Rapper and graffiti artist Kittipong Kamsart a.k.a. M Buddha Bless tells us about his difficult home life as a child, why being a musician has made him love reading and why he believes in aliens.

Despite my features, my lineage is actually Chinese. My parents own a car parts business in Samut Prakarn. I lived in a big family where we ate only mild food. So now I can’t eat somtam.

I always had arguments with my dad because he had a bad temper when he was drunk. Sometimes he beat my mom, too.

I wasn’t a good kid. I didn’t like studying. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to work in an office because I wanted to get tattoos. I knew that wouldn’t go well with office life. I fell in love with the arts.

After grade nine, I stopped studying for a year. Then my mom took me to study at BCC (Bangkok Commercial College) for two years. I dropped out and went to a fine arts college, Chang Silp Ladkrabang.

In the end, I couldn’t finish art school even though I was able to clear the entrance exam twice. I felt it wasn’t what I expected. I started getting interested in graffiti. Nowadays, I feel guilty that I probably took someone else’s opportunity to go to this school.

All those years, I would leave the house but end up doing graffiti in my soi. The plan was for everyone on my soi to see my graffiti. My pseudonym is Stupid. I also made money doing airbrush jobs on motorcycles.

Later, I met my friend Del, a member of one of Thailand’s first graffiti groups, PMT. We became good friends and he introduced me to his friends, including Aui [fellow Buddha Bless member] who, back then, was in a hip-hop group called AYM.

Aui asked me to form a rap group with him, with another friend, Tong, because he thought I could write funny lyrics. I jumped at his offer even though Aui warned me that there were no guarantees.

Being a music composer made me go from hating reading to loving it. Now I love to read philosophy or dharma. I always wonder about aliens and where humans come from. I also have doubts about evolution by leaps and bounds.

I believe that there are extra terrestrials. There is plenty of evidence they exist on earth. I read a book called 12th Planet, which gathered archaeological evidence from many eras. There were civilizations before our history begins. Some even link it to Buddhism, like in The Matrix.

I think Lord Buddha is real and he’s a cool guy.

Life always has suffering. Being a singer like me, you still suffer. Being a millionaire, you still suffer.

Now I want to do meditation. I don’t do it to just follow a trend, but I want to know what it’s all about. I want to study dharma in my way. I never believed what the Lord Buddha said before, but now I want to know exactly what he said.

I quit drinking two years ago. Aui told me I was getting to be like my alcoholic father so I stopped. Now, I have also stopped smoking and partying too. Maybe I’m just bored of that now.

I saw a lot of bad behavior from friends like drinking and drugs, but I didn’t partake. I cared about my mother’s feeling. We’ve been through tough things together, like our wrecked family and my drunk dad. It taught us to be good.

Now I’ve started talking to my dad again. When I grew up and saw things more reasonably, I kind of understood him more and started feeling wistful for a father-son relationship.

I never feel that I am a superstar. I am just being myself, just like everyone else in Gan Core [record company].

I don’t have a lot of friends because I have only a few interesting things to say. I don’t like football or cars. I don’t like to drive and I can’t drive either. I love riding my motorbike or my bicycle.

I still have dreams about my graffiti. I want to bring my portfolio to the international level. I feel they value this kind of art much more than in Thailand. There are magazines, galleries and sponsors and their own space.

I would take care of stray dogs in Bangkok if I were the governor. Gandhi said if you want to see what people are like, you have to see the way they treat their pets. It’s fundamental for people to take care of this problem.

The best way to make a living is to find what you love and make it your profession. Then it will be something fun that gives you money.


Leave a Comment

After feeling like a second-class kid in the country, Nuttawut “Por” Sakidjai moved to Bangkok and became his own inspiration, first working at Channel 7 and then making the bold move of quitting for the opportunity to star in new movie The Moon, opening on Jul 21.

I was born in Petchburi. My parents were both civil servants—my dad is at the Department of Lands, and my mom is a teacher. I was the kind of kid teachers would forget, because I never did anything outstanding or caused any trouble.

I used to feel being a rural student was being second-class. I wanted to be a Bangkok kid. They seemed so cool. But I grew up and had opportunities to go abroad. I feel so grateful and proud about my hometown now.

I never had my own idea about my life. I always followed my friends and back then, I was studying engineering.

I later went to get my MA in England because, again, I followed my friends who also went there. I think 70% of Thai kids are like this, following their friends in everything.

Living in the UK made me see things more clearly. Farangs aren’t better than us. No matter how hard we try to run away or change our roots, in the end, things will get harder. You’ll realize that you just want to eat nam prik.

Life is like a circle. A dream will make you start at one point and you will try to get as high and as far as you can. But once you reach the top of the arc, you want to go back. Many of the people I know all want to go home.

The turning point was when Suppachai Srivichit, a.k.a. P’A [manager of Aum-Patcharapa and Mario Maurer], who was my senior at university, persuaded me to be an actor. I said no at first but later gave in because I couldn’t find a job.

I worked with the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it for the first five years. I just liked it because it brought me a good income.

I am a businessman of life and this job brought me good money. So I gave it my best, and gradually began to love it more and more. Now I can say that it’s my career. I love it and I am going to do it until I die.

When I decided to move from Channel 7 to Channel 3, I was pretty scared. But I was at the point where I had to make a change and move forward. My contract had ended, and I had fallen in love with my career, so I needed to find new challenges. I’m really thankful to Channel 7, and we created a lot of successful projects together, but I had to chase my dream.

The general response to my move really destroyed my spirits. I used to get only good comments but now I got 50-50. I was really drawn into all the criticism on the internet. Luckily, my family and my girlfriend pulled me out of that hole.

When you’re happy, everything is good. But when you’re down in dumps, it’s easy to tell who is on your side and who isn’t.

You can’t expect love from others but you can expect love from the ones you love.

Criticism on the internet is too aggressive. There’s no sense of junior and senior. You spit out your words, and you don’t have to take responsibility for it. Live your life by love, not hate. Criticizing others doesn’t give you anything, just satisfaction.

People might think I am an action actor but the truth is I really hate fighting, speed and heights.

