1. King says:

    Your analytical scenarios are more unlikely given that Cambodia’s ruling party is strongly unified and the military is also cohesive. This makes the putsch far more unlikely given the today situation. Under international sanctions, especially from the ban of imports of footwear and garments to the United States and Europe, the factory workers will not resort to any assemblies given that the labor unions have almost now become CPP-alliances, plus the absence of coordination mechanisms from unions or opposition-related organizations. Thanks

  2. Vientiane's bookworm says:

    This question always pops up in my mind!! I am Lao student who is studying in Japan. I love reading since I was 6 years old, at 6-15 I love reading Thai novels, I’ve Thai novels and others books more than 50books. My parent understand and support me to read. When I entered to University, most of the book I read is just a medical books till I graduated and got a scholarship and studied in Japan, I noticed most Japanese spent their free times (on the train, coffee shop etc) by reading a book. So I thought to myself that I used to be like that, so I’ve decided to read a book and I found many bookshops in Tokyo, that’s awesome and not too expensive to buy, instead of heading to our mobile phone, reading book is a good choice that we can learn others things and get some knowledge just not in our professional theory books!
    I got a lot of book, especially English novels and some history books!!
    When I was back to Laos and give a book for my friend as a present, she looked at me weirdo lolz, I said please read this and you will understand some day that I’ve gave the best present for you!
    In my future, I would love to share my books with others, and wanna give an opportunity to lao kids to change their habit to read and to love reading.
    One of bookworms in Vientiane.

  3. […] Based on what I have been witnessing on the ground, the situation is much more complex. To try and explain it does not mean excusing the atrocities the army has undoubtedly committed, or ignoring the plight of the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children trapped between Rohingya militants and the army. […]

  4. Paul Rowland says:

    Agree or disagree with the author’s thesis, I don’t understand why it is necessary to undertake personal attacks. Blogs are, by definition, opinion and can include but do not require academic citations. I enjoy the cut and thrust of opposing arguments, which is why I read New Mandala, but the gratuitous personalisation of the comments renders them cheap and tedious.

  5. Noraihan Fong Khairil Anuar says:

    I read the article about language shaming and I have just recently experienced it. I am a Mixed chinese-malay who speaks English and wear a scarf. I was trying to update my passport in the Immigration Department of Malaysia. There had been a miscommunication and I got into an arguement with a female Malay Officer who told me to learn to speak in Malay because I was talking in English among other things. I also suggested that the forms should have English when I learned that all forms were in Malay. I went to the Head office on the fifth floor to complain about the unprofessional behavior of the officer and at first they wanted to do a background check on me if I had a PR status or which foreign embassy I was from. It seems there is a concern because there are many illegal immigrants with fake ICs and passports that they wanted to authenticate if I was Malaysian. English is an universal language worldwide and a recognized second language in Malaysia. Where does it say in a Government building to speak only in Malay? If someone speaks in English and chooses to communicate in it while holding a Malaysian passport, is it fair to suspect that person is an illegal?! When does speaking a universal language that even that officer understands become wrong and a form of segregation? I am proud of my English and I have to right to communicate in it if I want to. There is no law in Malaysia that says I can’t speak in English! What gives that Officer the right to be rude and unprofessional to someone who already paid for their passport renewal? I hope sharing my experiences will help raise some awareness.

  6. DHL says:

    Dear Paul, yes, we have to change the way we think about Buddhism and non-violence, but not only in the light of what the Sayadaw says, but generally: the very same phase from the Mahavamsa was used in Sri Lanka during the civil war to justify killing Tamils. And I was told by a colleague that to save the religion, violence is alright. But four points:
    This colleague also said that in order to save the doctrine, Ananda and others accepted their bad karma.
    Second, the Mahavamsa is, against common perceptions, not a religious text in the sense of a prescribed doctrinal text.
    Third, the canon itself has another view of the warrior and killing (I would have to look up the the sutra): even a warrior who fights in a good cause and regrets all he did the moment he dies, will have to go through the effects of his karma regardless.
    And finally, the episode in the Mahavamsa is a reworking of a similar one told about Asoka who, after conquering Kalinga, regretted what he did and was advised by the monks to convert to Buddhism (minus the argument about the slaying of the non-humans!)
    So, to revert to this example to justify killing for religious purposes is even more problematic than you indicate. Moreover, apparently, Myanma reworkings of the Mahavamsa considerably qualify this episode because it sat badly with the ideas of non-violence of the doctrine. I assume that like U Wirathu, the Sayadaw has been influenced by Sinhalese interpretations of the Mahavamsa recently.

