This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Thai Navy ‘Gangnam Style’ video hits YouTube…
I’m not a fan of the Gangnam Style craze that’s been hitting the internet lately. I enjoy Hip Hop but Gangnam is way over annoying. Just like Rap, it makes me want to bop someone.
At the end of September Gangnam Style hit the local Thai news with ‘Gangnam Style’ dance comp leads to teen violence [typically, the BKK Post has taken this article offline. Grrrr]. And then it went global: ‘Gangnam Style’ Dance-Off Ends in Shoot-Out. Sure. I can see how that could happen. Gangnam Style gets me riled up too.
Then yesterday, right when I was struggling to wake up, the Bangkok Post came out with another Gangnam Style article:
Bangkok Post: Navy ‘Gangnam Style’ makes choppy waves: A senior naval officer has apologised to some of his colleagues and superiors who were unhappy with the “Gangnam Style” video he helped produce.
Not being a Gangnam fan, I normally wouldn’t bother watching a Gangnam video but the mention of a powerful public figure having to apologise for what is basically a Thai trait (having fun), got my attention. And so I did.
I don’t know about you but I thought the video was GREAT! Ok. I’ll admit that I had to turn the sound off partway through, but I felt that the presentation was well done, and fun to watch.
Another thought that came to me was that Thailand worries way too much about criticism coming their way. Remember the Bare Breasted Ladies of Songkran? Same same?
It being morning and having things to do, I wandered off. But then this article came across my twitter, dragging me back:
Boingboing: Thai Navy’s “Gangnam Style” YouTube remake lands officers in hot water: The Bangkok Post reports that a senior officer in Thailand’s navy was forced to apologize over a silly YouTube video remake of PSY’s “Gangnam Style.”
Forced to apologize? That kind of got my expat goat. I mean, by apologising, isn’t Vice Admiral Tharathorn Kajitsuwan coming across as a wimp? Wouldn’t a public apology be a huge loss of face for both him and his men?
Then I thought of เกรงใจ /kreng jai/. It’s a Thai thing. Some bigwigs started grumbling about the disrespect shown to the Thai Navel uniform, making their displeasure known up and down the chain of command, and so the admiral felt compelled to kowtow.
For those of you who don’t know what kreng jai is (often spelt ‘greng jai’), read Understanding Kreng Jai.
Wanting a Thai take on the situation, I contacted Kaewmala of Thai Women Talks. Kaewmala agreed on the kreng jai angle but went further:
Kaewmala: You can say that but it’s more nuanced. It’s authority, hierarchy (respect for elders), face, etc.
Apology is the only choice available given high-level displeasure. However, I don’t see it as weak. He said “Everybody [in the video] was willing to dance and looked very happy. But if anyone feels discontented or sees it as inappropriate, I apologise.” Culturally appropriate to apologize but he wasn’t groveling.
IMO some people just place more importance on authority, dignity and sanctity of traditions (in this case represented by the uniform). Others give less importance to authority, tradition and the sacredness thereof, and more to liberty & freedom. These views always clash.
Kaewmala also pointed out that in a classy, not a knee-jerk way, the admiral was basically saying that yes, he was apologising IF anyone was offended. But if they were offended, then they obviously have a stick up their batooties. Something like that (I’m paraphrasing here).
Good. Then that’s sorted. Thanks Kaewmala!
Yes. Thais DO sing and Dance!…
One of my objections to the forced apology for the Navel video was because, in my opinion, singing and dancing were not going against the Thai grain. Thais love to have fun. It’s in everything they do. And do correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s a Thainess sort of thing.
For years we’ve been treated with YouTube videos of Thai men and women singing and dancing in uniform. But until the Gangnam Style episode, I hadn’t thought to count the grumblers. So, just how many are there against having fun? Below are a few videos (some quite well-known, others not so much). Check out the YouTube ratings for each one.
Dancing Thai Policewomen…
YouTube rating: 325,164 views, 1,433 likes, 85 dislikes
Dancing Thai Tourist Police…
YouTube rating: 1,037,971 views, 3,347 likes, 78 dislikes
Dancing, laughing Thai Traffic Police…
YouTube rating: 52,512 views, 327 likes, 19 dislikes
Singing Thai Police…
YouTube rating: 12,594 views, 55 likes, 3 dislikes
Singing Thai Policeman…
YouTube rating: 489 views, 1 like, 0 dislikes
Dancing Thai Immigration officers…
YouTube rating: 1,498 views, 2 likes, 1 dislike
The dislikes? They are left out in the cold…
Thai navy, Gangnan Style: 406,147 views, 3,801 likes, 91 dislikes
Thai Policewomen: 325,164 views, 1,433 likes, 85 dislikes
Tourist Police: 1,037,971 veiws, 3,347 likes, 78 dislikes
Thai Traffic Police: 52,512 views, 327 likes, 19 dislikes
Thai Police: 12,594 views, 55 likes, 3 dislikes
Thai Immigration Officers: 1,498 views, 2 likes, 1 dislike
So there you have it. The likes far outweigh the dislikes.