1. I support academic freedom unconditionally. Knowledge is the foundation of any free society.

  2. Surely, ‘Theravada Buddhism is Asian in origin’? Who has the spiritual authority to determine what constitutes ‘real’ Buddhism is a matter of endless dispute (as in any religion) but we are well into the second śāsana now; Westerners’ practice is perfectly valid.

  3. Maurizio Peleggi, Citizen: Italian, National University of Singapore says:

    I’d like to have my name added to the list.

  4. Liam Gammon Liam Gammon says:


    My mistake; this should have been corrected while editing. The error has been fixed. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed David’s piece.

    Liam, NM Editor

  5. Please add me in the list to sign the statement

  6. DHL says:

    Dear David,
    nice article about the women’s struggle in Timor Leste. However, if you give departed fighters for women’s rights their due, could you please spell them correctly: The lady was Rosa Luxemburg, NOT Luxemberg, and her name has been adopted by a German party foundation as the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation. Maybe you think this is quibbling, on the other hand I think that to take pains to ascertain proper spelling of a name would show a certain amount of respect.

  7. Mark Woodward says:

    The use of performance of non-obligatory ritual as a marker for piety is to be applauded. However, the choice of attending prayers at a mosque and daily reading of the Qur’an leaves much to be desired. There are many very pious people who do not do either. Daily Qur’an reading as an indicator of Muslim piety is highly suspect because it would appear to be derivative of Protestant Christian pietism.

    A more revealing method would be to include a basket of practices reflecting the theological and ritual diversity of the Indonesian Muslim population. These would include frequency of zikr (the recitation of short prayers), ziyarah (pilgrimage to the tombs of saints), night prayer, attending pennajian (religious talks) participating in Yasinan (ritual recitation of Surah Yasin from the Qur’an) and others. High frequency of any is an indicator of piety. Ideally this basket should reconstructed on the basis of ethnographic research with diverse Muslim communities and organizations.

  8. Ralph Kramden says:

    Now that five Thai attendees at the ICTS, including convenor Prof Chayan, have been charged by the military government for events at the conference it is probably too late to contemplate the issues discussed on this post. It would seem, however, that the “big names” who attended speak loudly in support of those now being harassed.

    For details see

  9. John Grima says:

    Well, yes, under Obama we had an occasional comment by the ambassador in support of dissent and elections, not much, but little tokens that might make one feel just a little bit morally superior. Trump and Tillerson don’t command the subtlety to pull that off. They are one deal at a time guys without a lot of band width. It may just be U.S. policy is better revealed by these guys. Give ’em a few years, maybe they’ll learn to sing both songs. Unfortunately, they are in way over their heads in Asia and they will give away a lot of influence before they can even see their losses.

    A question for the historians: Has the U.S. ever played a timely role in a pull back from the military’s domination of Thai government? In the 70s, or 90s?

  10. […] in 2015. Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono recently reported that Jokowi has been quietly releasing dozens more(link is external) over the past year. In his first nearly three years in power, he has visited the two Papuan […]

  11. […] in 2015. Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono recently reported that Jokowi has been quietly releasing dozens more over the past year. In his first nearly three years in power, he has visited the two Papuan […]

  12. Tom Donahugh says:

    A whole lot of strange ideas in this post along with the usual laundry list of sins committed by the US during the cold war. Do you honestly believe the Bangkok middle class are stalwart supporters of democracy? American representatives right along with Australian representatives pose for smiling pictures with people who they would rather not deal with from many different countries. It’s called diplomacy and it goes down better in the long run if you are on speaking terms with the folks you wish to influence.
    Rez Tillerson was in Bangkok for one primary reason. Who is the second leading trade partner of North Korea after the PRC? Thailand of course. There has been some loosy goosey stuff going on in Bangkok with North Korean trading organizations and he was in Bangkok to see that the situation was addressed by the Thais. And he was looking for strong support from Bangkok for the latest round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. You do not gain that support by calling them names or insulting the extremely tender Thai face at the moment. If Rex Tillerson had spoken out about democracy publicly they likely would have needed a military escort to the airport to prevent that “democracy loving Bangkok middle class ” from mobbing his car. Like all nations America certainly has every right to act in it’s own best interests. And America has the right to question why the US-Thai balance of trade continues to rise I think?
    To expect America to somehow gain greater democratic rights for the citizens of Thailand is a tall order I believe. Quietly, behind the scenes diplomacy can aid democracy’s development sometimes I think? But I am reminded of that line from Jesus Christ Superstar when JC was pressed by a crowd all wishing him to sooth their pains and deformities: “Heal Yourselves”. That is where it must begin and that is where the heavy lifting must be done. Don’t expect other nations to do what you must do yourself.

