Going back to find a future

25 06 2016

A reader drew our attention to a small story in the Bangkok Post that our correspondent says is indicative of the backwardness of the military regime as it “reinvents” a past as the nation’s future.

This story is of “[p]eople … being taught how to make their own large concreted jars to store rainwater for home use during the dry season under a training project launched by the army.”

Our reader directs us to a document at our own pages (opens a PDF that would be illegal in Thailand), from 1987, that refers to royal celebrations that saw the “Department of Local Administration made sure that, want them or not, millions of suitably inscribed, large water storage jars would be distributed in rural areas.” These are the very same jars the military is now making (again).

Soldiers are being trained “to make the giant jars, which are a traditional method of storage.” In fact, they aren’t “traditional” at all, but as noted above, developed in the 1980s. Earlier jars were made of clay and were much smaller. The big jars have been adopted in other countries, as seen in this UN manual, and have even made it to the US.

Maj Gen Supoj Buranajaree, reported to be the commander of the 36th Military Circle, said the “intention is for the soldiers to complete training and then be deployed through the 12 districts of Phichit to teach people how to make the jars.” He added that the “army project is in line with the government’s policy to promote occupational training and self-reliance.” He says “[s]imilar programmes are in place in other provinces throughout the country.”

Going back 30 years may be natural for the military, as it places them in the era of the unelected regime of royal restorationist General Prem Tinsulanonda. Yet it seems they only learn some things from the past and forget others.

The UN reported on the jars, and notes that they were a part of a program that began in 1981. It says this of the program when it was run the way the army is doing it now:

There was also some corruption involving the Government funds provided for village jar construction, which resulted in the production of some substandard jars. Leakage and breakage were common in such cases. However, shifting of manufacture of the jars from Government programmes to the private sector eliminated this corruption.

The UN report adds:

According to a 1992 review by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the numbers of 2 m3 jars in use in Thailand increased from virtually none in 1985 to nearly 8 million in 1992. This increase was partially due to the Government’s National Jar Programme, but mostly due to the willing adoption of the technology by the public and to the widespread promotion of the technology by the commercial sector. Government intervention is no longer necessary.

The military really is hopelessly embedded in the past and somehow considers this a reinvented future.


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