Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Thaksin at the pictures" - The Phrom Piman Theater - Sankhamphaeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand

There is a connection, albeit a loose one, between the theater behind this gate and the anti-government protests taking place across Thailand as I write.

The Phrom Piman Theater is right across the street from the Shinawatra Building, and one street removed from the Shinawatra Thai Silk Factory in the heart of tiny Sankhamphaeng District, Chiang Mai. Thaksin's family earned a nice chunk of their fortune from that factory, which later became the source of backing for Thaksin's other business ventures and subsequent political career. Is it possible that the former PM watched films here in his childhood?

Newer buildings have been built around the theater over the years, obscuring a portion of the facade.

The Phrom Piman Theater was extremely difficult to find. Most of the people in town whom I questioned weren't aware that it ever existed. That might be because it stopped functioning as a theater about 30 years ago, after which it became a silk factory for a period of time. It's located in what is now a private courtyard, the front gate of which is depicted in the top photo. 60 or so years ago, when the theater was built, it was likely an open court with other commercial structures therein.

Side view, with wooden exterior walls.

I was very kindly allowed access to the Phrom Piman by an old woman who claimed to be looking after the place for the absentee owners. I had a hunch, however, that she was actually one of the owners, but didn't want to admit it.

No remnants of cinemadom were left inside, only a bit of silk factory paraphernalia and two centimeters of pigeon droppings on the floor.

Whether Thaksin ever watched a movie here as a kid is only speculation. But it's still nice to imagine boy-Thaksin, pre-police, pre-billionaire, pre-politician-in-exile, sitting mesmerized at the movies while his parent's silk factory churned away across the street.

(Phrom Piman translates to Brahma's Paradise. Brahma is one of the gods of creation in Hindu mythology. Great name for a movie theater).


  1. According to news reports cited by Wikipedia, Thaksin actually ran a cinema owned by his father. Would this be that very cinema?

  2. Very possible, though I have heard that the long gone Sri Visan Cinema on Tha Phae Road in Chiang Mai was once a Thaksin family enterprise. The AIS building, home of his computer and telecom business, occupies the site now.

    It wouldn't be much of a stretch to assume he owned them both.

  3. One of the last project I did in Thailand 8 years ago was for Thai Film Association. And I learned that Thaksin was a one of film distributors in the northern region. It all made sense if the cinema was his too.

  4. A movie that came out about four or five years ago, Bangkok Loco, depicted a Thaksin lookalike driving a truck and travelling town to town, putting on outdoor movie screenings at temple fairs, and doing the live dubbing for the dialogue. I think it is not far from the truth.