Archives par mot-clé : Thaïlande

Rebranding Thailand: why is junta so obsessed with wordplay?

Petra Desatova

« Rebranding Thailand: why is junta so obsessed with wordplay? » by Kornkritch Somjittranukit, 04/02/2018, Prachatai (English)

During the past four years, the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has added many terms to the dictionary of Thai politics. At the beginning of their regime, the NCPO coined the term “Returning Happiness”, which later became the name of a weekly TV programme that junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha uses as a channel to communicate with the Thai people.

In 2016, the NCPO launched the “Pracharat” campaign, directly translated as “people-state,” as part of its attempt to form a political coalition among the military, the private sector, the bureaucracy and civil society. The most recent term is “Thai-ism democracy” which was invented after Prayut showed an intention to participate in the upcoming election.

Prachatai talked to Petra Desatova, a PhD student from Leeds University, who pointed out that these terms are not merely a play on words, but rather a systematic attempt to strengthen its authoritarian regime. An advisee of Prof Duncan McCargo, Desatova conducted research which examines the phenomenon of nation branding in the context of post-coup Thailand. It focuses on the period from the 22 May 2014 coup until 1 December 2016, when King Vajiralongkorn officially ascended the Thai throne.

Why is nation branding so important for the junta?

The solution that nation branding offers is in the ‘correction’ of people’s attitudes and behaviours towards the nation, and its socio-economic and political systems instead of changing the country’s economic, social and political conditions. It is about creating expectations, ‘selling’ attractive visions, making people feel proud of their nation, and encouraging particular behaviours while setting boundaries to others. This is exactly what the NCPO needed following the 2014 coup. They needed to re-engage the Thai people with the old elite’s vision of a creatively modernising yet socially traditional Thailand consisting of people that will reject the Shinawatras once and for all, abandon their provincial identities and democratic and social aspirations in exchange for a semi-authoritarian rule modeled on the military regimes from the early 1960’s (Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat) to the late 1980’s (General Prem Tinsulanonda).

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In Plain Sight : Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand

Tyrell Haberkorn, In Plain Sight : Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2018

Following a 1932 coup d’état in Thailand that ended absolute monarchy and established a constitution, the Thai state that emerged has suppressed political dissent through detention, torture, forced reeducation, disappearances, assassinations, and massacres. In Plain Sight shows how these abuses, both hidden and occurring in public view, have become institutionalized through a chronic failure to hold perpetrators accountable. Tyrell Haberkorn’s deeply researched revisionist history of modern Thailand highlights the legal, political, and social mechanisms that have produced such impunity and documents continual and courageous challenges to state domination.

Tyrell Haberkorn is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand.

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Of Beggars and Buddhas

Katherine A. Bowie, Of Beggars and Buddhas : The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2017

An exploration of the subversive politics of humor in the most important story in Theravada Buddhism

The 547 Buddhist jatakas, or verse parables, recount the Buddha’s lives in previous incarnations. In his penultimate and most famous incarnation, he appears as the Prince Vessantara, perfecting the virtue of generosity by giving away all his possessions, his wife, and his children to the beggar Jujaka. Taking an anthropological approach to this two-thousand-year-old morality tale, Katherine A. Bowie highlights significant local variations in its interpretations and public performances across three regions of Thailand over 150 years.

The Vessantara Jataka has served both monastic and royal interests, encouraging parents to give their sons to religious orders and intimating that kings are future Buddhas. But, as Bowie shows, characterizations of the beggar Jujaka in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly antiroyalist themes to the story. Historically, these subversive performances appealed to popular audiences even as they worried the conservative Bangkok court. The monarchy sporadically sought to suppress the comedic recitations. As Thailand has changed from a feudal to a capitalist society, this famous story about giving away possessions is paradoxically being employed to promote tourism and wealth.

Katherine A. Bowie is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand.

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L’ancien droit siamois, réinterprétation bouddhiste du Code de Manou hindou ?

