For many Thais, Buddhism is seen as a unifying force in society. Yet news of monks involved in sexual abuse and fraud scandals have become commonplace. The Catholic Church finally admitted that it had turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of minors for generations and was successfuly pressured, at least in part, to address past wrongs. Guest contributor Mark S. Cogan asks whether Thai Buddhism can be restrengthened by closing legal loopholes and becoming more transparent.
To gain more insights to the recent controversial Clubhouse session where participants jeered at Isaan people, award-winning writer Wittayakorn Sowat explores the Siam government’s history of internal colonialism which has exploited, suppressed, and belittled Isaan people, making them into obedient subjects. Although many of the Lao Isaan people presently have made great strides, social prejudice persists.
There has always been a distressing gap in the quality of education in Thailand. But the COVID-19 epidemic has exposed and exacerbated the digital gap in the country. In this latest piece, Mark S. Cogan highlights how the digital gap is leaving the most vulnerable behind and recommends that Bangkok make a real commitment to building a modern education infrastructure.
Isaan people have long been discriminated against, not only by regular people but also by the religious world. Ubon Ratchathani University professor Tee Anmai recounts his experience as a novice from Isaan when he was called “Lao” and rejected by Bangkok temples.
It’s the flooding season in Thailand once again. As flood plains are further encroached up, cities are inundated and rice fields submerged. Successive governments have failed to adequately address the problem. In his latest contribution, Mark S. Cogan points out that Thai society’s pervasive use of plastic clogs up water drainage and frustrates attempts to keep Thais high and dry. But it will take a change in society’s use of plastic to keep rising waters at bay.
How did you lose your love? To death? To prison? Or to a mysterious disappearance? For Thalufah activist “Mint” or “Mintermint,” the love of her life was taken away when the authorities stripped him of his freedom, locked him up behind bars at the Bangkok Remand Prison, and denied him bail.
Thailand is one of the most centralized countries in the world, yet the topic of decentralization rarely makes the headlines. Yet the funding from Bangkok can change the fortunes of a province. Recently, ambitious plans by Udon Thani were not just shut down by Bangkok but the provincial budget for the coming year was slashed. Mark S. Cogan examines Udon’s calamitous situation and how it fits within Thailand’s enfeebled decentralization efforts.
Vaccination efforts in Thailand have recently shifted from Bangkok to the provinces. But all is not equal between provinces. At the start of the third wave, Bangkok justified taking most doses because it had more cases. But in the Northeast, Surin has faced a major outbreak but it receives a fraction of the vaccinations its neighbor Buriram receives. Mark S. Cogan examines how unclear criteria has perpetuated inequality and deprives those who need and deserve a vaccination.
In July, the share of new Covid-19 cases in Thailand shifted decisively from Bangkok to the rest of the country. By early August, Bangkok comprised only a fourth of cases, but government vaccination efforts still centered on the capital. At a time when there’s a shortage of vaccines, why hasn’t the distribution of vaccines been more equitable regionally?
As daily deaths reach 300, Thailand’s government has continued the struggle to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It has been unclear with messaging and accused of using Covid restrictions to silence critics. What’s made matters worse is instances where those testing positive suffer stigmatization. Mark S. Cogan looks at the social costs of stigmatization and how the government could do better to limit it.
It seemed that Thailand had avoided the brunt of te Covid-19 epidemic and was praised by international bodies. The government crowed its success and laid out schemes to bring tourists back to safe Thailand. Then the virus caught up with the country in April. The government chose a strategy that favored Bangkok and tourist destinations and deprived millions in the provinces from vaccination.