‘The winners write history,’ said many Thai netizens last week in criticisms of a Thai history textbook which praises the military government for establishing “true democracy” in Thailand. “Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister has carried out a policy of reforming the country, reforming politics to be truly a democracy, eliminating corruption and using moral principles to lead the country to be truly a democracy.” This is a direct quote from page 195 of “History of the Thai Nation,” a history textbook published by the Mini
Film critics say a Czech film, set in 20th century Czechoslovakia, recently screened in a central Bangkok mall, reflects the role of autocratic regimes in everyday life and education and also sheds light on how constantly-changing autocratic regimes bear down upon normal people in their everyday lives, even on “non political” people. The discussion after the special screening of I Served the King of England (2006) at the Central World on Saturday drew parallels between the film’s 20th century Czechoslovakia setting and present-day Thailand while raisin
Rewriting a history in an intricate business. Nations thrive on extraordinary history. It must be replete with heroism, sacrifices, courage and patriotism. History is employed to reaffirm the longevity of a nation. The longer the life of a nation is, a deeper sense of national belonging it becomes. Given this importance, history is a powerful tool in instigating nationalism. To make a perfect nation, a perfect history is necessary. In the world of nationhood, history tells stories of miracles, achievements and memorable occurrences.
Two months after the coup d’état in May, the Thai junta vowed to reform the Thai education system, which is one of the worst in the region. But instead of paying attention to structural problems, the junta’s policy for the Ministry of Education aims to focus on indefinable ‘merit’ and more nationalistic history classes.
Renowned historian Thongchai Winichakul gave a stinging critique of the Thai study of history at the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian Studies Institute at Thammasat University-Rangsit on July 18, 2013. Thongchai blamed the insular Thai-style teaching of history for Thais’ ignorance and unjustified superiority complex in national history and spotty knowledge about their immediate neighbours. He contended that the extreme Thai-centrism in the study of history—the narcissistic attitude about the nature and source of the Thai identity—has been a major factor in the failure of Thai education. He calls for a more self-reflective, critical and integrated way of learning history and building knowledge, that places Thailand as a part of Southeast Asia—not a singular diamond of the region that sparkles only in the Thai mind.