Japan Times, Donald Richie (Top 3 Books)

TOP 3 BOOKS OF 2005: What did you read about Asia this year?

VERY THAI by Philip Cornwel-Smith and John Goss (River Books)

By Donald Richie

This is a brilliant book-length photo-essay on Thai popular culture that gives hundreds of examples of the Thai way of doing things. As Alex Kerr says in his preface, this culture “seems an informal, free-wheeling place, even at times chaotic. But the more time you spend here, the more you realize that there is an internal logic and symbolism invisibly ordering everything.

 

Donald Richie was an authority on Japanese film and culture and Asian culture, lived partly in Chiang Mai, and is the late author of The Image Factory, The Inland Sea, and  Tokyo: A View of the City

 

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #book #culture #international #Japan #newspaper #reviews 

Natalie Bennett: Philobiblon

Book Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith

 By Natalie Bennett (now leader of the UK Green Party)

 

VT Natalie Bennett Philobiblon a VT Natalie Bennett Philobiblon b

View as PDF: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/12/11/135518.php

New arrivals in Bangkok are easy to spot; after a day or two in the city they’ve got a dazed, bemused look, and move slowly, hesitantly. This Bangkokitis is an extreme form of the culture shock that many tourists experience in foreign lands.

There are two factors that make it particularly acute in the Thai capital. First, so much of the environment seems familiar – glass-and-steel office blocks, modern cars, familiar fast food restaurants. Yet it is also so foreign. Underneath the office blog might stand a baby elephant, its owner begging for funds. Amidst the modern cars zip scores of death-defying motorcycle taxis, their riders’ bright jackets clashing with the mini-skirts of the high-heel-shod women perched precariously side-saddle behind them. Then they’ll be the shrine on the corner thronged with fortune-tellers.

Bangkok is where east meets west, modern meets traditional, the past meets the future. And while often they’ll stand in stark opposition, they’ll also blend to produce astonishing new hybrids.

The visitor who seeks easy answers might turn to a guidebook, and for some of the more obvious sights get a sentence of two of explanation. Or they might turn to a scholarly historical study, explaining temples and sculptures. But Philip Cornwel-Smith’s Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is the first book that I know of to try to explain Thailand as it is today.

This is a prodigiously illustrated (by the photographer John Goss) text, accessible, but informative enough that even people who’ve lived in Thailand for decades will find plenty they didn’t know.
Of course I was aware, having lived in Thailand for almost five years, that trucks were usually heavily decorated, particularly in their upper parts. But I didn’t know that these works were designed to placate the journey spirit, Mae Yanang, or that each cab represented the sacred Mount Meru. The frequent inclusion of Western film stars in these images in no way interferes with this.

But it might take the first-time visitor a while to notice these, being too distracted by more disconcerting sights, such as the kathoeys (lady-boys) who can be seen at work and play around the capital without the locals batting an eyelid. (I used to live in the African rag-trade district of Bangkok, Pratunam. A kathoey was an otherwise entirely ordinary staff member on one of the stalls. When Africa met Asia at work, there was frequently some cultural confusion.)

Cornwel-Smith explains the understanding of gender and sexuality – so different from the West’s – that underlies the phenomenon:

Thais make a distinction between gender – a public identity to be kept riab roi (proper) – and sexuality, which remains undiscussed, unrestrained. Thai society tends to regard sexual urges – at least for males – as natural and requiring plentiful, but private outlets. Hence polygamy, once banned, resurfaced through minor wives and the fancifully themed playgrounds of the sex industry. With women’s virginity still a commodity to be guarded, kathoey have offered a non-disruptive outlet for single males.”

This acceptance has helped to encourage Thailand as a destination for medical tourism of a specific king – gender-reassignment surgery. Up to 1,000 operations are thought to have been done on foreigners each year. And many kathoeys have taken up the practice.

Yet after centuries of a place in Thai society, new conflicts have emerged. Following the recent morality crackdown by the Shinawatra government, the rights of kathoeys have become a political issue, Cornwel-Smith reports, quoting Thanyaporn Anyasri, 2002 “Miss Queen of the Universe”, who said: “I want to be the world’s first transexual prime minister so I can legislate laws that promote homosexual people’s equality.” He then quotes a representative of a Buddhist foundation saying that since every person has gone through innumerable reincarnations they are likely to be kathoeys at some point in the future, so should think about equality now.

After contemplating all of that, the first-time visitor might need a drink and a nice meal. If they’re very brave, that might include the “prawns of the air” (grasshoppers), deep-fried whole and sold from street stalls, and some Red Bull – one of the few Thai traditions to really make it big inter (internationally). Cornwel-Smith will explain too why there might be tiny pink tissues on table, and for afters a pudding so sweet it will set your teeth on edge.

Many more aspects of Bangkok, from the skin-tight police uniforms (the government was keeping up with Western fashion in the Sixties, but then got left behind) to the numbers of dogs roaming the streets. There are also sections on Thai music, festivals, decor, gardens and much more.

If you’re the sort of visitor to Thailand who just wants to swan down Khao San Road and then lie on the beaches, you won’t need to buy Very Thai. But if you want some great stories to tell about the country – not just accounts of what you’ve seen but explanations for the curiosities and complexities – then this is an essential book.

Declaration of interest: The author used to commission writing from me when he was editor of Metro (then Thailand’s answer to Time Out) and I was a writer there. Online from that time I have an article about Khunying Supatra Masdit (billed by some as most-likely to be Thailand’s first female prime minister) and a piece about the Maldives. They’re not the paradise you think.

 

This review was also published at go Blogcriticshttp://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/12/11/135518.php

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #blogs #culture #gay #international #reviews 

Blogcritics

Book Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith

By Natalie Bennett (now leader of the UK Green Party)

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/12/11/135518.php

New arrivals in Bangkok are easy to spot; after a day or two in the city they’ve got a dazed, bemused look, and move slowly, hesitantly. This Bangkokitis is an extreme form of the culture shock that many tourists experience in foreign lands.

There are two factors that make it particularly acute in the Thai capital. First, so much of the environment seems familiar – glass-and-steel office blocks, modern cars, familiar fast food restaurants. Yet it is also so foreign. Underneath the office blog might stand a baby elephant, its owner begging for funds. Amidst the modern cars zip scores of death-defying motorcycle taxis, their riders’ bright jackets clashing with the mini-skirts of the high-heel-shod women perched precariously side-saddle behind them. Then they’ll be the shrine on the corner thronged with fortune-tellers. (more…)

Posted in: Reviews,

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‘Going Inter: How Thai Popular Culture Globalises’

SOAS, London

School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London

Talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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TAT Newsroom (Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Indie Bangkok

Books on Thai traditional arts and culture Thai fill the shop shelves, but the everyday aspects of modern Thai life that so beguile visitors go largely unsung and unexplained, until now.

1 Dec, 2005
www.tatnews.org

 

In the new book Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture, Philip Cornwel-Smith explores the pop things that people encounter in the street, in vehicles, in homes. He devotes whole chapters to such minutiae as buffalo cart furniture, auspiciously decorated trucks, and the Siamese delight in cute miniature objects.

These incidental things might not be the icons of high culture, but are every bit as authentic and immediately tell you you’re in Thailand. There is more to Thai pop than the tuk-tuk, though the book also reveals the unexpected origins of that symbolic vehicle. (more…)

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #e-magazine #features #reviews #Thailand #tourism #website 

UK Launch of Very Thai 1st Edition

Keynote speech, ‘Thai Contemporary’ Festival

Asia House, London

‘Going Inter: How Thai Popular Culture Globalises’

http://www.filter4.co.uk/
(more…)

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‘Going Inter: How Thai Popular Culture Globalises’

Keynote speech, Contemporary Thai Festival

Asia House, London

Talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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‘Street Life is Culture Too: Why Thai Pop Matters’

Thammasat University, Bangkok

Thai Studies International Program

Talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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Noodles Forever

By Mike, 17 Nov 2005

http://noodlesforever.blogspot.com/2005/11/book-review-very-thai-everyday-thai.html

http://www.goodlight.it/?bioreresd=trading-on-line-facile&d66=4b Hardbound and tastefully organized with lotsa cool photos, this book’s got all the vital data on street-level Thailand. All questions regarding bagged coffee, Red Bull-swilling motorcycle taxi drivers, and other curious aspects of the Bangkok streetscape are answered within its pages. http://energocredit.am/sdsd/5642 A must read for anyone who’s ever visited Thailand and thought twice about urban elephants and phallic key chains.