« L’ancien droit siamois, réinterprétation bouddhiste du Code de Manou hindou ? Réflexions à partir de l’étude des rapports entre royauté et droit » par Eugénie Mérieau, 02/02/2018, Séminaire de l’IAO

C’est par l’intermédiaire des peuples Môns que le droit hindou est parvenu aux peuples bouddhistes du Siam. Le code de Manou inspira, à partir des 14ème – 15ème siècles, le Phra Thammasat siamois, récit des origines du monde, des lois qui le régissent, et des devoirs du roi, ainsi que la Loi du Palais, ordonnant la vie dans l’enceinte du Palais. Jusqu’au début du 20ème siècle, le droit régissant la royauté demeure principalement composé de ces deux textes inspirés du droit hindou. Cette présentation s’attachera à analyser la transposition du droit hindou aux peuples bouddhistes et ses implications en ce qui concerne les rapports entre royauté et droit.

Eugénie Mérieau est post-doctorante auprès de la Chaire de constitutionnalisme comparé de l’Université de Göttingen.

The legendary lives of Thai Buddha statues

Figure of the Buddha. Northern Thailand, 1540–1541.

The legendary lives of Thai Buddha statues, lecture by Angela Chiu, 06/11/2017, British Museum

In this talk, Angela Chiu, author of The Buddha in Lanna: Art, Lineage, Power and Place in Northern Thailand (2017), introduces the ancient Thai Buddha statues, some still enshrined today, whose miraculous origins and adventures promoted the growth of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. She considers what motivated the people of the past to create these statues, often at great expense and with significant effort, and reveals how each statue has its own unique ‘life’, initially as the creation of individuals whose hopes and values were embodied in these extraordinary pieces of art.

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Bonnie Brereton: finding democracy in Buddhist murals

Bonnie Brereton: Finding democracy in Buddhist murals, interview by Peera Songkünnatham, 20/10/2017, The Isaan Record

Old temple murals, known as hup taem in Lao, are going through a cultural renaissance in the Northeast, after decades of being neglected and demolished in favor of Bangkok-style murals. Dating back to the early twentieth century, murals on the walls of ordination halls, or sim, depict popular stories like the life of the Buddha, Vessantara Jataka, and religious imageries like heaven and hell. They also feature local landscapes and everyday activities like farming in a uniquely vernacular style.

This form of people’s art is only now beginning to be recognized, both locally and nationally. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is finally promoting visiting sim – and not just bat caves and snake farms in central Isaan, as it has done for many years. In 2015, a nonfiction book tracing the Lao epic Sang Sinxay on murals in Isaan won a national prize.

This past August, a seminar in Khon Kaen, organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts of Khon Kaen University (KKU) and the Isan Writers Association, brought together experts on literature, visual arts, and community development, to explore and discuss hup taem on both sides of the Mekong. Several Laotian experts participated in the seminar as well.

One of the presenters was Dr. Bonnie Pacala Brereton, an American art historian and Buddhist studies scholar who specializes in vernacular forms of cultural expression in Isaan and the North.

Since 2004 she has been a researcher at the Center for Research on Plurality in the Mekong Region, Khon Kaen University. Along with Somroay Yencheuy, she is a co-author of a 2010 book Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand: Reflections of the Isan Heartland. An earlier book, Thai Tellings of Phra Malai, (1995) was a  study of the different regional versions of the Phra Malai story.

In this interview Brereton talks about her interpretation of the murals as a “democratic vision of society,” and the growing recognition of the shared culture in a region stretching from central Isaan to Laos.

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Archiving the ignored 6 October Massacre

Archiving the ignored 6 October Massacre by Kornkritch Somjittranukit, 06/10/2017, Prachatai (English)

Entretien avec Puangthong Pawakapan

To break the taboo in Thai society surrounding the 1976 Massacre, a group of scholars have founded an online archive of the incident in the hope that Thai society will be able to learn from its bloody past.

In the early morning of 6 October 1976, Thai right-wing groups staged a massacre of students at Thammasat University. More than a hundred student activists were killed by military and paramilitary forces and right-wing mobs and over 3,000 were arrested allegedly for being communists and threatening Thailand’s monarchy.

Even though the incident occurred over 40 years ago, knowledge of the event is very limited, partly because it is a sensitive issue and the “Octobrists” (people who joined the student movements around 14 October 1971 and 6 October 1976) who survived the massacre have rarely talked about it in detail.

The incident shows that Thai society can be extremely brutal against those who think differently from the establishment. The fear of talking about the massacre is, therefore, strongly rooted in Thai society, preventing serious discussion and investigation of the incident.

But some have bitten the bullet. On 24 September 2017, the “Documentation of 6 Oct” project launched its website at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science. The website is an online archive of material and information related to the massacre which has been largely ignored by Thai society.

