activist.

An artist’s duty is documenting today’s society. We should record the suffering of unknown people. We artists are the ones who have the time to reflect on these problems, not those who are struggling to make a living.

The poorest are always the ones who get trampled on. They live in fear that they will be in trouble if they rise up against the powers that be. I knew a man who lost his land because of the village head. When he filed a complaint, he was beaten by the police, who were just cronies of the village head.

Thai police are actually hit men in uniform. Many local activists were killed and disappeared after fighting with those in power. Police even hire professional hit men from prison to do certain jobs. Once the work is finished, they put them back in.

We’ve never had real democracy here. The power structures haven’t changed since we got a constitution 80 years ago. We’ve never developed people’s minds. Why do people still worship ghosts or trees to get lucky numbers from the lottery? 

Administrating this country is a job for to everyone. We don’t just vote so that a thief can rule our country. We pay taxes to choose a ruler who will take care of our country. Even a single voice, yours, is not weak. You can change things.

You can buy this country with B12 billion. Just throw out B30 million to 400 representatives for your party, then the election canvassers who control the villages will do the rest. This structure has never been changed. That’s why our country has gotten stuck like this.

Reforming this country is desperately needed. All of society must be involved, no matter whether you are farmer, student or office worker. Many Thai farmers suffered from being tricked by giant Thai food companies, who made them slaves until debt makes them go bankrupt, and they are forced to go work as laborers or prostitutes abroad. We need to shed light on this vicious circle.

Reform might sound utopian, but it’s better than doing nothing.

I want to put all the bad politicians in corrals at Sanamluang and let people come to look at them like animals at the zoo. They can see the ones who have done wrong to our country up close. You can’t even put them at a regular zoo because they are too stinky for the animals to bear. Also, their money would be seized and shared with the people in their constituency.

We don’t want another coup d’état because generals in this country are really stupid. They never understand the real problems of this country. They just sit around drinking B200,000 bottles of wine given to them by capitalists.

The army must be reformed, too. They shouldn’t have generals anymore. These generals just play golf and become “advisors” for giant companies. It’s like they are hired to protect these capitalist thieves. 

I wish we could run this country according to Dhammic socialism, which was invented by famous monk Buddhadasa. He said we should control bad people, give more freedom to good people and take more taxes from rich people.

We must change people to stop admiring the rich. The rich should be suspected of being thieves who are corrupt or sell ya baa (amphetamine) because there is no way that salarymen earning B15,000-B30,000 could ever able to buy the kinds of mansion they live in. 

Red shirts are hypocrites. The government and the legislators tore down the constitution by proposing that notorious amnesty bill. But now the government and red shirt academics are saying they must stick to the law of this constitution and that is why the new elections must happen in 45 days. 

Red shirt cronies such as Weng Tochirakarn are just dogs who want to get rid of feudalism. But then they will oust Thaksin and make the country socialist. 

Our education system just teaches children to be slaves to capitalism. You can study to work in the system or just sell noodles and dump that decades-long education that can’t be used in real life.

Confidence is essential to being a human. If you were born to just make a living, you’re the living dead.

Remember that you are valuable. Be confident you can be anything that you want and live a life that is worthwhile every day.