The Thais That Bind

The publication of Very Thai, a unique guide to Thai pop and folk culture, coincides with the country's biggest debate about national identity in more than half a century. In the World War II era, the military Phibunsongkhram regime rallied under the slogan "Thailand for the Thais." Today, the country seems mesmerized again by nationalism. Schools and colleges have been ordered by the Ministry of Education to display the flag more prominently and play the national anthem at a higher volume. "Thai-ness" is once again a useful political concept: in early February, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's populist nationalism lifted his party—Thai...

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