  13. Chris Beale says:

    A good article marred by horrific lapse into weird Fukuyama Hegelianism. Can the author please explain why “History, with its faux teleology proclaiming the inevitable progression toward liberal democracy —has reached its natural conclusion. A dead end.” Why does “History” have a naturally conclusive “dead end” ?

  14. Nick Nostitz says:

    During the Obama administration policy towards Thailand was to a large part shaped by the state department, sidelining the old military links and the US-Thai business community – both whose main contacts and personal networks in Thailand go back to the cold war days. The Trump administration however has a different approach – and pays more attention to the business community and military – who to a large part support the coup and the present system.

  15. HRK says:

    Thank you for the interesting and timely article! It shows – finally – that not only the Rohingya are suppressed, but other minorities as well. These tend to be widely ignored by the intrnational media and development organisations!
    It is not suprising that the Kachin don’t trust Suu Kyi. Why should they? Suu Kyi had made quite clear in several of her speeches and prior to the last election that no special rights will be given. The Kachin (as well as Chin etc.) should become proper Burmese. Furthermore, she follows a policy of far reaching centralization, which is never positive for minorities in peripheral regions. The Kachin should provide resources, but not demand a just share of the profits!

  16. […] security-driven approach in managing labour migration. The presence of migrant workers is often viewed as the cause of Thailand’s communicable diseases, environmental degradation and rising crime […]

  17. […] especially among migrant workers. This renewed attention has been in direct response to a storm of international criticism aimed at the poor working conditions suffered by migrant workers. So far, the government has […]

  18. Derek Tonkin says:

    In 1947, it was the Shan who invited Aung San to Panglong. British archives show that only a few days before he went, Aung San didn’t think the meeting would lead anywhere, and he was pleasantly surprised to find when he arrived that the Shan had already decided that union with Burma, with local autonomy, was negotiable. The Kachin were willing to go along as well, while the Chin were frankly unsure what to do for the best and had some difficulty in following the discussions. The Karen, representing only Karen outside Ministerial Burma, arrived late, as they had been holding their own “Panglong”, and couldn’t claim to represent all Karen. So they didn’t sign anything.

    In 2017 it was Aung San Suu Kyi who invited everyone. But to rekindle the Spirit of Panglong, perhaps the non-Burmans should hold their own conference first, as in 1947, and then open discussions with the centre by inviting Aung San Suu Kyi to attend. But I realise it doesn’t work like this these days, which is no doubt why David Brenner has reached his commendable and well-founded conclusions.

  19. Ross says:

    I don’t think regional analysis is necessarily what’s required to best understand the situation here. To me, there are long standing and recent local precedents of middle classes / students as disruptors. The southern situation, in relation to the other prongs of power in focus (Crown and Military), is probably more of a force towards embedding the status quo, rather than as a disruption to the current state. I’m no expert tho. Nich’s ‘what next’ is pretty on the money I think – though as the ‘new structure’ is seemingly unlikely – it is worth exploring what other options might exist – and private sector or business wasn’t a focus here, but tends to drive some such developments for better or worse.

  20. Karthik says:

    Dear Vetrivel, I’m interested in documenting the lives of migrant labourers in Malaysia. Could you give me your email or Facebook ID?