Prominent campaigns for “social order” litter the highways and byways of upper mainland Southeast Asia. I am – I must confess – a bit of a fanatic for all this roadside social policy and have a big collection of signs and ephemera that I have snapped over the years. Once upon a time, with a spare day to devote to unusual research tasks, I took photos of every “public good” statement along a 200 km stretch of road in northern Chiang Mai province. In total, there were over 100 photos. There was everything from anti-malaria to anti-drugs, from love your children to dob in forest destroyers.
Today, just for New Mandala readers, I have two recently snapped signs of the continuing effort to announce social policy on street-side signs. One is Thai and one is Burmese.
Translation (lit.): “AIDS, Sex, Drugs are the problems of society”
This prominent sign which is visible from “No Man’s Land” between Thailand and Burma is a none too subtle reminder of the Shan State economy’s most infamous products.
These two signs are only about 60 kilometres apart but the tone and style is more than a little bit different. That national flags are visible in both shots is not coincidental. In this part of the world, roadside announcements are one sign of nationalism…writ large.