Banned books week

24 09 2014

Banned Books Week takes on special meaning for Thailand under the military dictatorship. Banned Books Week is 21-27 September. Decry repression. Celebrate the freedom to read. Stand up against censorship.Banned Books

Take the “quiz” to see which banned book is you – noting that it is a rather “American” quiz.

Look at some of Thailand’s banned books. Try these:

The 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.”The King Never Smiles

The 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.”

Devils DiscusAnother 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.”

ThaistoryThailand’s moment of truth: A secret history of 21st century Siam

A third “book” is the internet-based  #Thaistory 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.”





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.





Banned books week

3 10 2012

Banned Books Week is an event that PPT mentions each year.

Observed this year from 30 September to 6 October, the week is about preserving intellectual freedom. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries in the United States. It is now observed around the world in various ways. Banned Books Week stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”

This year, PPT urges readers to seek out banned books and read them. We suggest beginning with a bit of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles or the คำนำจาก นายสิน แซ่จิ้ว for กษัตริย์ไม่เคยยิ้ม.

In English, readers can explore banned books at Google. And download banned books through links at this site.





PPT observes Banned Books Week, mourns the constriction of speech

28 09 2010

Banned Books Week is a holiday near and dear to PPT’s heart. Observed from 25 September to 2 October this year, the week is about preserving intellectual freedom. In the view of the American Library Association, one of the sponsors, this means ” … the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week (BBW).  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”

Last year we urged readers to read banned books, write to Darunee Charnchoengsilpakul and Suwicha Thakor, and otherwise work to keep thinking, reading and writing free in Thailand and around the world. A year later, although Suwicha was pardoned, Darunee is still in jail. As the recent additional charges against Chiranuch Premchaiporn indicate, thought and speech are becoming less, not more, unfree.

This year, PPT has a gift to our readers for BBW. Seven months after the 6 October 1976 massacre, the Ministry of the Interior, led by then-Minister of Interior Samak Sundaravej, issued a list of 100 books that people were prohibited to have, and therefore to read. Some well-known volumes, such as Thai translations of State and Revolution, by V.I. Lenin (รัฐกับการปฎิวัติ โดย วี.ไอ. เลนิน) and Mao Tse-tung’s Four Essays on Philosophy (นิพนธ์ปรัชญา ๔ เรื่องของประธาน โดย เหมาเจ๋อตุง) are present. Others, that PPT would like to read, such as the Isan Revolutionary Group’s  Isan Revolutionary Treatise (คัมภีร์นักปฎิวัติ โดย กลุ่มอิสานปฎิวัติ), are present as well. Our gift to our readers is a PDF of the list of 100 banned books. There is nothing secret about the list — it was published in the ราชกิจจานุเบกษา/Royal Thai Government Gazette, on 11 March 1977. Possession of one of these books was enough to land one in trouble, and perhaps in detention.View the whole list here.

Today, there is no clear, published list of what Thai citizens cannot read or think. Instead, the line is invisible, and one does not know it exists until one has crossed it.





The National Library, Fa Dieu Kan, and State Censorship

17 09 2010

In  a recent article, Prachatai noted that Ms. Wilawan Sapphansan, director of  the National Library of Thailand, has contacted the police to bring a case against ฟ้าเดียวกัน/Fa Dieu Kan magazine. The alleged charges? Failure to register under the 2007 Print Registration Act and for possibly committing crimes of lèse majesté.  Apparently, this has been lauded by the  Minister of Culture, Niphit Intarasombat, who commented that:

“And I have ordered the Director of the National Library and Directors of 15 Fine Arts Offices all over the country, as the competent authorities, to check all print media in all provinces and have them registered.  Even with registered media, they have to look at the contents and pictures, and not allow lèse majesté materials.  If they find such content, they have to press charges with the police immediately.  At this initial stage, I have been informed that there are a lot of print media which have not been registered.  After all checks have been done, the National Library will report the exact number to me.”

The message seems clear: there can be no unlicensed thought in Thailand.  Or certainly no unlicensed printing of thought in Thailand.

In particular, PPT is dismayed that a librarian would act to censor and criminalize writing and ideas. Are libraries not meant to protect the printed word? The American Library Association (ALA), along with others, is a primary sponsor of Banned Books Week, which is 25 September — 2 October 2010. The ALA notes that Banned Books Week is based on preserving intellectual freedom, by which they mean

” … the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week (BBW).  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.”

We at PPT will be reading banned books, questioning established notions, and imagining a less constricted future. Join us.





As Banned Books Week comes to a close …

3 10 2009

As Banned Books Week (26 September — 3 October) comes to a close, PPT urges you to read a banned book, struggle against censorship, and speak truth to power.

For further information, see the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week site.

Sign the Right to Read petition.

Read banned books on Google Books.

Write a postcard to Da Torpedo (Darunee Charncherngsilpakul) or Suwicha Thakor! Tell them you support them and laud their courage in speaking out, despite the harsh penalties they knew that they would face.

Work to keep thought, reading and writing free in Thailand and around the world!








%d bloggers like this: