I Love Thailand and the Lands of Thailand

I Love Thailand

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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The I Love Thailand website launches…

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently launched a website to unite the Thai people: ilovethailand.org (no longer online – the German’s grabbed it).

The site is not only in Thai, so if your Thai is not up to it but your English is, you should find something of interest.

The Lands of Thailand< video...

Included in the video section is a graphic history of Thailand from 1782 to 1932.

Checking on YouTube, I found the video translated into English.


Going through the strong opinions under the Thai version on YouTube is… interesting. Perhaps we’ll find similar maps from the Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodians, and Burmese posting soon.

16 thoughts on “I Love Thailand and the Lands of Thailand”

  1. what ever the truth about Thailand elustrous history one thing for sure is that while we in north America and Europe where in the dark ages they where not south-east Asia is just a fantastic place to explore
    the promotion of Thai culture is interesting but recent comments from pad that westerns should leave Thailand doesn’t fill me hope for the near future
    sorry of topic regards john

  2. Rikker, I so agree. There is a disparity between what is taught in schools and what is generally believed by academics. For all countries.

    And that is why I hunt down books such as ‘Debunking History – 152 Popular Myths Explained’ and ‘Don’t Know Much About History, everything you need to know about American history but never learned’.

    When I took Civics I was lucky in that the two teachers sharing the class chose to take us through the snafus of US history. But that was California and that was then. Schools have certainly changed, and perhaps not for the better?

    For the other information you shared, I’ll see if I can track it down in the books I have here. Thanks!

  3. There’s a disconnect between Official National History (what gets taught in ministry-approved school books) and the consensus of the global community.

    This is true for anywhere, of course, not just Thailand. Things change with the times, but in America, for example, certainly until rather recently you would’ve gotten a distorted picture of the despicable treatment of the Native Americans. The idea of “manifest destiny” is still prevalent. I’m a young’un, and in high school we were taught that the U.S. had never lost a war. We just “pulled out” of Vietnam. So Thailand is by no means alone.

    The Phibunsongkhram era *created* Thailand. Literally and figuratively. Field Marshal Phibun admired Mussolini, so much that he directly imitated many of his policies, aggressively westernizing the country and promoting extreme nationalism. It was during this era that the country’s name was changed (to assert cultural supremacy over the ever-growing Chinese immigrant population).

    Phibun’s “cultural mandates” (รัฐนิยม) and other strictly enforced policies effected drastic changes to the basic Thai way of life. He and his chief propagandist Luang Wichitwathakan (หลวงวิจิตรวาทการ) were essentially the architects of Thai history still largely believed today.

    This era created some enduring myths. For one, that Thailand means “land of the free”. This is misleading for a couple of reasons. At the same time, the name Siam was stigmatized by claiming it derives from the Sanskrit word ศยาม meaning “black” — only possible but relatively unlikely etymology. Another popular myth holds that the Thais were the true originators of the Kingdom of Nanzhao (a musical play by Wichit popularized this notion). It was essentially a work of fantasy and serious historians reject it as entirely unfounded, but it still holds some popular sway.

    It was also Luang Wichit who in his 1941 book “Thailand’s Case” made the claim that the modern Khmer are not actually the ancestors of the builders of Angkor Wat. He claimed that anciently there was another group living in the area called the Khom (ขอม), which the Thais had attacked an eliminated. So the modern Khmer were, he said, really part of the Thai race. This was accepted as historical fact.

    To this day, the ancient Khmer are virtually always referred to by Thai academics as ขอม “Khom”, because this myth has not lost popular favor yet. In the 1960s this was a central point to the argument made by Seni Pramoj (who had and would later serve again as Prime Minister) as to why Preah Vihear should belong to Thailand. This exact same point was raised again in the recent reiteration of the Preah Vihear debate.

    The situation is very similar with Laos. Official Thai history basically teaches that Siam was a large historical empire. The facts do not really support this. For one, the Lao do not accept the Thai national position that Laos is historically a part of Siam/Thailand any more than the Khmer do. Even the national Thai account of the history of “core” Siam — Sukhothai>Ayutthaya>Bangkok — is broadly disputed by important Southeast Asian historians.

    So you have a fundamental problem here. Objective truth and nationalism do not mix. The academic community or the public at large is not welcoming to anyone who challenges major tenets of national historical beliefs. Professor Thongchai is a rarity, because he is sufficiently removed from the local scene. But look at, say, Giles Ungpakorn, as an example of what happens to local academics who challenge official dogma.

