It has been a long day, so here is just a quick report on day 1 of the Thai Studies Conference. The openning by Princess Sirindhorn was brief and to the point. Plenty of sitting, standing, sitting and standing, presentation of gifts and various suited officials crawling around on stage. Her opening address was formal and very brief – certainly no exposition of her own views on Thai society or culture. The turnout from the conference’s international academic committee was rather thin. There was a fair media scrum, so it will be interesting what coverage this gets and to what extent the conference features in the royal publicity machine. The opening was followed by three keynotes, the highlight of which for me was Charles Keyes’ important reminder that rural people in Isan do act according to moral precepts alongside (despite?) their enthusiastic embrace of capitalism.
In the afternoon I was involved in two sessions which discussed sufficiency economy. A lot of ground was covered and I think it fair to say that the sessions provided for an open and frank critical discussion of the royal theory. One hardened critic even commented to me afterwards that for a period during the session he actually felt sorry for sufficiency economy!
Those who are attending the conference are very welcome to provide their own comments, thoughts, reflections or reports from specific panels. It would be useful if New Mandala readers could also provide details of any media coverage the conference receives in local or international media.