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A Week in Review: April 16-22, 2011

The Ministry of Culture's Cover-Up

Thailand’s Ministry of Culture was involved in a big cover up last week, and Thailand’s fugitive former prime minister is faced with a difficult decision. Uncover the truth with Naked Farang here >>>

The whole world was shocked to hear about three teenage Thai girls dancing topless in the Silom Road area of Bangkok last week. The scandalous act took place on the last day of the Songkran festival and videos were promptly posted on (and them removed from) YouTube.

Yes, the world was indeed shocked when it became apparent that not only had the girls been dancing as a spontaneous expression of joy rather than on a stage in one of the many nearby go-go clubs, but also that the police hadn’t been paid off to allow the act to happen.

The police did eventually get their cut, however, after Bang Rak (district of love) chief, Surakiat Limcharoen, filed obscenity charges against the girls and they were ordered to pay 500 baht fines for their foolish act of exhibitionism.

Thailand’s Culture Minister, Nipit Intarasombat, jumped on the bandwagon by declaring the incident an affront to Thailand’s traditions and values. He went on to say that such indecency negatively affected the image of Thailand’s culture and destroyed the country’s reputation.

To emphasise the point and lead by example, the Ministry of Culture immediately removed the traditional picture of three topless female dancers from its own website.

While modern day Thais regularly blame Westerners for their own problems, including such acts of public nudity, it is an often overlooked fact that it was only when prudish Europeans with their Victorian values expressed their disgust at the commonplace nudity in Thailand that Thais were ordered to cover themselves up.

Before Western standards of decency were imposed on Thailand, it was considered normal for Thai women to bare their breasts in public. And the traditional topless dancers shown in the Ministry of Culture’s hastily removed picture – although of Khmer origin – were regarded as an integral part of Thailand’s classical culture.

As with many cultural traditions, bare-breasted dancing girls in Thailand are today predominantly to be found in tourist ghettos.

However, not all of Thailand’s cultural values have been eroded. Political corruption and ruthless exploitation of the masses are, at least, two aspects of Thailand’s heritage that have stood the test of time.

Still exploring every possible option in an attempt to avoid serving a 2-year jail sentence for abuse of power so that he can return to Thailand and take up where he left off, Thaksin Shinawatra is faced with a dilemma.

Having failed to topple the government through street protests, Thaksin’s last hope of evading justice now rests with an overwhelming political victory by Phuea Thai in the upcoming elections.

Failure for Thaksin is not an option. So when the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) revoked the bail of two red shirt leaders following their participation in a red shirt rally in contradiction of their bail conditions, Thaksin was forced to order MPs in his personal political party, Phuea Thai, not to attend any more rallies of his personal street mob, the red shirts.

To compound the situation, former Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned from Phuea Thai last week, reportedly because of his misgivings about the party’s close links to the red shirts, while up to 40 other Phuea Thai MPs are also reported to have expressed their concern to Thaksin about how his ties to the red shirts are alienating voters.

Thaksin is faced with a difficult choice. He must decide whether it is better to ditch the red shirts in a bid to improve his image, or to continue stringing them along in an attempt to perpetuate the rapidly dying myth that he is a champion of the poor.

Following their failed siege of Bangkok last year, the red shirts may have lost much of their usefulness to Thaksin, but he cannot afford to lose the loyal support he has so carefully cultivated amongst them.

On the other hand, Thaksin cannot afford to lose the election, and the mob tactics of the red shirts may represent the greatest barrier to Phuea Thai’s success.

It’s time for Thaksin to decide whether he wants to achieve his aims through violent street protests or through the election process. Of course, he could just come back and accept his jail term, but I don’t see that happening somehow – putting the real best interests of Thailand first would be too much of a change of direction for him.

Paul Snowdon – April 23, 2011

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Have your say...

David Donald
23 Apr 2011, 00:55
Nipit Isjustsomeoldbat is pretty much clueless. Complaining about naked breasts and then finding he OKed naked breasts on his own Ministries website. He imagines he is an arbiter of culture.. and yet seems to have so little of his own to use in decision making.

Thaksin on the other hand is stewing in his own pot. Chavalit leaving is a blow, but one potentially cured with lots of money. But most interesting is the 40 North East AKA Issan MPs also saying they are worried continued Red Shirt tie in's could lose the election for them. A MAJOR crack in the facade of Red Shirts represent all if Issan poor. Apparently there is enough anti'Redshirt talk to worry the MPs.
Gary Joseph Chandler
23 Apr 2011, 20:12
now, I found the videos of the event online. I have watched them several times so I can make an 'informed' Comment! now, what was the question?
Gary Joseph Chandler
23 Apr 2011, 20:15
Supporting documentation for your historic perspective is Wikipedia under 'Plaek Pibulsonggram' "People were encouraged to adopt western attire, as opposed to the traditional dress of Thai men and women." There is cute poster from the 1930's showing "how to dress Western'' It always makes me laugh when people say Thais don't like foreign influence's. Can I have that Privy Council thingy back then? along with my chairs, forks and spoons. Oh, and that really, REALLY, messed up 'democratic' system that they, badly, copied! Every-time someone talks about the 'boorish' farangs who dress in shorts and shirts where Thais are 'properly' attired in shirts and ties, it makes me chuckle. the farangs are dressed like Thais and the Thais are dressed like farangs. ironic humour.
Bangkok Dave
24 Apr 2011, 06:48
Good one, Paul. Love the mural insanity. Perfect TIT moment. And as usual, spot-on & valid points on Thaksin: 'personal party', 'personal mob.' Legions of 'twitterati' & red-leaning 'intelligentsia' would not take kindly to the 'personal mob' comment ;)
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