One reason I decided to leave Channel 7 was that I wanted to try something new. The role in The Moon as Poompuang’s first husband, Theerapong Sangsuk, is exactly that. Not many people know he even existed, so it was a challenge to try and convey his personality.

I think Thai stars are really exhausted by the system and unrealistic time management. If I had free time, I would go somewhere I don’t have to read entertainment news. Somewhere no one knows me. To recharge myself until I’m craving for work again.

I am my own inspiration. I love myself but not in a selfish way. I love enjoying my achievements, and prefer to celebrate them alone. I go into the bathroom every time I achieve something, and say to myself, “Yes! I am fucking awesome!”

I don’t think it’s true what people say about Thai society lacking heroes. Those people are watching too many movies.

You’re your own hero. If everyone just grounds themselves in reality and does their best, everything will be good. Remember that you can’t change the world.


Leave a Comment

With increasing prices and obtuse promotion schemes, movie multiplexes have made some very vocal enemies. BK hears them out. By Monruedee Jansuttipan and Natthanun Prasongchaikul

Movie goers are angry. They say movies are too expensive and, given that we’re paying, should be ad-free. They also take offense with discount cards whose fine print make them all but useless and complex pricing structures that allow multiplexes to claim “normal prices” that are a far cry from what one truly pays.

We contacted Major and SF, and both refused to comment on this topic. In interviews to the Bangkok Post and The Nation in May and June (after Major raised its prices by B20 without notice), the two big multiplex operators argued that they offer a variety of prices and are cheaper than Asian capitals like Singapore or Hon g Kong. Their critics, though, argue salaries here are also much lower. The “price choice” argument, too, has been challenged. Multiplexes claim starting prices from B60 on Wednesdays to B120 in “normal” theaters, that are a fraction of what you would pay for a film on its opening weekend at Paragon (B200) or CentralWorld (B180). To qualify for the lowest rate however a movie must be:
• out for a certain number of days, from three to seven
• shown Mon-Wed, except public holidays
• shown in a non-digital theater, which are increasinly rare in multiplexes.

And as more and more screenings switch to 3D, there are also fewer 2D show times, so that you’re more likely to have to see a movie in 3D just to get a show time that works for you. In that case, tickets are at least B260.

This is a free country, though. If the middle-class are so angry, they can go pay B100 at House, Scala or Lido—or attend B80-100 screenings on Wednesdays in multiplexes, if they can stand the wait. And let’s not forget that cheaper neighborhood theaters with tickets around B60 were abandoned, not so much because of multiplexes, but because of VCDs. Clearly, Bangkokians have separated into those who have simply given up on movies, at any price, and those who are actually happy to pay B360-520 per couple for two hours in the dark, living romances and adventures, with no mobile phones and no internet to interrupt the dream. That’s probably the saddest part of this price war between multiplex and consumer: whether you think these prices are realistic or not, they are equivalent to a day’s minimum wage (B215 in Bangkok) for a single seat. It’s official, movies are now exclusively for the rich. The poor can watch lakorn for free on television.

Tuchchai Wongkitrungrueng

Head of Network of Thai Movie Audience

Do you think the outcry against movie ticket prices is just a passing fad?
The fact that the Facebook page, Network of Movie Lovers Against Unfair Advertising in Major Cineplex Theatres, has gained more than 20,000 in just one month isn’t just an accident. It shows that people have been upset about this problem for a long time.

Why now though?
I think the last straw was May 10, 2011, when Major raised their ticket prices without warning. People went to the cinemas, because it was a holiday, and found that the tickets were now B160-200. Another reason might be that our complaints never really received proper feedback from the government, like the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) or the Department of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Commerce. All they do is issue warnings, but nothing changes. After cinemas got a warning from the OCPB, they just put a sign in the Cineplex lobby, warning that there will be 25 minutes of ads. Sometimes they even cut trailers to make sure all the ads fit in the allotted time.

Do you think the cinemas are honest to consumers?
No. If it was just a bit, it would be fine, but they do it all the time. They have so many bogus promotions that are a huge headache and don’t really cut a bargain for the consumer. I tried to use a promotion from Truemove, but they said I could only use it next month. Then I went back next month, and they said it had already expired. Their promotion cards have really shifty conditions, and you can never use them for new movies or for movies they designate as “special.”

What do you think about the law that says movie theaters are a lifestyle choice whose prices cannot be regulated?
It’s true but going to the movies is a significant part of the lives of city dwellers. It’s a way to socialize with friends and family. If a father brings his wife and two kids to the theater, that’s B640 or even B800. They have no choice as the only cinemas anywhere near their home are Major or EGV. The operators are selling expensive tickets because they know that all these people will come to the movies anyway.

What is the long-term damage?
They are destroying cinema culture. I used to feel thankful that cinema culture was being revived by cineplexes 15 years ago, after standalone cinemas were dead due to video and DVD. But now the way they’re doing business is making people wary of going to the theaters. It’s really expensive to go out to see a movie. Travel expense, food and tickets. It’s true that people still go to the movies even though the tickets are as high as B300, but attendance will definitely go down. We now have fewer quality movies in the last two years because audiences only see movies with special effects or mega productions. It will make Thai cinema decline too.

Noppasorn Yaemutai

Cinema Manager, House Theater

How would you characterize average Thai movie-goers?
I think we’re addicted to convenience. We used to have simple cinemas that only showed movies, not all the extraneous commodities, like these days. Many less fancy cinemas are now closed now as audiences are unimpressed by their lack of frills. The truth is that cineplexes have to invest at least B200-300 million to build complexes to serve the audiences’ desires. There’s no way these people will make their money back by selling B100 tickets, so they do everything to gain money. It’s a business. And audiences either don’t know or don’t act like they have any choice in the matter. Don’t just show up at these theaters and pay to watch their movies. You’re having an experience that has already been decided for you. If you just want to watch a movie, why do you need all those excesses?

But aren’t prices rising due to higher tech screenings?
I also go to big cineplexes, and I’m fine with paying extra for a 3D or 4D film because the movie is made to be seen that way. But I will not pay such prices for watching just a regular digital movie. It doesn’t cost much to upgrade from film projectors to hard disk ones. The digital projections aren’t that sharp either. I know for a fact that analog film projections give the sharpest quality. It’s just that the quality drops as the reel ages.

