Tag: Thai culture

The Future of Thai Politics at the FCCT

The Future of Thai Politics talk at the FCCT on March 11th with

• Alongkorn Polabutr, senior member of the National Reform Council & former deputy leader, Democratic Party
• Chaturon Chaiseng, former Education Minister, Pheu Thai Party
• Kasit Piromya, former Foreign Minister, Democratic Party
• Phongthep Thepkanjana, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Pheu Thai Party

A great evening and great responses from various stakeholders in Thai politics. The FCCT did a great job with this one. A few tweets below and the full discussion in three videos at the bottom.


Thailand Anti-Government Protests Interviews December 2013

Thailand Anti-Government Protests Interviews December 2013 from Mark Moran on Vimeo.

Buffaloes, Crabs, Lizards: Thai protests October-November 2013



Thailand is a land in perpetual protest about, well, just about everything.  Thai protests bring new meaning to the expression “24/7” as their stages don’t stop at all during these protests.  It’s all day and all night talking, speaking, cajoling, screaming, singing.  Thailand also brings an entirely new meaning to the Occupy Movement where one doesn’t merely occupy a street or an area around a symbol of corruption—one actually occupies the symbol.  And of course a Thai occupation must be in style with proper protest food, music, and branding of all sorts: clappers, t-shirts, whistles, wristbands and the sort.  Profanity and politeness exist together closely at these protests with nasty graffiti about Yingluck and her brother, insults at police officers, the next minute it’s prayers and flowers for everyone.  Monitor lizards and buffaloes are seen all throughout the artwork.

Below are propaganda images from the anti-Thaksin protests:

At issue is a majority in parliament pursuing its interests over the will of the minority, corruption, and vote buying.  The commentariat has provided an array of perspectives from both sides.  Thai mainstream commentators from the English language press have offered much of the same in their treatment of Thaksin as an evil octopus with his tentacles reaching every part of the realm poisoning everything he touches.   The Nation’s Pornpimol Kanchanalak, editorialist and fugitive from American justice, weighed in.  In an editorial she lectured the Western media about the assumptions that cloud their understanding of Thai politics.  Ms. Kanchanalak discusses Thaksin Shinawatra’s role in Thai politics, conceding that Thaksin had his strengths:

“His adviser, Pansak Vinyarat, genuinely cared about the rural poor, and together they executed numerous populist policies and hand-outs, including the Bt1-million village fund, one village-one bicycle scheme, one village-one scholarship, one village-one buffalo, one village-one product, welfare housing, welfare taxis, and so on. Thaksin’s first year in office was his finest as a public servant. The rural poor looked to him as their saviour, someone who really cared. They knew they were only getting the “crumbs” of Thailand’s wealth, but at least they were getting something for a change.”

She then goes on to discuss where Thaksin went wrong when the lure of power and money blinded him.  She makes many allegations, but offers no evidence, save for this bit about specific jobs for Thaksin’s cronies:

“Please also look into those who occupy the boards of state enterprises. You will find plenty of red-shirt leaders, their families and cronies among them. And please take the time to read the well-researched accounts of just where the rivers of money have flowed from all the government subsidy programmes.”

Much is said about “corruption” but we see little evidence in the form of statistics, state jobs and political affiliation, or charts and graphs of where “populist” monies go.  Kanchanalak’s argument is thus dissipated.  Thailand could use some quality investigative journalism in this area.

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Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a professor at Kyoto University, offers a different point of view of the recent political turmoil:

“The Thai crisis has partly echoed the anxiety of the Bangkok elite as Thais are approaching the sunset of the Bhumibol reign. This shift of political landscape will cause an impact on their wealth and social status. The anxiety has served as a driving force behind the hatred campaign against Thaksin, seen as an adversary of the monarchy.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a moderate observer of Thai politics offers a middle path:

“In the future, the forces of elected power will have to show more integrity and policymaking skill. They will need to bolster the trust of voters and avoid abuses of power. The forces of appointed and unelected authority will have to come up with electoral legitimacy and policy delivery to cater to the vast majority of the electorate. They need to at least have a chance at triumphing at the polls.”

