With the recent political crisis there in Thailand, it’s great to hear the history of where Thailand has come from to get to this point.

The first coup happened in 1932 and since then the Thai government has gone through a lot. Through out the history of Thailand the King has played a major roll. All though the King does not have real political power, he does have power of the people. Thais love their King and look to him for guidance.

The Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since it was founded in 1238 (Wikipedia). As the country has transitioned from a monarch to a constitutional monarchy of governance, the King’s powers have been limited but he still plays a roll in matters of the people.

To quote the King:

“I will rule righteously and well for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”

The modern King has been on the thrown since the 9th of June 1946 and has led the country to some rough times. Thailand is one of the only countries in the South-East of Asia that has never been ruled by an external force.

 The Economist ran a great article in December on Thailand, it’s King, and the crisis it faces moving forward.

“The army is a big part of the country’s predicament. Its generals believe they have a right to remove any government that incurs its, or the palace’s, displeasure—taking its cue from the monarchy that has approved so many of its coups. These two obstacles to Thailand’s democratic development are inextricably interlinked.”

Mr. Warawut Silpa-archa: Former Deputy Minister of Transport

Is Thailand ready for Democracy?

“You can’t compare democracy in Thailand to those in the US or the UK. Thailand is a democratic country, we have two houses….we have the whole system. People just have a different opinion on what democracy is.”

“Thailand….we are ready.”

Is the King held in a ‘god like’ status?

“The King is more like a father figure today.”

“The law is always the law.”

“Nobody is above the law, the court cases and investigations into what happened in November are still going on.”

Politically what do you see as Thailand’s biggest obstacle in the next 10 years?

“Education…when people are not educated they tend to look short term, they are not educated to make educated choices in the government.”

Does religion and politics mix in Thailand?

“Not really, everyone is pretty much on the same religious level.”

Corruption in Thailand?

“Thailand has had 5 Prime Minister in the past two years.”

“I’m sure it’s a problem everywhere not just in Thailand, the problem is they corrupt things so bad that everything goes down the drain.”

“Corruption in Thailand is a big problem right now, and so many people are afraid of it that nothing gets done.”

Barriers to solving the conflicts in the south of Thailand?

“We need to get back to the old system and put our eyes and ears into the villages and listen to their wants and needs. The problem at the moment is we don’t have eyes and ears there.”

Mr. Warawut Silpa-archa was an interesting guess speaker (Full Disclosure: His two kids go to ISB). According to him Thailand already is a democrocy as it has houses and a system in place that has checks and balances. Will they ever become a “true democracy”? I’m not sure. As the Economist article points out there are some underlying issues in Thailand that need to be sorted out. With the King and the military having extreme power does the govenment ever really stand a chance to find it’s feet? 5 Prime Ministers in the past two years leaves many to question whether Thailand can or will become a stable country. Mr. Silpa-archa belives this new govenment has a better chance
of surviving then the others….but has he stated….he is a politician. 🙂

(No, we’re not taking these in order)

Buddhism in Thailand

  • No belief in a god that created the world
  • Buddhist believe do good things, be good person, and you will be rewarded
  • Experience enlightenment to break the cycle of birth, disease, death, rebirth
  • Teach patience and give consideration to everything you do to be a good person
  • Monks believe should not eat solid foods after mid-day.
  • 250,000 monks ask for food each day. Giving of food to a monk is considered being a good person.
  • Meditation is to clear the mind and think clearly so you can become calm and wise
  • Many young men become monks to finish their schooling, then quit being a monk and go back to their villages to live.
  • Some are monks for a few months, others a few years, others a lifetime

Reading: Individual Life Cycles

  • Thai baby becomes “someone” after its name is chosen.
  • By 8 children start to take on their “role”. Girls household chores, boys guarding the family buffalo.
  • Children attend government school taught standard nationwide curriculum. Acquire varying degrees of literacy and study Buddhist and Thia history.
  • Youth of 15 or 16 are already regarded as fully mature adult laborers. Graduation from school and marriage at around 20.
  • Most village males go into the monastery, usually for the duration of one rainy season (about 4 months), to make merit for themselves and their parents; in some areas, a man who has never been a monk is avoided by marriageable girls, who regard him as a “unripe person” (Thia: Khon dip)
  • Girl’s entrance into adolescence is a gentle one.
  • Courtship is extensive and “whirlwind courtships” are exceedingly rare.
  • Most young people select their own marriage partners.
  • In many parts of the country, it is the custom for the groom to move in with the bride’s family, avoiding friction between mother and daughter-in-law.
  • After marriage first child usually comes during the first year.

Reading: The Family

  • Extended family, consisting of several generations living under one roof.
  • Home is usually a simple wooden house raised on posts.
  • There is little privacy, which is not as highly regarded as in Western societies, and the communal life style instills a strong sense of social harmony in which tact, compromise, and tolerance are essential.
  • The father is regarded as the leader, but the mother plays a significant role in the family finances and instruction of the children.
  • Respect  for elders is taught very early
  • Position in the family hierachy is important and carries throught the life of a Thai
  • Sense of responsibiltiy is also inculcated in early childhood.
  • Prime responsibilities placed on children is that of taking care of parents in their old age, a prominent feature of the Thai concept of family.


An interesting day of learning about Thai culture and the family structure. The best part is still the stories from people who have lived here for a long time, and from the Thai teaching staff who’s culture we are trying to understand. Of course these are western Thai so they understand “western ways”.

What we learned today is different than the Thailand that you will see if you come to Bangkok. Bangkok is modern, up-to-date, and feels like any other large city anywhere in the world, but the real culture of Thailand is outside the city, the real Thailand, most people don’t see.

The same was true for China. Shanghai is not China. Yes it’s 23 million people strong, but in a country of over a billion people Shanghai is just a small part and does not represent the true China.

It will be interesting to watch how “flattening” and connectivity plays a role on cultures such as Thailand’s. Most Thai families now have cell phones and as access to information spreads I wonder what affect that will have on the culture and family structure…..only time will tell.