Chiang Mai magazine in the dock over painting of former kings in masks

national March 31, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

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CHIANG MAI Governor Pawin Chamniprasart has taken legal action against the magazine Citylife Chiang Mai for posting on social media a painting featuring three late kings wearing masks.

The painting was used to promote an event that intended to highlight Chiang Mai’s air-pollution problem. The event scheduled for yesterday was later cancelled. 

“Our now-cancelled gathering today has sadly upset some people, a few of whom are now gunning for us. Please forgive us if, for the next few days at least, we remove any of your comments, which may be used against us. We are sure sense will eventually prevail. Thank you very much for your understanding,” is the latest post on Citylife Chiang Mai’s Facebook platform. 

Acting on Pawin’s instructions the chief of Chiang Mai’s disaster-prevention and mitigation agency, Siripong Nampa, yesterday officially filed a complaint with police about the picture. 

The late kings shown in the paintings are widely considered the founders of Chiang Mai, and statues of the kings have been erected in the centre of Chiang Mai. 

“It’s sacrilege. It’s a disrespectful act. It seriously hurts the feelings of Chiang Mai residents,” Siripong said.

He added that this painting might also harm Chiang Mai’s image as well as its tourism. “Economic insecurity may hit Chiang Mai,” he added. 

According to him, the uploading of this picture on social media may constitute an offence under the 2007 Computer Crime Act. 

Siripong said Chiang Mai police had already accepted the complaint and would summon those involved for questioning. 

The editor of Citylife Chiang Mai, Pim Kemasingki, said she could not say anything now, when asked about the ongoing legal proceedings. 

“I can only say that my act was in good faith,” she said. 

She added that Citylife Chiang Mai had already cancelled the event that encouraged people to wear masks and gather at the Tha Pae Gate. 

“I don’t want to see rifts among Chiang Mai people,” Pim said. 

Citylife Chiang Mai describes itself as the most popular English-language magazine in Chiang Mai. It is published every month online and in print, with daily content available on its website.

The picture at the centre of the controversy was reportedly painted by a student, Piyapan Tiamethakorn, as part of her Year 12 IB Diploma in order to draw attention to the air pollution in her hometown, Chiang Mai. 

The amount of PM10 dust particles – measuring more than 10 microns in size – hovered at 159 micrograms per cubic metre of air in Chiang Mai’s Muang district yesterday, well above the safe limit. 

According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, health will be affected if PM10 soars above 120 micrograms per cubic metre of air. By the World Health Organisation’s standards, the amount of PM10 should be much lower for people to be safe. 

Photo credit: fb Marisa Marchitelli

An enviromental filmmaker, Marisa Marchitelli, urged people to change their profile picture on social media to one wearing a mask. “You can still make a statement by changing your profile picture!” she said, apparently in the hope of nudging relevant authorities to do more to fight air-quality problems. 

Mae Hong Son, another province in the North, has also been struggling with haze. 

Nok Air postponed its morning flight to Mae Hong Son by several hours yesterday because of poor visibility. The amount of PM10 in the province reached 201 micrograms per cubic metre of air. 

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