Lizzie Presser  offers a great view of a woman from Isan who has been helped by Thaksin’s programs.

url - Buffaloes, Crabs, Lizards: Thai protests October-November 2013

Yes, those are chopped off heads!

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1. Thai people pay tax so prostitute can have a holiday (criticizing her taking so many trips)

Soul of a Nation, BBC 1979

I have heard about this documentary before but have never had a chance to see it and came across it on youtube.  Narrated by the illustrious Sir John Guilgud, we see the mystical Thai monarchy in all its glory with its Brahmin and Buddhist rituals, the king’s service to villagers, and his support of the Thai army’s fight against the Communist insurgency.  I’ve never heard King Bhumibol speak in English so it was a delight to finally hear a voice to all of the images I’ve seen of him in Thailand.  At forty-seven, Queen Sirikit had lost none of her beauty.  There’s a natural humility in this Thai king that you can feel listening to him that is absent from the flat images of him around Thailand that project a more distant persona.

It’s cut off at the end which is unfortunate as I wanted to hear Bhumibol’s candid answer to a provocative question.

This is a must see for anyone interested in Thai culture.


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Came across a great website today, streetphotothailand.com, in BK Magazine. There’s a photo exposition, “Unposed Bangkok,” a collection of street photography, opening up October 1st and running to October 27 at the Bangkok Art & Culture Center.  This exhibition is curated by Manit Sriwanichpoom, of Pink Man fame.

Mr. Sriwanichpoom is a performance artist with an international presence where he uses the medium of photography to subvert consumerist culture. I guess it’s not surprising, after taking a gander at some of these photos, that irony and juxtaposition emerge as a central theme, as these elements figure prominently in Mr. Sriwanichpoom’s work.  And yet my favorite photo is Nappadol Weerakitti’s smoking man (below).  A simple photograph, accentuated with a vivid purple, of a candid moment of an elderly man.

I look forward to visiting this exhibition right down the street and talking to the photographers.

In the words of the organizers:

These images, along with their hidden nuances that reflect our society, its humor, satire as well as perfectly-timed coincidences, are created by a street photographer.

Selected photos below:

DSCF0943 300x200 - streetphotothailand.com

Akkara Naktamna

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Noppadol Weerakitti

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Naruepol Nikomrat

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Visit Kulsiri

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Chatchai Boonyaprapatsara

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Piyatat Hemmatat

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Vinai Dithajohn

Tha Prachan 2011 - streetphotothailand.com

Manit Sriwanichpoom


Sound and fury

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signifying very different ideas of where Thailand should be heading.  Nitirat (“law for the people”), a group of seven Thammasat University law lecturers, last October offered a few proposals to reform Holy Writ in Thailand including throwing out many of the judicial decisions put in place after the 2006 coup.  They also propose to amend the lese majeste law.

Under the current Thai constitution three sections are noteworthy:

Section 3. The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people.
Section 8. The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.
Section 30. All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.

Section 30 is under the heading: Rights and Liberties of Thai People.  This point alone speaks volumes about the Thai concept of equality.  Like many things in Thailand that I simply can’t figure out, like how these three sections are reconciled in terms of power, I seek refuge in Dirty Deeds watching to the point of exhaustion, start to dream of my former life as a prince, and nod off into a very dark place. Thailand remains a mystery.

In light of traditional Thai perspectives of governance, Nitirat’s proposals are plain heresy with recommendations that the military be subordinated to civilians and that the power of the people reigns supreme.  A few of the more striking ideas:

•  The monarch has the duty to protect the Constitution.
•  A new head of state must swear an oath to abide by and to protect the Constitution.

The idea that a Thai monarch would be required to swear an oath to a constitution is an extremely radical idea in Thailand and deserves a wide discussion.  This idea caught me off guard I must say.  I don’t know who these professors are, but they are certainly bold.  Nitirat also recommended big changes to Thailand’s lese majeste law.