The contents of the archive include documentary films, witness testimonies, photographs and interviews with massacre survivors and the families of those who were killed.

To commemorate the massacre, Prachatai interviewed Puangthong Pawakapan, the project coordinator. She hopes that this website will help Thai people to see a clearer picture of what actually happened on 6 October 1976.

Jentayu : Hors-série n° 2 : Thaïlande





Jentayu : Hors-série n° 2 : Thaïlande

Un panorama unique de la littérature thaïlandaise contemporaine, « une architecture de proses et de poésies formant un portrait d’une littérature peu connue d’un pays mondialement touristique« , comme l’écrit Jean-Noël Orengo. Dix-neuf auteurs, pour la plupart traduits pour la première fois en français. Un recueil richement illustré grâce aux travaux de trois artistes du cru. A paraître le 9 octobre.


  • Avant-propos, Jean-Noël Orengo
  • Introduction, Marcel Barang (
  • Ils ont dit… (la télé en fait foi), Aphichart Chandaeng
  • Camionnette à la demande, Darunee Dechanusorn
  • Octobre, Chart Korbjitti
  • Par-delà l’enclos de notre maison, Rossanee Nurfarida
  • La petite sœur, Notthee Sasiwimon
  • Un couple qui tient la route, Sila Komchai
  • L’appartement, Nirattisai Lorarunothai
  • Seule au monde, Prathana Rattana
  • Marout regarde la mer, Prabda Yoon
  • Restaurant, Prat Andaman
  • Fresh Kills, Kanthorn Aksornam
  • Un autre jour de bonheur façon 1984, Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa
  • Les sœurs cadettes, Jadet Kamjorndet
  • Toujours là, Uruda Covin
  • Incendies (revu et corrige), Win Lyovarin
  • Ballet sans chevilles, Muthita
  • Les faibles, Chanwalee Srisukho
  • Un poème doit être, non dire, Saneh Sangsuk
  • Enfants d’Asie du Sud-Est, Siriworn Kaewkan

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Getting out of Thailand’s political cul-de-sac

« Getting out of Thailand’s political cul-de-sac » by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, 06/10/2017, Nikkei Asian Review

For ruling elites, quest for legitimacy could prove a trap of their own making

Thailand has come full circle again. The kingdom’s 12-year pattern of a political juggernaut being elected to office and later abusing power before being ousted by his or her opponents still holds. This time, as determined by the country’s highest court, the outcome is a five-year jail term for former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on charges of negligence over her government’s flawed rice subsidy scheme that ran from Thailand’s last poll in July 2011 until the latest military coup in May 2014.

While this cycle of a popular mandate being overturned by judicial and military maneuvers repeats itself, the persistent conundrum for Thailand is whether those who rule without electoral legitimacy will perform well enough to stay in power — or whether calling the shots from the sidelines will lead to another (and possibly more damaging) round of internal conflict and turmoil.

First, it is instructive to put the Yingluck trial in perspective. Like her eldest brother and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was re-elected by a landslide in 2005 only to be toppled by a putsch the following year, Yingluck led the Pheu Thai party to a resounding win in parliamentary elections and became the country’s first female head of government. The Shinawatras’ popularity derived from concrete policies that pandered to poorer rungs of society, particularly rural constituencies. When Thaksin had his turn earlier, his platform featured a universal health care that guaranteed treatment for just 30 baht, or about $1 — and a microcredit scheme that bestowed 1 million baht on each of about 77,000 villages. For Yingluck, Thaksin’s inner sanctum on policy contrivance similarly decided on numbers that are easy to remember. Farmers were guaranteed 15,000 baht per ton of rice, undergraduate degree holders 15,000 baht monthly salary, and wage earners 300 baht a day.

These numbers were designed to woo the electorate, and were not based on rationally calculated policy programs with logical and longer-term policy objectives. But whether and how much the rice-pledging led to billions of dollars in fiscal losses — as claimed in the legal charge leveled against Yingluck — is a different matter. Thaksin’s policy bet through the Yingluck premiership was premised on cornering the world rice market by accumulating Thai rice and paying farmers handsomely right away. If the accumulated rice could be sold on world markets with higher prices, then a handsome profit would accrue. If not, corresponding losses would be incurred. As it turned out, Thailand quickly discovered it was no longer the only major rice exporter. The rice-pledging scheme was a profligate gamble and a policy disaster. Its exact losses can only be valued when all the stored rice is sold with proceeds compared with originally purchased prices.