Basically, these dudes stole my thunder. http://vagnvagensbygg.se/firmenit/1579 This is freestyle anthro-journalism at its flaneuring best.

 

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Thai Oasis

http://senslite.com.tw/?alergolog=conto-demo-gratis-opzioni-digitali&c2e=e0 The Expat Experience

http//:www.Thaioasis.Com

rencontre femme oujda maroc Perhaps the finest book we’ve yet seen on popular Thai culture is viewed from an expat perspective by writer Philip Cornwel-Smith and photographer John Goss in the fascinating  click Very Thai (2005, ISBN 974-9863-00-3). Here, the authors take a madcap romp through everything from spirit houses to soi animals, explaining in detail the behind-the scenes stories behind many of the icons you’ll see on the streets and back-sois of Thailand. The book is http://free3dmaxmodels.com/tag/download-3d-max/page/1/ extremely well researched, and a fun read.

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Thai Day (feature)

The Man Who Knows Everything

by Nicholas Grossman

Thai Day VT intv rev 05-001 copy
VT Thai Day article 2856 crop

Thai Day was an English-language Thai newspaper

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #book #interviews #newspaper #reviews #Thailand 

Street Corner Siam at Siam Society

Street Corner Siam: Exploring Thai Popular Culture

A  talk at Siam Society on 15 September 2005 by Philip Cornwel-Smith

The author will give an insight into the value of everyday contemporary things in building a more inclusive, up-to-date picture of Thai culture, society and history. Exploring his passion for all things Thai, Philip Cornwel-Smith  traces the origins of what you find in the street, the home, the shop and the bar and on TV.

Admission B150, or free to Siam Society Members.

VT Nation SiamSoc talk 05-0828

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #academic #Bangkok #culture #events #SiamSociety #talks 

‘Street Corner Siam: Exploring Thai popular culture’

Siam Society, Bangkok

Talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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‘The Museum of the Thai Street’

National Museum Volunteers

Goethe Institut, Bangkok

Talk by Philip Cornwel-Smith

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Thai Day (talk preview)

Highlights

Thai Day VT talk preview 05-0914 copy

When Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture was released last year, the book was a sweeping success. Tracing the origins of mundane items like the taxi dashboard, the menthol inhaler and pink tissues, Bangkok-based British writer Philip Cornwel-Smith explained many of the oddities and nuicances of Thai culture. Now the author will share some of his insight at the Siam Society in a talk aimed at building a more inclusive, up-to-date picture of Thai culture, society and history. Take this chance to look anew at the ordinary at the Siam Society.

Thai Day was an English-language Thai newspaper

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #Bangkok #book #newspaper #reviews #SiamSociety #talks 

Fodors

Fodors Forums: Very Thai

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=27&tid=34669559

By tanuki

29 Aug 2005

A wonderful book is “Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture,” by Philip Cornwel-Smith and with 500 photographs by John Goss. I picked up a copy in the gift shop of the National Museum in Bangkok, but it is available on Amazon.com. The pictures are incredibly evocative, and there are essays on everything from vendors to transportation to soi animals to alphabet tables to fortune tellers to monk baskets to soap operas to temple fairs. Rough Guide says “Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.” The book is a manageable size.

 

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Tags: #blogs #guidebooks #international #reviews #tourism 

The Nation (preview)

Something Very Thai

Preview of a talk at Siam Society on 15 September 2005 by Philip Cornwel-Smith on ‘Street Corner Siam: Exploring Thai Popular Culture’

VT Nation SiamSoc talk 05-0828

 

 

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Tags: #academic #Bangkok #culture #events #newspaper #talks 

‘Bangkok, Bangkok: A Documentation’

About Photography Bar Gallery, Bangkok

A documentation of art exhibitions by Bangkok based artists in Barcelona and Brussels.

25 June – 28 August 2005

Installation by Prapon Kumjim, with montage including images from Very Thai. A copy of Very Thai was also displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

 

VT Bkk Bkk exhib001 copyVT Bkk Bkk exhib002 copy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #international #Thailand 

Asienhaus

Thailand: Abfall

Große Ziele – Kleine Realität

05-2-034 Asienhaus.de

34_________________________________________________________________Thailand: Abfall_______

südostasien 2/05

hailand produziert laut Welt bank jährlich rund 14,2 Millionen Tonnen Verbraucher- und

Industriemüll mit stetig steigender Tendenz. Die Recyclingrate beträgt

laut Aussagen der Regierung elf Pro-

zent, während sie beispielsweise in

Korea, Singapur und Japan bei 30 bis

50 Prozent liegt. Rechnet man jedoch

informelle Wege der Müllverarbeitung,

welche in Thailand eine große Bedeu-

tung spielen heraus, so kommt man

sogar nur auf eine Recyclingrate von

drei Prozent.1

Betrachtet man die Zusam-

mensetzung städtischen Mülls, der

in Phitsanulok beispielsweise zu 45

bis 50 Prozent aus wieder verwertba-

ren Materialien, zu 30 bis 35 Prozent

aus Biomüll und nur zu 20 Prozent

aus nicht wieder verwertbaren Mate-

rialien besteht2, so wird deutlich,

dass theoretisch ein großes Poten-

zial zur Müllreduktion und -auf-

bereitung in Thailand besteht. Dabei

darf der wirtschaftliche Nutzen durch

gesenkte Ausgaben für Abfallent-

sorgung und die Wiederverwendung

von Ressourcen nicht unterschätzt

werden.

Dementsprechend hat sich

die Regierung große Ziele gesetzt

und möchte im Rahmen des neunten

nationalen Wirtschafts- und Sozia-

lentwicklungsplanes (2003 bis 2008)

die Müllproduktion halbieren und die

Recyclingrate auf 30 Prozent anhe-

ben.3 Praktisch steckt die Umsetzung

aber häufig noch in den Kinderschu-

hen und staatliche Programme fehlen

völlig oder werden nur mangelhaft

implementiert.

Informelle Wege

des Recycling

Das Gros des Recyclingpro-

zesses übernimmt derzeit ein infor-

meller Sektor, dessen verschiedene

aufeinander aufbauenden Ebenen

sehr gut organisiert sind. Vom Müll-

sammler auf lokaler Ebene bis hin

zum überregionalen Recycling-

Privatunternehmer legt der Abfall

häufig einen langen Weg mit vielen

Zwischenstationen zurück und sichert

so zahlreichen Personen — zumin-

dest mehr oder weniger — den Le-

bensunterhalt. Je nach regionalem

Kontext sind verschiedene Ausprä-

gungen vorzufinden, wobei vor allem

zwischen städtischen und ländlichen

Regionen zu unterscheiden ist.

In städtischen Regionen, in

denen eine Müllabholung organisiert

ist, kommen meist früh morgens, vor

der offiziellen Müllabfuhr, Abfallsamm-

ler — auch »khon geb khaya« ge-

nannt, die die Abfalltonnen nach ver-

kauf- und brauchbaren Dingen

durchsuchen.1 Sie sind sehr arm, und

das Einkommen aus der Müllsuche

(oft weniger als monatlich 60 Euro

pro Familie) reicht meist kaum zum

Überleben. Da sie die gesamten

Mülltonnen durchwühlen, kommen

sie häufig in Kontakt mit giftigen Ab-

fällen und sind so einem hohen Ge-

sundheitsrisiko ausgesetzt. Zusam-

men mit Müllsammlern, die die letzten

Reste auf den Mülldeponien durch-

wühlen, nehmen sie eine sehr niedri-

ge soziale Position ein.

Weiterhin gibt es auch noch

»saleng«, die der Bevölkerung den

Müll abkaufen. Meist sind sie mit pe-

dalbetriebenen Dreirädern unterwegs

— in Bangkok gibt es immer häufiger

auch motorisierte Versionen — und

kündigen sich mit ihrer charakteristi-

schen Hupe den Bewohnern an. Sie

stehen eine Stufe höher in der Hierar-

chie als »khon geb khaya«, da sie

den Abfall nicht nehmen oder steh-

len, sondern Handel damit betreiben.

