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Chanthaburi, Thailand, 2018
Chanthaburi, Thailand, 2018

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History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions, most often among neighbors, so every inch of every border has been fiercely fought over, for that’s how any population maintains its autonomy, integrity and identity. Plus, you need land to prosper so, often, you grab your neighbor’s when he’s weak. Everyone has done this. Everyone.

Peace, then, can only be achieved when you’re strong enough to defend your borders, and if you’re no longer willing to do this, then you’re already lost, conquered, and not necessarily by an external enemy.

Take Thailand. It has fought against China, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Malay state of Kedah, all of its neighbors, in short. After swallowing up Laos in the 18th century, it lost it to France in the 19th, and in 1941, Thailand surrendered to juggernaut Japan after only five hours of, uh, fighting. At least it wasn’t less than 45 minutes, which was how long it took the Sultanate of Zanzibar to raise the white flag to Great Britain. To be fair, the Sultan saw no reason to continue after the Brits had shelled his palace, instantly killing 500 troops and wrecking his beloved harem.

All countries have been built on war and conquest, and the bigger a nation, the more wars it has fought, so an empire, by definition, is a war machine, with many fighting until the homeland itself is incinerated. One is so possessed, however, it has eviscerated itself by waging endless war on behalf of a supposed vassal, and for this dog wagging tail, is threatening to blow up the entire world.

Pointing out such basics, I’m sometimes challenged by world-class nitwits who’ll say something like, “Well, China never invaded anybody. All the myriad tribes that make up present day China just couldn’t resist the allure of superior Han culture, so they became Chinese voluntarily. They demanded to be Chinese!” This echoes the colonel in Full Metal Jacket, “We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook, there is an American trying to get out!”

But surely, after seven decades of (war-filled) Pax Americana, everybody does want to be American, as witnessed by the pervasiveness of American culture worldwide, but this is merely cosmetic, I insist, to be scraped off in a blink. Traveling, Americans tend to gravitate towards the most Americanized pockets of whatever country, so they’re inclined to see foreigners only as touchingly degraded versions of themselves, and not as autonomous beings in an entirely separate universe.

Last week, I was in Chanthaburi, Thailand, population 28,000. In the middle of town, there’s a Robinson Mall, with a huge sign, almost entirely in English, advertising Tops Market, Super Sports, Power Buy, B2S, SFC Cinema, KFC, Swensens, Yayoi and MK Restaurants. With the exceptions of KFC and the Japanese Yayoi, however, the rest were Thai chains, and of the four movies shown, two were Thai, and two were American: Malila: the Farewell Flower, Thibaan the Series, Black Panther and Lady Bird. Wandering around, I spotted a bearded white guy on an ad, “DANCE / LOSE WEIGHT / CONTEST SEASON.” Wearing a red tank top, he had a green hula hoop, like a twirling halo, around his impressive love handles. Throughout the mall, most of the other models were also white, I can’t deny.

Beyond the mall, English was nearly nonexistent, however, and often bizarre, as in a roadside sign for a “MiniConcert” by “BOY PEACEMAKER.” Holding a cowboy hat, a cartoon cow had a speech bubble, “Hi.!” Bits of English lent hipness to caps and T-shirts. A 45-ish woman wore one with Sesame Street Muppets and, “REPRESENTING THE STREET.”

Showing up on clothing and even couple of trucks, the American flag was a popular decoration, and on Route 3, a dozen leather-clad guys pompously straddled Harleys.

All the Americanness, though, was extremely superficial, I repeat, for the social fabric of daily life, each second of it, remained deeply Thai. At no point did I feel like I was in nearby Vietnam, much less America, for its pace of life, tones of speech, modes of address and many other details, large and tiny, were all distinctively Thai, as they should be.

Take the wai, the Thai greeting of having hands pressed together, prayer-like, and bowing slightly. Most foreigners, especially tourists passing through, feel rather ridiculous doing this, so can’t be bothered, but that’s why we’re not Thais. They are.

Next to a public porch swing, there was a plugged-in boom box, so the amorous couple could play their cassettes.

Reminiscent of the Japanese fondness for kawaii, cute figurines stood outside temples, stores or even bathrooms, as in a bare-chested, chubby and smiling guy performing a wai.

Sampling a few lurid streets in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket or Chiang Mai, foreigners come home with tales of live sex on stage and ladyboys, but Thailand is no more of a brothel than the Netherlands, although each Dutch city, not just Amsterdam, has its red-light district. Most Thais are conservative, rural people, and during my visit to Namtok Phlio National Park, all the female swimmers were well-covered, except one, a young blonde whose barely there bottom revealed most of her cheeks.

Since 1912, Thailand has had 21 coups d’état and 29 prime ministers, so that’s a lot of turbulence, but it has not suffered any foreign occupation, civil war or mass imposition of an alien psychosis, such as Communism. Its twin pillars have been the monarchy and a brand of Buddhism that includes the worship of Phra Phrom, a version of the four-faced Hindu god, Brahma. Inside India, there are almost no shrines to this deity, but they are all over Thailand, with the one outside Bangkok’s Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel making world news when a bomb near it exploded in 2015, killing 20 and injuring 125. No one has been charged.

Inside several Chanthaburi shops, I spotted two hanging pieces of paper, with writing, lay out in curious patterns, and a vertical alligator. These weren’t cutesy decorations, but deadly serious talismans, there to ward off evil and reel in good fortune.

Anyone who has visited a Thai restaurant anywhere is likely to have seen a framed photo of King Bhumibol. Ruling for 70 years, he died with a fortune of $30 billion, the most of any royal worldwide. In Bangkok, Chonburi, Rayong and Chanthaburi, I saw his likeness everywhere. Since it’s illegal to criticize the king in Thailand, of course you’ll only see adulation, but still, no one is coerced into displaying ten images of Bhumibol on a wall, such as I saw in a small store.

My Thai beer buddy, Somchai, said that Bhumibol was deeply concerned about agriculture. He investigated different types of rice, introduced new methods of growing it and visited farmers regularly to hear their concerns. The king even invented the chaipattana aerator. A low-cost buoy with propellers that oxygenates bodies of water, it’s in use all over Thailand. Thai agriculture was revolutionized by Bhumibol, Somchai stressed. Packing and exporting longans, my friend and his wife own two cars and have two daughters in college. Thailand’s per capita income is fourth highest in Southeast Asia, behind only Singapore, Malaysia and oil-rich Brunei.

Bhumibol’s detractors can point to his association with a series of military strongmen and implicit endorsement of coups against elected leaders. Anti-democratic mobs wear yellow shirts to show their loyalty to the king.

ORDER IT NOW

Born in Cambridge, MA, Bhumibol spent most of his youth in Switzerland. At 18, he became king only after his older brother had died, from a bullet that may have been fired by Bhumibol himself, accidentally. This incident resulted in the wrongful convictions, then executions, of two hapless pages and a senator, plus the permanent expulsion of a prominent leftist, Pridi Banomyong, from Thai politics. With a love for Bach, jazz, ballet, fast cars, yachting and Paris, the thoroughly Westernized Bhumibol was reluctant to leave Europe, so it took him nearly four years to return to Bangkok to cremate his brother and be crowned, in elaborate ceremonies fraught with occult meanings.

Ignoring the taboo of never looking down on a king’s head, American journalists at the coronation climbed on trees to get better shots, and one caused great offense when he loudly snapped his fingers, during a moment of silence, to get Bhumibol’s attention. As a photography aficionado, perhaps the Divine Feet, Supremacy, Divine, Highest Indra, Great, Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power, Overlord of the Land, Overlord Rama, Overlord of Mankind from Chakri, Siamese Ruler, the Overlord, Supreme Holy Shelter understood and forgave these simian antics.

In East Asia, you just don’t touch an adult’s head or buttocks, but if a Japanese or Korean plays in the Major Leagues, then he’ll just have to accept being gayly patted by his teammates episodically. Perhaps the ultimate insult to Thai heads was delivered by the French, when they occupied Chanthaburi from 1893 to 1905. The mirthful Gauls built a jail with a chicken coup over it, and Chicken Shit Prison can still be seen today, just down the street from a 7-Eleven.

Chanthaburi’s most beautiful building is a shrine to King Taksin (1734-82). Born to a Chinese father and Thai mother, he led an army to kick out the Burmese, restored the Thai nation and declared himself king. During a 15-year reign, Taksin fed the poor, dug canals, encouraged Chinese immigration, built up seaports, fostered international trades, snuffed out rebellions, invaded Laos, then finally went mad by declaring himself an incipient Buddha. By meditating and fasting, Taksin believed he could soon fly and turn his blood white. He gave religious lectures to monks, demanded that they worshipped him and flogged those who refused. Capriciously, Taksin jailed or tortured hundreds of other innocents.

