Outcry over reported removal of Suchat Sawatsri as a Thai national artist
The Thai Writers Association, several prominent writers, politicians and academics have voiced opposition to the reported decision by the National Culture Commission of Thailand to strip Mr. Suchart Sawatsri of his status as a national artist.
An online signature collection campaign was launched today (Saturday) by Mr. Chamnan Chanruang, former deputy leader of the now defunct Future Forward party, to demand the dissolution of the commission.
In his brief statement, on the www.change.org website, Chamnan said that a national artist should not be stripped of his status simply because of his political opinions.
Named as a national artist for literature by the Ministry of Culture in 2011, Suchart has become an outspoken critic of the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, especially relating to his alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Air Chief Marshal Veerawit Kongsak, a member of the commission, said yesterday that the committee made the decision during a tele-conference on Thursday adding, however,that the decision is not yet final and has to be confirmed by the same commission.
If the decision is confirmed and an official announcement ismade, Mr. Suchart will be formally notified and has the right to challenge the decision within 30 days.
Professor Dr. Chaiyant Chaiyaporn, of the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, is demanding an explanation from the National Culture Commission about the controversial decision.
Dr. Chaiyant said, responding to a netizen’s claim that Suchart had challenged the commission to revoke his national artist status, that there was no need for the commission to make such decision simply because of Suchart’s challenge.
SEAWrite awardees, Mrs. Veeraporn Nitiprapha, Uthis Haemamool, and Sakul Boonpathat, president of the Thai Writers Association, also voiced their strong opposition to the commission’s decision.
“The country is declining further and further and has not yet reaching the bottom,” said Mrs. Veeraporn in her Facebook post, as she demanded an explanation from the national commission.
“We should ban the commission, as well as the national artist award. It shows a complete lack of maturity,” wrote Uthis in his Facebook post.
The taxpayer funded benefits for a national artist include a monthly income of 25,000 baht for life, medical costs of 100,000 baht a year, 50,000 baht compensation for damage caused to property from a public disaster, 20,000 baht for funeral costs and 150,000 baht for the publication of books in memory of the deceased artist.