Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Thai – Kwaam pen Thai

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Ethnicity, Thai


Kwaam pen Thai

Relates to Thai-ness

The nationalism that infuses Thailand’s security language is very apparent in the deployment of ‘Thai-ness”, and its continuing defence, as one way that the nation is made strong. For Thai-ness to retain its potency it requires the almost perpetual threat from some other, often the Burmese but sometimes Cambodians or Lao, to justify the ways that Thais speak about themselves and their uniqueness. In Thailand official government broadcasts, school textbooks and a range of other media all emphasise the importance of the ‘Thai way’. The implication is that any threat to nation, religion (which, in this sense, is almost always taken to mean Buddhism) or the king are threats to Thai-ness and, as such, also threats to Thailand. Vulnerable others, such as those who cannot speak Thai or who are unfamiliar with Central Thai culture, are liable to find themselves targeted for special treatment.

Thai mannerisms, methods of dressing and official protocol are all also invoked in the constant effort to shape the national imagination. During the highly contested period after the coup of 2006 the re-empowered Culture Ministry made the maintenance of Thai-ness one of the building blocks for all national activities. Those who are judged disloyal or not sufficiently grateful for the opportunity to experience the Thai way are made to feel like outsiders in a system which is defined by its ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality.




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