Working in photography and video, Ampannee Satoh explores an era marked by the abolition of the Thai sultanate system by King Rama V (1853–1910) and his subsequent centralisation of power, which led to increased tensions between the dominant Buddhist society and the minority Malay Muslim community.
Satoh’s SB14 project TUGU 1370: 1425 (2019) takes as its point of departure an unmarked memorial located in the former Pattani Kingdom in Southern Thailand, also home to the artist. Shaped like an oversized golden bullet, this monument is rumoured to house the remains of Thai soldiers involved in bloody confrontations with villagers and insurgents at Dusun Nyor in 1948, which resulted in thousands of Muslim Thais fleeing to Malaysia. Across the border, Malaysia was fighting for independence from the British and battling communist insurgents, so the direct cause of Dusun Nyor is debated until this day. In 2004, in the same province, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s government was targeted by bomb blasts attributed to terrorists. The bombings led to a period of martial law, which the government extended on the anniversary of Dosun Nyor. Now called the Tak Bai Incident, the 2004 clashes between the Thai military and terrorist cells as well as Buddhists and Malay Muslims resulted in nearly one hundred deaths.
Satoh’s video and the series of photographs examine similarities in the 1948 and 2004 events by focusing on a tomb commemorating 28 people who died during the Tak Bai Incident. Reflecting on this site built by Muslims near the Taloh-Manoh mosque in Narathiwat province, the work’s final incantation from the Quran merges with the ambient sound of nature to offer a prayer of respect and protection. The artist’s images make visible the militarised Buddhist ideology in Thailand and their ‘truth’ management that can never erase the Malay roots of the ‘Thai’ Muslim community.