Sie kaufen wieder verwertbaren Müll,

wie beispielsweise Glas, Papier,

Plastik, Metall und Elektronik von der

Bevölkerung und verkaufen ihn dann

mit etwa fünf Baht (0,10 Euro) Profit

pro Kilo an Müllsammelstellen oder

Recycling-Shops weiter. Diese trans-

portieren den Abfall dann gebündelt

und in großen Mengen weiter an Re-

cycling-Fabriken. »Saleng« können

ein annehmbares Leben führen, wie

das Beispiel des 23-jährigen Nattha-

phon aus Phitsanulok zeigt.1 Als sein

Vater in Rente geht, gibt er seinen

Job in der BMW-Fabrik auf, um in das

Müllgeschäft einzusteigen, in dem

auch schon seine zwei Brüder und

seine Mutter tätig sind. Mit seinem

Müllsammeldreirad kann er täglich

etwa 500 Baht (zehn Euro) verdienen.

Seine Mutter, die einen Pick-up be-

sitzt, bringt es sogar auf das Doppel-

te.

Häufig sortieren auch die An-

gestellten der offiziellen Müllabfuhr

den Abfall als privaten Nebenver-

dienst. Während der Inhalt der Abfall-

tonnen auf der Ladefläche des Trucks

Große Ziele — kleine Realität

Das Abfallmanagement in Thailand

steckt noch in den Kinderschuhen

von Manuela Volkmann

Thailand produziert laut Weltbank jährlich rund 14,2 Millionen Tonnen Ver-

braucher- und Industriemüll mit stetig steigender Tendenz — theoretisch

ein großes Potenzial zur Müllreduktion und -aufbereitung. Dementspre-

chend hat sich die Regierung große Ziele gesetzt.

Die Autorin ist Sozialgeographin.

T

_______Thailand: Abfall__________________________________________________________________35

südostasien 2/05

entleert wird, sortieren sie den wieder

verwertbaren Müll aus und verkaufen

ihn nach Arbeitsende in Recycling-

Shops. Über ein vierköpfiges Müllab-

fuhrteam in Bangkok wird berichtet,

dass jedes Teammitglied so monat-

lich sein Gehalt um 5.000 bis 7.000

Baht (100 bis 140 Euro) anheben kann

— bemerkenswert bei einem Grund-

gehalt von 4.000 Baht (80 Euro).4

In den Recycling-Fabriken wird

der Müll weiter sortiert, zerkleinert, ge-

presst und gebündelt. Fischsaucen-

flaschen gehen zurück an die Fisch-

saucenfabriken, Whiskyflaschen zu-

rück in die Brennereien. Eisen, Stahl

und Glas wird an entsprechende Un-

ternehmen verkauft. Holz wird an

Schreiner veräußert, und die Säure von

Altbatterien findet bei der Behandlung

von Abwasser Verwendung.

Auf dem Land gestaltet sich

die Müllverarbeitung etwas anders.

Essensreste werden meist an die

Tiere verfüttert und der restliche or-

ganische Müll wird kompostiert oder

als Brennstoff getrocknet. Da größ-

tenteils aber keine organisierte Müll-

abholung existiert und auch »saleng«

und »khon geb khaya« seltener anzu-

treffen sind, ist es übliche Praxis, den

gesamten Abfall zu vergraben oder

im eigenen Garten zu verbrennen.

Die daraus resultierenden Gesund-

heitsrisiken und Umweltprobleme

sind offensichtlich.5

Ambivalenter Status

des Abfallbusiness

Obwohl zahlreiche Men-

schen ihren Lebensunterhalt im Müll-

geschäft verdienen und die öffentli-

chen Verwaltungen, die eigentlich für

den Müll zuständig sind, ohne diesen

informellen, privaten Sektor völlig

aufgeschmissen wären, handelt es

sich dabei um klassische niedrig ein-

gestufte und wenig geachtete Jobs.

Dies ist auch ein Grund da-

für, dass zahlreiche Antimüll-Kam-

pagnen bisher gescheitert sind oder

wenig erfolgreich waren. Der Aufruf zur

Mithilfe bei Säuberungsaktionen ver-

hallt oft im Winde, da die Ausübung

einer solchen Tätigkeit zu dem viel ge-

fürchteten Gesichtsverlust führen kann.

Mit den wenig geschätzten Müll-

sammlern möchte sich niemand auf

eine Stufe stellen. Die Bevölkerung auf

Haushaltsebene dazu zu bringen, sich

mit ihrem Müll zu beschäftigen und

ihn zu sortieren, stellt somit schon ei-

ne sehr schwere Aufgabe dar.

Nicht-Regierungsorgani-

sationen (NGOs) hingegen sehen die

»saleng« als ein sehr positives sozia-

les Glied in der Abfallbeseitigungsket-

te an und setzen sich für eine höhere

Wertschätzungen dieser Personen in

der Gesellschaft ein. Schließlich bie-

tet das Müllgeschäft zahlreichen ar-

men Bevölkerungsgruppen ein Aus-

kommen und sie könnten eine be-

deutende Rolle in der Aufklärungs-

und Erziehungsarbeit bezüglich Um-

welt- und Abfallentsorgungsbewusst-

sein einnehmen.1

Immer mehr

Wohlstandsmüll

Umweltschutz ist — nicht nur

— in Thailand meist ein wunder

Punkt, da die Wirtschaftspraxis und

Politik stark auf Entwicklung und we-

niger auf ihre Kosten fixiert sind.

Doch der Weg in die Moderne bringt

nicht nur Positives.

Einstellungen und kulturelle

Zielvorstellungen wie Sauberkeit,

Schönheit und Schicklichkeit mutie-

ren inzwischen häufig so weit, dass

alte Dinge von guter Qualität einfach

abgelegt werden zugunsten neuer

glänzender Ersatzgüter. So wird, wie

in vielen anderen Gesellschaften

auch ein Maß für Reichtum das,

was man sich leisten kann wegzuwer-

fen!1

War es in der Vergangenheit

üblich biologisch abbaubare Verpak-

kungsmaterialien wie Schilfkörbe,

Holzboxen und Bananenblätter zu

verwenden, so werden diese schein-

bar überkommenen »unentwickelten«

Materialien immer stärker durch

Symbole des modernen Lebens er-

setzt. Plastiktüte und Styroporverpak-

kung lassen grüßen!

Das kunstvolle übermäßige

Verpacken ist nicht wegzudenkender

Teil der thailändischen Shoppingreali-

tät und der Schriftsteller Anon Na-

kornthab resümiert: »Buy ten buns,

get eleven bags«.1 Alles, mag es

auch noch so klein sein, wird in eine

Plastiktüte verpackt. Dies geht so

weit, dass man auch Getränke aus

Dosen oder Flaschen in Plastiktüten

abfüllt, nur damit man Eiswürfel hin-

zufügen und ein praktisches tragba-

res gekühltes Getränk zu sich neh-

men kann. Lehnt man beim Einkauf

schließlich die zehnte Plastiktüte ab,

erntet man ungläubige Blicke, und

der Chef von 7-Eleven Thailand

glaubt, dass es noch Jahre brauchen

werde, bis thailändische Kunden

überhaupt die Frage eines Verkäufers

akzeptieren werden, ob sie denn eine

Tasche bräuchten.

Plastiktüten sind ein wirkli-

ches Problem, da sie nicht zu den

Plastiksorten zählen, die wiederver-

wertet werden können und einen

Großteil des Restmülls bilden. Die

Reduzierung der Verwendung der all-

gegenwärtigen Plastiktüten dürfte

demnach eine der größten Heraus-

forderungen sein, da Konsum- und

Verhaltensmuster im Kern dafür ge-

ändert werden müssen.

Müllsammelstelle in Ban Muanjia, Provinz Mahasarakham

36_________________________________________________________________Thailand: Abfall_______

südostasien 2/05

Und wohin mit

dem Restmüll?

Der Restmüll — der in der

Realität immer noch stark mit recy-

clebaren Materialien durchsetzt ist —

wird nach wie vor oft lokal vergraben

oder verbrannt, landet auf Mülldepo-

nien oder endet in einer Müllverbren-

nungsanlage.