Finally, a palace coup eliminated Taksin, and he was either decapitated or placed in a velvet sack and clubbed to death, since royal blood, red or white, should never touch the ground. A third version claims some poor replacement was bagged, so Taksin simply hightailed it to the Himalayas and dwelt in some stinking cave until he kicked the slop bucket at the overripe age of 80.

Around Chanthaburi, I also saw Taksin worshipped in homes and businesses, so Thai still revere this long-dead king for his many contributions to the Thai nation, just as they do with Bhumibol, for their accomplishments far outweigh their flaws.

In late 2014, an 81-year-old historian, Surak Sivarak, was charged with insulting a 16th century king, Naresuan, when he suggested that the long-cherished story of Naresuan’s victory over a Burmese king in an elephant duel is likely nonsense. I’m surprised Sivarak wasn’t put on trial for defaming the elephant, Chao Praya Prabhongsawadee, as well. Thanks to the mercy of Thailand’s new king, the infamously crop top-wearing Vajiralongkorn, all charges were dropped in January of 2018, however.

Naresuan is the subject of a series of six over-the-top films, released in theaters over a nine-year period. The elephant duel alone has its own film.

Thais don’t want anybody to chip at their heroes, in short. What a contrast this is to the USA, whose inhabitants are conditioned to doubt, sneer at or tear down all their great men, except one, Martin Luther King. The very concept has become risible. Quite tellingly, one of my commenters has this as her tagline, “Behind every great man is me rolling my eyes and doing the jerkoff motion.”

Linh Dinh’s latest books are Postcards from the End of America (non-fiction) and A Mere Rica (poetry). He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Thailand 
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  1. Robinsons stores is a major corporation in the Philippines. I did not know they expanded to Thailand, nor is Mr. Dinh aware an English name does not mean a company is Western.

    I’ve read the simple solution to poverty in Asia is — potatoes. They are more nutritious than rice , much easier to grow and harvest, and do not require lots of fresh water. They don’t stick to dishes when dry like glue either!

  2. Topolcats says:

    I wish this Viet guy would get his facts right!…It is completely loopy. Example, he writes: Take Thailand. It has fought against China, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Malay state of Kedah, all of its neighbors, in short. After swallowing up Laos in the 18th century, it lost it to France in the 19th, and in 1941, Thailand surrendered to juggernaut Japan after only five hours of, uh, fighting.

    Reply: Thailand in World War II officially adopted a position of neutrality until it was invaded by Japan in December 1941. At the start of the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire pressured the Thai government to allow the passage of Japanese troops to invade British-held Malaya and Burma. The Thai government under (known simply as Phibun) considered it preferable to co-operate with the Japanese rather than fight them. Axis-aligned Thailand declared war on the United States and Britain and annexed territories in neighbouring countries Thailand retained control of its armed forces and internal affairs. THIS IS NOT A SURRENDER.

    Secondly the misinformed writer wrote: there are almost no shrines to this deity, but they are all over Thailand, with the one outside Bangkok’s Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel making world news when a bomb near it exploded in 2015, killing 20 and injuring 125. No one has been charged.
    Reply: Yes suspects have been caught and charged. There are 3 suspect awaiting trail including one woman. On Nov 22, 2017 – Wanna Suansan, a suspect in the deadly 2015 Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok. Also Adem Karadag the main suspect was arrested in 2016 as well as one other person.
    With more suspects on the way.

    This whole article is just a piece of ill informed commentaries with have no real relation to Thailand.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Biff
    , @Karl
    , @JNarbo
  3. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Carlton Meyer

    Surely you can understand this sentence, “With the exceptions of KFC and the Japanese Yayoi, however, the rest were Thai chains.”

    Translation: “Only KFC was Western,” I said.

    As for Robinson, it’s a Thai chain. Wikipedia:

    Robinson Department Store (Thai: ห้างสรรพสินค้าโรบินสัน) is a Thai department store chain. It was established in 1979 and was merged with Central Group in 1995. It is positioned as a mid-market retailer.

  4. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Topolcats

    If you are saying there was no fighting between Japan and Thailand before the latter sued for peace, then you’re the ill-informed one. Attacked, Thailand quickly surrendered to all of Japan’s demands.

    • Replies: @Topolcats
  5. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Please post a link where it says the Thais surrendered to the Japanese. The Facts are they did not surrender the Thais agreed on a compromise solution.

    The Thai government under Plaek Phibunsongkhram (known simply as Phibun) considered it preferable to co-operate with the Japanese rather than fight them. Axis-aligned Thailand declared war on the United States and Britain and annexed territories in neighbouring countries, expanding to the north, south, and east, gaining a border with China near Kengtung.[1]

    Thailand retained control of its armed forces and internal affairs. The Japanese policy on Thailand differed from their relationship with the puppet state of Manchukuo. Japan intended bilateral relationships similar to those between Nazi Germany and Finland, Bulgaria, and Romania.[2] However Thailand at that time has been labelled by both the Japanese and the Allies as the “Italy of Asia”

    ……Did Italy also surrender to the Nazis or where they allies! Get your facts right [email protected]

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  6. Topolcats says:

    Meanwhile the Thai government had split into two factions, the Phibun regime and a well-organised, pro-Allied resistance movement that eventually numbered around 90,000 Thai guerrillas,[5] supported by government officials allied to the regent Pridi Banomyong. The movement was active from 1942, resisting the Phibun regime and the Japanese. The partisans provided espionage services to the Allies, performed some sabotage activities, and helped engineer Phibun’s downfall in 1944. After the war, Thailand received little punishment for its wartime role under Phibun.

    Thailand suffered about 5,569 military dead during the war, almost entirely due to disease. Deaths in combat included 150 in the Shan States, 180 on December 8 1941 (the day of both the brief Japanese invasion

  7. Topolcats says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    Robinsons Thailand is simply a building.
    Every part of this center is subcontracted to traders for rent….No actual trading is done by Robinsons they are simply a landlord.

    Not sure if this Thai Robinson is connected to the PH?
    I do however suspect Robinsons Manila does trade products, unlike the Thai version.

  8. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Topolcats

    You’re piling on details to skirt around the fact that my central contention is correct, that Thailand yielded to all of Japan’s demands after a few hours of fighting.

    If I club your head, and you yell, “Stop, boss, I’ll do whatever you say,” it’s a surrender.

    Wikipedia:

    The Japanese invasion of Thailand occurred on 8 December 1941, it was briefly fought between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Empire of Japan. Despite fierce fighting in southern Thailand, the Thai government sued for peace within 5 hours.

    Are you actually saying Thailand was an axis power, similar to Italy?!

  9. gruff says:

    “We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook, there is an American trying to get out!”

    In other words, no nigger ever called me Vietnamese.

    • Replies: @Weaver1
  10. Weaver1 says:

    Linh Dinh,

    The US should be seen as akin to Bolshevik Russia or Revolutionary France.

    The dominant spirit is to “progress beyond” what our ancestors held sacred – and to unite against those who resist this. Also, we’ve grown soft, and war is so shockingly destructive that Europeans have taken to believing in “more Enlightened” alternatives to a non-globalist reality (aka sanity).

    -

    South Korea has, I assume, become somewhat PC (passed a civil rights bill), so I expect Cambodians and Thai could see the same PC disease spread, with foreigners and minorities accusing you of being “racist” for not tearing down your/Thai culture and heroes.

    War isn’t the only means the US has of influencing you, and the issue is also structural. Capitalism, as well as the “managerial state” (James Burnham), both tend to want expansion. And expansion requires that Cambodia, Thailand, every place be consumed. Such is not to assert everyone is doomed, only that there is both intentional pressure and structural pressure.

    Japan’s borders are more definable than others’, but there are pressures for Japan to become non-Japanese. Japan hasn’t yet caved.

    Here’s the SK bill (which might not even be significant): https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/11/06/south-korea-anti-discrimination-bill-excludes-many

  11. Weaver1 says:
    @gruff

    I’d translate it to mean: The Baizuo, White Left, believe all the world wants to become white Leftists. As wealth increases, everyone will become the Left, and nationalism, religion, and localism will become plastic and meaningless, amusing relics of the past.

    It’s akin to GK Chesterton’s Napoleon of Notting Hill, which has a sort of similar theme, though Chesterton is of course championing the meaningful localism/nationalism, religion, etc. that people fight over.

  12. Excal says:

    “What a contrast this is to the USA, whose inhabitants are conditioned to doubt, sneer at or tear down all their great men, except one, Martin Luther King.”

    Abraham Lincoln is similarly untouchable — for now.

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  13. AKAHorace says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Topolcats is being a bit obsessive about this, perhaps more so than the Thais themselves were during the second war.

    From what I have heard from Thais it was difficult to figure out what Thailand’s role in the war was. The Thais had both a victory parade celebrating their victory in the war and they also had to pay reparations. Given the situation that Thailand was in, ambiguity was a smart choice.