    Note: History is not my field, so I have no particular expertise or in-depth knowledge of these topics. I welcome reasoned criticism of any claim I’ve made. I know this sort of topic tends to get people’s dander up.

  4. Hi Andy. Thanks, but it won’t work in Thailand. As you feared, it is blocked.

    ‘…a historical oversimplification…’

    So maybe someone should create a new one using the information from ‘Siam Mapped’. One with clearer explanations. And I imagine Thais will also want a map they can use with history books.

  5. If you want to see the answer of a Cambodian cartoonist, take a look here (provided it will work in Thailand, IIRC I found his blog in Thailand’s block list).

    Once you have read that “Siam Mapped” you’ll see that it is a historical oversimplification to call all these areas “lost territory”, as these were never belonging to Siam in the modern sense of national states. Siam only changed into a modern nation state while experiencing the last losses of territory only loosely controlled by the central government.

  6. The map certainly does give mixed messages. It says ‘honouring our ancestors…’ then goes on to say which lands the ancestors lost while being in charge of the country.

    Was there an article that went along with the map? Because all down through the centuries different countries around the world have taken bits from each other in turn. Parts of France still don’t know whether to call themselves German or not 😉

    I’ll go and hunt down your article to get a better feel for it. I’ll also crack ‘Siam Mapped’ to go section by section.

  7. Be careful about believing that video. It would be like the U.S. complaining about the “injustice” of the Mexican-American War (how *dare* the Mexicans question our right to Texas!). Thailand had annexed many areas in recent years through war, but to make cultural or historical claim to the areas is disingenuous at best.

    I left a comment on the Bangkok Crimes post linking to my posts about it a year ago, as well as the post eviscerating it on The Nation’s State blog (that inspired my own posts on the topic).

  8. I was also interested in seeing how much land Thailand has lost. I’ve read a few books on Thai history, but for me, an animated graphic is more powerful than a few drawings dotted around a book.

    When I was watching the video, I thought back to the landmass Brunei lost over the centuries. At one time, Brunei spread all the way to the Philippines. Now it is a mere two tiny dots on the map… which just happens to hold a LOT of oil.


    What I did not mention is that the video was put together a long time before Abhisit’s site launched. And as members are allowed to put Thai videos in to celebrate Thailand, this was one of them. But no on seems to object to it being there.

    Your ‘bitterness and resentment’ comment is spot on as the comments on YouTube under that video between the Thais and the surrounding countries are quite angry.

    I realise that countries close to each other tend to hold resentment, with some being quite notorious: Russia and China, French and German, British and French… but Thailand needs to strengthen those unions if they can.

    ‘They are missing out on a lot of potential members with that one’

    Lol! I’m moving slow as I’m not quite through my first cup of coffee so I had to think on that one. And you are right. In other countries you might have three, but Thailand is known for many more 😀

  9. I viewed the English video version of Lands of Thailand and I can only say fascinating. I didn’t realize that Thailand had lost so much land over the years and the way the video is put together is easy to understand…..what worries me is the implications of the video.

    Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is obviously going for the unity angle which will in my opinion fail even before it reaches Isaan country. What concerns me is whether the taking of land by the British, French and Chinese will turn a minority of Thai’s against these countries. I am not talking in terms of violence but more bitterness and resentment, which I think would be unjust to the many ex pats and tourists from these three countries. Service delivered with a smile through gritted teeth perhaps. Just a thought.

    I tried the link and it worked okay. I got to the enrol for membership page and was surprised that as it’s Thailand the gender question only gave two options, male or female. They are missing out on a lot of potential members with that one.

  10. Ah yes, I see what you mean. If you look at that chap, he’s holding two entry urls. The left takes you to sign up, the right goes into the site.

    Agreed on the splash page totally, as I’ve always disliked them (was able to talk my clients out of it for the most part).

    From the designer in me too 🙂

  11. The first time I visited the site I was greeted by a splash page containing some links in Thai. It was confusing for a non-Thai speaker, so I clicked away. Then I gave it another try from your site, thinking if there was an English link you’d have posted it, so perhaps I was missing something.

    The splash page doesn’t load on repeat visits, and the English option is then shown.

    I think it’d be better if they didn’t use a splash page. Especially one that’s in Thai-only.

    Just a quick observation from a designer viewpoint. 😉


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