Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Thai – Sataban

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

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Sataban

Relates to “Institution”

To reference “the institution” in Thai is to point towards a code for “monarchy”. Since the coup of 2006 Thailand’s polarised political landscape has seen the word sataban used by those on both sides. It used to interpret situations where direct reference to the king or his family would be potentially dangerous, even if the statement is positive about them. As a euphemism it now enjoys almost universal recognition. Opinions vary on whether it refers to the entire royal family or, in a more limited sense, just to the king. Some government statements on the topic imply that a wider view of institutions, in their plural sense, should be the priority. In that way sataban can stretch to cover not just the palace, but also the nation and religion.

For example, an umbrella security organisation has been established by the Interior Ministry officially called the asasamak pokpong sataban (institution protection volunteers). It brings together various parts of Thailand’s existing security structure, such as village headmen and sub-district chiefs, and links them to other organisations such as the Village Scouts. In the most general sense the term ‘institution’ implies that people are working together for a common goal but the current use of this concept is far more potentially problematic. With the monarchy embroiled in the 2006-2008 political crisis there is a need for language that can dampen the threat posed by especially direct or incriminating language.

 

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