Banned books week 2013

25 09 2013

It is Banned Books Week again! If in Thailand, there are many books banned, almost all of them to do with the monarchy. Try these:

The King Never SmilesThe King Never Smiles. The publisher, Yale University Press, says this of the book: “Paul Handley provides an extensively researched, factual account of the king’s youth and personal development, ascent to the throne, skillful political maneuverings, and attempt to shape Thailand as a Buddhist kingdom. Handley takes full note of Bhumibol’s achievements in art, in sports and jazz, and he credits the king’s lifelong dedication to rural development and the livelihoods of his poorest subjects. But, looking beyond the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty.”

Devils DiscusThe Devil’s Discus. From Wikipedia: “All public discussion of the death of 20-year-old King Ananda Mahidol, the present king’s elder brother, of a single gunshot wound to the head is discouraged and not taught in schools even to history majors.” Another Wikipedia entry states that The Devil’s Discus  “is an investigation into the death of King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) of Siam (later Thailand) by English-South African author Rayne Kruger…. The final section “Who Killed Ananda ?” is Kruger’s own analysis of the evidence surrounding Ananda’s death leading him to the conclusion that the only satisfactory explanation is suicide. He supports this theory with the revelation of a love affair between the young King and a fellow law student in Switzerland, Marylene Ferrari, a relationship which would not have been acceptable to Siam’s Royalist institutions.”

ThaistoryA third “book” that would be banned if officially published is the internet-based  #Thaistory or Thailand’s moment of truth: A secret history of 21st century Siam by Andrew MacGregor Marshall. One reader’s view of the book: ““Perhaps the biggest bombshell of reportage on Thailand in decades… Marshall’s account is the most thorough, and in many ways damning, assessment of the royal family’s influence over politics in history. His reporting, and the cables they are based upon, leaves no stone unturned – or unblemished: The queen’s influence, often negative, over the tense situation in southern Thailand; the military’s growing use of lese majeste laws to crack down on opposition; the foibles and venality of the crown prince; the vultures circling around the palace as the end of King Bhumibol’s long reign ends.”

This is just a sample of banned books. As Wikipedia notes: “According to a study by the Political Science Library at Thammasat University, from 1850 to 1999, 1057 books and periodicals were officially banned by publication in the Royal Gazette…”. Two of the three above were published after 1999. In the recent period too, censorship has expanded, with internet-based materials being most critical. Under the post-2006 coup rightist governments, and especially that led by Abhisit Vejjajive, censorship expanded considerably.

Other banned or suppressed material can be found amongst the little collection of papers and links at PPT’s “library” (which is in need of updating) and at Wikileaks@PPT.



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