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The week-long Vegetarian Food Festival, which comes to an end today [4 Oct], should have shed some light on the plight of animals that are advertised as being "happy" to be consumed.

However, it is not just these poor creatures that are being misrepresented. The majority of humans are also represented, (and often misrepresented), by the few who control the media and official history.

These include the 2 million voiceless and poorly paid migrant workers from Burma and the transgender military conscripts, who until last month were branded as "having permanent mental disorder". Then there are the children and people on the fringes of society, the marginalised, the poor and the less-educated people who constitute the majority of the Thai populace.

These people are mostly "represented" by the powerful mainstream mass media or in official history textbooks produced by the more educated and powerful editors or historians who claim to have the best of intentions.

Migrant workers are both visible and yet invisible and voiceless. Bangkok residents see them everywhere on a daily basis. They work as their waiters, maids, gardeners, construction workers, toilet cleaners in posh department stores and as sex workers. Yet these people remain voiceless and invisible because they have no rights and those who benefit from them want to keep it that way. These migrant workers do not even have the right to gather to celebrate their cultural festivals.

In the news, they are represented as "caricatures" to fit a profile as reports such as "cruel maid kills and robs her elderly employer" etc hit the headlines. Yet, their daily struggle is often far too mundane for most mainstream media.

Then take for instance businesses like a major Sukiyaki restaurant chain, which requires its staff to dance, sing and look happy for customers, regardless of whether they feel like it or not.

Fortunately, members of the red-shirt movement - sick of the mainstream media "misrepresenting" them as being stupid and unable to make sound political decisions - decided to launch their own media outlets. The opposing yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy also set up their own satellite television station, ASTV, to ensure that their voice is heard.

Unlike the United States, Thailand still lacks its own people's version of history. Late historian Howard Zinn wrote the "People's History of the United States", an influential tome that represents America not as a beacon of liberty but a work in progress that is rife with the exploitation of the poor and foreigners as well as racism and hypocrisy.

In a similar vein, Chris Harman wrote "A People's History of the World" in 1999. In the introduction, the author said: "Since the times of the first Pharaohs [5,000 years ago] rulers have presented history as being a list of ‘achievements' by themselves and their forebears…"

Thailand is still stuck with one "official" version of history, even though Thai and foreign writers have tried to present different perspectives. However, the grand narrative still being "maintained" is losing its power due to the explosion of the Internet and alternative media.

Representation and misrepresentation is about power and control. It's also about unequal relationships. No matter how sympathetic, nobody can truly represent people who can speak for themselves.

It should be no mystery why not a single article written by a Burmese migrant worker about their life in Thailand is available in the mainstream media, because they are not even the "smiling, happy" animals being bred for our consumption.

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