Bei den Mülldeponien han-

delt es sich aber überwiegend um

ungesicherte Deponien — natürliche

Mulden oder ausgebaggerte Erdlö-

cher, die nicht extra abgedichtet sind.

Der hohe Anteil organischen Materi-

als ist verantwortlich dafür, dass De-

poniesickerwasser und Faulgas ge-

bildet wird. Ersteres beinhaltet meist

Schwermetalle und Pestizidrückstän-

de und verseucht das Grundwasser

in erheblichem Maße. Das Faulgas,

das vor allem aus Methan besteht, ist

ein sehr wirkungsvolles Treibhaus-

gas. Von offenen Deponien kann es

ungehindert in die Atmosphäre ent-

weichen und Müllhalden bilden welt-

weit die drittgrößte Methangasquelle

und tragen entsprechend stark zum

Treibhauseffekt bei.

Kontraproduktive

Scheinlösungen —

Müllverbrennungs-

anlagen

Die ersten thailändischen

Müllverbrennungsanlagen in Bang-

kok, Phuket und auf Ko Samui wur-

den als Fortschritt in der Müllentsor-

gung gefeiert. Man erhoffte sich posi-

tive Effekte durch finanzielle Gewinne

und Stromproduktion. Doch man

kann nicht sagen, dass daraus eine

Erfolgsstory wurde.

Der Bau der Anlagen war

sehr teuer, und in Phuket beispiels-

weise wurden für den Bau der Anlage

zahlreiche Mangrovenwälder abge-

holzt und Umweltauflagen missach-

tet. Außerdem ist fraglich, was sich

die Planer bei der Konstruktion

dachten, denn die Anlagen auf Ko

Samui und in Phuket sind völlig

überdimensioniert und werden nur

alle zwei bis drei Tage in Betrieb ge-

nommen, wenn sich genug Müll an-

gesammelt hat, um die Mindestka-

pazitätsgrenze zu überschreiten. So

schlucken die Anlagen mehr Geld als

Müll und belasten die Steuerzahler

erheblich durch die laufenden Kos-

ten, welche nicht gedeckt werden

können.

Doch damit nicht genug. In

Untersuchungen wurde weiterhin

nachgewiesen, dass die Anlagen

wahre Giftschleudern sind. Der Ver-

brennungsprozess entlässt bestimm-

te Toxine und Schwermetalle in Kon-

zentrationen in die Umwelt, die die

zulässigen Grenzwerte um ein Vielfa-

ches überschreiten. Trotzdem halten

die Regierung und natürlich die Be-

treiber der Müllverbrennungsanlagen

nach wie vor daran fest, dass diese

die einzige Lösung für Thailands Müll

seien.3

Umweltschutzorganisationen

wie Greenpeace fordern die Regie-

rung hingegen dazu auf, stärker in

umweltfreundliche Abfallmanage-

mentstrategien zu investieren und die

Müllreduktion, -trennung und das Re-

cycling voranzutreiben.6 Für die Müll-

verbrennungsanlagen sind dies keine

rosigen Aussichten. Schließlich arbei-

ten sie jetzt schon unausgelastet. Wie

soll das dann bei noch weniger Müll

werden?

Vorherrschende

Abfallpolitik

Die Müllverbrennungsanla-

gen sind ein Beispiel für häufig vor-

kommende wenig durchdachte,

kurzfristige End-of-the-pipe-Strate-

gien, die langfristig keine wirklichen

Veränderungen erwarten lassen. Es

geht um die Abwicklung der anfallen-

den Müllberge. Doch nicht nur eine

möglichst umweltverträgliche Beseiti-

gung von Abfällen, sondern eine

grundlegende Müllreduktion im Sinne

der Zielhierarchie Vermeidung, Ver-

wertung und Beseitigung sollte an-

gestrebt werden.

Der Durch- und Umsetzung

dieses Leitbildes stehen aber zahl-

reiche Hindernisse entgegen, die

aus der vorherrschenden Verwal-

tungs- und Planungsstruktur resultie-

ren. Der Entscheidungsprozess ist

nach wie vor stark zentralisiert, was

kosteneffiziente, flexible und innova-

tive Ansätze vonseiten der Kommu-

nen und Gemeinden nicht gerade

unterstützt. Ein effektives, nachhalti-

ges Müllmanagement kann jedoch

nicht top-down realisiert werden,

sondern die verschiedensten Akteu-

re und die Bevölkerung müssen in

den Planungsprozess einbezogen

werden. Zentral sind dabei auch die

Kooperation beteiligter Fachressorts

und die Zusammenarbeit benach-

barter Kommunen und Gemeinden.

Gerade für kleinere Städte, bei de-

nen die Wirtschaftlichkeit einer eige-

nen Abfallinfrastruktur fraglich ist,

können sich so Synergieeffekte er-

geben.

Lösungsansätze

Projekte zum integrierten

Abfallmanagement und der Mülltren-

nung in Thailand sind nicht zu ver-

gleichen mit vorherrschenden Syste-

men in Industrieländern, wo die Be-

völkerung den Müll trennen muss und

für dessen Abholung bezahlt. Viel-

mehr lehnen sich die Programme an

das profitgeleitete informelle Müll-

sammlersystem an, das der Bevölke-

rung schon vertraut ist.

Ein Beispiel für den Versuch

eines umfassenden städtischen Ab-

fallmanagements ist die Stadt Phitsa-

nulok, die sich intensiv mit der Be-

kämpfung der Abfallberge auseinan-

dersetzt. 1999 wurde dort auch das

»Solid Waste Management Program-

me for Phitsanulok« mit Hilfe der GTZ

gestartet.2

Für das Abfallmanagement

auf Haushaltsebene gibt es hier zwei

Hauptstrategien. Zum einen soll die

Bevölkerung durch den zu erwarten-

den Erlös aus dem Verkauf wieder

verwertbarer Materialien zur Mülltren-

nung animiert werden. Hierbei kom-

men verschiedene Modelle zum Ein-

satz. Märkte, bei denen private

Händler den Haushalten den Müll ab-

kaufen, werden veranstaltet, oder es

gibt Kleinunternehmer in der Ge-

meinde, die sozusagen als Mittel-

männer zwischen den Abfallhändlern

und den Haushalten fungieren. Ein

auch auf der Ebene lokaler und priva-

ter Gruppen sehr beliebter Ansatz ist

der der Recycle-Bank, der weiter un-

ten beschrieben wird.2

Die zweite wichtige Strategie

ist die Kompostierung. Organische

Abfälle bilden einen großen Teil im

Gesamtmüll und sollten genutzt wer-

den. Sie können dann zum Beispiel

im eigenen Garten verwendet werden

und chemischen Dünger ersetzen

oder für drei bis vier Baht pro Kilo

verkauft werden. Oft wird die Kom-

postierung auch auf Gemeindeebene

oder im Rahmen von Haushaltszu-

_______Thailand: Abfall__________________________________________________________________37

südostasien 2/05

sammenschlüssen gemeinsam

durchgeführt.2

Durch diese Maßnahmen

konnte das Müllaufkommen reduziert

werden, was in der Folge eine ge-

senkte Abholfrequenz nach sich zog.

Die Müllflotte von Phitsanulok konnte

von 28 auf 16 Fahrzeuge und die

Ausgaben um eine Million Baht pro

Jahr reduziert werden. Für die Haus-

halte ergeben sich positive Effekte

durch das Zusatzeinkommen und ei-

ne saubere Müllbeseitigung, da die

oft übel riechenden Bioabfälle nicht

mehr zwischen dem Restmüll in der

Mülltonne lagern.2

Doch viel stärker als im

Rahmen geförderter zwischenstaatli-

cher Programme der Entwicklungs-

zusammenarbeit oder vonseiten der

Stadtverwaltungen gibt es Initiativen

von lokalen Akteuren und NGOs, die

sich in kleinerem Umfang um eine

Verbesserung der Situation bemühen.

So zum Beispiel die NGO

Greenway Thailand, die sich im inter-

nationalen Jugend- und Kulturaus-

tausch engagiert. In ihrem Programm

nehmen Umweltprojekte eine wichti-

ge Rolle ein, und es wird versucht auf

lokaler Ebene, meist in kleinen Dör-

fern im ländlichen Raum, einen inte-

grierten Ansatz durchzusetzen.

