Thai History Links

For some reason my preoccupation lately has been Thai history. A recent acquisition is a book on Thai political culture by Nidhi Eoseewong. Do I have to subscribe to Art and Culture now?

Interesting paper I found googling Ajarn Thongchai after finishing his book: “Problems in Contemporary Thai Nationalist Historiography”.

Aside from giving some great insights to the study of Thai history, the funny-tragic thing about article is that it mentions two cases where academics who were forced into hiding after publishing something that challenges the mainstream historical thinking. One of them was Saipin Kaewngamprasert:

The crux of Saipin’s thesis is that there is no evidence from the reign of Rama III to indicate the existence, let alone heroism, of Thao Suranari. The implication was that the cult of Thao Suranari was constructed by the government to ensure the loyalty of the northeastern region to the Thai state, a loyalty that remained in question up to the 1960s. This thesis was interpreted as a slight on the people of Khorat. Demonstrations were organized by various groups in Khorat, goaded on by local politicians demanding, among other things, that the book be burned, that Saipin apologize to the monument, and that her master’s degree be withdrawn. Eventually Matichon was forced to recall the book; Saipin went into hiding and was later transferred from her school in Nakhon Ratchasima to another province. The episode has many lessons. It is an irony that what started out as a state cult has now become a crucial element in contemporary discourses of regional cultural identity. Moreover, the power of regionalism, so long suppressed by the Thai state, now resorts to the same tactics of intimidation used by the state when its foundations are questioned by academic scholarship.

All this reminds me of a story out of Mukhom Wongdes’s book of “Humour-Irony-Parody-Satire” – I hope to translate it later. I’ll say now that it involves the Ramkhamhaeng inscriptions, an angry mob and an unsuspecting family of diplomats.

Another interesting point is “monarchy’s overwhelming political and cultural presence in the Thai polity today limits what can be said about a number of key historical events” – which led me to think I should get back to my project of reviewing William Stevenson’s Rama IX bio, The Revolutionary King. Banned books have a way of grabbing people’s attention, as with the new book on the King may probably prove.

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