All about Sombat Boonngamanong, a rebel Red Shirt


The mouse man above is artist Sia’s caricature of activist Sombat Boongamanong whose nickname is Nuling (or “mouse”). He always appears at the edge of Sia’s cartoons, often calling for human rights and reform.

Sombat predictably refused to cooperate with the junta and was eventually apprehended in Chonburi (‘Catch me if you can’ man caught).

Sombat is an actual activist and rebel–nothing like the ambitious mainstream Red Shirt leaders who repeatedly reversed their rhetoric for cabinet positions in the former Pheu Thai-led government. Sombat is know for his refusal to censor his own speech (particularly about the monarchy) as well as for his middle figure salute.

He began Sunday protests at the Rajaprasong McDonalds to oppose the amnesty that would have included Thaksin. These protests angered mainstream Red Shirt leaders who always made sure that their movement served Thaksin political interests first.

Below are some past mentions of Sombat’s activities.

2Bangkok.com Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

From 2010: “ban me from talking, I will type…”

From Red Power, Author Robin warrior / Nakrob Robin, August 15, 2010

The headline reads: The Red Sunday Group – the uncommon symbolic fighting
The article reads: The symbolic movement of the Red Sunday group under the leadership of Sombat Boongamanong or Bor Kor Lai Chud, former President of the Thailand Mirror Foundation, who said, “ban me from talking, I will type, ban me from typing, I will write, ban me from writing, I will think, ban me from thinking, it is a must to ban my breath.”
He is under close watch of every social sector after the movement of the group defies the power of the emergency decree by the ruling government of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.
"The symbolic movement is to put the significance of politics into activities that do not express their meaning directly. It is similar to the ironic teasing, but when it reaches the point that the people understand it, this will generate great power and the movement like this has benefit as it is not about physical violence, not costly. The public can join and it is powerful.”
Sombat explained the form of the political symbolic movement. The Red Sunday group continue to host activities every Sunday starting with wearing red…“
More here

Sombat Boongamanong

From 2010: Scheduling a political talk show on the King’s birthday

This is when Sombat scheduled a pro-Red Shirt talk show on the King’s birthday causing the mainstream of the Red Shirt movement (and reportedly Thaksin himself) to frantically intervene.
For Thaksin and the mainstream Red Shirt movement, intolerance of the monarchy is a card to play in a quest for amnesty, not a real ideological belief. More here-> Risk the trampling

From 2011: “A genuine Red”

From Red Power, August 2011
Headline: Sombat Boonngamanong, a genuine Red who did not ask for a ministerial post. [This contrasts with Red Shirt leaders like Nattawut and Jatuporn who seemed eager to compromise on any issue in return for posts in the Pheu Thai-led government]
If Yingluck keeps concentrating only on reconciliation, then she’ll certainly die. [This possibly means she will not be successful in running the country or controlling her cabinet if she tries to pander to demands for reconciliation.]
Other headlines: Yingluck’s government with 300 supporting MPs is not stable – Autocracy in Thailand – The aristocratic cabinet is feeling queasy, commoners are praising their power.
More on this page

From 2012: Giving a red card to the judges

From Thairath, July 5, 2012
The cartoon title reads: The newest column, the latest one to support
The word on the man’s shirt reads: The new Thai communists
The word next to the mouse man: Red cards
The word close man holding the pole: The red star [the symbol of communism]
The word on the card reads: Slanted [meaning that the old communists are unjustified in defending the court or possibly ]
The word on the joss house: Constitution Court comedian [the joss house in Thai has a name similar to “court” is used to symbolize the constitutional court]
The word on the sign that the mouse holds reads: Breaking the law itself

[The cartoon refers to the “old communists” who showed their support for the Constitutional Court being able to rule on government actions. This runs counter to Red Shirt dogma that no force should be able to check government actions.

The red card reference is to Red Shirt leader Sombat Boongamanong who went to the court on the day of the verdict to give symbolic red cards to the judges for daring to rule against an elected government.]


