For street artist Headache Stencil, living under government surveillance has become a life routine. They would call up his condo building management to ask about him. They would drop by his place uninvited for “a quick friendly chat.”
Headache Stencil is known for his artwork satirizing Thailand’s politics.
On 24 June, the 88-year anniversary of the 1932 Revolution, which transformed the country from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, he received a Facebook message.
The message asked him about his work and if he had done any artwork at the Democracy Monument. When he checked the profile of the Facebook user in question, he discovered that it was a police officer.
On the same day, he came home around midnight to find what looked to him like plain-clothed police officers in front of the 7-Eleven opposite his condo building.
He pulled up to the building’s security guard and asked who they were. The security guard said, “police.”
Headache Stencil first grabbed attention with his artwork of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan’s face inside a clock.
His other famous pieces include the black panther with a muted speaker.
One of his newest works is of political activist Wanchalerm Satsaksit, who was abducted in June from his home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he lives in self-exile as a political refugee. He has yet to be found.
After so much harassment, why do you still continue to do what you do?
Hmmm… what else can I do? Deep down, it’s about dignity and principles. If we stop talking about things that we should be allowed to talk about, then that’s not fair.
Other people have already stopped and if I stopped too, then what are we left with? I don’t think I’m in a position in which I can stop.
I will have to adapt and only do my work on the walls that I am allowed to spray on by the owner. It’s not about being scared of getting fined for spraying on public space, but more of getting abducted.
I will also focus more on exhibitions.
You are afraid you might get abducted?
Yes, if I weren’t scared, why would I run away from them [the police] every time they follow me? Why would I have to circle around my condo building to see if anyone is waiting for me?
But I’m also getting very tired of running away. I’m fed up. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t deserve this treatment. So I no longer run. If they want to abduct me or whatever, do it.
People always question, ‘If you didn’t do anything wrong, why run?’
It makes me think, do all these mainstream media channels only want to report news on those who have already been forced to disappear? I’m still alive.
It makes me wonder that if I disappear one day, like other people who have been abducted, would the big media channels care to report on this issue more? If we all come together and talk about this topic, maybe we can stop at least one person from being made to disappear.
I’m not even saying you have to write news about my situation specifically, but we have to try to stop this cycle of forced disappearance. Otherwise, you would end up reporting about those who have already disappeared, and there would just be more hashtags to save new people.
It’s very sad. I’m very sad.
What do you think abduction can achieve?
Abducting me won’t be the end of it. It won’t solve anything. It might even escalate the situation. Abduction is not the solution in this modern time. It’s an ancient method.
Human lives, no matter who we are, from beggars to powerful people, we are all equal. I can get hurt. You can get hurt.
So what’s the plan?
I’m not stopping. I’m such a trouble-maker. Watch this space for my next move. If you want to disappear me then do it, so I can be reborn in another country where I can do my art.
Just leave me alone and let me do my art in peace.
Stop trying to silence the people and not letting them speak the truth.