What do you think about the public outcry on Facebook page against big cinema chains?
It’s just a trend. We all already know what the problems are. Social networking just gives them a place to vent. Some people address the problem by going to the cinema late to avoid all the ads before the movie starts, but that’s not really fixing the problem. If we want a solution, we must be united to do something real.

How is House doing?
It’s doing OK, considering it started seven years ago. Those who love to watch good movies on the big screen come here. But we can’t really compete with big cineplexes around town. Our income is fairly close to our expense. We only have three staff members—myself, an usher and a projector technician. Though we try to manage, we still can’t make a good income. Just enough to pay expenses.

Why are you guys struggling?
First of all, we’re not easily accessible. We don’t have BTS or MRT stops close to us, like other cinemas do. Even the Airport Link, even though it’s right behind us, doesn’t stop here. And of course, in the digital era, it’s easier and quicker for audiences to watch movies from the internet instead of coming all the way here. And in the case of movies that have recently won prizes at major festivals, people can watch them more quickly online rather than wait for the film to come to Bangkok.

How much does it cost to bring in a movie?
It’s totally different from the old days. Indie movies used to come as a bonus when movie importers bought bulk movie packages from major distributors. That’s how House got started—as a place that would screen these bonus movies. But now, all movies have agents. Importers have to choose movies before they hit the festival circuit, because once the film wins a prize, it will be more expensive. The next problem is the timing. We have to bring films in fast, so that people will not download them or buy them on DVD. And sometimes big cinemas screen those indie films, too.

What makes House different from other theaters?
We try to make this place a haven for movie-lovers. We only ever charge B100 for a ticket, and you don’t have to endure the chaos of shopping malls to watch the limited range of blockbusters they happen to be screening. We also have a small library and a DVD club where members can borrow movies for only B10 each and also share their DVD collection for others to borrow. We don’t have ads either.

Do you see this place as having a growing audience?
Yes. But it’s still a small group. At first we thought the main audience would be students but in fact they are mostly professionals. And sometimes a movie will gain an audience slowly, after it’s been playing for weeks.

Tassanee Nan-udon

Consumer Foundation and Smart Buyer Editor

The ticket price and endless advertising at movie theaters is not a new problem, is it?
Not really. We’ve been noticing it for a while, so we started the magazine Chalad Sue [Smart Buyer] in July 2009. We found that although there are long advertisements before projecting the movie, complaints had been very mild. And the distributors always make the excuse that they have to cover a lot of expenses. Half the ticket price goes to the movie theater and the other half goes towards covering copyright costs (the movie), and the ads help them cover these costs, which was an acceptable excuse. But now consumers are feeling taken advantage of because the number of ads has increased, and so has the ticket price. I’m personally quite happy that consumers, through Facebook groups, are coming forward and asking questions to the corporations, because normally, Thai people don’t protest unless it gets to really be too much. If there are this many advertisements, the ticket price should stay the same, especially when some theaters have less advertisements, like Apex, Scala or even SF. Also, our research shows that nowadays what we pay for a movie ticket is extremely expensive compared to our cost of living.

Do you think consumers are really outraged now, or does it just seem that way because of social media?
A bit of both. When we consulted the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB), they said movie tickets were an unregulated product, since we’re not obligated to go to the theater, and that the business is an agreement between movie theaters and consumers, and the OCPB cannot intervene. And social media makes it easier to protest. You don’t have to walk the streets when you can just click “like” on Facebook. In the US, it’s very common to have pages where consumers can complain, and companies pay heed, because it affects their image.

Do you think the movie theater business is a duopoly?
It’s quite true. If you make a chart of people who own cinemas in Thailand, you will find out they are all relatives.

Will this recent outcry bring any change?
It might, but I’m not sure how far it will go. It depends on the consumers and whether they go on campaigning about this issue. Seeing a movie now is not cheap. If the people feel it’s too expensive, they will stop going or choose a better way to entertain themselves. But they will have to stand united to send a clear message to the cinemas to stop doing business like this. We might gather a massive group to watch a big hit movie at another theater, instead of the one what we’re campaigning against. It will send a clear message that they can’t just do anything they like.

Admin of Rojam Facebook Group:

Network of Movie Lovers Against Unfair Advertising in Major Cineplex Theatres

Why did you start this group?
I believe in the power of social networks more than that of Thai authority. We’ve all complained at the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) and found out that apart from the fact that you have to wait for a pretty long period of time, once it’s your turn to clarify your problems, you will be sent to another department. Like this movie theater issue—they will send you to the Department of Internal Trade at the Ministry of Commerce and they will eventually send you to the Ministry of Culture. To be exact, there’s no real help from anybody and it affects a lot of people. Let’s say the total revenue of the movie business is now billions. Isn’t it a lot? A significant percentage of Bangkokians spend their leisure time by going to the mall and watching a movie. The citizens’ happiness involves going to the movies, so why can’t the authorities pay attention to this matter?

Why do you choose to use social media?
I always do my work online. When I first launched this page, I aimed to talk with the people who were having a problem with the Major Group at the Pinklao branch. I didn’t expect much, but then I ended up meeting so many more people. The more I talked with these people, the more I learned about the tricky and exploitative tricks employed by corporate groups.

What do you hope to achieve?
As a movie lover, I want us to enjoy movies at affordable prices. If it’s going to be expensive, it should at least be reasonably so. Movie theaters aren’t meant to be like five-star hotels. Don’t apply high-season/low-season prices, and variable prices by categorizing seats, or movies. Some days there are 10 rows available for a cheap price, but other times, if the movie is a hit, there are only five designated rows for cheap seats. We can’t find any standards. They sell us a cash card that’s worth thousands, but when the card expires, if there’s still money on it, we lose it and have to pay another B100 for an extension. The theaters take advantage of us in any way possible, down to the smallest details.

Do you think the problems come only from corporations or from consumers as well?
Thai consumers are in servitude. The movie business in Thailand is like a monopoly, as the other competitors have a lot fewer theaters. The prices are raised without prior notice and cheap seats are constantly decreasing and expensive seats increasing. And Wednesdays are supposed to be B60 but in fact it’s more like B120. The B60 only happens at theaters out of town. And because movie-goers keep paying, the corporations keep charging. They’re never going to stop being greedy.