From 2013: Sombat angers the Red Shirts for opposing Thaksin’s amnesty

From Manager, October 24, 2013
Jatuporn: Only having a dot and eating McDonalds doesn’t mean that you are not a buffalo. Don’t pretend like you’re progressive… Don’t forget that you’re in our barn.
Sign close to the dotted buffalo: The amnesty bill sucks
Caption: The owner must subdue (the dotted buffalo)…

[This refers to a Red Shirt faction led by Sombat Boonngamanog, known as the “dotted Editor,” who opposes the blanket amnesty bill. Recently, Sombat and other Red Shirts who oppose the amnesty bill vote gathered in front of a McDonalds at Ratchaprasong intersection to express their dissatisfaction.

As the Red Shirt movement was created to protect and advance Thaksin political interests, the rise of independent-acting factions causes great anger among Red Shirt leaders who are trying to get members to support a blanket amnesty for Thaksin. Jatuporn, representing the mainstream leadership of the Red Shirts, resents independents like Sombat who do not follow the party line.

To refer to a person as a “buffalo” is an insult meaning they are stupid. Cartoonists who oppose the Red Shirts often use it to symbolize Red Shirt supporters. Here, as a dotted buffalo, Sombat is the Red Shirt member who is different in that he will not support the movement’s drive for amnesty.]

From 2013: A fixture in Sia’s political cartoons

From Thairath, December 3, 2013
Cartoon title: Will stage a coup via a monitor
From TV: Brothers and sisters, we can seize the power now!
In hand of Premier Yingluck Shinawatra: No resignation, no dissolution [of the parliament]
Phi Nooring: In this era, TV is dangerous.
Mouse: Against the coup.

[The mouse man is artist Sia’s caricature of activist Sombat Boongamanong, whose nickname is Nuling (or “mouse”). He always appears at the edge of Sia’s cartoons, often calling on human rights and reform.
The cartoon refers to the Democrat’s Blue Sky TV that helped whip up public anger towards the government and encouraged people to join anti-Thaksin protests.]

From 2007 and before: Sombat detained for violating the Computer Crime Act after the 2006 coup

Press group slamsGoogle over YouTube deal in Thailand – ITworld.com, September 5, 2007
A press advocacy group is “dismayed” about Google Inc.’s reported decision to block YouTube videos from viewers in Thailand that are considered inappropriate or illegal by that Asian government.
…Thailand recently introduced the Computer Crime Act, which gives authorities the power to seize the computers of people suspected of accessing or creating content deemed insulting or pornographic, according to the IFJ.
Activist, social worker and webmaster Sombat Bun-ngam-anong is currently serving a 12-day detention order for alleged defamation for violating the Act, the IFJ said in Wednesday’s statement.
…The blogger’s arrest “confirms our fears about the dangers of a law that is supposed to combat pornography but turns out to be a way of restricting and controlling press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders charged.

Sitthichai: No plans to shut web forums Bangkok Post, April 10, 2007
…”I support freedom of expression,” he said. ”No websites will be banned as long as their contents are not indecent or insulting to the monarchy.”…
Sombat Boonngamanong, webmaster at Nocoup.org, which hosts a political forum, said the number of users of his web board suddenly skyrocketed from about 1,700 to 4,200.
”Most of them were people who fled Pantip.com in search of a new space to continue their political discussion,” he said.
More than 10 staff were deployed to delete unseemly messages from the web board, otherwise they feared it could be used by the ICT as a reason to shut down their website, said Mr Sombat, a critic of the Sept 19 coup.

Anti-coup website blocked again without notification The Nation, December 30, 2006
Access to an anti-coup website, 19sep.org, has been blocked again, for the sixth time in three months, its webmaster Sombat Boon-ngam-anong said yesterday…
Sombat directed his criticism at the ICT Ministry, which received orders just hours after the coup three months ago to “block or destroy” websites and content considered as anti-junta. There was no official comment on the matter, however…

More on the early days of web censorship in Thailand here

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