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A Division of Listening: Insurgent Sympathy and the Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military

A Division of Listening: Insurgent Sympathy and the Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military During ten weeks of antigovernment protest in spring 2010, the Thai military used physical and psychological tactics, including coercive broadcasting of music and sound, to combat demonstrations in Bangkok. Before a violent crackdown in May, protesters and soldiers spent ten weeks in a standoff in which such broadcasting figured crucially. An analysis of sound and its reception during those weeks reveals the precarious status of nationalism in a country where other political loyalties, including regionalism and class, have come increasingly (and in this case study, audibly) to the fore. The army's sonic broadcasting unit was successfully attuned to the regional ear of the largely rural protesters; however, the army may have been winning the battle even as the state was losing the war. The broadcasting unit had its greatest success playing rural-inflected genres like mor lam and luk thung , even as protesters failed to respond to broadly patriotic songs and gestures. The primary locus of sympathetic listening had become local or regional rather than national. I refer to this mode of listening as one of “insurgent sympathy,” an indirect entry point for class-based alliances otherwise impossible in Thai political life. Thailand music Bangkok nationalism class sound Red Shirts http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png positions asia critique Duke University Press

A Division of Listening: Insurgent Sympathy and the Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military

positions asia critique , Volume 24 (2) – May 1, 2016

A Division of Listening: Insurgent Sympathy and the Sonic Broadcasts of the Thai Military


Introduction During ten weeks of antigovernment protest in 2010, the Thai military used physical and psychological tactics, including the broadcasting of coercive music and speech, against a coalition of domestic demonstrators known as the Red Shirts. These protesters had seized some of Bangkok's busiest commercial districts in order to call -- with substantial amplification themselves -- for the dissolution of the current government and a host of political reforms. Specific motivations for the movement included the desire for fairer demo 24:2 doi 10.1215/10679847-3458673 Copyright 2016 by Duke University Press 24:2 May 2016 cratic processes, legitimate elections, and an end to incessant coups as well as government censorship of public discourse. Protesters and soldiers spent ten weeks engaged in a complex standoff in which the broadcasting of sound figured crucially, including in the military's attempts to calm and coerce the masses. However, significant distortion, both sonic and otherwise, upended the possibility of dialogue. In an assault more frightening and violent than most expected, the military attacked protesters with snipers and live ammunition, killing dozens during a major crackdown in May of that year. At least ninety-one people died during the occupation, with thousands more injured. Malls and hotels were torched as soldiers rolled through the vacant consumer corridors of downtown Bangkok in armored vehicles, waging urban warfare with the few remaining dissidents. Afterward, stages and speaker systems were shoveled away by tanks during an eerie week of cleanup; the devices were the unplugged, denuded remnants of an attenuated effort to speak. Around the country, the crackdown brought stunned quiet . . . an emphatic absence because the prior months had been so thick with sound. Partly to ward off boredom, partly to announce the movement's presence, the Red Shirt protest sites had blustered day and night with music and speeches, both...
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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
1067-9847
eISSN
1527-8271
DOI
10.1215/10679847-3458673
Publisher site
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Abstract

During ten weeks of antigovernment protest in spring 2010, the Thai military used physical and psychological tactics, including coercive broadcasting of music and sound, to combat demonstrations in Bangkok. Before a violent crackdown in May, protesters and soldiers spent ten weeks in a standoff in which such broadcasting figured crucially. An analysis of sound and its reception during those weeks reveals the precarious status of nationalism in a country where other political loyalties, including regionalism and class, have come increasingly (and in this case study, audibly) to the fore. The army's sonic broadcasting unit was successfully attuned to the regional ear of the largely rural protesters; however, the army may have been winning the battle even as the state was losing the war. The broadcasting unit had its greatest success playing rural-inflected genres like mor lam and luk thung , even as protesters failed to respond to broadly patriotic songs and gestures. The primary locus of sympathetic listening had become local or regional rather than national. I refer to this mode of listening as one of “insurgent sympathy,” an indirect entry point for class-based alliances otherwise impossible in Thai political life. Thailand music Bangkok nationalism class sound Red Shirts

Journal

positions asia critiqueDuke University Press

Published: May 1, 2016

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