• Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Patriotic Thailand

    Well, things are getting serious, seriously deranged. The head of Thailand's present military junta has made a speech declaring that he, as a Thai soldier, will not allow "even one inch of Thai soil to be lost". And that includes assets, and assets other than land.

    He was of course referring to Shin Corp, the company sold by ex-PM Taksin to Temasek, the investment arm of the Singapore government. A private company sold for US$3.9billion to a foreign entity but now the new military self-appointed government have said they are taking it back. Apparently there are two options open to them, either they can prove Temasek have broken their contract and grab it or they can simply snatch it back regardless of silly things like laws and common decency.

    This news has been received with a great deal of thumping of chests and shouts "chaiyo" from Thai nationals. Patriotism is high on the agenda in Thailand at the moment and there's a strong feeling of them and us. At the moment there's a Thai film out that has been very successful, The Legend of King Naresuan. Yet another Thai film about those evil Burmese trying to steal land from the peace loving Thais. Once again the proud, but put-upon, Thais are saved by a great hero, this time a king (it was an elephant last year).

    These patriotic Thai films (of which there seems to be an endless stream) depicting the Burmese as scum of the earth, evil-doers seem to forget that Thailand too was not averse to a bit of land-grabbing itself during this period. They stole from the Burmese, Khmer and swallowed up small independent kingdoms in the north and south of what is now known as Thailand. Last year several respected Thai historians came out against these films and asked that the truth be told occasionally, especially in school text books.

    The queen has seen the film and declared that it is important and shows the importance of patriotism. General Sonthi is due to see it and has ordered the army to create a cartoon about this great king for younger readers. He has also ordered every unit in the army to foster patriotism in this, 2007, the year of patriotism. So I guess Thailand will soon be known as the "hub" of patriotism. There's only been one mention of hubs this week, and that was the old "technology hub" chestnut.

    What was it that the great Dr Samuel Johnson of dictionary fame said about patriotism: Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Hmm

    Patriotic Thailand

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