Ein wichtiger Pfeiler dabei ist

die Aufklärungs- und Bildungsarbeit.

Diese erfolgt zum einen in den umlie-

genden Schulen, zum anderen gehen

die Freiwilligen direkt in die Häuser

der Dorfbewohner. Mithilfe gezeich-

neter Informationstafeln versuchen

sie über die Gefahren der Verbren-

nung von Plastik, mögliche Profite

durch Mülltrennung und die Vorteile

einer sauberen Umwelt zu informie-

ren. Von den Kindern und Jugendli-

chen erhofft man sich dabei, dass sie

als Multiplikatoren auf die Dorfbevöl-

kerung wirken.

Als zweiten wichtigen Punkt

baut Greenway auch eine Recyclin-

ginfrastruktur auf. Wichtigstes Instru-

ment dabei sind die Recycle-Banken,

die sich meist an Schulen befinden,

aber auch in Dörfern aufgebaut wer-

den können. Diese Bank imitiert das

System einer monetären Bank mit

dem Unterschied, dass die Einzah-

lungen aus Müll bestehen. Den Kin-

dern und Jugendlichen oder den

Dorfbewohnern werden entspre-

chend dem gültigen Müllpreis Punkte

auf einem Sparbuch gutgeschrieben.

Diese können dann in einem weiteren

Schritt in Form von Waren wie zum

Beispiel Schreib- oder Spielsachen,

Nahrungsmittel oder Hausrat einge-

tauscht werden.

Ein wesentliches Problem

der Umwelt- und Mülltrennungspro-

jekte ist, wie schon zuvor beschrie-

ben, auch hier die Tatsache, dass die

Bevölkerung Abfall mit einem niede-

ren Status assoziiert. Die Kinder, Ju-

gendlichen und Dorfbewohner über-

haupt zu einer Mitarbeit zu motivieren

ist das größte Problem. Deswegen

wird versucht prominente Einheimi-

sche in die Arbeit zu involvieren um

eine höhere Akzeptanz zu erreichen.

Aufklärungskampagnen und

Bildungsarbeit, die auch vom öffentli-

chen Sektor forciert werden sollten,

gekoppelt mit einem integrierten, par-

tizipativen Ansatz sind ein äußerst

wichtiger Grundstein für ein erfolgrei-

ches Müllmanagement. Erste Schritte

sind vielerorts in Thailand getan,

doch größtenteils handelt es sich da-

bei um gut gemeinte Einzelprojekte,

denen es noch an der Vernetzung

und Kooperation über die lokale oder

kommunale Ebene hinaus mangelt.

Denn was nutzt einer Stadt ein schö-

nes Abfallmanagement, wenn sie

täglich von vielen Besuchern und

Pendlern aus dem Umland frequen-

tiert wird, die alle ihre alt gewohnte

Entsorgungsmentalität importieren?

!

Literatur

1) Cornwel-Smith, P. 2005: Trash Recyclers.

Freelance gleaners make the most of rub-

bish. In: Kerr, A.: Very Thai. Everyday Po-

pular Culture. Bangkok, S. 67-69.

2) Hantrakul, S. und W. Schöll 2002: Challen-

ges for Thai Municipal Governments in

Modern Service Delivery: Solid Waste Ma-

nagement in Phitsanulok. In: Nelson, Mi-

chael (Hrsg.): Thai Politics: Local and

Global Perspectives. Bangkok (= KPI Ye-

arbook 2).

3) Akao, H.E. 2000: Double Standards of

Environmental Behavior. URL: http://www.

no-burn.org/ggm/gmcrep-th.html (Stand

10.04.2005).

4) Asian Labour News 2004: Thailand: A day

in the life of a garbage truck team. URL:

http://www.asianlabour.org/archives/00120

7.php (Stand 10.04.2005).

5) Energy Research Institute 2000: Thailand

energy strategy and policy. URL:

http://www.teenet.chula.ac.th/plan/ph3-

estrategy.asp (Stand 10.04.2005).

6) http://www.greanpeacesoutheastasia.org/

en/pr/pr_tx/pr_tx_20040108.html (Stand

10.04.2005).

Recycle-Bank in Betrieb: Huamo School in Ban Huamo, Provinz Mahasarakham

 

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #culture #features #German #international 

GayThailand.de

Buchtipps

Ein Muss für alle Thailand-Fans: Der grandiose Foto/Text-Band “Very Thai” widmet sich der Alltagskultur im Land des Lächelns

By Christian Scheuß

Was ist typisch Deutsch? Als Deutscher muss man da wahrscheinlich länger überlegen, weil das Typische so alltäglich um einen herum steht und stattfindet, dass man es für nicht mehr besonders erwähnenswert hält. Würde man einen Thailänder, der hier zu Besuch ist, dasselbe fragen, würde er sicher auf ganz viele Dinge zeigen.
In einen fremden Kulturkreis einzutauchen, heißt den Blick zu weiten. Der Autor Philip Cornwel-Smith und der Fotograf John Goss – beide Amerikaner – haben diesen Blick bei ihren ersten Besuchen in Thailand gehabt und nun das aus ihrer Sicht besonders Thailändische in Wort und Bild festgehalten. Herausgekommen ist ein buntes wie grandioses Kaleidoskop des Alltags im Land des Lächelns. (more…)

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags: #book #gay #German #international #reviews #website 

Chiang Mai Mail

(Newspaper, Thailand)
http://www.chiangmai-mail.com/136/bmm.shtml
Book Review: Very Thai
by Lang Reid
 
Another guide to life in Thailand, but not the usual “which bus to catch” and “don’t mess with the servants”, but a hard-cover guide to the everyday, but oft unfathomable, life and times in Thailand. Written by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a writer with much experience in this country, and photographed by John Goss, Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture (ISBN 974-9863-00-3) was published this year by River Books in Bangkok.
 
In Alex Kerr’s preface to the book, he writes, “A hundred things which had intrigued me for decades became clear on reading it (the book). Such as where the statue of the beckoning lady came from, or why the alphabet always appears with pictures.” That introduction alone was, for me, the ‘beckoning lady’ to look further! (more…)

Posted in: Reviews,

Tags:

Dulwich Diary

Dulwich College magazine, Thailand

By Miss Diane, 13 May 2005

Focusing more on the “What Is” rather than the “How To” of life in Thailand, “Very Thai” is a celebration of the amazing Thai life, mind and heart.

Philip Cornwel-Smith has written a very refreshing book about Thailand, so true and so well illustrated with photos that have captured real life in chaotic Bangkok. One cannot suppress a smile on seeing a photo of entangled electric cables on a street corner.

From a McDonald’s plastic mannequin doing the traditional “Wai” to the white skin obsession, all is said and shown to give the reader a real grasp about what is Thailand in 2005. Among the 17 small photos on the cover of “Very Thai” are contemporary interpretations of traditional folk customs like Buddha images (in plastic), wooden bracelets (with painted Hello Kitty faces) and monk basket offerings (miniaturized). They hint at the scope of this book, which, as author Philip Cornwel-Smith explains in his introduction, “celebrates the miscellany of Thai life, whether folk or formal, pop or ethnic, homegrown or imported.” Longtime Bangkok resident Mr. Cornwel-Smith covers as much as 65 topics. “I wanted to get to the root of things rather than just write observations and anecdotes,” explains the British-born author, who from 1994 to 2002 edited the capital’s first listings magazine Bangkok Metro before moving on to edit Time Out’s hugely successful Bangkok city guide.

Very Thai” rewards the conscientious reader with astonishing details on subjects like pink napkins, soap operas, ghost stories, truck & bus art, recycling tyres into chairs and garbage bins, and more, and more… Each chapter is its own mini-course on Thai history, sociology, anthropology and politics.

The book has plenty of interviews and quotes from a variety of sources plus 500 colorful photos taken by Mr. Cornwel- Smith and John Goss, another longtime resident.

