The Mekong River is unique in that it flows through and between so many countries. Every country takes what it can from it, leaving the millions who depend on it for their livelihoods and survival in an increasingly perilous situation. A team of guest contributors went to two communities in Isaan—one where the Mekong first touches the region in Loei and one 600 kms away in Ubon where it leaves Thai territory to learn how two communities are dealing with a drastically changing environment.
In Part I of our special three-part series, “The Holy Man Rebellions from both sides of the Mekong,” Ian G. Baird described how the political dynamics between the French, the House of Champassak, and the Siamese all played a role in sparking sporadic millenarian movements in both the newly established French colony of Laos and the Bangkok-colonized Northeast of Siam. In this segment, Baird explains how the “holy men” of the period moved back and forth across the Mekong River, making it a significant cross-border set of events.
Prince Sapphasitthiprasong was the one who brought urban planning to Ubon Ratchathani. He might be called the father of modern Ubon. But he was also the one who launched the campaign against the Holy Man Rebellion in Trakan Phuet Phon District. The rebels were hopelessly outgunned and the crackdown led to the death of more than 300. A local historian and restaurant owner weighs in on how the people of Ubon Ratchathani remember this Bangkok-appointed governor.
The tale of resistance surrounding Isaan’s Holy Man Rebellion in Ubon Ratchathani province, called “The Battle of Non Pho,” was passed down from generation to generation. Much folklore and many poems recalled the event of 121 years ago. Non Pho was a killing field, shelled by the government’s cannons, where over 400 people died. Local residents hope to build a local history museum in order to memorialize the tragic history of that day, one that has otherwise been fading.
In response to popular demand (on the Thai-language side), we are bringing our readers a new set of items on the Holy Man Rebellion, part of an effort to rediscover Isaan’s lost history. This time we explore the causes behind the uprising of Isaan people 121 years ago. Although the lives of 300 rebels were lost in Ban Saphue, Ubon Ratchathani, there’s no memorial, no museum, no sign that the community has once seen so many die all at once. The Isaan Record presents the Season 2 of “The Isaan Holy Man Rebellion” to commemorate the 121st anniversary of the brutal crackdown.
Thailand’s public education system is rarely held up as a success story. But its woes have become even more acute in the past decade. It faces a host of challenges: inequality, uneven funding and frequent policy changes by the Ministry of Education, and high levels of teacher debt. Guest contributor Mark S. Cogan takes a look at the challenges and the dim chances for improvement.
News of physical abuse of students by teachers is all but commonplace in Isaan and in Thailand more generally. Guest contributor Mark Cogan examines why such abuse is tolerated, arguing that the persistence of such abuse points to larger problems in the education system that trains students (and their parents) to focus more on obedience than learning.
Construction of the high-speed rail project may open up new horizons for Thai society. But it also has important collateral damage: the destruction of a unique urban space that has played an important part in Thailand’s visions of a possible democratic future. Guest contributor Eli Elinoff reflects on the loss of railway communities to the high-speed train project in Khon Kaen and beyond.