Needless to say, Nitirat’s proposals were met with a firestorm of abuse as the comment stream from ผู้จัดการ/Manager reveals where members of Nitirat were called “dogs,” “aliens,” and “not human” and demands that they be “thrown off helicopters,” “necklaced and burned alive,” “beheaded,” and “have their heads put on stakes outside Thammasat” were made.  There were calls for Ajarn Worachet to be executed.  General Prayuth publicly requested that members of Nitirat leave the country.

Such is the political discourse here.

Nitirat has received international support.

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On the other side of the political spectrum a recent film, Shakespeare Must Die, was banned by the Thai Film Board as being too divisive.  This film is an adaptation of Macbeth and an allegory of  Thaksin’s pursuit of power and ultimate destruction of Thailand. The makers of this film argue in their comments that Thailand is living in “Shakespearean times” and that “there is a hunger for full-blooded, ferocious art that does not shy away from meaty issues of spiritual corruption, of right and wrong” yet could these artists stomach another Shakespearean adaptation from the opposite perspective?

Ing K, the director spoke to the Film Board speaking passionately about the role of art in a nation’s soul.  She has great insight in speaking about Western culture: “Why do we welcome only their junk culture and keep out their best?”  She continues, “Our country must survive and endure, and truly, it can only endure through virtue.”

Well put.

Thai filmmakers of a different political persuasion need to make a movie to counter this one and they both need to be shown to the public.  This would be a huge step forward for Thailand.





วันพ่อ Wan Paw

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Father’s Day in Thailand falls on December 5th, the King’s birthday.  I wouldn’t normally post about this day as it’s covered on countless blogs and news sites, but this year I happened to come across some beautiful Thai art celebrating this very important day in Thailand.  Outside St. Gabriel’s School in the old part of Bangkok were displays of student art of the king.  Everywhere one goes here in Thailand are images of the king and after a certain point you think you’ve seen all of them.  There’s something very poignant about art created by young people and then displayed publicly:

After a bit of research I discovered some interesting information about what goes into the making of a Royal Crest in Thailand. Royal Crests are designed for separate occasions.


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     Thai citizens submitted designs for the Royal Crest for King Bumiphol Adulyadej’s Royal Crest for his 84th birthday and the one above won. This crest is richly imbued with symbols from Buddhist and Hindu mythology and Chinese culture. Atop the royal crest lies the Great Crown of Victory, one of the five royal regalias, made during the reign of Rama I and only worn when a Thai monarch ascends the thrown. Similar to the stupas seen in Thai temples, it is a multi-tiered conical diadem, finishing with a tapering spire. Below the Great Crown of Victory is the number 9 in Thai script signifying the 9th reign in the Chakri dynasty. In the center are Bumiphol Adulyadej’s initials in Thai script, Pho Po Ro, in gold, the color of monarchy. Seven-tier white Sawettachatra umbrellas are found on both sides of the crest signifying the seven Buddhist factors of enlightenment: awareness, wisdom, effort, delight, tranquillity, concentration and upekkha or neutral feeling. In traditional Thai beliefs, there are seven levels of heaven from Chatumaharachika to Paranimmitsawatdee, the seventh level reserved for enlightened or nearly enlightened persons. The white color of the umbrella signifies the color of the top of Mount Phra Sumeru, which is the residence of Siva, a great deity in Brahman belief.Lotus buds are located beneath the Royal Umbrellas, symbols of Buddhist purity. The rabbit at the bottom represents 2011, the Year of the Rabbit from the twelve-year animal cycle from the Chinese Zodiac. In 2011 King Bumibol Adulyadejcelebrates his 7th cycle: 84 years.


Thailand has talent!

Bell Nuntita is her/his name and he/she’s become quite a hit in China.

A few of the money quotes:

“This transsexual is better looking than 70% of China’s females.”

“I am shocked. At the same time, I am enthralled/conquered! I’ve fallen for her…”