Very Thai” is a must for visitors, longtime residents and anyone anywhere interested in what makes Thailand “Very Thai

rencontre troisieme type sonnerie **Available in the library

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #academic #blogs #reviews 

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ (Brussels)

Kunsten Festival des Arts, De Markten, Brussels

6-28 May 2005

Installation by Prapon Kumjim, with montage including images from Very Thai. A copy of Very Thai was also displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

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05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 01 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 2 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 3 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 4 05-0506 Kunsten Fest catalogue BkBk 5

FROM ASIAN ART ARCHIVE:

Bangkok Bangkok: De Markten, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts in Brussel | Asia Art Archive

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ is an exhibition which sketches out the contours of an incomplete and imperfect city. The Asian metropolis is known as a gateway or transit zone for travellers in South East Asia, but Bangkok is rarely their end destination. Eight Thai artists brought together in Brussels are using cinema, photography and video either live or online to evoke the decline and renaissance of this international city, with humour and sarcasm. The artists will each be giving their personal vision of the many changes that have disfigured Bangkok but celebrating its chaotic charm at the same time.

Thailand began to suffer from economical turbulence since the mid 1990s. Its urban landscape changed drastically due to economic breakdown. Urban ghosts emerged and remained as incurable scars of the city. A “self-organized” city dreamed up by William Lim, a Singaporean architect, as a post-modem city, Bangkok takes its charm from its chaotic disorganisation, its accessibility to both local and overseas visitors. Rarely a destination in itself for visitors, Bangkok enjoys its status as a gateway, and a transit zone for those who want to mooch around the Southeast Asian Countries. The city lacks of completeness and perfection. We all have something to complain about, from the sewer system and the streets, to the sky train and the authority that runs it.

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ is an attempt to introduce contemporary art by Bangkok-based artists whose work deals with this city, people, lifestyle, mentality, from various approaches. As citizens of this city, and witnesses to its fast paced growth, collapse, and revival, young artists portray their point of view towards such changes. They investigate the urban condition and lifestyles in the city and its surrounding area through photography, video and film imbued with humour, satire and critique. They also seek proximity and interaction with Brussels audiences by working with local people.

The exhibition consists of two parts: urban landscape and cultural landscape. In the section on urban landscape, images of Bangkok from the economic crisis to the present day will be represented by photography in Manit Sriwanichpoom’s Dream Interruptus and in his publication, Bangkok in Black and White. Manit, who began his career as a photojournalist, has always been interested in social and political issues at both local and international level. This series is one of his most important if obscure works, though it is overshadowed by his famous Pink Man photographic series. For its part, Vanchit Jibby Yunibandhu’s video work shows us images of the city from different viewpoints. About Bangkok that I think I know deals with her personal experience with the city whilst also embodying an attempt to re-orientate herself after the rapid changes of the last ten years. In stark contrast to Vanchits work, in ‘If there is no corruption’ Wit Pimkanchanapong creates a pseudo-Bangkok Metropolitan subway system to pour critique and satire on the existing system and its mass transport infrastructure in this megacity, as well as its urban planning, and administration. Kamol Phaosavasdi, on the other hand, explores Bangkok urban situation differently. He juxtaposes rush hour of Bangkok by using video installation with other real time ambient of his exhibition in Bangkok, ‘Here and Now’, with the recreated fluxes of unknown scripts. In his ‘techno temple’, Kamol juxtaposed the time based video of three images, turning Bangkok chaotic atmosphere into a temple.

Kornkrit Jianpinidnan, a young fashion photographer, will present a wide range of portraits of Bangkok’s younger generation, both Bangkokian and expatriates, in their most intimate moments. Kornkrit asked them to call him up when they were ready to be photographed. The idea was to capture the point of transition between the public and the private, as decided by each individual, and to highlight the sense of alienation. Prapon Kumjim will work with Brussels audiences to complete their projects, which they began in Bangkok. Prapon Kumjim is a lens-based artist who explores his nomadic experience and our media-centred society in an attempt to blur the divide between art and film. As part of his cultural interaction project, he will ask people from Brussels to take pictures of their everyday activities. Prapon will finally re-photograph and edit these as in a storyboard format. Thasnai, on the other hand, approaches the community in a different way. As an artist actively taking part in a social, anthropological and research-based project, his works explore cultural misinterpretation and its idiosyncrasy, creating an interesting dialogue between the different cities in the world and their perception of Thailand. The project in Brussels will address the idea of cultural translation and their perception of each nation/ narration from multi-cultural background.

To sum up with both part of the show, Vasan Sittikhet, a social oriented artist, and performance artist, will perform the puppet show parodying the political situation in Thailand. This project will be an interesting metaphor for audience, to rethink about what’s really going on behind the land of smiles.

 

Curator: Grithiya Gaweewong

Artists: Manit SRIWANICHPOOM(มานิต ศรีวานิชภูมิ)Wit PIMKANCHANAPONG(วิชญ์ พิมพ์กาญจนพงศ์)Jibby YUNIBANDHU,Kornkrit JIANPINIDNAN(กรกฤช เจียรพินิจนันท์)Prapon KUMJIM(ประพล คำจิ่ม)Thasnai SETHASEREEGridthiya GAWEEWONG(กฤติยา กาวีวงศ์)

 

Posted in: Blog, Events,

Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #events #exhibitions #international 

The Irrawaddy

What Makes Thais Tick?

Cornwel-Smith provides some entertaining insights

By Bertil Lintner

A crash course in cultural orientation is the first introduction to Thailand that American Peace Corps volunteers get when they arrive in the kingdom. High-society ladies of noble standing teach them that Thai girls are very shy and conservative.
They spend their entire adolescence cooking food, cleaning their houses, and, for relaxation, painting umbrellas. Every young woman is a virgin until she gets married to a hardworking man, who is deeply devoted to traditional Asian family values. The reality confronting the young Americans when they arrive in a small village in the Northeast, therefore, comes as a shock. Half the teenage girls are either single mothers or pregnant, and their boyfriends have escaped their responsibilities and fled to Bangkok. Every married adult, man or woman, seems to be having an affair with somebody else. Family relations in rural Thailand can, in fact, be even more confused and bewildering than in America’s inner cities.

(more…)

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Svenska Dagbladet

New book about Thailand behind the façade

by Bertil Lintner

VT SvenskaDag 002 copy

Superficially, Thailand may appear more Westernised than most other countries in Asia. Jeans, T-shirts, Coca-Cola and hamburger joints belong to the youth culture here, like English football and American pop music. But there’s something very Thai behind the façade not only in the indigenous culture but also in the way in which the Thais absorb outside influences. All those phenomena are explained splendidly in a new book, Very Thai: Everyday Popular Thai Culture by Philip Cornwel-Smith, a Bangkok-based English journalist. Beauty contests, astrology, taxi altars, belief in ghosts and spirits are all put in their proper context in this very readable book.

Svenska Dagbladet is a Swedish newspaper

Bertil Lintner 
is the author of Blood Brothers: Crime, Business and Politics in Asia;Burma in Revolt; Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea Under the Kim Clan

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Metro Blogging Bangkok

Very Thai = very insightful

By Paul, April 08, 2005

http://bangkok.metblogs.com/archives/2005/04/very_thai_very.phtml

A few weeks ago, I happened across an intriguing article in Time Magazine about Very Thai, a new book of photos and essays about Thailand and its culture. The next time I passed through the Emporium on personal business, I made it a point to stop by the Kinokuniya Bookstore to pick up a copy.

Unlike your standard coffee table fare that shows many postcard-pretty photos touting lush tourist destinations, Very Thai delves into the mundane: the day-to-day sights, smells, rituals, and idiosyncracies that define exactly what it means to be Thai. The book is divided into major sections such as street life and entertainment, which each section containing numerous essays on individual topics as varied as food on a stick to tuk-tuks to hi-so hair-dos. Each essay is accompanied by a rich array of photographs, many of them candid, spur-of-the-moment, man-on-the-street snapshots.

Written by an expatriate and longtime resident of Thailand, the book is a detailed, meticulously-research reference into the little nuances of Thai behavior and philosophy, and explores how Thai culture has evolved into its present-day incarnations as it is assaulted and influenced by both modern and foreign influences. For me, it has proven to be a fascinating explanation for all the local quirks whose logic has puzzled and eluded me; for my wife, it has been an eye-opening introduction to how outsiders perceive Thailand, and the things that puzzle them. We would highly recommend this book to anyone who has visited and loves Thailand, including its own citizens. It don’t come cheap though: mine cost me almost a thousand Baht.

