Thai Culture: Two “Burning of Bangkok” books may spark interest in non-official “Thai History Narrative”

currently, Thai history books mentions the brief civil war last year-minus dead protesters

  • By Tammy, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist

There is a small cult in Thailand, call them history buffs.

And these are not the sort of cult that buys into the traditional narrative on Thai history, but they in fact, have deep rooted knowledge of actual events in Thai history, drawn from serious research.

The head of this cult is at the banned and charged with lese majeste, “Same Sky” publications. Reading it, one enter another historical layer or reality that helps explain the way Thailand is today.

But people who enjoy Same Sky is not widespread.

It takes an odd mentality to want to know things like, what exactly did this and that king did or how exactly did this and that king rose to power. Just imaging the Thai palace today and all its secrets, and that is just an indication of the kind of secrets Thai history has kept hidden from the average Thai.

Currently, in Thailand, there is 2 versions of who burned down parts of Bangkok during last year brief civil war. On one side, being the Red Shirts, there is a host of facts that points to the military doing the burning to justify the killing of the Red Shirts protesters. On the government and military side, there are also facts.

The bottom-line here, is that no-one really knows who did the burning of Bangkok. And there is no serious attempt to find out. All of it, has turned into a public relations war.

But the government is taking charged on the historical front.

First, in the past, Thai Intel had reported that school text books have depicted the red Shirts as doing the burning of Bangkok-see here. Then, Suthep, the deputy prime minister in charged of security who did the crackdown on the Red Shirts, wrote a book saying the Red Shirts are responsible. Then today, there is news that Suthep’s book will become a text book for students in Thailand.

The Red Shirts have responded by saying that they will also publish a book, pinning the responsibility on the government and the Thai military, and said, quote:

“The Red Shirts will organize protest in calling for students to destroy the book and tear off any mentioning of the Red Shirts burning Bangkok….We will protest even the education ministry.”

What is interesting is, to the most informed of Thais who are history buffs, they understand this type of situation very well. The text book in Thailand when it comes to history, is filled with official sanctioned narratives.

One famous Thai King before the rise of the current Chakri Dynasty for example, is depicted in the official narrative as having gone crazy, and thus the first Chakri King had to stepped in. That off course is a flat lie according to historical buffs in Thailand, who understands the rise of the Cakri Dynasty took root in something else, with many calling it mutiny.

How will the inclusion of an official narrative on the burning of Bangkok going into schools, with the prospect of Red Shirts protest and its own version of history impact the students and also the society at large?

Would Thai students learn to question what is given to them to read? Would that lead to the questioning of other text books? Would students and society become more curious of the un-official narrative?

A battle looms, and for the first time, it will be about history.

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