  14. Wally says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I’m afraid Topolcats has you, stop weaseling

    Did Thailand declare war on the US & Britain?
    Yes or no.

    He did not say say Thailand was like Italy. No strawmen, please.
    Thailand did actively & substantially assist the Japanese.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  15. Tbbh says:

    But not all americans gravitate towards american parts of other nations. Friend lives in a small town in northern Thailand where he and a CIA agent are the only americans around, outside of the occasional backpacker passing through. He retired there on purpose, as he likes the area and people. Had initially been there as an exploration geologist late 80s and liked it so much he went back and nailed his feet to the ground on retirement. Has a nice little house he can’t actually own (non-citizens can’t own real property), great fishing, nice natives, and no americans. His idea of heaven.

    BTW: I liked Love Like Hate, as did family, as I passed it on when I was done.

  16. Biff says:

    Most Thais are conservative,

    Nails it. Most Americans I know have a view of Thailand that has been shaped by their media(like practically everything, including themselves). And of course that means aspects that get emotions stirred up such as sex, and red light districts. Unlike Las Vegas where the sex industry advertising is in your face; in Thailand there is no advertising, and you have to know where to go to find it. Hint: follow the tourists.
    Once you’re in the district, of course there is advertising, but outside things remain conservative, but remember, there is no such thing as a sin in a Bhuddist Country.

    Animals. Nothing gets the SJW stirred up more than animal rights. Thailand has elephants – lots of elephants, and it may not be hard for a western journalist to find one living in not so spectacular conditions, and when seen by a western audience it translates into ALL THAIS ABUSE ELEPHANTS. Conversely, it is not hard to find an American abusing a dog – doesn’t mean they all do it, but when you’re talking about “the other” stereotypes will have to do.

    Bhuddist proverb for the day:
    “Everything in moderation including moderation”

  17. Tbbh says:

    @Linh Dinh

    Got out the address book to see where amigo retired. Nakhon Phanom. He was a farm kid before he was a geologist and likes to fish. Says the area is perfect for his sort. I aim to go visit one day. He’s sent me pics of some of his catfish catches. Amazing.

  18. Biff says:

    History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions, most often among neighbors, so every inch of every border has been fiercely fought over, for that’s how any population maintains its autonomy, integrity and identity. Plus, you need land to prosper so, often, you grab your neighbor’s when he’s weak. Everyone has done this. Everyone.

    Peace, then, can only be achieved when you’re strong enough to defend your borders, and if you’re no longer willing to do this, then you’re already lost, conquered, and not necessarily by an external enemy.

    Which is why only Thais can own property in Thailand. Land deeds are only written in Thai. Sorry SJW’s, no equal rights in Thailand. Sorry criminal corporate conglomerate, no equal rights. Sorry shock doctrine bottom feeders, no equal rights. Sorry criminal corporate lawyers, no equal rights.

  19. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I understand your embarrassment for being outed as fraudulent not only in erroneously writing no suspects were caught and changed in relation to the Erawan bombing. At least you were not trying to argue the point. You now say WRONGLY that Thailand surrendered to the Japanese, then now you are trying semantics con by saying:
    “You are piling on details to skirt around the fact that my central contention is correct, that Thailand yielded to all of Japan’s demands after a few hours of fighting. If I club your head, and you yell, “Stop, boss, I’ll do whatever you say”, it’s a surrender. Originally, you wrote: Thailand surrendered to juggernaut Japan after only five hours of, uh, fighting.

    Reply: Actually the operative word is Armistice which means “an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce”. Surrender in the context of war means the action of surrendering to an opponent & laying down arms and occupation. That never happened Japan invaded Thailand in 8 Dec 1941. The Thai military had orders to stop fighting on the 8th. Because Thailand wanted to support Japan, as did Aung San in Burma. The Japanese were a little too aggressive & impatient when they did not get the OK from Phibun prior to the Jap offensive.

    The Armistice was signed 21 December 1941. On 31 December 1941, an amended Armistice then became a mutual offensive-defensive alliance pact between the two countries and was signed. These facts do not sound like surrender but a partnership. Since Japan was using the country as a staging area for its invasions of both Malaya and Burma, Allied planes began bombing raids on the Thai capital city of Bangkok. With this added pressure, the Phibun Government decided to declare war on the Allies.

    Secondly, the Thai’s fought bravely and the Japans in this short time lost many more men than the Thai armed forces. During the early hours of 8 December, A further clash occurred at Hat Yai. The Thais lost 15 dead (8 KIA from 41st Inf. Bat. and 7 from the 5th Inf. bat.) and 30-55 wounded. Fighting was everywhere until the the fighting ceased at noon when orders for an armistice to be arranged was received.

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  20. Topolcats says:

    You wrote: Most Thais are conservative, rural people, and during my visit to Namtok Phlio National Park, all the female swimmers were well-covered, except one, a young blonde whose barely there bottom revealed most of her cheeks.

    Reply: Thais girls (like Chinese) both rural and central have a phobia about getting “Sunburnt”, thus they are well covered to ensure that their skin does not burn. Modesty in public maybe?
    However, farms girls conservative? Most of these rural farm girls like in (Vietnam, Philippines) go to Bangkok to join the sex scene. Is that being conservative? Hmm Thai farms are rough diamonds in real life.

    Secondly, to suggest most Thais are rural people is extremely insulting to central Thai people.
    If you are in Bangkok and want to die? Try telling Bangkok Thais are mostly rural people!
    The biggest and I mean the biggest insult you can say to a Bangkok central Thai is that she a buffalo herder and a rural rice farmer. I guess you have never heard of the violent battles between Rural Thais called the red shirts and Central Bangkok Thais called the yellow shirts.

    Although I agree with you, the Thai sex scene is no greater, than say Germany or the real home of worldwide prostitution the Philippines

  21. Thais don’t want anybody to chip at their heroes, in short. What a contrast this is to the USA, whose inhabitants are conditioned to doubt, sneer at or tear down all their great men, except one, Martin Luther King. The very concept has become risible. Quite tellingly, one of my commenters has this as her tagline, “Behind every great man is me rolling my eyes and doing the jerkoff motion.”

    In modern day America, our “Great Men” are pro-athletes, music stars, and celebrities.

    Tom Brady
    Peyton Manning
    Kobe Bryant
    Lebron James
    Jay Z
    Justin Timberlake
    Kim Kardashian
    Adele
    Justin Bieber
    “Caitlyn” Jenner
    Ben Affleck

    Those are our “Great Men.”

    Try “tearing down” Jenner, Beyonce, Adele, or Justin Bieber. You’ll be assailed by our media and mobs of irate Twitterers.

    Both Americans and Thais deify their “Great Men.” The only difference is who they select for “Greatness.” In Thailand, the population revere past rulers who built their country up. In America, the population revere men who throw around footballs.

    Thais deify their “Great Men” by building shrines. We deify our “Great Men” by adorning our homes, offices, and cars with sports memorabilia…….. and by wearing $100 jerseys.

    Try going to any bar and insulting “sports heroes” such as your local NFL quarterback. You’ll probably end up getting your rear end kicked. The average American loves his NFL QB the way the average Thai loves his country’s past kings.

    • Replies: @Stonehands
  22. Anonymous[989] • Disclaimer says:

    Linh Dinh, I feel you’re only just scratching the surface. Why don’t you spend a few months in Thailand, learn some Thai language, and then tell us what you find? It’s a beautiful country and there must be so much of interest that foreigners like myself are oblivious to.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Topolcats
  23. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Wally

    It’s you who’s dragging out strawmen. I never said anything about Thailand’s role in World War II. All I said was they surrendered quickly after being attacked by Japan.

    • Replies: @Wally
  24. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Topolcats

    This, my strident friend, is most insulting, “Most of these rural farm girls like in (Vietnam, Philippines) go to Bangkok to join the sex scene.” Try saying that, face-to-face, to any Thai, Vietnamese or Filipino.

  25. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Anonymous

    If you feel like bankrolling me for a few months in Thailand, please do so! I do what I can within my limited means. I have to be most resourceful to even travel as much as I do.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  26. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Topolcats

    I guess you have never heard of the violent battles between Rural Thais called the red shirts and Central Bangkok Thais called the yellow shirts.

    You should learn how to read better, and stop guessing. Right above, I wrote:

    Anti-democratic mobs wear yellow shirts to show their loyalty to the king.

    I’m guessing you’re a half-educated Thai snob.

    • Replies: @Topolcats
    , @Topolcats
  27. mp says:

    …whose inhabitants are conditioned to doubt, sneer at or tear down all their great men, except one, Martin Luther King.

    Not all. Everyone of public school age knows that Lincoln is the number two man in American history. After all, Lincoln laid the groundwork for MLK to free the slaves. So he gets the silver, and some props.

  28. History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions…

    It is?

    Anyway, another good article despite the lame beginning.

    And ending.

    What a contrast this is to the USA, whose inhabitants are conditioned to doubt, sneer at or tear down all their great men, except one, Martin Luther King.

