Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Thailand Journal VI: Southeast Asia’s Switzerland
Roadside Map of Golden Triangle
When you consider the history of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and
Myanmar, you wonder, what happened with Thailand? The Thais never were part of
French Indochina, were never overrun by the Japanese, as were the Chinese. They never suffered through extremist revolutionary movements, though Thailand’s
border in the Golden Triangle put it right in the line of fire. Though
not a wealthy country, like Switzerland, Thailand has always carefully guarded
its neutral status. The king was able to offer the Japanese access to the
repository of Thailand’s natural assets during World War II and then was able
to negotiate a close relationship to the allies. The neutrality which is one
Thailand’s most precious “natural” resources has been aided by the presence of
strong tribal societies, like the Hmong, the Hill and the Karen who occupy
border areas. Today one reads about the massive and sometimes violent
demonstrations against the current regime. Opponents claim that Premier Yingluck Shinawatra's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, an exiled billionaire business man, is calling the shots from overseas. The current spate of demonstrations was catalyzed by an attempt to allow him to return (“Amnesty Bill That Would Clear Ousted Premier Stirs Thai Anger," NYT, 11/3/13). Thailand is not without its history of domestic turmoil and Thais drive on the
left side like the British, but the country, a constitutional monarchy, is
singular in the pantheon of Southeast Asian countries, having successfully
avoided being imperialized by the West or the East.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.