In Thailand

Top photo shots of 2023

Written by World Events

2023 has been a year of hope, despair and even more scandals. Here is a look back at the stories that made headlines throughout the year, as seen through the lenses of Thai PBS photographers.

Move Forward party supporters rally around the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, after it won the most House seats in the May 14th general election. Pita Limjaroenrat’s ambition to become PM was, however, scuttled, when most senators and conservative MPs voted against him, citing his party’s stated intent to amend the lèse majesté law. Pita also had his MP status suspended, as an investigation got underway into his ownership of shares in defunct television channel, iTV, when he registered his electoral candidacy, a potential breach of the election law.

Bangkok Governor, Chadchart Sittipunt, being soaked by revellers during the week-long Songkran celebrations on Bangkok’s Khao San Road in April. The festival has officially added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, becoming the latest feature of Thai culture to be included, following Khon (masked dance drama) in 2018, Nuad Thai (traditional Thai massage) in 2019 and Nora (Southern Thailand traditional dance) in 2021.

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people joined Pride celebrations in Bangkok on June 4th, to hail gender diversity in Thailand. Pita Limjaroenrat, then Move Forward party leader and potential next prime minister, announced that his party would push for marriage equality before Thailand hosts World Pride in 2028. Four draft bills on marriage equality passed their first readings in the House of Representatives in December.

Pathum Thani Governor, Narongsak Osottanakorn, who was hailed for his role in coordinating the “Wild Boars” cave rescue operation, passed away on June 21st after battling cancer. He was 58. As the Governor of Chiang Rai in 2018, Narongsak played a crucial role in coordinating the much-publicised and successful operation to save 13 young footballers and their coach from a flooded Tham Luang cave. Narongsak later became the Governor of Phayao, before moving to Pathum Thani.

Ailing Thai elephant, Sak Surin, was flown back to Thailand for medical treatment in July, after spending more than 22 years in Sri Lanka. Sak Surin and two other Thai elephants were sent to Sri Lanka for Esala Perahera processions, an annual religious festival to pay homage to a sacred Buddha relic. Sak Surin came to public attention in recent years, when a group of international conservationists urged Thailand to take the ailing elephant back, citing animal exploitation.

In August, former real-estate tycoon and Pheu Thai party prime ministerial candidate, Srettha Thavisin, was chosen as Thailand’s next prime minister, after receiving majority support from parliament. When the Move Forward party failed to secure the premiership, Pheu Thai moved to form its own coalition government, joining hands with pro-Prayut parties to secure a majority of MPs and push Move Forward into opposition.

Convicted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, ended his 15-year-long flight from justice on August 22nd. The Supreme Court sentenced Thaksin, in absentia, to eight years in prison on three convictions. Without spending a single night in a prison, however, he is still being treated for unspecified medical conditions at the Police General Hospital, sparking claims of “VIP treatment”. Thaksin later received a royal commutation, reducing the prison term from eight years to one.

Former prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha says goodbye to Government House staff, his cabinet members and political reporters on the final day of his over nine years in office. Prayut seized power in a military coup in 2014 and was elected in 2019, when he ran for parliament under the Palang Pracharath party. He subsequently became a prime ministerial candidate for the United Thai Nation party in the May 2023 elections, in his final attempt to continue as the country’s leader. After retiring from politics, Prayut was appointed to the Privy Council in November.

Siam Paragon, one of the most popular shopping malls in Bangkok, hit the headlines worldwide for the mass shooting on October 3rd. Three people died and five others were wounded. The gunman is a 14-year-old boy. The shootings followed other mass shootings at the Terminal 21 shopping centre in Nakhon Ratchasima province in 2021 and at a day care centre in Nong Bua Lam Phu province in 2022. Such tragedies have persuaded the Thai government to revise its plans to overhaul the country’s gun control measures.

Thai migrant workers, evacuated from Israel, reuniting with their families at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok. Thousands of Thai workers were repatriated from Israel and the ongoing war between Israel and the Gaza based Hamas militant group, which began on October 7th. A total of 39 Thai nationals were killed in the October attacks. 23 Thais, taken hostage by Hamas, have returned to Thailand, while nine others are yet to be released, according to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Paetongtarn Shinawatra was elected new leader of the Pheu Thai party on October 27th, replacing Cholnan Srikaew who resigned to keep to his promise that he would quit if it joined pro-Prayut parties to form a government. Paetongtarn vowed that the ruling party, under her leadership, will “keep its eyes on the stars, its feet on the ground and stand shoulder to shoulder with the people”. Her rise to power is no surprise to many. She is the youngest daughter of convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who founded the Thai Rak Thai party – the predecessor of Pheu Thai.

Thai-Danish beauty queen, Anntonia Porsild, was welcomed by thousands of fans and supporters, who went to meet her at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, after she was named runner-up in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant in El Salvador in November. This is the closest a Thai contestant has come to winning the Miss Universe crown for 35 years.

Thai tourists dressed in traditional Thai costume visit Chaiwatthanaram Temple in Ayutthaya province, as a result of the popularity of the Thai TV costume drama “Love Destiny 2”. Meanwhile, the Thai government has been attempting to develop the nation’s “soft power”. The new National Soft Power Development Committee has approved a 5.1 billion baht budget to promote 11 elements of Thailand’s soft power, from food and festivals to music, fashion and Muay Thai.

Three orangutans, smuggled from Indonesia into Thailand years ago, were sent home on December 21st. They are the last group of orangutans to have come under the care of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, after being rescued from a smuggling ring. The names of the three orangutans are Nobita, Shizuka, which were named after characters in the famous Japanese animated series ‘Doraemon’, and Brian. 71 orangutans have been returned to Indonesia since 2016.


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