    There are precious few great men, and they are mostly unknown or ignored or worse. The ones advertised as “great” are generally far from it, and are usually statists. Therein dwells a clue…

  29. @Excal

    Abraham Lincoln is similarly untouchable — for now.

    True.

    And unfortunate, since the real Lincoln has been known for some time.

    Even the would be Lincoln hagiographer, and US hyper-imperialist, the flag waving US Senator, Albert J. Beveridge was shocked at what he found when he began researching his boyhood hero, Lincoln. Most of what he “knew” was campaign rhetoric and outright fabrication.

    “The more research that Beveridge did the more disgusted he became with the “slush and rot” that had been—and was being—written about Lincoln. There were a few exceptions.

    http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/25.2/braeman.html

    *” Slush and rot” is from…
    Beveridge to Ford, December 28, 1922

    • Replies: @Excal
  30. AKAHorace says:
    @Topolcats

    Most prostitutes in Thailand work for the local market and do not go with foreigners. Visiting whorehouses is something that a lot of Thai men do, well into middle age.

    • Replies: @Topolcats
  31. ” History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions, ”

    Weird idea.
    Huizinga’s famous book The Waning of the Middle Ages is not at all about wars, it is about how medieval thought already contained renaissance ideas.
    There was no sudden change.
    There also is Barbara Tuchman The Calamitous 14th Century, describing how during this period full of wars most people led peaceful lives.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  32. Topolcats says:
    @AKAHorace

    [email protected] what you say has a lot of truth. The whole concept in Thai society of Minio-second wife or Geek-casual but semi permanent sex partner is true in Thai society. And Yes Bangkok Thai (white skinned mostly) often if they are good enough do not go with foreigners/Farangs.

    On the other side of the spectrum you get brown skinned farms girls from Issan and Loa that do for the most part have a foreigner client base…WHY?
    Answer:
    Because sadly Thai middle class and certainly upper class with not accept a marriage of a Thai middle class to a darker skinned farm girl from rural Issan. That’s not my thinking but it is reality.

    What choice does the average Issan or Loa girl have?..Not much except to hook a farang and hope for a better life.

  33. Love your work. I used to live south of Philly, but now I’ve been Chemnitz for 2 years. I go to Leipzig sometimes on weekend.

    Do they need another white guy in Vietnam or SE Asia in general? It sounds interesting.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Triumph104
  34. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I am not Thai, but live in Thailand some parts of the year from many many years and know Thailand well unlike yourself!
    You wrote: Anti-democratic mobs wear yellow shirts to show their loyalty to the king.
    Reply:
    To some degree Yes…But the real reason is the demarkation and human frailty of Thai culture which has a deep racist element!

    But I assume that is much much to complex for a simpleminded tourists like yourself who visits thailand…Know nothing about Thailan and pretends to know all about a country! LOL

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  35. @Linh Dinh

    In the USA, that weird country, on the one hand sex is seen as a sin, on the other naked girls dancing in bars are nothing special, even we Dutch are shocked, and the porn producer is the USA.
    Richard Feynman, when tired of science, quite often went to bars where naked girls danced, and sketched them.

    Who ever visited Pompei and its brothel, can see that quite different ideas about sex existed.
    The prudent west, Italy in this case, just this year opened the Pompei porn museum for the public, it has been there since 1900 or so.

    How prostitution was regulated in France, with permits and regular checks on venereal diseases, until a few decades ago, also seems to be unknown.
    It was more or less common from girls from the provinces to earn money there, enough for returning home and set up some kind of respectable business.

    The idiotic christian attitude on sex even exists today, the pope condemning condoms, thereby condemning many to aids.
    Then there exists, or existed, among blacks the extended family.
    The mothers were important, the fathers not at all.

    It is again the arrogant and weird western idea, that western values and human rights ideas should be accepted by anyone on this planet.
    This western idea also is very hypocritical, as we again see right now, Israelis killing the inmates of the Gaza concentration camp.

  36. Anonymous[989] • Disclaimer says:
    @Linh Dinh

    haha if I had the means, I think I would take you up on that offer! Unfortunately I’m as poor as you are.

  37. @Topolcats

    Thais girls (like Chinese) both rural and central have a phobia about getting “Sunburnt”, thus they are well covered to ensure that their skin does not burn.

    Not only Thais and Chinese, but many others from sun-drenched lands and it’s more than an aversion to becoming dark skinned, which is associated with lower class field workers, but an obsession with being white skinned since that’s associated with being a member of the pampered upper (ruling) classes. They even go so far as to bleach their skin with various chemicals sold for the purpose.

    • Replies: @Topolcats
  38. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Topolcats

    If you weren’t so insecure, you wouldn’t have to be so belligerent in asserting your pseudo knowledge. There is a genre called travel writing, you moron, and in this piece, I’m raising a handful of key issues that have import way beyond Thailand, none of which you’ve touched on, so busy as you are to flaunt your pseudo expertise on Thailand. Though this piece is not about sex, you’re going on and on about sex, so I’m presuming you’re a sexpat?

    • Replies: @Topolcats
  39. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Chemnitzer

    Hi Chemnitzer,

    As a white guy, you can always get a job here teaching English. It all depends on how well you can adjust to life here. In many ways, Vietnam is the exact opposite of Germany.

    Being in Chemnitz, you must run down to the Czech Republic quite a bit, I assume. I love that country and its beer culture. Wish I had spent more time there. Czechs are lovely.

    Linh

    • Replies: @jilles dykstra
  40. DB Cooper says:

    “All the myriad tribes that make up present day China just couldn’t resist the allure of superior Han culture, so they became Chinese voluntarily.”

    By and large this is true. The process of organic coeasing has been ongoing for thousands of years. Contrary to conventional wisdom Han culture has a very weak sense of ethno-nationalism, probably due to the Confucius teaching of ‘All men within four seas are brothers’. The written language itself helps too because it is not phonetic based so it can be readily adopted by people speaking different language. America didn’t invent this melting pot thing, China did, not by design of course.

    The allegation that the bigger the country the more it invades is demonstrably not true. If that is the case England would be one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Because of its size some China’s neighbors never tried of playing this victimhood game vis a vis China. Even India, the Raj wannabe bad boy that has invaded every single of its neighbors including China play its victimhood card against China, nevermind that Tawang and South Tibet is still under India occupation since 1951 as we speak.

    Vietnam is no victim and has been a bully towards its smaller neighbors. Thanks God there is a China sitting on top of Vietnam to give Vietnam a periodic spanking if needed and this is one of the reasons Vietnam’s neighbors like China so much!

    By the way who is the biggest aggressor in the South China Sea? Vietnam hands down!

    https://thediplomat.com/2015/06/who-is-the-biggest-aggressor-in-the-south-china-sea/

    • Replies: @Escher
  41. @Linh Dinh

    How these lovely Tsjechs looked down on Slovaks, and discriminated Germans, the country did not split up for nothing ‘Slovaks are stupid farmers’, on the discrimination of Germans that ran their industries
    Fritz Peter Habel, ´Die Sudeten-Deutschen’, 1992, 2002, München
    ´Als die Deutschen weg waren, Was nach der Vertreibung geschah: Ostpreussen, Schlesien, Sudetenland’, 2005, 2007, Reinbek, Adrian von Arburg, Wlodzimierz Borodziej, Jurij Kostjaschow, Ulla Lachauer, Hand-Dieter Rutsch, Beate Schlanstein, Christian Schulz
    From memory, it was the British diplomat Runciman who around 1938 investigated in Tsjechoslovakia, and concluded that the discrimination was real.
    In case you do not command any foreign language, read
    Alice Teichowa, ‘An economic background to Munich, International business and Chechoslovakia, 1918- 1938′, London 1974
    The same story about the lovely Tsjechs.
    How authors can make the most idiotic assertions about things they obviously do not have a clue about, beyond my comprehension.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Linh Dinh
  42. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @jilles dykstra

    Everyone discriminates, you babbling moron!

    • Replies: @jacques sheete
  43. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @jilles dykstra

    For the record, I also find Germans lovely. Do you have a problem with that?

  44. @Linh Dinh

    Ummm, sorry to intrude on an interpersonal squabble, but he was talking about a specific form of discrimination, i.e., that against Germans and Slovaks, and he obviously never intended to deny that everyone discriminates so your comment is a strawman. Also, is it an example of “anomie” to label him a babbling moron, or what?

    Besides, we’re all morons to one degree or another, and there are plenty of scribbling ones, to be sure.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  45. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Thailand was an ally of Japan during WW2. They were, in fact, an Axis power.

    Even before WW2, Thailand was a fascist country modeled after Italy with plans for territorial expansion. After the Germans defeated France, the Thais declared war on Vichy France and fought the French in the Franco-Thai War. The aim of this war was to regain territory lost to the French. The Thais won this war. The Victory Monument in Bangkok still stands today as a reminder of this.