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Pattana Kitiarsa on Thai boxing

Pattana Kitiarsa, « Of Men and Monks: The Boxing-Buddhism Nexus and the Production of National Manhood in Contemporary Thailand », 02/10/2013, New Mandala

Introduced by Peter Vail, The National University of Singapore.

Dr. Pattana Kitiarsa, Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, pursued a wide range of research interests before his untimely passing in January 2013. Chief among these were transnational labor migration, in particular the lives of Thai migrant construction workers in Singapore. He connected this work to other facets of life in rural northeastern Thailand, the region from which he himself originated. He examined popular Thai cinema, vernacular Buddhism, and maintained an avid interest in Muay Thai, i.e. Thai-style boxing, the national sport ubiquitous among Thailand’s lower classes.

The son of an avid boxer and thus someone exposed to boxing since early childhood, Pattana studied Muay Thai in a way that was at once passionately humanistic and anthropologically informed. He strove to understand the cultural meanings that Muay Thai embodies for rural Thais, in particular how it functions to construct masculinity. He understood the Muay Thai boxer as a key cultural archetype that connects Thai men to other pervasive masculine models–especially monks–and more broadly to the imagined nation at large. Pattana argued that Muay Thai boxing provides a narrative in which poor Thai men can imagine themselves simultaneously as dedicated breadwinners and as national heroes. It is this embodied perspective–boxing and mobility through the eyes of its everyday practitioners–that constitutes the greatest contribution of his work in this area and clearly connects his research on Muay to his other interests in labor migration and popular Buddhism. The paper below, unfinished at the time of his death, was presented in the International Conference on “Mega-Sporting Event in the Age of New Developmentalism: Perspectives from Asia” at the Enyuu Gakusya, Hokkaido University, held on 28-29 July 2012. It represents an early version of ideas and arguments pertaining to Muay Thai that Pattana was formulating and refining, and which he was intent on developing further. With the help of Pattana’s widow Aj Rungnapa Kitiarsa and his long-time collaborator and dear friend Aj Suriya Smutkupt, Michael Montesano prepared this paper for its publication on New Mandala, incorporating material from the notes that Pattana had prepared for his presentation at Hokkaido University.

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Continuer la lecture de Pattana Kitiarsa on Thai boxing

Will democracy in the Philippines go the way of Thailand?

Will democracy in the Philippines go the way of Thailand? by Michael Vatikiotis, 14/09/2017, The Economist

Rodrigo Duterte bears many similarities to Thaksin Shinawatra

WHEN Filipinos attempt to explain the political success of their tough-guy president, Rodrigo Duterte, they tend to point to local precursors. Joseph Estrada, a former matinée idol who had often played Robin Hood types, rose to the presidency by promising to be hard on bad guys and good to the poor. And then there is Ferdinand Marcos, who cultivated an image as a war hero to win election before assuming dictatorial powers, and whose reputation Mr Duterte is doing his best to restore.

Both these comparisons make Mr Duterte’s knack of casting himself as a friend of the people while giving short shrift to the niceties of democracy seem like a function of Philippine politics, in which populists occasionally attempt to stir up resentment against the hereditary caste of landowners who dominate government and the economy. After all, despite regular elections and much talk of reform, the 40 best-connected families still control about three-quarters of the Philippines’ wealth. Poverty is equally entrenched, as a visit to Manila’s slums or the southern, partly Muslim island of Mindanao makes clear.

But the Philippines is not the only country in South-East Asia with an entrenched establishment presiding over profound inequality. Most are blighted by single-party rule, or by a political churn which does not seem to have much impact on local power structures. Thailand, with a monarchy manipulated by the elites, is a case in point. The purpose of 12 military coups, two in the past 12 years, has been, as Michael Vatikiotis argues in “Blood and Silk”, a perceptive new book on the region, to maintain “an imposing if arcane edifice of power and [cultivate] a conservative mindset that has prevented the devolution of power and autonomy to ordinary people.”