So you think anything will change?
Right now I only want Thai consumers to realize that they’re being taken advantage of and that they should do something about it. But Thai people are hard to change. A few people are fighting for change, while everyone else is just waiting around for the benefits of those changes. I am sort of getting bored being here, too. People come up to me and ask why I’m not talking about this or that other company, but they don’t do anything themselves.

Why do you think the OCPB isn’t taking action?
I think they are just a government bureaucracy that takes people’s tax money for nothing. They’re useless. They’re just like a cancer or an appendix. They’re there, but you can’t really use them.

Do you think this campaign will last in the long-term?
I think we might upgrade to be a monitor group. And if they still don’t change, then the campaign against them will truly begin. I am currently recruiting people on Facebook and asking them to be vigilant about their rights. In the end we might spread the word to start a movie theater boycott.

Get it For Less: Reading into Movie Ticket Discounts’ Fine Print

Major Cineplex

  The Deal The Fine Print
M Generation Card, White and Black

The black card offers B20 discounts and redeemable points.

The white card offers B40 discounts and points for students only.

The white M Gen card doesn’t apply to weekdays after 6pm at most branches.

Every B20 spent, you get 1 point. 1 point = 1 baht. In others words, buy 20 tickets, get one free.

Krungsri Credit Card and Home Pro Visa

 Buy-one-get-one-free when paying with Krungsri credit card or Home Pro Visa.

Buy tickets with Krungsri points. (1000 points = B100)

 It only applies on Mondays at Paragon Cineplex, Esplanade Cineplex, Paradise Cineplex, Major Cineplex and EGV at non-digital screens and normal seats. Only 5 tickets per day and per account, four times per month. Until 30 Nov ‘11.

Tickets with points only apply at Paragon Cineplex, Esplanade Cineplex, Paradise Cineplex, Major Cineplex and EGV. Only 5 tickets give-away per day, per account. Until 31 Dec ‘11.

Movie Day (Wednesday) The price of movie tickets starts at B60. Doesn’t apply on public holidays. Doesn’t apply to movies less than one week old. B60 is only for multiplexes outside of the city center. Paragon digital theater is B160 after 6pm.
Movie @ Night B80 tickets for every movie after 8:30pm Sun-Tue at Esplanade Ngarmwongwarn-Kaerai only. Normal seats, no public holidays, no new movies.
AIS B80 movie tickets every Sat and Sun. Only for 5,000 seats per day. One seat for one phone number per month. Serenade or Blackberry users can get two seats for one phone number. Available only for normal seats and normal theaters. Until July 17.



  The Deal The Fine Print
Movie Day (Wednesday) B80 movie tickets

Doesn’t apply to the movies out for less
than one week and national holidays.
Applies only to normal seats in non-digital theaters. SF World Cinema at Central
World starts B90 but count B130 for a
digital theater.

Student card B80 movie tickets Doesn’t apply to weekdays after 6pm
and weekends. Starts from B90 at
CentralWorld. Doesn’t apply to digital
screening rooms.In short, count B160 for
a digital screening on Sat-Sun, a mere
B20 off.


Paragon Cineplex
SF World Cinema at CentralWorld UMG, RCA
Century Movie Plaza
A normal seat on Wednesdays (non-digital, no new releases)
A normal seat in a non-digital theater on Mon-Tue
A normal seat for a digital movie on Thu-Sun.
A normal seat in a 3D theater on Thu-Sun
Two Enigma seats
A normal seat on Wednesdays (non-digital, no new releases)
A normal seat in a non-digital theater on Mon-Tue
A normal seat for a digital movie on Thu-Sun
A normal seat in a 3D theater on Thu-Sun
Happiness World seat, Thu-Sun

A sofa bed seat
A normal seat

House, Apex, Lido, Scala

Any seat

A normal seat in a 3D theater on Thu-Sun
A normal seat, Thu-Sun



Leave a Comment

Budding actress and singer Paowalee “Pao” Pornpimol, 19, makes her cinematic debut in, The Moon, a dramatic biopic of Thai luk thung queen, Poompuang Duangchan—or Mae Pueng, as Pao calls her.

BK: Where did you grow up?
I am from Supanburi, Daan Chang district [the same province as Poompuang]. My father and mother sell clothes at Daan Chang fresh market.

BK: How did you become a singer?
: The people in my town love to listen to luk thung songs. Also, my grandfather and my mum both love to sing. I started to go to singing contests when I was nine as they encouraged me to go. My first competition was at an OTOP event where I got second place. I kept going to competitions until I won the first prize at “Kwa Mic Kwa Champ” on FAN TV, a cable channel, resulting in a contract with GMM. They were the ones who sent me to audition for this role.

BK: How did you manage to capture the essence of Poompuang, since you weren’t even born yet when she was at her height?
I grew up listening to her music, and my mom always told me that Mae Peung is the queen of luk thung. Everyone in the country loves her. I feel happy that I was able to convey what she had to go through to become such an iconic figure.

BK: How do you feel knowing how much she struggled?
Well, since my dream is to be a singer, her struggles really resonated with me. But as for our paths, Mae Pueng must have had more struggles because in those times, you had to fight and go through a lot to achieve your dreams. Me, my parents support me and there are more opportunities now than before.

BK: How was your experience on set? Anything strange?
Yes, there were some strange things. I believe that Mae Pueng was still around us, giving us support when we were shooting the film. When I first went for casting, they made me sing “Nakrong Ban Nok.” Then all of a sudden I got goose bumps and felt hot and cold. I couldn’t stop crying.

BK: How has your life changed?
It’s been a big change since I moved to Bangkok. I’d never been to Bangkok before. I’ve always been in Supanburi. In the mooban, everyone knows each other, but not here. Now I live with my mom while my dad is still at home. I call him every day and sometimes he comes to pick me up and take me back home for a visit. Whenever we go back he cooks for us. Now I’m currently a sophomore at Faculty of Humanities and Communication Arts at Ramkamhaeng University. I’m only going to sit the exams. Most of the time I’m either working or studying at home.


