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  • News & article

    From the field to the protest

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 21/09/2015

    » The Thai music known as luk thung (son of the field) is difficult to define because it borrows from everywhere and evolves over time. To the ear, however, it is unmistakable. That's a result of its two dominant rhythms, one from Thai folk music, the other from Latin America and an undercurrent of melancholy from the genre's archetypal song about the country boy far from home thinking of the village and the girl back there. Ethnomusicologist James Mitchell defines it simply as "Thailand's most popular music".

  • News & article

    The best prime minister Thailand never elected

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 16/11/2018

    » Anand Panyarachun's two spells as unelected prime minister in 1991-2 had such a profound effect that they now seem preordained by history. This splendid book shows how the reality was otherwise.

  • News & article

    How Bangkok came to be

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 03/11/2017

    » In 1963, Edward Van Roy arrived in Thailand to work on a survey of hilltribes. This was a golden era of anthropology with an emphasis on ethnicity and villages. Since his retirement from the UN in 1997, Van Roy has been tramping round the localities of old Bangkok, peering into the temples and shrines, rooting out the memories of the remaining old residents, and ransacking libraries for memoirs and histories.

  • News & article

    Integration or disintegration

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 11/08/2017

    » One of the lesser-known activities of the European Union in this region is the funding of academic research designed to "help the EU and its member states make coherent and culturally relevant foreign policies" towards the region.

  • News & article

    Understanding China's banks

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 26/01/2017

    » Every couple of years now, a book appears predicting the imminent crisis, breakdown, collapse or disintegration of China. The professor Cassandra touting a recent example passed through Bangkok last week. Among such works there is a subset that focuses on finance, especially banking. These books and articles argue that China's banks are inefficient because of government control; that they are racking up debt, much of which is hidden; and that, unless they are quickly privatised, they will be the spark for the aforesaid crisis, breakdown, collapse, or disintegration. In the last month, I have twice been treated to this argument first-hand, once from an American and once from a Japanese.

  • News & article

    Remembering a great scholar

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 17/12/2015

    » Ben Anderson died in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Dec 11, slightly short of his 80th birthday. Southeast Asia has lost one of its great scholars. This book, published last year, is a collection of his main writings on Siam.

  • News & article

    Charnvit in a nutshell

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 09/11/2015

    » In 1973, Charnvit Kasetsiri became the first Thai historian to gain a doctorate from a top-flight American university and have his thesis published by the university press. In the official history of Thailand at the time, Sukhothai was described as the first Thai kingdom, a Golden Age which displayed everything good about Thai civilisation and Thai values. The role of the subsequent Ayutthaya period was to decline from this peak, so that the Bangkok era could be another great era of revival and resurgence. Charnvit's thesis quietly gnawed away the foundations of this national mythology by describing the rise of the Ayutthaya kingdom. He added a series of articles on Ayutthaya's growth into one of the great commercial powers of early modern Asia, and the cradle of the Thailand we know today. One of these articles began with a banner headline "Ayutthaya was the first major political, cultural and commercial center of the Thai". Goodbye Sukhothai.

  • News & article

    At long last, history is told

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 04/05/2015

    » Only a few years ago, the history of Thailand was often expressed as a "Thai race" that migrated down from the north to occupy a seemingly empty land, and then a string of kings defending them from violent neighbours and nasty colonialists. The Thai-Chinese scarcely made an appearance. A History Of Thai-Chinese, however, seeks to redress the balance.

  • News & article

    Silent no more

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 17/03/2014

    » Why have Northeasterners become such enthusiastic supporters for Thaksin Shinawatra, the Pheu Thai party and the red-shirt movement? Charles Keyes first arrived in the Northeast in 1962 as a research student in rural anthropology. After the 2010 crackdown on red shirts in Bangkok, he realised he had to rethink all he had learned and written about the region over the last 48 years. This book is the result.

  • News & article

    Decoding a half-century of writing from the Northeast

    Life, Chris Baker, Published on 02/12/2013

    » Between the mid 1960s and mid 1980s, three of the most acclaimed writers in Thailand came from Isan, the Northeast. As told in Martin Platt's illuminating account, each took up writing in very different circumstances.

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