History Of Thailand

I’m glad that I read it; after all my in-laws are Thai. But… I could have hoped for a bit more from this history.

The book breezes through the past rather quickly and tends to let things become a jumble of names of places.

There is a (relatively) lengthy section on the Kingdom of Ayudhya, one of the two roughly medieval kingdoms (along with Sukhothai) that are considered the foundations of modern Thailand, and the author seems engaged and interested when writing about it.

Despite the massive footprint left by the recently departed King Bhumipol, Mishra avoids writing very much about him. In fact, you would finish the book knowing little about, arguably, the most important figure in the last half century of Thai history. I don’t know whether the author was worried about brushing up against lèse majesté laws and so decided to say little or nothing, discretion being the better part of valor, or felt that the subject was too close to be well written about (the King was still alive when the book was published).

A bit later, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gets a treatment that is downright schizoid. Considerable and laudatory accomplishments are described, to immediately followed in the next sentence by a statements explaining that he was unqualifiedly terrible and needed to be removed. I have heard arguments on both sides (the issue still divides Thais), but rather than being balanced, it’s almost as if the book is fervently arguing for both sides as a sort of antinomial history. I think that I got whiplash from it.

Ultimately, I think that the author was uncomfortable writing about contemporary Thai history. If he writes a book about ancient and medieval Thailand, I might readily pick it up, but this… a mediocre primer.