    Japan involved themselves in the peace negotiations between France and Thailand and during this time an agreement between Phibun and Japan was made to allow Japanese troop movement through Thailand during the planned invasion of Malaysia. This was just a verbal agreement and Phibun took an official stance of neutrality so as to not inflame Britain. When Japan invaded Thailand, they did so with the intent of passing through the country, not conquering Thailand. There was confusion and the military command was unsure of what was happening and wasn’t able to reach Phibun. Fighting was halted after 5 hours.

    After the fall of Singapore, Thailand officially allied with Japan. Thailand was given possession of the northern Malay states, which they invaded and held. Thailand also independently invaded the Shan states of Burma and defeated the Chinese and British colonial troops in the region. This area was also annexed by Thailand.

    After the end of WW2, Thailand quickly gave back all the territories that had been annexed. They appealed for forgiveness, claiming that they hand their hand forced by the Japanese. This wasn’t true, but it became the narrative, which is why today many outside of Thailand still claim that the Thais were defeated by the Japanese.

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  46. In East Asia, you just don’t touch an adult’s head or buttocks, but if a Japanese or Korean plays in the Major Leagues, then he’ll just have to accept being gayly patted by his teammates episodically.

    I’m no fan of touching men’s butts either, it is commendable of the Thais to shun such things.

    But before attributing such sense to asians generally, perhaps you weren’t aware that kancho is far worse.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanch%C5%8D

    http://www.kancho.org/about.html

  47. @Linh Dinh

    In my personal experience, this is correct. I had three shore liberties in Patong Beach, Thailand, and my observation was that about 95% of the local females made themselves available for sex for hire. I met up with one young lady who spoke very good English, who’s family lived on a farm somewhere in central Thailand. There was no offense taken by females who were propositioned, as they don’t assign morality to sexual intercourse the same way the West pretends to.

    • Replies: @Karl
  48. @Chemnitzer

    The beauty of SE Asian countries is that most allow foreigners to stay long-term whether they are needed or not. You simply have to be self-supporting. Visa rules vary widely by country — your nationality, or being over 50, or married to a local, or receiving a pension can make it even easier to settle. Pick a few countries and see which ones will let you stay with the least amount of hassles.

  49. @Carlton Meyer

    This only applies to WHTIE RICE, which is stripped of fiber and nutrients. Brown rice beats a whole baked potato in almost every category, save calcium, I believe. White rice is like white bread, relatively tasteless and just starch. There are other types of rice, e.g., basmati, Japanese Sushi Rice, and other variations. The American hybrid, “long grain white rice”, is garbage like Kellogg cereal.

    • Replies: @Karl
  50. At 18, he became king only after his older brother had died, from a bullet that may have been fired by Bhumibol himself, accidentally.

    It is rumored that the former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, shot and killed his younger brother.

    In East Asia, you just don’t touch an adult’s head or buttocks

    In Japan and South Korea, it is common for children to stick their fingers up the behinds of adults. Countless foreign English teachers have been assaulted in this manner. The act is called kancho in Japan and ddong chim in South Korea.

  51. @Suntorn

    They appealed for forgiveness, claiming that they hand their hand forced by the Japanese. This wasn’t true, but it became the narrative, which is why today many outside of Thailand still claim that the Thais were defeated by the Japanese.

    How do you know it wasn’t true? This would be very hard to nail down as beyond doubt. History is looking at something that happened with a foggy, scratchy and frequently distorted lens. I believe that you and others would be better advised to use qualifiers such as “I believe…” or “It seems…” rather than just state outright what you do not completely know and cannot prove.

    Linh made a simple statement backed up by a reference. What have you got?

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  52. @Topolcats

    You are trying to hard to impress, of which I am not. For such a strident tone and denotation I see no references, not even second hand information from a friend, family member, documents, interviews.
    In other words, for a guy like me who made decisions involving large physical projects, millions of dollars and the very lives of people, I know what verification and reality are, and the channels into which information is judge reliable.

    I would say to you, like a crummy rock band of little quality and artistry, you have compensated by using noxious extreme volume rather than sourced material of any quality. Ho hum. Humbug.

    • Replies: @Topolcats
  53. Excal says:
    @jacques sheete

    Thanks for that article by Braeman. It seems no longer to be available there, but it can be read on Wayback:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20060622113029/http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/25.2/braeman.html

    According to Braeman, Beveridge was correct in saying that there was a great deal of nonsense written about Lincoln; but when he cleared it away, he still didn’t arrive at a clear picture of the man. Lincoln seems to be a difficult study, due to the complexity of his personality.

    If Lincoln statues are ever torn down — and I’m not looking for that any time soon — I don’t think it will be over dark scandals: there seem to not have been any (although the circumstances of his murder are very curious indeed). It will begin with the fact that he was Anglo.

    As everyone knows by now, any number of flimsy and meaningless arguments can be dreamt up to support the toppling of anyone. It’s the winners who write history, after all.

  54. Some fun:

    From my lived 30 years in Berlin perspective:

    I found most South East Asians fairly easy to get along with, unless they were Cambodians and you just assumed them to be Vietnamese because most generic asian restaurants in Berlin are run by Vietnamese and they typically find it nice if you say “Xin Chao” to them. Definitly cuts down on delivery times.

    Well yeah, those were actually Cambodians and damn the stares I got were pretty cold.

    From what I get, the Viets and Thai in Berlin get along with each other (they disagree on who is the proper overlord of Cambodia and Laos, but are in full agreement that both Cambodia and Laos need some “paternal or brotherly” guidance).

    Laotians are perhaps more pro Chinese because being a vasall to a large somewhat distant power which has better/more important things to do then to interfere with your daily lifes beats being the sole vasall of a medium power next door.

  55. AaronB says:

    I see this thread has brought out all the Thai nationalists :)

    It’s one of the funniest and most ridiculous things I used to run into when I did business for my company in Thailand.

    Thailand is a fantastic and funky little country with lots of atmosphere and fantastic people, but one of the most absurd things about it is the touchy and sensitive inferiority/superiority complex. To be fair, all such complexes make people silly…but Thailand, of all places! I mean, how oblivious can you be already about your place in the world… :)

    Be careful, Lin Dinh. You’re gonna run into this a lot! Smile a lot and go along.

    Thailand has every reason to be happy and satisfied with itself without these silly little fantasies and absurd self-comparisons with East Asian and European countries….

    Bangkok is an even more fascinating city than Saigon, you’ll love your long random walks through weird neighborhoods…I used to do that all the time. Indian cultural influences are more obvious than in Vietnam and you end up in these random bazaar like neighborhoods with statues to Hindu gods..

    The street food is probably best in the region, if not the world…

    Haven’t been there in ages, I’m due for a tour of Asia….

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  56. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @jacques sheete

    No, he went apeshit over my finding Czechs a “lovely people,” made to someone currently living in Chemnitz, near the Czech border. Citing the fact that Czechs discriminate against Slovaks and Germans, he frothed at the mouth that I could possibly find Czechs lovely, “How authors can make the most idiotic assertions about things they obviously do not have a clue about, beyond my comprehension.” If I had said that Czechs do not discriminate, then that would be “idiotic,” but I said no such thing. If to discriminate disqualifies any population from being called “lovely,” then none would make the grade. Understand?

  57. loved it..laughed out loud..keep em coming.

  58. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @AaronB

    Hi AaronB,

    Their king worship will be seriously tested with Vajiralongkorn.

    Linh

    • LOL: AaronB
  59. Wally says:
    @Linh Dinh

    said:
    “It’s you who’s dragging out strawmen. I never said anything about Thailand’s role in World War II. All I said was they surrendered quickly after being attacked by Japan.”

    Yet previously you said:
    “Are you actually saying Thailand was an axis power, similar to Italy?!

    So yes, you DID say something about Thailand & WWII.

    Now, did Thailand declare war on the US & Britain or not?
    Did Thailand assist Japan or not? Examples are easily found.

    I recommend that you quit digging.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  60. Suntorn says:
    @Poupon Marx

    I know it wasn’t true because I know Thai history. What have you got? Complete ignorance of the subject. If you want to learn more about Thai history, you know you are on the internet at this very moment. Thailand was a fascist, expansionist country that initiated a war with colonial France all on their own. Japan didn’t make them do this. Japan helped broker a peace agreement between the two countries. During those peace talks, the Japanese worked out an agreement with Phibun, the dictator of the country, to pass through Thailand to invade Malaysia.

