Archives par mot-clé : Thaïlande

The Painting That Is Painted With Poetry Is Profoundly Beautiful

« The Painting That Is Painted With Poetry Is Profoundly Beautiful – Tang Chang » by Nora Taylor, Jul/Aug 2018, ArtAsiaPacific

Chills ran down my spine as I peered into the vitrine positioned toward the end of the late Tang Chang’s solo exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art, so beautifully and adeptly curated by Orianna Cacchione. On a faded sheet of paper was the word “gunman,” handwritten in English, and repeated in a pattern that resembles a monument. In the top right-hand corner, the word “democracy” appeared; at the bottom right was the date 1978. The Thai artist was referring to the suppression of the student protest against the return of Thanom Kittikachorn, an exiled military dictator, which had taken place two years earlier in Bangkok. That event, known as the October 1976 massacre, had led to the deaths of many at the hands of the Thai military. Yet, reading those words in the south of Chicago, I immediately thought of the recent and persistent shootings that have taken place in American schools. That a Thai artist—a self-described Buddhist, no less—would capture the mood of our violent times in such a poetic way was moving.

There were several other poems shaped like the Democracy Monument. Kill was one of them, and Democracy of Dictatorship (both 1978), written in Thai, was another. Many of the words were barely legible, appearing like scribbles, but their repetition created drawings, interwoven lines and shapes. I begin this review by mentioning these poems, even though Chang was also a painter and the exhibition included many of his paintings, because after walking through the rooms that held them, I could barely distinguish the poems from the paintings and vice versa. The title that the curator chose for the exhibition made complete sense. Poetry comes first, and is the medium for the paintings.

The exhibition at the Smart Museum is the first solo exhibition of Chang’s works outside of Thailand and the first to be held in the United States.

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50 shades of yellow: how conservatism overwhelmed liberalism in the anti-Thaksin movement

« 50 shades of yellow: how conservatism overwhelmed liberalism in the anti-Thaksin movement » by Kanokrat Leertchoosakul, 01/08/2018, New Mandala

« Of the 100 PAD members I interviewed, 76 had previously never actively participated in a political movement. 63 had not even followed political news before their foray into protesting with the yellow shirts. »

At its incipience, the movement against Thaksin Shinawatra (and his subsequent nominee governments) compromised a motley—even contradictory—crew of groups loyal to diverse ideologies and political standpoints. This is a history now easily forgotten. They ranged from conservatives genuinely opposed to democracy and bent on defending nationalism and monarchism, to factions who mobilised to defend democratic ideals and who were resolutely wary of nationalism and royalism.

During the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s (PAD) early days, most of the movement’s conservatives members constituted the rank and file. In contrast, several leaders who exercised managing authority over protest sites came from liberal backgrounds. As one anonymous leader of the movement in Udon Thani remarked, “The Rajabhat rally was organised [by liberals] because we had experience in managing crowds. No one else did”. How was it that this heterogeneous network eventually mobilised down a progressively conservative direction, whereby royalist, nationalist and anti-democratic forces overwhelmed the movement?

I argue conservative mobilisation strategies married two previously disparate networks: first, scattered right-wing groups and second, an apolitical middle-class mass. Right-wing networks, once weak and diffuse, were brought together by the need to mobilise a popular base and in doing so forged a relatively united front. Simultaneously, these right-wing leaders attracted through the discourse of “Threat, Big Crisis, Action Is Needed Now” (ภัยคุกคาม-วิกฤตครั้งใหญ่-ต้องทำอะไรเดี๋ยวนี้) the support of members of the middle-class who had never before participated in a political movement—who were subsequently “politically awakened”.

When these two networks coalesced, conservative elements overwhelmed the movement against Thaksin in terms of numbers, bargaining power and resources, progressively squeezing out liberal elements. I base my genealogy of how the movement against Thaksin took on a conservative zeal—something that we may now take for granted—on interviews with 100 people who once mobilised against the tycoon-cum-politician. Interviewees came from 13 provinces across four of the country’s regions.

