Thaksin’s Complicated Legacy Under Re-interpretation

I was in first grade when I woke up, one fateful day in 2006, to go to school. Alas, school was cancelled. A military coup was happening. A military coup? Meaningless words to a first grader, but at least it meant more time to sleep. Almost fifteen years have now gone by since that military …

Government’s Vaccine Strategy Must Remain Under Scrutiny

In Thai, there is an oft-used phrase: tok ma tai, “to die after falling off a horse.” It is an idiom that describes how someone can do something well almost to completion, only to make a mess of things just before reaching the finish line.  For many, this is an idiom that increasingly looks fitting for …

The Longer, but Not Better, Telegram

On January 28th, the Atlantic Council published “The Longer Telegram”, written by an anonymous author described as a former senior government official with extensive experience dealing with China. Its source of inspiration is, as its name suggests, no other than the Long Telegram, the article that set forth America’s national strategy of containment written by …

Myanmar Coup is a Reminder of Democracy’s Fragility

In 2014, the Thai military launched a coup and democracy was suspended. In 2015, Myanmar held an election that was convincingly won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.  It seemed like a stunning role reversal. Thailand’s democracy had always been unstable, but the country had always seemed more free and further in …

Time for Thailand to Move Beyond Typical Patriotic Films

In 2006, a Thai-produced animated movie called Kan Kluay was released. It was a heart-warming story, set during the Ayutthaya period, about an elephant that, after trials and tribulations in life, became King Naresuan’s war elephant. The king rode Kan Kluay as he battled the invading forces of the Burmese, culminating in the yutthahathee, the elephant duel between …

Is Speed Critical for Thailand’s Vaccination Drive?

It has now been a little over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Thailand, making it the first country outside of China to come into contact with this novel disease. One year later, with a second wave of cases still yet to reach its trough, the borders having been closed …

On the ‘Pimrypie’ Controversy

In Thailand, the concept of “doing good” — tum kwarm dee — has historically been a relatively uncontroversial idea.  Elders in Thai society consistently exhort others to be good people and to do good deeds. The maxim tum dee dai dee, tum chua dai chua (“do good things, and good things will happen to you; do evil things, and …

Can China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Win Hearts and Minds?

As 2020 neared its close, China’s state media began propagating new slogans in its review of the year.  In the wordy style typical of CCP-speak, it was proclaimed that “institutional advantage is the fundamental guarantee for the formation of great strength to overcome difficulties.” The fight against the coronavirus, an article in Xinhua argued, had …

Thai Politics in 2020: A Year in Review

In a country obsessed with oracles and fortune telling, few are more famous than one prophecy on Thailand’s political future. It has existed for years — some claim to have first read it in the 1980s — and continues to resurface periodically on the internet. Written as poetry, the prophecy predicted that as the ninth …

The US Showed the Importance of Institutional Resilience

During Thailand’s political crisis in 2013-14, US Secretary of State John Kerry was a frequent commentator. After violence occurred in February, Kerry declared: “Violence is not an acceptable means of resolving political differences. We are also concerned by the employment of other tactics that undermine Thailand’s democratic values and processes.”  In the wake of the …

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