    This is not hidden history. It’s just not well known to you and others because you likely had no reason to study Thai history. Not a big deal. There are plenty of countries out there whose histories I am not well versed in. One thing I wouldn’t do is try to argue from a place of ignorance. If you doubt anything that I have written, do your own research.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  61. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    So all those Issan girls with limited funds that live the rural farms in Thailand go to Bangkok to do what exactly? Selling one body wither you are a Bangkok freelancer or a darker skinned girl from Issan does not have the same stigma as it does in the west. Freelance girls do the sex trade for all sorts of reasons. But yes to deny that many rural farms girls from Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines go to the big cities and not end up in the sex trade is deluding only yourself. Yes, I can speak some Thai and Filipino…Also I can refer to you in Veitname as Bui Doi & it would fit.
    Tiga provincia kaba? Anong gagawin mo so Manila? Mag trataboho ako sa massage parlour po.
    I don’t have to tell that to Thai Bangkok people, that rural girls work in the sex trade. Its pretty well common langauge..Doh!

  62. Topolcats says:
    @Poupon Marx

    In your case IGNORANCE is bliss!

  63. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    If you are a travel writer? I suggest you give up!…. You’re hopeless!
    Try working for Fox news or CNN where people can report on Fake news on a daily basis!

  64. Topolcats says:
    @jacques sheete

    Yes, that is what I am been trying to say. Being covered up in the Sun is not about modesty. I also referred to the fact that being called someone from a Rural area is insulting middle class urban Thais.
    Because as you wrote: ” (being dark) which is associated with lower class field workers, but an obsession with being white skinned since that’s associated with being a member of the pampered upper (ruling) classes. Sad but true, as for me I like them darker or lighter it just depends.

    But I do know many many Thai’s and other Asians that will not ever have sexual relations with darker skinned girls. As far as I am concerned that is entirely their hang up.

  65. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    You guessed wrong!..Just like your uninformed comments about Thailand!

  66. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Wally

    I asked that in a comment, and I will again, Do you seriously consider Thailand an Axis power, the same as Italy?

    Thailand’s alliance with Japan was hugely unequal, and dictated entirely by Japan. 150,000 Japanese troops were in Thailand, and there were Japanese barracks and air fields all over Thailand. Is it so hard for you to understand that Thailand was used by Japan?

    Vietnam, too, had a pro-Japanese government during WWII, and thousands of Japanese troops were also stationed in Vietnam. Does this make Vietnam an Axis power?

    • Replies: @Suntorn
    , @Wally
    , @jlee
  67. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Suntorn

    Thailand went to war with France to reclaim land it had lost to that colonial power in the 19th century. This has nothing to do with Fascism, but simply the need to defend, grab or reclaim land, as exhibited by all nations throughout history. To frame it simply within the context of World War II, as Fascism vs. “The Free World,” is extremely myopic.

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  68. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi all,

    I intend all of my articles as starting points for further discussions, and whenever anyone gives me new knowledge or insights, I’m grateful.

    Too often, however, we have single-issue freaks who are triggered by a single word or sentence to go off on some angry rant, or to rave about some tangential subjects, of which they’re the real experts, albeit only pseudonymously. Their need to validate their ego in this way, I find bizarre and, quite frankly, sad.

    This comment stream, for example, has been hijacked by some loutish sexpat who thinks he owns Thailand. With no comment history, he got triggered by “Thais,” and off he went.

    It’s a reflection of our time that men must hide behind several screens to spew off nonsense.

    Linh

    • Replies: @Biff
    , @Wally
    , @Topolcats
  69. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Thailand was a fascist country at that time. This is not disputable. So, of course, it had something to do with fascism. The name change of the country from Siam to Thailand was part of an ultra-nationalist vision to unite all Thai peoples. If you are unfamiliar with Thai history of this time, you should read about Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who modeled himself after Mussolini. Because of their role in WW2, Thailand maintained good relations with Japan after the war, unlike many other countries who held resentment towards the Japanese.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  70. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Yes, Thailand was an Axis power. In fact, Hitler called Thailand, “Japan’s Italy,” (though he meant that disparagingly). In reality, Thailand’s role would be better compared to Hungary in WW2. Thailand had its territorial ambitions and allied with Japan to achieve its own goals. After the fall of Singapore, Thailand formed an official alliance with Japan and Thailand was allowed to invade and annex the northern Malay states that they had lost to Britain during the previous century. If Japan did not see Thailand as an ally, why would they give Thailand territory?

    Vietnam was part of French Indochina, so it wasn’t even an independent country at the time. It’s not comparable. Thailand actively fought in the war, mostly for their own benefit. They were not a passive participant. It’s true that Japanese used Thailand, but the Thais also used the Japanese. Thailand would never have dreamt of invading Burma and Malaysia without an alliance with Japan.

    Thailand’s role in WW2 is misunderstood by many outside of the country but it’s worth learning and discussing because it’s difficult to contextualize Thailand’s current nationalism without understanding that time period.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Poupon Marx
  71. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Suntorn

    Hi Suntorn,

    You say Thailand was an “expansionist country” for going to war to reclaim land it had lost to colonial France half a century earlier. I disagree.

    I also think it’s way too simplistic to label the impetus behind it as “Fascist.”

    Linh

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  72. Biff says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Never argue with a fool, other people can’t tell the difference.

  73. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Suntorn

    Equal partners?:

    I remember vividly events when I was a young girl. We were living at a house overlooking the Klong Toey railroad tracks. The Japanese military regularly parked tanker goods wagons there on the railroad sidings full of gasolene. Thais would come at night and try to syphon off the gasolene, sucking it out of the tankers with long plastic tubes. They had to; nobody had any money then. If they were caught by the Japanese soldiers, they would be forced to drink gasolene through the same plastic tubes until they died.

    I saw many such “executions”. Imagine what an impression that left on a young, innocent girl. You tell that to your Japanese students.

    remarks by elderly Sino-Thai owner of the SR Mini-Mart,
    Saranjay Mansions, Bangkok.
    January, 1999

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Suntorn
    , @Wally
  74. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Expansionism, in of itself, is not fascist, but when I say that Thailand was a fascist country, I’m not being figurative. It literally was a fascist country, as in that was its form of government at the time. It’s important to point out that Thailand was a fascist country because, in many ways, it mirrored other fascist countries of the time like Italy and even Germany. A sense of ultra-nationalism and wanting to redress earlier humiliations and losses is what helped bring Phibun to power. The fascism was incidental and a product of the era. Claiming to want to unite all Thai peoples was a convenient excuse because, ironically, many of the territories that the Thais wanted back weren’t even inhabited by Thais. Only the Shan states and the area of Laos west of the Mekong were Thai lands. Though most of Laos could be argued to be Thai, that wasn’t attempted to be reclaimed.

  75. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Linh Dinh

    P.S. Klong Toey is not some village in the sticks, but a neighborhood in the heart of Bangkok.

  76. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Yes, the Japanese were cruel assholes, even to their allies. It’s no secret that the Japanese wanted to dominate all of Asia and saw themselves at the top of the hierarchy, much like the Germans saw themselves at the top in Europe. During the war, Thais thought the Japanese were trying to run their country and the Japanese thought Thais weren’t obedient enough. But after the war, relations between Thais and Japanese were good. To this day, most Thais have positive opinions of the Japanese.

    • Replies: @jlee
  77. Topolcats says:
    @Biff

    Better a troll than a Dunce like you !

  78. Wally says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Yes, Thailand was an axis power.
    Same as Italy? Depends on one’s criteria. See below.

    I see you predictably dodged my questions, but I’ll answer them for you:

    Now, did Thailand declare war on the US & Britain or not?
    - Yes, absolutely.

    Did Thailand assist Japan or not?
    - Yes, absolutely. Thailand provided ships, men, materials, and allowed Japanese bases.

    AFAIK Vietnam did not declare war on the US & Britain, now did they?

    You continue to use strawmen.

    Quit digging.

  79. Wally says:
    @Linh Dinh

    IOW, you cannot refute their arguments, desperately you appeal for help.

    You’re in over your head.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  80. Topolcats says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Betterness at being outed as a person with limited Knowledge about Thailand is understandable. Especially when fabrication are concerned. None the less I commend you on self reflection in response your anger problems. That could be a Future path in curbing your obvious intellectual, or lack of it, Dishonesty

  81. @JohnnyWalker123

    You forgot to add that every Chief Executive must be infatuated with the effete plutocrat game of golf.

    Trillion dollar budgets should be hastily accepted, and the contents therein NEVER examined- lest one second of a two week golf orgy be sacrificed while the very existence of our nation hangs in the balance.

  82. Wally says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Yawn. That’s supposed to be proof?

    Reads like laughable ‘holocau$t’ survivors tall tales.

    There’s also countless “eyewitnesses” to witchcraft too.

    I sense you’re grasping desperately.

  83. @Suntorn

    You are not credible. You have posited generalities with no support or references. Your tone and comportment is like that of a college freshman who just took a general and survey course of a subject and knows it all. Your Gestalt is adolescent-like and repugnant. I am not impressed.

    “Dweezel” is a descriptor that comes to mind. The same with the loutish and churlish Twatcat, or whatever he calls himself

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  84. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Wally

    There is a reason why I write articles, signed by my real name, while you talk out of your ass as “Wally.” It’s been a huge waste of time talking to such an idiot.