  7. Steve says:

    Of course, Sondhi B is the General, Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, not the corrupt businessman Sondhi Limtongkol. Sorry.

    Look, I’m just reacting in frustration to the too-common narrative that the UDD/redshirts are champions of democracy and that you can’t oppose them and Thaksin without being a fascist. I apologize to everyone for my overreaction.

  8. Steve says:

    Re, Sondhi & Sondhi (did you mean Sondhi L, rather than B?), yes, but you forget that the “A” in PAD stood for “alliance”. A great many of the people on the ground were protesting Thaksin’s profoundly autocratic rule. Indeed, the movement started after Thaksin forced Sondhi L’s televison program, which was critical of him, off the air. Sondhi L continued the program off air in various open air venues, attracting large crowds. Those gatherings became larger and larger, finally turning into sustained protests attracting many who had no use for Sondhi L. himself, but who opposed Thaksin’s many human rights abuses. As Kevin himself noted, the PAD initially included many NGOs that would have been considered progressive.

    It may be worth recalling as a side note, that the 2006 coup occurred in the midst of a constitutional crisis–constitutionally there was no government since over 90 days had passed since parliament had been dissolved with no new government being formed. Thaksin was ruling by edict. That wasn’t Thaksin’s doing, it was a series of flaws in the 1997 constitution.

  9. Sam Deedes says:

    What does killing mean in Buddhist doctrine? Here’s an argument that appears to say it means discarding a person as unteachable.

  10. Siri Gamage says:

    Joel was the chair,dept of anthropology & sociology when I was doing my PhD in the department in the late 80s. He was a committed and engaged critical anthropologist who contributed articles in various books and journals dealing with the subject, based on his research in SEA and the disciplinary history. Though my supervisor was Dr. Rashmi Desai, Joel provided informal mentoring to me when I needed help. He nurtured a generation of anthropologists from the region and provided intellectual leadership. His loss will be felt among the anthropology community very much. He is sadly missed.

  11. As someone who is often critical of how posts on NM either oversimplify or overtly skew discussion of Thai politics, I was surprised at Steve’s response to Hewison’s relatively balanced and nuanced article.

    In the interest of just a tad more nuance, I think that Steve’s suggestion that the “original PAD” was not yet an anti-democratic movement whose goals included a military coup is naive.

    PAD was officially formed on February 9, 2006, exactly five days after Sondhi’s “Farewell Show” at Lumpini.

    When the apparently reborn enthusiasm of the 50K-plus audience had convinced a few soon-to-be PADites of the viability of a renewed push to oust Thaksin, emissaries from Lumpini were sent to the Royal Household Bureau and to Prem’s house.

    Shockingly, the RHB was open at 9pm to receive Sondhi’s men, and at both places they were welcomed warmly.

    Sondhi B went personally to meet Gen. Sonthi and asks “Are you going to stand by the people?”

    Sonthi replies “I will stand by the people because I am a soldier of the people.”

    So the usual congeries of palace and royalist power centers join with the RTA to give a media mogul the go-ahead to operate as the street wing of the coming “alteration”.

    PAD was an anti-democratic proto-fascist mob from the day of its birth.

  12. Kevin Hewison says:

    I won’t comment on your narrative nor repeat what I wrote above in the original post. Your main claim is that I mis-characterise the reds and yellows. All I can say is that you should read my NM piece rather more carefully. For someone who has claimed to want nuance, you have missed quite a deal of it (e.g. in what I say about red shirts). There is also some nuance in the way that I characterise yellow shirts over the long period from 2006 to 2014.

    My concentration on yellow shirts for this piece is because for most of their existence they have proposed measures that are opposed to electoral politics, whether that be calling for royal or military intervention. And, to date, they have been the victors in that their ideas (which are not new in Thailand) largely motivate the current junta and its rule-making for the future.

  13. […] Indian migrant workers in Malaysia – Part 2 […]

  14. […] Indian migrant workers in Malaysia – Part 1 […]

  15. Steve says:

    “I realise that this is being perhaps all too academic.”
    Not too academic for this academic. I have quickly read through some of your articles and must say that they are considerably more informed and nuanced than your NM post. I recommend them as one voice on the issues.

    My problem with your NM piece is that you paint the yellowshirts and redshirts as anti- and pro-democracy monoliths. This kind of simplistic casting can be dangerous in terms of the way the international community assesses local situations.

