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Being Thai: A Narrow Identity in a Wide World

Being Thai: A Narrow Identity in a Wide World Southeast Asian Affairs 2016 BEING THAI A Narrow Identity in a Wide World Being Special In January 2015 the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched its “Discover Thainess” campaign. In a country where travel and tourism support a significant fraction of the population, and directly contribute 8.6 per cent of GDP, the country’s good image is a tremendous asset.1 This campaign is designed to highlight the “unique” qualities of the kingdom at a time when its international reputation has been buffeted by domestic political upheavals. With two military coups in the past decade, and an economy that has fallen behind the impressive growth rates elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand has looked to trade on its cultural endowments. Images of traditional dancers, colourful hill tribes and distinctive cuisine have led the push for visitors to “Discover Thainess”. This foreignerfocused marketing initiative matches an internal drive that encourages the Thai people to defend their heritage. These are both politically charged efforts. The cultural politics of “Thainess” has surged since General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, seized power. Since their overthrow of the elected government on 22 May 2014, the military rulers have http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Southeast Asian Affairs Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Being Thai: A Narrow Identity in a Wide World

Southeast Asian Affairs , Volume 2016 – Aug 3, 2016

Being Thai: A Narrow Identity in a Wide World


Southeast Asian Affairs 2016 BEING THAI A Narrow Identity in a Wide World Being Special In January 2015 the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched its “Discover Thainess” campaign. In a country where travel and tourism support a significant fraction of the population, and directly contribute 8.6 per cent of GDP, the country’s good image is a tremendous asset.1 This campaign is designed to highlight the “unique” qualities of the kingdom at a time when its international reputation has been buffeted by domestic political upheavals. With two military coups in the past decade, and an economy that has fallen behind the impressive growth rates elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand has looked to trade on its cultural endowments. Images of traditional dancers, colourful hill tribes and distinctive cuisine have led the push for visitors to “Discover Thainess”. This foreignerfocused marketing initiative matches an internal drive that encourages the Thai people to defend their heritage. These are both politically charged efforts. The cultural politics of “Thainess” has surged since General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, seized power. Since their overthrow of the elected government on 22 May 2014, the military rulers have quickly returned to familiar patterns of dictatorship that rely on ideas about the defence of the monarchy, the unity of the nation, and the elimination of subversive threats. The public relations entities that support military rule enjoy access to a reservoir of notions and beliefs about national identity that can help support the unelected government. The primary source of these notions and beliefs is the concept of “Thainess” (kwam pehn thai).2 In its simplest, official expression, Thailand is the...
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Publisher
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Copyright
Copyright © Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
ISSN
1793-9135
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Abstract

Southeast Asian Affairs 2016 BEING THAI A Narrow Identity in a Wide World Being Special In January 2015 the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched its “Discover Thainess” campaign. In a country where travel and tourism support a significant fraction of the population, and directly contribute 8.6 per cent of GDP, the country’s good image is a tremendous asset.1 This campaign is designed to highlight the “unique” qualities of the kingdom at a time when its international reputation has been buffeted by domestic political upheavals. With two military coups in the past decade, and an economy that has fallen behind the impressive growth rates elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand has looked to trade on its cultural endowments. Images of traditional dancers, colourful hill tribes and distinctive cuisine have led the push for visitors to “Discover Thainess”. This foreignerfocused marketing initiative matches an internal drive that encourages the Thai people to defend their heritage. These are both politically charged efforts. The cultural politics of “Thainess” has surged since General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, seized power. Since their overthrow of the elected government on 22 May 2014, the military rulers have

Journal

Southeast Asian AffairsInstitute of Southeast Asian Studies

Published: Aug 3, 2016

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