    • Replies: @Truth
    , @AKAHorace
  85. Che Guava says:
    @jilles dykstra

    I saw your stupid and irrelevant replies to Linh Dinh.

    However, continuing re. your ridiculous claims of gunpowder having been banned in Japas, , battery was dead, so was not able to fin.

    Any of the surviving castles in Japan and the only one I know of that is faithful and careful reconstruction, all have slits for firing muskets. The ferro-concrete monstrosities, like Osaka castle, maybe not.

    I would caution other posters against paying any attention to your assertions, you seem to love to saying things that are simply not true, as if fact.

    Would advising other posters to taking anything you are saying less than seriously.

    Seeming to me, you are an odd type of troll or propagandist.

  86. So, after all the leftist rambling, you agree with Trump!

    Without borders there is no country.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  87. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Sampling a few lurid streets in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket or Chiang Mai, foreigners come home with tales of live sex on stage and ladyboys, but Thailand is no more of a brothel than the Netherlands, although each Dutch city, not just Amsterdam, has its red-light district. Most Thais are conservative, rural people, and during my visit to Namtok Phlio National Park,

    But the character of a nation or civilization is defined by what is most sensational, popular, ‘idolic’, or iconic. So, it doesn’t matter that many Thais are conservative rural folks. What defines Thailand in the world is that it’s a Whore House nation… and with full blessing of the urban elites.

    It is a foul and vile nation.

  88. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Shouting Thomas

    I’ve said this all along, my man. As for Trump, he’s a con man, and I stated that a long time ago.

    • Agree: byrresheim
  89. Pete544 says:

    Linh Dinh,

    Are you concerned that this may be your last visit to Thailand?

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  90. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Pete544

    Hi Pete544,

    Did I say anything that might cause them to deny me entry? I don’t think I’ve defamed, insulted or threatened their king, queen, heir-apparent or regent. I think Fufu was a very fine dog and air chief marshal.

    I’d certainly want to return to Thailand before too long. There are a few Changs waiting for me.

    Linh

    • Replies: @VolInPdx
  91. Suntorn says:
    @Poupon Marx

    That’s all you’ve got? You can’t offer a rebuttal because you seem to know absolutely nothing about the topic. You’ve contributed nothing to the conversation and your only goal seems to be winning Linh Dinh’s approval. Your weak attempt at insults reveals your obviously low self-esteem.

  92. I went on R&R to Bangkok in the fall of 1969. I went to a lot of movies then, and marveled at the spectacle of the King being displayed on the screen, while the national anthem was played. I then realized that Thais are inherently civilized. I could only imagine the same scene in an American theater if Tricky Dick had his picture on the screen, while the American National Anthem was played. I would have expected a hail of popcorn and drinks flying at the screen.

    When I was in grad school, my university had a pipeline to the best Thai schools, since a number of department chairs were personal friends of the Thai Royal Family. So, a fair number of my classmates were Thais. They were always rugged individualists, and had great senses of humor. Some of them were high ranking bureaucrats over here to get their PhD degrees.

    I am told that Bangkok would not be recognizable to me now, because it is mostly high rises. I had a great time there, taking some tours, and eating food from street vendors, and even in a Thai restaurant. I learned about Thai hot sauce the hard way.

  93. VolInPdx says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Linh,
    You’ve given me so much over a decade writing about your travels.
    I haven’t sent you money because I’m one of the deplorables-I’m poor-but i owe you my sincere thanks.
    I dreamed often of sending you money to visit me so you could write another postcard at the end of Amerika.
    I suppose that will never happen.
    Ha! Fine dog and chief air Marshall. You’re a great wit and a patient man to respond to so many idiots.
    Amerika is less now that you’re gone and you will not be replaced my friend.
    The country is unfit when a person of your talents isn’t making a very nice living and opts for se Asia but i hope you and your family happiness and prosperity.
    I saw your YouTube video this am of you with your nephew. I had forgotten i subscribed to you.
    Wow, you’re a great singer too. So many talents.
    You should post a video doing an Elvis classic. That would be a real treat that would make the King proud.
    Take care Linh.
    A fine dog and chief air Marshall bahhhhhaaaa.
    You really know your dogs.
    Please please please drink some beer for me.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  94. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @VolInPdx

    Hi VolInPdx,

    Many thanks for your comment. Like everybody, encouragement and appreciation spur me on.

    I miss my Friendly Lounge buddies, and I’ve been keeping in touch with my friend, Felix. He joked that he wanted to move over here pronto since I told him I just had three bottles of Tiger beer, plus a plate of beef with (not very good) french fries, for just $3.73!

    OK, I must keep this short, as I have to leave right now for Nghe An. The pretext is a wedding, but I’ll hang out up that way for a few days. It’s very poor, that province, and the locals have a very harsh accent. They’re survivors.

    Thanks again,

    Linh

  95. Truth says:
    @Linh Dinh

    LMFAO!

    Lihnjo, you spend more time arguing back and forth with your readers than all of the other columnists COMBINED.

  96. jlee says: • Website
    @Linh Dinh

    technically vietnam had a “pro-Japanese “French” government during WWII…” as it was still a colony of (Vichy) France. but the Japanese got rid of the French in March, 1945. So for a few months it was “independent”–at least from westerners….

  97. jlee says: • Website
    @Suntorn

    am very certain that “cruel assholes” reflects the extent of your education. Please grow up so that we can have an intelligent discussion… oh I’m sorry you are “special”…

  98. Escher says:
    @DB Cooper

    How many RMB per comment do you get paid?

  99. The Article is STUPID ..

  100. Karl says:
    @Topolcats

    2 Topolcats > This whole article is just a piece of ill informed commentaries with have no real relation to Thailand

    perfect for Ron Unz

  101. JNarbo says:
    @Topolcats

    Quite a few errors. “Since 1912, Thailand has had 21 coups d’état and 29 prime ministers,” Siam was an absolute monarchy until 1932. The coups started later.
    Thailand never fought China, quite the opposite. Chinese merchants, statesmen and diplomats were welcomed.
    The stuff about King Taksin, a Chinese from Tak, western Thailand, who drove out the Burmese in 1767, is just silly. “…high-tailed to the Himalayas”? Rumors of insanity led to his assassination, sandalwood club over a silk hood.
    Disappointing piece that makes me wonder about the writer’s other work. Having lived and worked as a journalist in Thailand for the last 30 years, I’d judge this fiction and not very good.
    In closing, when this piece is picked up by the Thai authorities, Linh Dinh will probably be blacklisted for false reporting and insulting the monarchy, and rightly so.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    , @Linh Dinh
  102. AKAHorace says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Linh,

    Three points:

    -you are being very restrained and polite about Thailand in the second war. I think that it is difficult to say exactly who is right here because the situation was ambiguous and it was in the Thais interest to keep it so. They did not want to end up on the loosing side.

    -One of the products of Thai facism was pad Thai. They wanted a national dish.

    -when I was in Thailand there was a lot of bigotry towards Burmese and Vietnamese (called yuan, a very insulting term). Did the people you talked to know that you are Vietnamese ?

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  103. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @AKAHorace

    Hi AKAHorace,

    I know one family in Chanthaburi, and while there, I met a bunch of people through this family, so yes, they all knew I was Vietnamese. I also met a Vietnamese who had worked illegally in Bangkok for almost two years. He said the Thais treated him very fairly, and he loved the Thais and Thai culture. I met another Vietnamese who was working illegally in Chanthaburi as a parking lot attendant. He said his boss treated him well, and he made decent money. His wife was also in Thailand illegally.

    In the article, I simply stated that Thailand surrendered to Japan after a few hours of fighting, yet this simple fact provoked several enraged, indignant reactions. When I presented evidences or references that proved my point, they just kept on raging most hysterically.

    In my “Cambodia’s Illegal Immigrants”, I said, “In small country politics, everybody is always accusing everybody else of being a foreign lackey, and most of the time, all of them are at least partially correct.”

    Born in Vietnam, I am acutely aware of compromised politics, so I would not mock, for example, Sihanouk, whom I described thus, “Using only media and diplomacy, a 30-year-old Norodom Sihanouk managed to win Cambodia’s independence from France, and he was allied, at various times, with Japan, the USA, China, the Soviet Union, North Korea and even Pol Pot, all to secure not just his nation’s survival, but his own.”

    Again, Thailand’s role in WWII was never remotely the subject of this article, but fine, we can talk about it and disagree, but at least we’re talking civilly, like how men should talk.

    Linh

    • Replies: @AKAHorace
  104. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi all,

    Several commenters here are conflating nationalism with Fascism. This increasingly common equation has been deliberately imposed on us by our mind masters, so a natural desire for national identity, unity or border integrity is now characterized as Fascistic. Putin, a nationalist leader, is endlessly labeled as “Fascist” by America’s traitorous politicians, as well as its disgusting media.