Leave a Comment

The king of Thai rap, Abhisit Opas-iamlikit aka Joey Boy, tells us the story of how he came to fall in love with hip hop and about putting on a new hat, that of director, for his new zombie movie, Gan Core Gad (in theaters Jul 21).

My childhood wasn’t as cool as people might think. I didn’t do many activities or make any trouble at school. But I did love listening to music, anything from pop to Carabao.

One day my mom took me to the ice skating rink. She wanted me to play hockey. I became pretty devoted to it, and was able to play at a national level.

Then I dropped out because I felt it wasn’t really part of our normal life. It’s ice skating, and Thailand is a tropical country. I also wanted to help my family, hockey skates were B5,000, and the clothes were more than B10,000.

Then I got interested in skateboarding. My close friend, who was rich, bought me a skateboard worth B5,000. He just did it because he wanted somebody to skate with.

It brought me into a whole new world and a new circle. I met so many friends like Tee or Khan who is now with Thaitanium. We did a lot of things together like dance competitions and wakeboarding.

Realizing I wanted to be a rapper was very sudden. One of my skateboarding friends, Carlo, asked me to listen to Peter Piper of Run D.M.C. and that was the first time that I heard hip hop.

I then tried to make my own music by writing lyrics and by being a DJ. Boyd Kosiyabong, who is my friend’s brother, let me rap in Somkiat Z-Mix’s song “Ta In Ka Ta Na” and even offered me a chance to be an artist at his Bakery Records, but I felt I wasn’t ready so I turned down the offer.

I went to Hong Kong to work as a DJ and visited the US for the first time as an exchange student. When I was there, I felt so happy. I was in the country where hip hop originated. All I did was skateboard and listen to hip hop.

When I came back I told my mom that I was going to drop out of school and be a rapper. She didn’t really believe me, so the only way that I could prove it to her was to be a rapper for real. No way back.

I went back to Boyd and this time he and his colleagues took me to tough auditions, where I had to rap in front of a crowd at Siam and go on stage at a concert at MBK Hall. People loved me so I got a contract and made several albums.

Now music isn’t just my career; it’s my life.

What’s brought me this far is the fact that I never throw away opportunities. And this time, I grabbed the opportunity to direct a film.

I wanted to try to make a movie because whenever I write songs, I always have a picture in my head. This time I can show what they are like, too.

Being a director is so hard. In Thailand, it doesn’t get you much fame or money, like being an actor or a singer does, but many people still love to do it. It’s the happiness of doing what you love. Those people are all my inspiration.

I have so many dreams that I want to achieve but I never make big plans on how to go about them. I just do it.

I want to be a billionaire. It would be fun. Money can’t buy everything but it can make things easier. You can do anything without worrying whether or not it would make a good living. And I would have money to help others who are in need.
I don’t care that people think of me as a playboy. People can’t distinguish between me and the hats that I wear. It’s just my musical persona and the press that brands me. If you compare me to other playboys, I am so inexperienced.

I think Bangkok is like a movie. Every time I walk the streets at night it’s like I’m on the set of a movie where I am the lead character.

The image of Thailand in Hangover II is something we Thais helped created. Hollywood doesn’t know much about us. They’re just like some journalists who are only seeing one angle.

If I could turn back time, I would want to do it all over again. It’s been so much fun! Now I am focusing on making my life as worthwhile as possible. Except for death, nothing can stop us.


Leave a Comment

Street Talk Singha Kampon, 34, doesn’t run any ordinary coffee stall. After four years and spending more than B200,000 in equipment, she has transformed her kafae boran rig into a state-of-the-art coffee pushcart on the Phloenchit intersection, where a coffee is still only B30-50 a cup.

Where do you come from?
I am originally from Petchaboon and dropped out of school after grade 9. I am a very ambitious woman. I tried hard to make money to look after my family, so I had to pick up a lot of jobs. The last job that I did was as a coffee machine salesperson.

Why did you decide to open your own business?
I realized that it was a good business. I wanted to do it for myself so I started collecting money to open a coffee stall. I started to talk with municipal authorities at Pathumwan district about opening a coffee stall here. I mostly sold kafae boran (Thai-style coffee with sweet condensed milk). Then about a year later, I saved enough money to buy my first coffee machine. It was B42,000. Then I bought another one at B57,000 and another still at B67,000. Now I am using a B165,000 one, and the coffee grinder is B42,000.

Why did you want to have such state-of-the-art equipment?
Because I love fresh coffee. It was my life’s dream to have big machines in a big coffee shop, but because I wasn’t rich enough, I started off with just selling kafae boran. This is what I’ve always wanted: the machines are mine, but I’m still missing the place to open a café. I have been looking, though, but I don’t yet have enough money.

What did you do with the older machines? Are they broken?
I dumped the first one and donated another to a monk that I respect. He gave me the name for my new stall and acted as my fortuneteller. He advised me to sell coffee when I was very depressed about my career. It’s his power that made me this much money now.

How about your family?
I take care of my family now. My mom is sick. She has diabetes, and many other health problems. It’s quite a severe case now. I have to send her money. I have a husband and two kids, a 10-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. My son is studying in Roi-Et and he’s staying with my husband’s parents, and my daughter is with my mom.

How is your daily life?
I wake up at around 7am and get here around 7:30. I start selling right away. Sometimes there are customers already here waiting. The majority of my customers are teenagers or office workers. They order coffee, green tea, milk tea, and blended fruit juices. I manage everything alone until I close at about 7pm. I go to Mahanak market to buy fruits, while the coffee gets sent to my shop by the coffee company. I also leave my coffee machine at the police station every night without having to pay money. They’re so kind. I make approximately B1,000 a day.

What’s your secret?
I make money and I save it. It’s probably just my luck that I got so successful selling here. I don’t gamble, and I don’t get into debt.


Leave a Comment

Former football player turned manager and commentator, Sasom Popprasert tells us why he recently left Thai Port for Newin Chidchob’s Buriram and how football is really a business.

I was born in Nakhon Sawan. I moved to Bangkok when I was 8 because my mother was killed in a car accident.

My father couldn’t look after me. He was a long distance truck driver so I had to live with my uncle in Thonburi.

I loved every kind of sport. Playing sports with friends everyday was just the most fun.

