This is an omnibus post about various events and publications of interest. I will be adding material over the next 24 hours. Many of you, of course, won’t be able to attend the events but you may be interested to see what is going on.

National Thai Studies Centre events at ANU

The National Thai Studies Centre has announced a series of upcoming events. I will post more details as they come to hand.

August will be a busy month for analysis of Thailand politics. It will commence on 6 August, with a presentation by Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, of the Law Faculty at Chulalongkorn University, talking on “Human Rights Governance Under Thailand’s New Constitution”. Professor Vitit is a leading academic lawyer, who has written extensively on legal affairs in academic publications and the media, particularly in the area of human rights. He has served in various capacities in the United Nations system, including as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (1990-1994) and is currently Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. (The NTSC is pleased to acknowledge the support of the Australia-Thailand Institute for this address.)

On 13 August Professor Chaiwat Satha-Anand will speak on “Untying the Gordian Knot? The Difficulties in Solving Southern Violence”. Professor Chaiwat is from the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University, and a highly regarded expert in the areas of peace studies and conflict resolution. He was the principle writer for the recent report by the independent National Reconciliation Commission recommending policies to help overcome violence in the south.

This year’s Update Conference will be held at University House, ANU on 31 August. Its theme this year is “Thailand’s Twin Crises: Restoring Democracy and Violence in the South”. Academics from Thailand and Australia will address both these critical issues.

Shan music’s captive audience

This looks like a fascinating seminar.

Amporn Jirattikorn.
PhD Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin

Pop Music, Migrants, Prisoners and the Notion of Exile of the Shan in Thailand

3rd of August at 3pm
Milgate Room
AD Hope Buiding.
Australian National University

My project draws on eighteen months of ethnographic work with the Shan migrant community in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I focus in my research the relationship between transnational media texts and a condition of exile/displacement, examining how they combine to influence, shape, and condition new social identities. In terms of media texts, I look at Shan popular music and the VCDs and cassettes used to disseminate it as primarily cultural forms that spill across Burma’s borders and are consumed widely by Shans living Thailand. In terms of displacement, I discuss two different forms of displacements: migrant workers and exile prisoners who migrate to seek work in the new land but end it up in jail for drug offences. In exploring how displacement and deterritorialization shape the social construction of identity, I trace the very meanings Shan migrants and
prisoners are able to give to their own lives and fortunes through popular music. I show how music play an important role in re-imagining national community at a deterritorialized, unordinary transnational level. Comparison of the prisoners and the migrant workers’s interpretation and engagement to popular culture reveal differences in the meanings that people ascribed to national and ethnic identity, to notions of home and homeland, and to exile as an experienced condition.

Lao linguistics seminar

‘The big ones swallow the small ones.’ Or do they? Code switching practices in the ethnic minority classrooms of the Lao PDR.

Friday 3 August 3.30-5.00pm
Languages & Linguistics Seminar Series
W1.08 Baldessin Building (Faculty of Asian Studies)
The Australian National University

Angela Cincotta
Doctoral Candidate
Southeast Asia Centre
Faculty of Asian Studies

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse nations in Southeast Asia. The post-1975 Communist government has touted as its hallmark discourses of interethnic equality and solidarity, yet government policies simultaneously articulate a discourse of ethnic Lao centrality. This research identifies official discourses on ethnicity, language and education in the Lao PDR and investigates how these discourses are reproduced, adapted or contested by the language practices of teachers and students in ethnic minority primary school classrooms. The research was carried out in Nalae district, Luang Nam Tha Province in north-western Laos as part of the author’s doctoral programme. The presentation will provide an overview of the research, then focus on classroom code switching practices between Lao and the Kmhmu language, and their relationship to the State’s conceptual hierarchy of cultures and languages.

Southern Thailand publication

Rebellion in Southern Thailand: Contending Histories by Thanet Aphornsuvan (2007), 90 pages. Co-published by East-West Center Washington and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. For further details and to order, click here.

This study addresses the competing histories of Thailand and Patani beginning in the fourteenth century up to the mid-twentieth century. It provides an explanation of the causes of ongoing political conflict between the Malay Muslims in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand and the Thai government, against which “separatist” movements fought in the 1960s. Even though January 2004 marked the beginning of the current violence that now plagues Thailand’s south, most people in and outside the area still believe that the nature of such conflict is internal and could be resolved peacefully. The major contention in the competing histories of Siam and Patani revolves around national policies that resulted in discrimination and destruction of the Muslim’s cultural identity and rights. In the early twentieth century under the rule of King Chulalongkorn, which was characterized by centralization and cultural suppression, Patani was reduced to a mere province. Further forced assimilation occurred under the Phibun government in the 1940s, at which time Islamic practices and the use of the Yawi language were curbed. The sources of political conflict–including the political status of Patani, ethnic identity, Bangkok politics, and bureaucratic misconduct in the south–have historical roots. Understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture and ethno-religious identities could lead to positive political will on both sides for peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Sufficiency logic?

Last week there was a seminar on Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy in the Age of Globalisation: Logic, Dynamics and Implications at the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University. If anyone has any reports on the seminar please post your comments. The advertised participants were:

Dr. Kobsak Pootrakool
Senior Economist, Monetary Policy Group
The Bank of Thailand

Dr. Sooksan Kantabutra
Assistant Professor, College of Management
Mahidol University

Dr. Kazi Matin
Lead Economist, World Bank Office Bangkok

Professor Danny Unger
Department of Political Science
Northern Illinois University, USA

Dr. Peter Bell
Associate Professor of Economics
State University of New York, USA

Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak
Institute of Security and International Studies
Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University