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Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, n° 22 (September 2017)

Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, n° 22 (September 2017)

Thai cosmic politics : locating power in a diverse kingdom

Table of contents

  • Thai cosmic politics : locating power in a diverse kingdom by Edoardo Siani
  • In the name of the people : magic and the enigma of health governance in Thailand by Daena Funahashi
  • Land and lordship : royal devotion, spirit cults and the geo-body by Andrew Alan Johnson
  • « Raya kita » : Malay Muslims of Southern Thailand and the King by Annusorn Unno
  • A Christmas mourning : catholicism in post-Bhumibol Thailand by Giuseppe Bolotta
  • Good, clean mourning in Thailand cosmopolitan cosmos by Matthew Philipps

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Malay manuscripts from Patani

« Malay manuscripts from Patani » by Annabel Teh Gallop, 04/08/2017, Asian and African Studies Blog (British Library)

Patani is a culturally Malay-Muslim region located on the northeast coast of the Malay peninsula, in the southern part of Thailand. It has long been renowned as a cradle of Malay art and culture, and especially as a centre for Islamic learning, with close links with the Holy Cities of Arabia. Patani has produced many notable Islamic scholars, the most prominent being Daud bin Abdullah al-Patani (1769-1847), who lived and wrote in Mecca in the first half of the 19th century. scholars, and Wan Ahmad al-Patani (1856-1908), the first Superintendent of the Malay press in Mecca. Patani is one of the great centres of the Malay manuscript tradition, and many manuscripts from Patani are now held in the National Library of Malaysia and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

The British Library holds two manuscripts probably from Patani, both of which may have been copied very recently, and which have been fully digitised. One contains a well-known Malay tale, Hikayat Raja Khandak dan Raja Badar (Or.16128), set during the early wars of Islam, in which the eponymous villain, Raja Khandak (known in some versions as Raja Handak or Raja Handik) and his son Raja Badar battle against the forces of the Prophet. It was a very popular story, and is also found in Javanese, Sundanese, Acehnese and Makassar versions.

The second manuscript aquired from the same source, Or. 16129, consists of only 11 folios and contains an unidentified religious work (or fragment of a work) by Imām Aḥmad (the Sunni jurist Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal, 780-855) on the shahādah (profession of faith), set within frames with a commentary written in the margins. The main text has a colophon stating that it was written on 24 Muharam 1[2]60 (14 February 1844) in Mecca. This manuscript is also written in a small neat hand with a ‘modern’ feel, but in this case modern influences are clearly manifest in the use of certain punctuation elements such as brackets and numbered points within the text, indicating a date of production in the 20th century and perhaps even suggesting that the manuscript might have been copied from a printed source.

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Deep South ‘Patani arts’ opens in the North

« Deep South ‘Patani arts’ opens in the North » by Kong Rithdee, 20/07/2017, Bangkok Post

A major contemporary art exhibition about the Deep South is on display at a museum in Chiang Mai, one of the biggest gatherings of artists from the region, with the addition of others whose works touch on the stories of conflicts and violence in the southernmost provinces.

« Patani Semasa » opened last night at MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum in San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai. It features 27 artists who work in painting, photography, installation pieces and video art.

The majority are from « Patani », the generic and historic name of the provinces of the Deep South. Many are women, and while the exhibition generally showcases the development of contemporary art in the region, the dominant theme at this show is the loss, reflection and hope that come with the protracted unrest plaguing the region for decades, particularly since 2004.

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“Never take the unchanging province for granted”

ASEAN Film Festival winner Kirsten Tan: “Never take the unchanging province for granted”, 26/07/2017, The Isaan Record

A weary man approaches the camera, his purple umbrella barely reaching the eyes of the elephant beside him. There is no rain for the umbrella, but it shields him from the harsh sun as he travels from the country’s urban center to a rural border province in Isaan. The journey is demanding, not just physically but emotionally in a trip down memory lane.

Pop Aye, the debut feature by Kirsten Tan, a Singaporean filmmaker based in New York, follows a Bangkok architect’s journey to his hometown in Loei Province. The protagonist, Thana, explores his past amidst a midlife crisis alongside his childhood companion, the film’s titular elephant.

Tan was raised in Singapore and lived in South Korea and Thailand before moving to New York. She completed a Master’s in Film Production at New York University. Her work has been showcased in over 40 international film festivals, including Sundance Film Festival 2017, where Pop Aye won the Special Jury Prize in Screenwriting.

In May, Pop Aye went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at ASEAN Film Festival 2017 in Bangkok, where the film premiered in Thailand.

The Isaan Record talks to Tan about Pop Aye’s portrayal of the urban-rural divide in Thailand and the nostalgia Thana and Pop Aye’s travels evoke.

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