    The original yellowshirts, the PAD, was indeed an alliance largely opposed to Thaksin’s suppression of criticism and dissent, his disasterous handling of ethnic Malay Southern Thailand, a Duterte-style war on drugs, and massive corruption to the point that Cabinet members were resigning in protest. The protesters were, in the well established Thai tradition, calling in massive street protests for the government to step down. They were not calling for a coup, though many cheered when it happened.

    The renewed yellowshirt protests after post-coup elections gave the government to Thaksin’s faction were decidedly anti-democratic and the excesses (occupying the airport) spelled the virtual end of the yellowshirt movement.

    The PDRC, started as a protest when Yinglucks’s (Thaksin’s sister) called a late night session of parliament to vote on a contraversial amnesty bill (which I actually supported) but only told members of the governing coalition. Those protests morphed into a very antidemocratic movement, directly calling for a coup and imposition of military dictatorship, ushering in the present disaster. But those calling for that was neither everyone who opposed Thaksin nor all of the former yellowshirts.

    Similarly, the redshirt movement includes multiple factions. The largest, rice farmers from the North and Northeast are loyal to Thaksin personally, and not necessarily his policies alone. If they are pro-democracy, it’s only because Thaksin parties have been winning elections. There are also republicans, genuine democracy advocates and (former) Communists. Some of these engaged in firing and throwing grenades into yellowshirt, then PDRC demonstrations with attendant fatalities, but we needn’t blame those actions on “the redshirts” as a whole. Then there were the 2009 and 2010 (lightly) armed uprisings against the Abhisit government. The Abhisit government had come to power in what can only be called a judicial coup against a Thaksin surrogate (his brother-in-law, as I recall), yet expanded many of Thaksin’s social welfare programs and putting them on sound financial footing. He offered to step down after (I think) three months to complete the implemention of economic policies. The protest leaders refused, leading to the disasterous and unforgivable suppression of the redshirt occupation of a major business district. I mean Abhisit’s handling and ultimate suppression of the uprising, in which nearly 100 were killed, was unforgivable.

    There’s much much more. Of course you couldn’t have put all that into your piece, you just needed to indicate some anti-democratic elements in civil society. As it is you came accross as a redshirt partizan.

  16. Kevin Hewison says:

    Thanks Steve. As you decline to point out the faults, I will only comment on one aspect of your response. In referring you to my “blog” I was suggesting that the articles and chapters there show a pretty full citation of the materials (books, newspapers, magazines and more) that I believe corroborate my points in the NM post. I realise that this is being perhaps all too academic but this is one way of considering Thailand’s politics in a way that goes beyond the anecdotal.

  17. Sam Deedes says:

    Perhaps I could extend the scope of this article beyond Malaysia and into SE Asia and Asia as a whole. Young people increasingly realise (even if it is not so much “fun”) that they must get hold of the levers of power if they are to make lasting effective change in society. That is why NGOs such as the senior women’s rights activist with the “been there, done that” attitude must crucially have a humble respect for the enthusiasm and tenacity of youth.

    I am encouraged by the development of NOYDA, the Network of Young Democratic Asians and hope to see future New Mandala articles charting its progress.

  18. Steve says:

    I quite understand that a blog post oversimplifies by necessity, almost by definition. Similarly, a comment can do little more than, at best, throw out a few out-of-context facts, more usually empty opinions. This thing has already been debated to death, unconclusively, and I don’t want to repeat that here. I simply wanted to caution readers against imagining that your piece gives anything like an accurate picture–if they want to form opinions on the situation they need to do extensive research.

    I’ve lived in Thailand since 2000, first in Bangkok now in Isan (Redshirt country), speak, read, and write Thai and have followed events closely. I’m well aquainted with people all accross the spectrum. What you presented is a shallow caricature with no hint that things might be more nuanced. I apologize for “crass” and “grotesque”.

    You offer your own website for corroboration. Of course, it will corroborate your own blog post, and “considerable evidence and extensive citation” can easily be found to support any one of the many positions that have been held on the extended crisis.

  19. Kevin Hewison says:

    Difficult to reply to a comment that is critical but includes no detail, just abuse. That a blog post, restricted in length, might miss out some things seems unsurprising.

    In this context, perhaps you can point out the points that are crass (lacking sensitivity, refinement, or intelligence), grotesque (comically or repulsively ugly or distorted), or misleading (giving the wrong idea or impression) on Thailand’s recent political history?

    If detailing alleged failures is not what you want to do, you can actually go to this website ( There and in other pages of the blog you can access detailed arguments in articles, written over the past decade or so, that make many of these points, each with considerable evidence and extensive citation.