In a time of political dissent, people in the Northeast have turned to unique ways of protesting. From July to August 2021, people all over Isaan participated in over 40 Car Mobs, a new way to protest–from the safety of one’s car. In her latest contribution, Saowanee T. Alexander underscores how Car Mobs have embodied the hopes and dreams of the pro-democracy movement in the Northeast.
With the death of Professor Charles F. Keyes earlier this month, Isaan lost one of its oldest and best friends. He had done his field research in Maha Sarakham in the early 1960s and wrote what was his first most major publication and which began the most influential English-language book on the region:
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.
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.
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?
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.
Isaan scholars and artists, in cooperation with The Isaan Record, are set to carry out a merit-making ceremony and other activities in April 2022 in Ban Saphue, Ubon Ratchathani Province. The event is to commemorate the 121st anniversary of the Siamese government’s crushing of the Phi Bun Rebellion in the area where as many as 400 rebels were killed or executed.
The Thai-language side of The Isaan Record has been publishing a series on the “Holy Man Rebellion” of 1901-02. We are sharing select pieces to our English-language readers. In this article, Weerawat Somnoek looks at the most powerful weapon used in the “Isaan Phi Bun Rebellion” against the dominance of Bangkok. It was not their swords or spears, but their ballads that helped spread and strengthen a certain ideology among the oppressed that inspired them to stand up against authority.
Philip Cornwel-Smith’s latest book, Very Bangkok, might have been just another of the umpteen guide books on Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. Why another book on this egotistical and egocentric subject? But Cornwel-Smith is no typical guide. The very breadth of Very Bangkok provides a comprehensive and fresh take on the capital and its role within the country. It also gives us new insights into Isaan and its troubling relationship to the capital.