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Remembering the Present : Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia

Julia L. Cassaniti, Remembering the Present : Mindfulness in Buddhist Asia, Cornell University Press, 2018

What is mindfulness, and how does it vary as a concept across different cultures? How does mindfulness find expression in practice in the Buddhist cultures of Southeast Asia? What role does mindfulness play in everyday life? J. L. Cassaniti answers these fundamental questions and more through an engaged ethnographic investigation of what it means to « remember the present » in a region strongly influenced by Buddhist thought.

Focusing on Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, Remembering the Present examines the meanings, practices, and purposes of mindfulness. Using the experiences of people in Buddhist monasteries, hospitals, markets, and homes in the region, Cassaniti shows how an attention to memory informs how people live today and how mindfulness is intimately tied to local constructions of time, affect, power, emotion, and selfhood. By looking at how these people incorporate Theravada Buddhism into their daily lives, Cassaniti provides a signal contribution to the psychological anthropology of religious experience.

Remembering the Present heeds the call made by researchers in the psychological sciences and the Buddhist side of mindfulness studies for better understandings of what mindfulness is and can be. Cassaniti addresses fundamental questions about selfhood, identity, and how a deeper appreciation of the many contexts and complexities intrinsic in sati (mindfulness in the Pali language) can help people lead richer, fuller, and healthier lives. Remembering the Present shows how mindfulness needs to be understood within the cultural and historical influences from which it has emerged.

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CFP : Council on Thai Studies Conference

CFP : Council on Thai Studies Conference, 12-14 October 2018 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstracts due by 1 August.

We are honored that this year’s keynote speaker will be Dr Puangthong Pawakapan, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University and 2018-2019 Harvard-Yenching Fellow. She will speak on “Development and Impact of the Thai Military’s Political Offensive.”

COTS, established in 1972, is a consortium of universities with a particular interest in Thai Studies.

The annual COTS meeting is designed to provide scholars, students, and practitioners with opportunities to present both preliminary and more developed research analysis and reflections, primarily in the social sciences and humanities, related to Thai Studies.
Key information:
· Dates: 12-14 October 2018; conference will begin at noon on the afternoon of Friday, 12 October.
· Location: Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 206 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706

· Deadline for proposals for presentations: 1 August 2018
· The organizers welcome proposals for individual paper presentations, panels of papers, roundtable discussions, film screenings and other formats as suggested by participants. For individual paper presentations and films, please send an abstract (250 words). For roundtable discussions, please send an abstract (250 words) and list of participants. For panels of papers, please send an abstract of the panel (250 words) as well as abstracts of the individual papers.

Questions and proposal submissions should be sent to Tyrell Haberkorn, (Chair, COTS 2018).

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The Thai director who shows the future of cinema


« The Thai director who shows the future of cinema », 24/05/2018, BBC Culture

Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul encourages sleeping in the cinema and thinks virtual reality has major creative potential, writes Jessica Kiang.

It’s a strange thing to meet a stranger whose dreams you’ve dreamed. That’s what it feels like to find myself sitting across from Apichatpong Weerasethakul one afternoon in the thick-carpeted quiet of a Doha hotel. We are both at Qumra, a week-long industry event held annually in the Qatari capital, at which Apichatpong is one of 2018’s attending ‘masters’. It is easy to feel dislocated and rootless here: a few miles away the skeleton scaffolds of future World Cup stadiums rear up from shifting sands, and outside, the bright paving stones of the already immaculate souk are being scrubbed of the last few hours of history once again. Everything feels new and clean and spaciously empty, except this room, which I’m fanciful enough to imagine teeming with a shared lexicon of imagery and ideas. In here, there are talking baboons, sleeping soldiers, ghosts and goddesses, doctors swigging hooch from stashes hidden in prosthetic legs and dead sons turned into furry, red-eyed demons that, a delighted Apichatpong claims, are often likened to Chewbacca.

All of it is a means to the same greater end, Apichatpong’s ultimate science-fiction project: the perfect communion of minds, the lossless transfer of thought. There is no precious attachment to an ossified idea of cinema for its own sake. In fact, he imagines a distant future when we won’t even need a camera or any device, when « we will be able to share dreams by hooking up our brains in a real collective sleeping. » The shimmering, transcendent, sometimes soporific, defiantly cinematic experience of his exceptionally strange stories, unfolding in the cool, focused, companionable darkness of a cinema – that’s just the best we can do right now.

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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