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Founder of Midnight University dies at age 52


Founder of Midnight University dies at age 52

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

Assoc. Prof. Somkiart Tangnamo, the Dean of the Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and co-founder and editor of the well known website Midnight University died on June 6 at the age of 52 of colorectal cancer at Maharaj Nakhon Chiang Mai Hospital.

The funeral rites were held at Wat Phrasing Maha Worawiharn in Chiang Mai, between July 7 -9 and the cremation ceremony was held on July 10 at Hai Ya cemetery in the Muang District.

Well known and respected social activist and arts academic, Assoc. Prof. Somkiart Tangnamo, Dean of the Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, passed away on July 6 at the age of 52.

Mrs. Ornicha Tangnamo, Ajarn Somkiart’s wife, said that he has been diagnosed with cancer in January of this year. He underwent chemotherapy but his condition deteriorated. He was admitted to hospital on June 10 and passed away on July 6.

Deeply involved in social issues, Assoc Prof. Somkiart was well known for his academic work, contemporary art, sharp commentary on social and political issues as well as his deep knowledge of fine arts.

He headed a campaign against the military-backed draft constitution before the 2007 referendum that approved it.

On February 16, 2009, a group of CMU lecturers, personnel, staff, and alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts issued a statement calling for the Chiang Mai University Council to revoke Ajarn Somkiart’s position as Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts after he signed his name to support the amendment on the King Institute, (article 112).

An academic and social critic, he regularly posted his views and academic articles on a popular online academic forum,, which he and his colleagues, Dr. Nithi Iewsriwong, Somchai Preechasilapakul, and Sattayachak Satayanuraks, at CMU founded in 1997 to be an intellectual online network open to the public.

The website, established 10 years ago, is popular with intellectuals and students in Thailand and abroad. It contains thousands of articles on issues varying from politics to the role of the monarchy to the arts, postmodernism, grass-roots movements, and philosophy.

His most recent works posted on the website included his thoughts on Eastern aesthetics and a translation of an article titled “Aesthetics in Islamic Philosophy”.

Midnight University’s web board was closed down temporarily, reportedly by an Information and Communication Technology Ministry order issued in 2006, for allegedly containing comments deemed insulting to the monarchy.

Ajarn Somkiart insisted the website had no intention of offending the monarchy. It only supported “constructive discussion” on the role of the monarchy, he said.

In September 2008 he launched the Faculty’s Art Magazine, to serve as a bridge between scholars and readers and to promote the University’s Fine Arts department to Chiang Mai outside the University.

He graduated with arts from Chang Silp College of Fine Arts, in 1979, earned a BA in Fine Arts from Silpakorn University in 1985, and MA in liberal arts from Mahidol University in 1990, and worked as a lecturer at CMU’s Faculty of Fine Arts from 1982. He was appointed Dean in 2008.