    Linh

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  105. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @JNarbo

    worked as a journalist in Thailand for the last 30 years

    That’s like saying, “I’ve been a Bangkok whore for the last 30 years.” Since you’re a journalist, hence a public person, can we have your real name?

    Plus, you reveal your brown nose and Fascist credentials by suggesting I be “blacklisted for false reporting and insulting the monarchy.” Is there a bigger Uncle Tom in the house?

  106. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    The only references to fascism in the comments have been about Thailand’s government during and before WW2. Thailand was considered a fascist government during that time period by its contemporaries. Thailand modeled itself after fascist Italy. Thailand’s leader, Phibun, was a fascist dictator. These facts are not really in dispute, yet for some reason, you want to apply your particular 21st century views onto the historical record and insist that Thailand wasn’t fascist. Would you then argue that Italy wasn’t fascist?

    Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, locally known as Chomphon Por, contemporarily known as Phibun in the West, was the longest serving 3rd Prime Minister of Thailand and fascist leader of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.

    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
  107. AKAHorace says:
    @Linh Dinh

    Linh,

    I think that the situation in Thailand in World War Two was ambiguous, as I said before. It is interesting that you are getting such a strong response as you are someone who drifts through countries and relates your experiences. I don’t always agree with what you say (e.g. your remarks about the World Trade Centre terrorist in Barcelona) but you do not present yourself as an all knowing expert on anywhere that you visit. Saying that Thailand was a victim of the Japanese Empire reflects better on the Thailand than saying that it was an accomplice. Some people need the internet to pick fights, or you may have inadvertently shown something about Thai nationalism that I did not know before. I do remember reading that when they commerated events in the South, there were reports that the Thai military displayed indiscipline towards the Japanese.

    I am glad to hear that the Vietnamese you knew are not the subject of bad treatment from the Thais. Perhaps the place has changed for the better from when I was there.

    all the best

    • Replies: @AaronB
  108. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Suntorn

    Hi Suntorn,

    Many Asian countries admired Japan before WWII, because it was never colonized, had defeated Russia and was modernizing quickly. Vietnamese nationalist organizations sent students to study in Japan. Then as now, nationalism is a more enlightening prism to observe a nation’s behavior, I will insist, and much more so than “Fascism” or “Communism.” Witness how Trump and his supporters are very misleadingly branded “Fascist.” My maternal great-grandfather, Ngô Thúc Định, was one of the top officials in the pro-Japanese Vietnamese government during WWII, and he was certainly not a Fascist.

    Linh

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  109. AaronB says:
    @AKAHorace

    Thais have a myth that they have never been colonized because they are a superior race whose only peer in Asia is Japan, who also was never colonized. It sounds insane, but I kid you not, this is how they think – and they are extremely touchy and sensitive about it, because the obvious realities of their international position don’t support such an inflated self image.

    By saying Japan conquered Thailand you are putting severe strain on their mythical self image and forcing them to confront a reality they would rather avoid.

    In reality, Thailand was not colonized because the British and the French preferred to have a buffer state between their respective colonial empires and because Thailand skillfully submitted to western demands and expectations – a talent for political pliancy it displayed again after ww2 when switched sides again. This didn’t stop the French from seizing Laos and the British from annexing some southern Thai provinces into Malaysia, which the Thais are still bitter about.

    Once you understand Thais self perception you can better avoid these controversial subjects – they genuinely see themselves as the master race of SEA. Its better to avoid these subjects with a smile – inwardly, of course. Thais are a cool people – we can forgive them their silliness.

    • Replies: @Suntorn
    , @AKAHorace
  110. Suntorn says:
    @Linh Dinh

    I think that you have either misread or misinterpreted the comments that I’ve made to you. Understanding that Thailand was once a fascist country doesn’t mean that I am equating nationalism with fascism. One can be a nationalist without being a fascist but you can’t be a fascist without being a nationalist. The reforms made in Thailand under Phibun’s fascist rule radically changed the nation. You can’t understand current Thai nationalism without understanding Thailand’s fascist past. The very name of the country, the idea of a unified Thai people, and how Thais see themselves today all have roots in that time period.

    Since you’ve written an article about Thai nationalism, I would hope that you have a genuine interest in where those feelings of nationalism stem from. I would encourage you to read these very short articles:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand_(1932%E2%80%931973)#Fascist_Thailand

    And from that era of fascism, came the Thai cultural mandates. These have had the greatest effect on changing the country.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_cultural_mandates

    • Replies: @AKAHorace
  111. Karl says:
    @MikeatMikedotMike

    48 MikeatMikedotMike > and my observation was that about 95% of the local females

    my observation is that you’re not very good at asking a girl where she’s from

    Most (at least today) working girls in the white-tourist red-light-districts are NOT Thai nationals

    Thailand has a fairly respectable economy going on. Even young girls from the Hill Tribes areas of up north, can come on down and get a job in the regular economy.

    Working-class Thai girls do sometimes try to make an extra buck on the side. They can afford the bus fare to Singapore, where a piece of ass goes for 20 times what it does back home.

  112. Karl says:
    @Poupon Marx

    50 Poupon Marx > White rice is like white bread, relatively tasteless and just starch.

    white rice, like white bread was invented for only one reason – to enable production of a product which would VISUALLY DISPLAY whether there had occurred an insect infestation

    You city people are a barrel of laughs

  113. Suntorn says:
    @AaronB

    You exaggerate, but within your hyperbole there are kernels of truth. Thais don’t think they are a superior race. Thais are extremely proud of their history of independence but Thais understand that they have been the lesser power in many instances and it was this knowledge that allowed Thais to swallow their pride and make concessions that were in their best interests.

    • Replies: @AaronB
  114. AaronB says:
    @Suntorn

    The pride is misplaced, because Thai independence is an accident of history and they could easily have ended up as any other country in the region. To allow this to become a source of touchy sensitivity and a sense of threatened superiority as reality continually collides with inflated self image is doing no one any favors, least of all Thais.

    You Thais have a tremendous amount to be proud of – one of the world’s great distinctive cultures with a high level of aestheticism and sophistication, one of the world’s great cuisines, and a very respectable level of economic developement even if comparisons to Europe or Japan are silly. Do yourselves a favor and let go of the misplaced pride which creates a totally unnecessary level of mental stress among Thais themselves.

    • Replies: @Suntorn
  115. Suntorn says:
    @AaronB

    Not an accident of history. As you said so yourself, skilled diplomacy played a major part in Thailand remaining independent. Could Thailand have been defeated by a European power? Yes, but they weren’t. Could the Japanese have defeated the Thais? Yes, but they didn’t.

    And for those who still want to insist that Japan defeated Thailand in WW2, it didn’t happen that way:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_invasion_of_Thailand

    Thais don’t get upset when others claim that the Japanese defeated Thailand because of delusions of grandeur. Thais get annoyed because it’s simply not true and then people who can’t be bothered to learn the history want to argue that it is.

    • Replies: @AaronB
  116. AaronB says:
    @Suntorn

    Ok, fair enough, your position seems reasonable. And yes, skillful diplomacy did play a role. Credit where its due.

    But I still think you guys are too sensitive about this stuff, and it’s unnecessary. I think Thais are experiencing too much stress these days, and this adds to it.

    Anyways I have no beef with Thais. I have always been very warmly and hospitably treated on my visits.

  117. AKAHorace says:
    @Suntorn

    Suntorn,

    thanks for the link to Wikipedia. Cut Linh some slack, he was reporting about Thailand but he give his experiences from many countries, we should be polite to him.

    The link was interesting because when I was in Thailand there was this weird tendency towards homogeneity. I would have a conversation about religion and many people would say “all religions say that we should be good and avoid sin”. I am paraphrasing but everyone would use almost exactly the same words. Another example that sounds odd, I would go to buy a bowl of noodles and all noodle sellers would have their materials organized in exactly the same way on the shelves of their carts. This sounds petty but I was there for four years. There was a right way to organize everything down to the most petty details.

    Happy to hear that Linh’s Vietnamese contacts there were happy. My impression was that Thais found the Laos comical and stupid, but there was no real bad feeling. They would tell stories of Vietnamese boiling rice by burying three children up to their necks into the ground so they could use their heads to support the rice pot.

  118. AKAHorace says:
    @AaronB

    Thanks for your comments. I never heard Thais say much about the Japanese when I was there.

    About the second war. There is a book called “Consul in Paradise”. The author, a British diplomat, who spends 174 pages talking about how interesting and pleasant it was to live in Thailand says in the introduction

    “It has been suggested to me that I should write something about the part played by Siam in World War II. I cannot bring myself to do this. I have long since forgiven the injuries that were inflicted on me during that painful period, and my only desire now is to forget them.”

    And does not discuss the matter again for the rest of the book.

    Inscrutable Occidentals.

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