My teacher knew someone at Thai Port. He invited them to come and see the kids playing at my high school.

I was picked to play for the youth team even though I was playing volleyball as my main sport. I played for many teams but I played the longest for Kasikorn Thai.

I was never really a success for the national team. It was partly down to me but also because the coach didn’t really appreciate my skills.
There was no financial security back then. You didn’t earn much money playing football.

You can’t play forever so I decided to ask Brian Marcar [owner of BEC Tero Sasana], who then worked at Channel 3, if I could try being a sports reporter.

My first try at being a coach for [BEC Tero] didn’t go well. Then I started coaching the Thailand youth team before getting the job at Thai Port.

Politicians get involved with football so people get to know who they are. If the team does well, everyone is happy and the politician’s reputation improves. They have to be honest with the players.

I sacrificed myself to help the team [Thai Port] with their debts. I could have walked out, but I made it so Buriram had to pay to acquire me. If the club can’t pay the player and they just quit, that’s not fair. I’m sad about leaving but I can handle it.

I get goose bumps every time I see a motorcycle driver wearing the Thai Port shirt. It’s what they love. Every time I come to Thai Port, I am still proud.

No matter where I am, Thai Port will still be in my heart and my thoughts. But I have to go. And once I leave, I put on the Buriram hat.

I prefer being a coach. I want to prove to myself that I can do it. It’s my dream to be the national coach. Once I’ve made it, I’ll see if I can handle it.

When I’ve reached my limit, my instincts tell me what to do next. It’s a strange thing.

It took a hundred years for football in Europe to get where it is. We’ve just started playing football professionally. The footballers must learn, I must learn, the fans must learn, the referees must learn, everyone must learn.

As a professional, you have to be strong in your heart, your mind, your discipline, but you also have to learn to change. It takes time.

We need to spend money on training our young teams. Right now, the Thai national team is really low on good players. So low that the same players are used again and again. This is dangerous.

Soccer and size are related. Size is essential. But, even if you’re 130 cm tall, anyone will want you, if you’re good like Messi.

It doesn’t mean anything if you score a good goal but don’t win the championship.

I am a fighter. I was raised and taught to fight all my life. That’s what I want to teach my players as well, to be serious and smart.

A coach’s career walks a very fine line; without success, who would hire you? Without my record, would Newin Chitchob have chosen me? He could choose anybody else in world.

Football is also a business. You can bring in politics or whatever, you can sell ads, anything to start making profits. You should do anything to make a profit.

Education and sports have always had a problem with each other. People who come to play sports have to miss some education.

Football is a not sport, it’s entertainment. Every fan in the crowd is our customer. If you’re entertaining, you will keep getting customers. If not, they go see another show.

I want my own football team. It won’t be for a long time, but I’ve started to dream of it.

You have to give people chances. One of my players Ekapoom used to be a motorcycle taxi driver. Or Annawin, who used to be a drug dealer. Now he plays football and earns money. This proves that these kids can change.


Leave a Comment

With elections coming up this Sun (Jul 3), the long weeks of campaigning are coming to a close. Weeks that involved daily canvassing on the sois and markets of Bangkok, facing die-hard fans and bitter sceptics—not to mention the elements. We followed five candidates in an effort to discover what it takes to win your vote: beaming smiles, promises or just being from the right party.

Every day, for the past two months, Anuttama “Jib” Amornvivat, a 34-year-old Pheu Thai constituency candidate, has been canvassing the streets of Huay Kwang, which would be a leisurely enough activity if her stride didn’t border on a run. Trotting alongside her, yelling out questions over the incessant barking, we soon run out of breath. But she’s not even breaking a sweat, despite the white Pheu Thai jacket, the red garland, the discreet makeup and the flowing mane of hair. We planned to simply tag along to get a feel for a day in the life of a candidate but Anuttama seemed anxious about our presence and, after a couple hours, told us she was done for the day. Here is a very short glimpse at this exciting new candidate who is very likely to be Huay Kwang’s next MP: young and foreign educated, but also heir to a powerful, staunchly Pheu Thai family.

Huay Kwang is a longstanding Pheu Thai stronghold. It was one of only five districts to elect all Pheu Thai councilors in the last city council elections. (Democrats swept all seats in 27 districts in Bangkok, a crushing win.) Despite the odds being in her favor, Pheu Thai isn’t taking too many chances with Anuttama. First of all, she is even better looking in real life than on her ubiquitous posters, which in an election, is anything but trivial. But she also has a political science degree from Chulalongkorn University, a master’s in International Business from Boston University and a master’s in International Economic Policy from Columbia University in the United States. She is currently an economics lecturer at both Chula and Thammasat, and at first glance, she could be the antithesis of the old cliches on Democrat (the party of disconnected Oxford-educated elites) versus Pheu Thai (the party of old-school patronage politics).

“Is your political color ever a problem with your colleagues at Chula. It’s a mostly Democrat school, isn’t it?” I ask.
“We don’t discuss these things. But my students are curious.”
“And can you talk to them openly?”
“It’s not really direct questions. Mostly just teasing.”

Our conversations are never much longer. When asked about policy, she gives a brief sound bite, “I’m a teacher so I believe in education.” The same quote I’ve read in the profiles that ran in the dailies. And also, “People have a lot more economic problems than we can imagine. Salaries don’t match inflation.”

But it’s not an ideal interview scenario either. Every few houses, one of the handlers racing in front of her spots someone in their backyard, then directs her to them. In the Sunday afternoon heat, most people at home are elderly, or housewives. Anuttama executes a graceful wai, then gently holds their arm, something either totally spontaneous or right out of the candidate handbook on creating rapport in five seconds flat.

The man introducing her to most homes is long time Pheu Thai district councilor, Yuth Intarapan, 67, who has recorded four straight wins since 1998. He’s able to chat amicably with the locals, and knows a thing or two about their households. When we hit a Pheu Thai pocket, matriarchs come out of their homes holding up their index (the number one) fingers, and offering assurances of their support and of her victory. “This whole house is Pheu Thai. The whole house!” one middle-age woman announces, dressed in a Pheu Thai t-shirt.

“Do you feel like this is a pointless exercise, running around wai-ing people?” Iask
“No, this is how you find out about people’s problems.”
“But you don’t really get to talk to them.”
“Sometimes you do. And you see the problems. Like this.”