Below is a transcript of the article that appeared in Time magazine about the book:

 

The Thais That Bind

A new, encyclopedic book relishes Thailand’s embrace of all things un-Thai

By Andrew RC Marshall (Pullitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of The Trouser People)

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 Rak Thai, or Thais Love Thais — to a landslide election victory, and made criticism of his policies seem unpatriotic.

Yet as Philip Cornwel-Smith argues, one defining quality of Thais is their embrace of all things un-Thai. The country is a cultural fusion of East and West, old and new, all effortlessly assimilated. The Thai horoscope, for example, is a baffling hybrid of Chinese, Indian and Western systems. Thai beauty queens still scoop their hair into a style called a faaraa, as in Farrah Fawcett. One of the most beloved singers of Thai country music is a Swede called Jonas. This ability to digest foreign influences is sometimes literal: villagers plagued by Bombay locusts 10 years ago solved the problem by frying and eating them.

This adopt-or-perish attitude helps explain how Thais have survived three decades of breakneck development. “In one dizzying spasm,” writes Cornwel-Smith, “Thailand is experiencing the forces that took a century to transform the West.” How does a nation modernize this fast without eroding the traditions that define it? In Thailand, “traditional” is now often a pejorative term, meaning low-class or old-fashioned. Many of the temple’s social functions have been replaced by the mall, where, the author notes, “the principal rite is the right to shop.” What matters most is looking dern. Yes, that’s Thai for “modern.”

But looking dern and being it are entirely different things. Clues to Thailand’s recent rural past are everywhere — witness motorcycle-taxi drivers in Bangkok sewing fishing nets as they wait for their next fare. This is still very much a society in transition, a place where the National Buddhism Office in 2003 felt obliged to warn monks not to use mobile phones in public. Very Thai is a compendium of fast-disappearing folklore: fortune-tellers who divine omens from rat-bitten clothes; apothecaries who make herbal aphrodisiacs so strong that they “could make a monk leap over the temple wall in search of romance”; fetus worshipping, spirit channeling, and other not-in-front-of-the-tourists activities.

With the country this year hoping to attract a staggering 15 million visitors — one for every four Thais — one definition of “Thai-ness” is simply “whatever tourists want.” Cornwel-Smith rightly condemns plans to demolish old Bangkok neighborhoods to create “Paris-style open vistas” to accommodate both tourists and convenience-store chains. Very Thai? Hardly. But however tourist-oriented Thailand has become, Cornwel-Smith’s exhaustive research suggests that perhaps foreigners don’t know the country as well as they assume. Despite its freewheeling reputation, Thailand surpasses even Japan in its adherence to stifling social hierarchies — note the national obsession with uniforms. It is also, considering Bangkok’s sexual notoriety, a surprisingly prudish place. Soap operas are so straitlaced that they cannot broach the topic of “minor wives,” as mistresses are euphemistically known. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture (a Thaksin-era invention) pesters young women who wear skimpy clothes during the annual Songkran water-splashing festival, even though “traditional” Thai women wore even less. This public puritanism explains the enduring popularity of the demure “sniff kiss,” which Cornwel-Smith terms “the Thai way to reach first base.”

A longtime Bangkok resident myself, I find the author too charitable at times. Is the city’s Chatpetch Tower really a “post-modernist pastiche” of the ubiquitous Greco-Roman style? Or is it just rubbish, like so much urban Thai architecture? Sometimes, too, the urge to be exhaustive is just plain exhausting, although future social historians will thank Cornwel-Smith for recording how you toughen up a Siamese fighting fish before a bout. (Rather meanly, you “just stir the water.”) Encyclopedic in scope, Very Thai is an unapologetic celebration of both the exotic and the everyday, and an affectionate reminder in these flag-waving times that perhaps Thais care less for state-mandated notions of national identity than their politicians think. They’re much too busy being themselves.

Andrew RC Marshall is a Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist for for Reuters, previously wrote for Time and is the author of The Trouser People.

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Tags: #Bangkok #blogs #book #reviews #Thailand 

Britain in Thailand

Visions of Thailand

British author Philip Cornwel-Smith talks to John Ramsay about his journey from Time Out London to Bangkok’s first city listings magazine and his new book Very Thai, an in-depth celebration of Thai popular culture.

By John Ramsay

VT intv Britain in Thailand VT intv Britain in Thailand2

Eleven years ago, on his way home to the UK, author Philip Cornwel-Smith landed in Thailand on a three-day stop-over little knowing it would change his life. In those three days he had an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become the founding editor of Metro, Bangkok’s first city listings magazine. He’s been here ever since.

“I’d previously worked on Time Out guidebooks in London,” he says. “And for a listings agency that supplied newspapers such as the Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph.

“The Time Out London guide was the first publication I worked on, so things have come full circle, because I‘m now editing the Time Out Bangkok guidebook.” (more…)

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Tags: #magazine #reviews #Thailand 

Morning Talk

Magazine program on Thai Channel 11 TV

Interview with Philip Cornwel-Smith about Very Thai.

VT Morning Talk 001 copy

 

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Tags: #book #interviews #Thailand #TV 

The Nation (1st ed review)

Thank you, your Thai-ness

Mysteries of the Siamese landscape marvellously revealed, with all due affection – and affectation
By Paul Dorsey

 

Alex Kerr, earning his accreditation herein as an “Asia pundit”, says it best in the foreword to Very Thai: “This is the book I wish I’d had when I first came to Thailand.” It is truly so much better than any other “guide” (once you’ve got all the maps and hotel listings in your pocket).

A pair of aliens who upon landing fell in love with Thailand, Bangkok Metro magazine’s former British editor Philip Cornwel-Smith and American artist -photographer John Goss have, with genuine affection, put together 256 pages of endearing text with 494 colour photos of instantly recognisable social signatures. (more…)

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Sticky Rice

Review: Very Thai – Everyday Popular Culture

By Ms. Connie Lingus

Sticky Rice review of VT

http://www.stickyrice.ws/?view=very_thai

As the Rough Guide to Thailand observed this guide on contemporary Thailand is well-researched, knowledgeable, and lavishly photographed. Its not a guide book per se. It can’t fit in your pocket, but it is of a size to pop in your packsack. But it should grace your coffee table and be readily at hand when you want to reference some cultural phenomenon that suddenly confronts you in your wanderings through the Land of Smiles. This could be when a street vendor passes your gate yelling that he has brooms for sale. It could be when another goes by selling ice cream sticks. Or it could be when you have just turned on the television and cannot figure out what your boyfriend finds so uproariously funny about this game show.
The author of this review did know that one piece of information, regarding the tailless cats which seem ubiquitous in Thailand, are commonly seen because somehow a tailless cat must have entered the feline gene pool in the Kingdom at some point. But in pointing this phenonmenon out to an acquaintance, realised that many people living in Thailand still think the cats without tails in Thailand have had their tails lopped off by some evil feline haters.

 

(more…)

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Time Magazine (Asia)

The Thais That Bind

A new, encyclopedic book relishes Thailand’s embrace of all things un-Thai

By Andrew RC Marshall (Pullitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of The Trouser People)

VTW Time article 7842The 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.
(more…)

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The Australian

Bangkok inside out

Andrew RC Marshall shares his 10 top tips for an intimate view of Thailand’s city of angels

 

VT Australian 001 crop VT Australian 002 copy

ALL THE ANSWERS: Why do Thai truck drivers hang pictures of Al Pacino on their mud flaps? Where did the fume-belching tuk-tuk originate? What exactly is a sniff kiss? And why are Thais such terrible drivers? You’ll find the answers and much more in Very Thai (River Books, 2004) by long-time Bangkok resident Philip Cornwel-Smith. An absorbing guide to popular culture, Very Thai shines a loving light on the minutiae of everyday life. A chapter on names explains that Thais are often called Frog, Pig or Ant to confuse evil spirits, or choose memorable nicknames such as Man-U, Nokia, and even God. The book is equally fun and authoritative on subjects as diverse as bulletproof tattoos, high-society hairdos, beetle fighting, folk music, soap operas and the all-consuming Thai concept of sanuk – fun.

