Land of Fading Smiles

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Thailand prides itself on its way with Westerners. After all, the kingdom survived the Age of Empire as the only country in Southeast Asia to avoid colonization. Success in deterring the foreign barbarians came from deftly playing the Western powers off against one another, and throwing open doors to European traders. Siam, at it was known then, didn't so much repel the Western invaders as charm them into submission with armfuls of exotic bounty and respites from their malarial colonial outposts.

The military junta that rules Thailand these days might do well to remember the ways of the...