Right on cue, we hit an open sewer with water so black it looks like motor oil. It’s full of trash and is not protected by a fence, so a kid could easily fall in. It illustrates her point quite perfectly. Except no one pauses to take notes or snap a picture. Nor does anyone discuss it. There are just too many streets to canvas—that is the real job at hand.

At most intersections, the big Pheu Thai campaign truck awaits. There’s a sense of being trapped in a maze, where all the streets of Huay Kwang end with the same giant white campaign truck, plastered with Anuttama’s likenesses. She has been in this maze for months—that and meetings.

“So when you’re not canvassing, you’re in meetings?” I ask.
“What makes you say that?”
“Well we’ve been trying to follow you for the past two days, and you were always in meetings. You were in meetings all morning today too, right?”
“So who are you meeting with?”
“It depends.”
“These are mostly internal Pheu Thai meetings or are you meeting with local organizations?”
“It really depends.”
“Well, what about today?”
“Today was nothing specific.”

At first, I think Anuttama is just not in a talkative mood but then she steps in between my fellow writer Monruedee Jansuttipan and one of the Pheu Thai staff, just as Monruedee begins to question him.

“Why are you talking to him?” Anuttama asks Monruedee.
“We’re just asking questions about his involvement here.”
“He works for me.”
“Yeah, but we’d just like to know—”

She switches to Thai, explaining to Monruedee that she should speak to her directly, as she can better answer her questions. In fact, she also dismisses the aforementioned district councilor as “her staff” when I ask to specifically speak to him. It was only later that we got to find out who he was by chatting to him while she was talking to some residents. Why didn’t she want us to talk to a veteran of local politics who is clearly instrumental in connecting her to her voter base? And what terrible slip-ups did she fear her staffers would make?

We all pile into the campaign truck and drive out of the residential streets and into the commercial thoroughfares. She wais right and left. Taxis honk at the truck. For a second, we’re almost having fun. But then the truck comes to a stop in an alley and we’re told that they’re done for the day and that it’s going to rain. But no one is getting off the trucks and it feels like we’re actually being kicked out. We begin to walk towards the MRT but then spot the truck a couple blocks away. We follow and sure enough, Anuttama has started canvassing the sellers and shoppers of the local market.

We later reached Anuttama on the phone who says they ended up changing plans on the spot. The real question, though, is why did our presence and questions make her so uneasy? Granted, it is unusual for journalists here to follow candidates beyond the press conferences. But given her young age and international background, we expected Anuttama to embrace an opportunity to show the press how she works. One clue lies in her conventional—and powerful—background. She is the daughter of Pol Maj Gen Sombat, former Department of Special Investigation chief, the niece of Sompong Amornvivat, a former deputy leader of the defunct People Power Party and a cousin of former Pheu Thai MP Chulaphan Amornvivat. A level 6 public servant at 31 (according to one Pheu Thai supporter we spoke to), she worked at the Department of Export Promotion, before becoming a lecturer at the big two, Chula and Thammasart universities. We would argue this is a system where people don’t like to be asked too many questions. Ironically, it’s also the system the Red Shirts described as an entrenched elite and vowed to bring down.

Ultimately, though, it is not the press who will decide if she sits in parliament. As the sun begins to set on Huay Kwang’s market, we speak to sellers she’s just greeted in the market and they all say they like her and will vote Pheu Thai. They mention crime and flooding and the fact that they haven’t seen much happen in the past two years. But most importantly, there’s inflation cutting into their profits, and forcing them to raise prices, which in turn reduces sales. With macroeconomics and a great smile going for her, it makes sense Anuttama doesn’t want anyone overcomplicating her narrative. This is Ajarn Jib, candidate #1. She is a lecturer at Chula. She believes in education. She is beautiful. Love it or get off the truck.

Read part IV of the Campaign Trail series: Chitpas Bhirombhakdi: Singha heiress making her debut in politics.


Leave a Comment

With elections this Sunday (Jul 3), the long weeks of campaigning are coming to a close. Weeks that involved daily canvassing on the sois and markets of Bangkok, facing die-hard fans and bitter sceptics—not to mention the elements. We followed five candidates in an effort to discover what it takes to win your vote: beaming smiles, promises or just being from the right party.

Soi after soi, hour after hour, despite the blistering sun, she never lets the loudspeaker go quiet, not even for a second. “We can’t let dead air happen while campaigning,” she says as we sit down for a quick lunch in a little soi. She is Sunisa Lertpakawat, a Pheu Thai MP candidate in Bang Kae. “I want people to hear our campaign as much as I can.”

Sunisa and ten people from her campaign have been on the back of a pick-up truck since 7:30am. She lost half a day yesterday because she fell ill and couldn’t continue campaigning, so there’s lost time to make up for. But she’s back on track, hitting the majority of sois and villages in Bang Kae, the most populous district in Bangkok. It’s an immense job, but she realizes how vital it is.

“I have only two weeks left before the election day. People expect to see my face after seeing my posters.They want to see the person who may work for them in parliament,” says Sunisa, or “Muad Jeab” [Officer Jeab] as everybody loves to call her. Even kids from the nearby school she just visited are chanting her nickname.
“If I ran for class president, I would win for sure,” she jokes as surrounding crowds of students wave their index fingers in a gesture of support.

Five years ago, Sunisa was on the front page of newspapers and all over television. She had upset her employers, the army, when she spent her vacation in England, meeting with Thaksin in order to write Thaksin: Where are You and, two years later, Thaksin: Are You OK. She’d rather not talk about that controversy though, preferring to focus on the upcoming election.

We talk to Nuch, a former public relations professional, who previously had little interest in politics, and who has now been Sunisa’s assistant for the past two months. “She has been on the truck or canvassing the streets for over a month now. She hasn’t missed a single day! She doesn’t even wear a hat because people need to be able to see her face,” says a proud Nuch. It’s clear that her face is a large part of her public appeal, something that becomes quite evident as we talk to some of her supporters.