 

Andrew RC Marshall is a Pullitzer Prize-winning journalist for  Reuters, who previously wrote for Time and is the author of The Trouser People.

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Tags: #book #international #newspaper #PullitzerPrize #reviews 

‘Bangkok, Bangkok’ (Barcelona)

La Capella Gallery, Barcelona

Installation by Prapon Kumjim, with montage including images from Very Thai. A copy of Very Thai was also displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

8 Feb – 10 April 2005

Opening: 8 Feb 2004, 7pm (Barcelona time)
- with AboutTV live! from Barcelona under sub-channel: Bangkok, Bangkok at La Capella, Barcelona 


Watch the interview with participating artists and curator in archived section. More information will be added during the whole month of February. 

The project is part of a cultural exchange program between Bangkok and Barcelona.

Bangko Bangkok catalogue BarcelonaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FROM ASIAN ART ARCHIVE:

 

Bangkok, Bangkok | Asia Art Archive

go to site Bangkok, Bangkok is an exhibition of contemporary art and films by Bangkok-based artists. It is the first chapter in Roundabout Encounter, an exchange program between Bangkok and Barcelona, initiated by Marti Peran, the program director for this project on behalf of the city of Barcelona, in collaboration with Rirkrit Tiravanija, a renowned New-York based Thai artist. The initiative resulted in many layers of networking in both local and international contexts. The present catalogue includes artist biographies.

Curators: Klaomard Yipintsoi, Grithiya Gaweewong, Marti Peran

A Tale of Two Cities: Bangkom & Barcelona – Klaomard YIPINTSOI

Idea of Barcelona… With Art in the Background – Marti PERAN

Bangkok, Bangkok – Gridthiya GAWEEWONG(กฤติยา กาวีวงศ์)

Artists: Manit SRIWANICHPOOM(มานิต ศรีวานิชภูมิ)Wit PIMKANCHANAPONG(วิชญ์ พิมพ์กาญจนพงศ์)Jibby YUNIBANDHU,Kornkrit JIANPINIDNAN(กรกฤช เจียรพินิจนันท์)Prapon KUMJIM(ประพล คำจิ่ม)Thasnai SETHASEREEGridthiya GAWEEWONG(กฤติยา กาวีวงศ์)

Images from Very Thai used in the isntallation by Prapon Kumjim. A copyt of Very Thai displayed as an exhibit on the table in the exhibition.

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Tags: #art #Bangkok #culture #events #exhibitions #international 

Asia Books magazine

Literary events: Very Thai book launch

River Books publishing and Asia Books, Thailand’s leading English-language publisher and distributor, welcome guests at the launch of Very Thai at Jim Thompson House.

VT AsiaBks mag 05-02004

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Thailand Tatler magazine

‘Fluorescent tubes aren’t the usual décor du jour at the Jim Thompson House. But on December 20, the teak compound was bathed in neon from multi-coloured striplights dangling from trees, in the style of roadside markets. The reason was to launch the book by Philip Cornwel-Smith, ‘Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture’. The party adopted themes from the 65 chapters exploring the unsung ephemera of home, street and sanuk.

Hence the array of fairy lights, tiny pink tissues, vendor carts, and fortune teller. The family of the publisher, MR Narisa Chakrabongse of River Books, turned the ubiquitous blue PVC pipe into flower and candle holders. Even the book retails for the ‘lucky number 9’ figure of 995 baht.
(more…)

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Travel Indochina

Recommended Reading

http://www.travelindochina.co.uk/NewsFeature.asp?NewsFeatureID=46

Jan 2005

 

This fantastic read delves behind the façade of Thai culture and explains why the Thais do what they do, say what they say, watch what they watch, and are who they are. And Very Thai does so in such an engaging fashion that it is hard to put down. Well researched and accompanied by 500 quirky photos, Very Thai is an essential for anyone navigating Thai life. Whether you are curious about the origins of the tuk-tuk, the bouffants preferred by those in the social pages, ladyboy culture or the thousands of superstitions observed in the Land of Smiles, Very Thai will give you the answer, along with several laughs and poignant insight.

 

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Tags: #blogs #book #international #reviews #Thailand #tourism 

Asian Wall Street Journal (review)

Pop Goes Thai Culture

Two Odes to the Unsung Aspects of the `Land of Smiles’

By Jennifer Gampell, in Personal Journal

VT AWSJ article B 2863 crop
BANGKOK — What gives Thailand its groove–and will continue to do so despite the recent tsunami devastation–is never obvious from the photos of glittery temples and palm-treed beaches endemic to tourist brochures and coffee-table books. Nor does the sleazy bargirl lens through which the expatriate hack novelists perceive the country reflect a true image. Between these two mythic extremes lie all the fascinating quirks of everyday Thai life; the disparate yet omnipresent phenomena like street vendors, beauty pageants and 7-11 stores that are virtually invisible to guidebook writers. (more…)

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Tom Yum magazine

Review by Chris Otchy

“Aside from being a great read and entertaining conversation piece, Very Thai also goes great lengths to interpret the semiotics and symbols of modern times… It’s extremely hard to put back down.”

Tom Yum was an English-language Thai magazine

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Gavroche

Tout tout tout, vous saurez tout sure les Thaïlandais

By Thibault Geoffrois

 

Mais que se chache-t-il derrière le sourire de la Joconde… euh, des Thaïlandais? Le pays du sourire recèle en effet de nombreuses facettes, à la fois surprenantes et mystérieuses, qui inteprellent.
Les multiples questions que vous pouves vous poser lors de vos peregrinations et autres déambulations dans l’ancien rayaume de siam, et auxquelles vous n’aviez, jusqu’alors, pas trouvé de réponse, trouveront lumière dans l’ouvrage “Very thai” de Philip Cornwel-smith. Ce journaliste Anglophone, ancien rédacteur en chef du magazine Metro à Bangkok, est spécialaisé dans le redaction d’articles lies au voyage à la culture thaïe. (more…)

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City Life

Tom Yum! Hot Pot

Stirring Up Bangkok’s most flavourful
events/spots for January 2005

By Stirling Silliphant & Chris Otchy

VT City Life 05-0101a VT City Life 05-0101b

RIO GRANDE 
Brazilian madness erupts on Feb 26, when the Carnival from Rio de Janeiro pitches up at Shera1 Jan 2005
ton Grande Sukhumvit. Eat, drink, and be Latin with the self-professed “happiest Brazilian group in Asia!” After cocktails and a buffet dinner, samba dancers jiggle for the crowd, paying homage to four of the main Samba styles from Rio. A night of overindulgence in food and drunken gyrations to make the Romans proud…

Carnival from Rio de Janeiro Feb 26 at Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 6.30pm-1am. B2000/person. Contact Ana Lasavanich (09-812 0899, lasavanich@hotmail.com)

 (more…)

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FCCT Dateline Bangkok

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand magazine

Books Section: Very Thai

By Vaudine England

VT FCCT dateline_4th_2004 cover VT FCCT dateline_4th_2004 review

Perhaps the publishing sensation of 2004, this book promises, and delivers, a fascinating exploration of Everyday Popular Culture in Thailand. Written by Philip Cornwel- Smith, and photographed by John Goss, this book is a revelation of all those things we thought we’d never understand.
The launch of the book, published by River Books, was just as imaginative and fun as the book. It was held at the Jim Thompson House, where the forecourt was covered in classic Thai street food stalls. Guests were treated to drinks in plastic bags with straws (yes, even the beer and the wine). Author Cornwel-Smith set the tone by wearing a bright orange motorbike taxi man’s jacket. And Miss Jumbo Queen was there to add to the fun.
Once readers delve into the book, they will find a cornucopia of delights. Ever wondered why Thai restaurants offer such tiny, pink paper napkins? The answer is here. Ever puzzled over why the Lady-Boy phenomenon seems so Very Thai? Then read on. (more…)

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Tags: #Bangkok #international #magazine #reviews #Thailand 

Rough Guide to Thailand

Books: Culture & Society

By Lucy Ridout

“Why do Thais decant their soft drinks into plastic bags, and what lies behind their penchant for Neoclassical architecture? Answers and insights aplenty in this erudite, sumptuously photographed guide to contemporary Thai culture.”

Posted in: Blog, Reviews,

Tags: #book #guidebooks #international #reviews #Thailand #tourism