“She’s really beautiful, like in the poster,” says a housekeeper as the campaign car passes by, while Sunisa makes a self-deprecating joke about not looking exactly like in her posters. Her skin is a touch sunburned from the weeks’ work. Sunisa knows she cannot rely on her pleasant looks alone, though. The bigger issue, according to one of her campaign managers, Passawin Pingoompee, 42, is that she is really new in this area, and that the campaign might not be enough to introduce her to people. “That’s why today we’re rallying mostly in the residential neighborhoods,” Passawin says.

Despite being a newcomer, Sunisa works like a professional campaigner. She tells her assistant to write down every problem that people tell her about during her walk-abouts and seems to know what will win her audience’s hearts. During the day, when senior citizens are at home and the youth are out at work, Muad Jeab talks about how Pheu Thai will raise money for elders. When she is addressing factory workers, she talks about how the minimum wage should be raised to B300 per day from B215. She shows mock-ups of energy credit cards when passing lines of taxis and makes promises relating to education policy when parents are talking their kids home from school. And who knows, perhaps free public Wi-Fi will get the youth vote?

Of course, it’s not just policy platforms that win votes. A shirtless man shakes her hand and says, “Please bring back Thaksin if you are elected. I really miss him.”
“I will try,” says Sunisa.  Another family takes Sunisa by the hand and bring her into their home to meet their grandmother, who cannot walk. They say how much they love the Red Shirts. The grandmother says what a big fan she is of Pheu Thai, touching Sunisa’s ponytail as though she were a little girl. “Come see us after you win the election, OK? Or I’ll spank you,” says the grandmother.

Out on the street again, we take some time to gauge people’s reactions. After all, they are the only way Sunisa can win. Supawee Soontornsaratool, 51, the owner of a garage says he loves Pheu Thai and definitely wants to vote for her. “I don’t know much about her,” he says. “I just heard about her from the books that she wrote about Thaksin. I normally vote for Pheu Thai anyway. When Thaksin was PM, the economy was better. Now everything is so expensive, but our incomes remain the same. Also, I want a woman to be our prime minister too.” Supawee said.

Jessada Waenkaew, 41, an acrylic shop owner, feels the same. “The economy is bad. Inflation is high. Drug problems are worsening. It used to be better when Thai Rak Thai was in power. I hope they can do the same this time,” he says.
Despite what appear to be unwavering allegiances to parties over individual candidates, voters aren’t necessarily blind. Jessada also adds, “If they still can’t make anything better, I will change my vote.”

Read part III of the Campaign Trail series: A day in the life of Anuttama Amornvivat, a pretty face with the brains to back it up.


Leave a Comment

Currently playing a heart-broken woman embroiled in a love triangle with co-star Mum Jokmok (in Mum Ka Mai Doen Ka Doen), Sirivimol “Mai” Charoenpura, 42, talks to BK about growing up in her father’s shadow, acting in a comedy and coping with all those salacious rumors.

Maybe it’s my father’s blood [late actor-director Ruj Ronnapob] that made me want to be an actress since I was young.

I used to help our maid finish the dishes quicker so she could play acting with me. I would do it all, from crying, singing to being in love. My lead actor was the air.

I pursued my love of acting in drama class, when I was at high school in England.

My dad teased me that one day I could be his lead actress. But I didn’t wait for him. I introduced myself to director Paijit Supwaree who cast me in Kor Kae Kid Tueng.

I lied at first and said that my parents were traders, not people in the entertainment business. But the truth came out when the film became so successful.

I never really had a teenager’s life. I was a young girl who had to work hard to meet other people’s expectations. Jobs kept coming after my first successful film.

After winning awards, I had to improve myself and maintain my status for as long as possible. That’s the toughest part.

My life hasn’t been strewn with rose petals. I worked hard for everything I have.

Having watched me through the years, my mother now says, “You’re really like your father.”

The scandals I was involved in, they are lessons. Every sorrow is a lesson that’s not taught in a classroom. I learned to be strong, or else everything I had built—which wasn’t built in a day—would be gone.

I’m not the only one who was rumored to be Thaksin’s mistress. It’s natural that people would say that about me. When two famous figures, one of whom is the prime minister, are acquainted, there will be rumors.

I’ve tried to understand why the press writes this stuff. Really it was just a lot of false inference. Thaksin was close to my father; he paid for his movie. Thaksin hired me to sing for him at an event; he’s close to my boss. But if he wasn’t the prime minister, there wouldn’t have been these rumors.

I am normally OK with rumors but the mistress allegation was too much. I can live on my own. I wouldn’t be in the industry for so long if I was waiting for someone to support me.

The press has to understand where the limit is. You’re the press, I’m an actress, we have to rely on each other. But why don’t you talk about something more creative?

I believe in karma. If the press doesn’t have morals, they’ll have to pay some day.

I’ve played serious characters in Suriyothai, Rak Lorn and Chuerd Kon Chim, and I wanted to change that. So now, I’m starring in a comedy.
Comedy is harder than drama. I’ve done drama all my life.

I used to feel disheartened thinking how life is this endless cycle: eat, go to the toilet, dress, undress, sleep. But life is just this. I realize that certainty is uncertain.

I practice meditation to calm my mind. No one can bring you out of sorrow except yourself. Think positive and be your own encouragement.

I am single now. I think I am meant to be alone so I try to think that I can live alone. You were born alone and you die alone.

My dream dinner date would be with Brad Pitt. He seems so gentle, warm and nice. No matter how strong men are, if they also have a sensitive side, that’s really cute. Yes, it was awful how he left his wife and went with Angelina Jolie, but we’re not them. Let them make their own life decisions.

My mom always says that we all have good and bad sides but we must give children guidance to be good people. We have to let children explore the world, but you have to tell them to preserve what our ancestors left us.

We have to do good for others. There are no words in English for nam jai, boon khun or katanyoo [to do good]. Why are these ideas disappearing?

Bangkok is a really hectic city but it has its own character. It’s good to be a more modern city. But can’t we live with both the new and the old? Can’t we preserve the tradition of smiling or living along the canals?

Foreigners really love our culture, so why do we throw it away?

I would make the river and canals cleaner, if I were governor. I love river life. I also want to take all the elephants out of the city. They don’t belong here. I ache for them every time I see them begging for food or money on the street. Interview by Monruedee Jansuttipan


Leave a Comment