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The father of modern Thailand

Thai culture is ancient and one can see evidence of its beautiful bronze-age civilisation in Ban Chiang, near Udon Thani.

 But not everything in Thai culture is quite so old. In fact, some major things closely associated with Thailand are relatively recent -- and all of them are related to Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

Phibun, as he is often called in the West, was one of the leaders of the coup that abolished the absolute monarchy in 1932, creating the constitutional monarchy that Thailand has had since. He also exerted more state control over the economy through nationalisation.

Culturally, however, Phibun may have had even more influence. As prime minister, he supported fascism (he later de-emphasised this and embraced a form of democracy), nationalism, and a cult of personality focused on himself. His photos were everywhere and his quotes were regularly in the newspapers. He mandated that Thais salute the flag, know the national anthem, and speak Thai.

Phibun changed the country's name from Siam to Thailand in 1939, changed the new year from the traditional one on April 13 to the western calendar on Jan 1, and codified, promoted, and possibly created pad thai by adapting a Chinese noodle dish.

Shortly after he simplified the Thai script, Phibun adopted the word sawatdee (from svasti, the Sanskrit word for blessing or wellbeing) from a Chulalongkorn University professor and made it the "official" Thai greeting in 1943. Any one of these changes is huge. Combined, they helped create modern Thai culture as we know it!

Dan Brook

Bargirl economics

Pommy Pete (Postbag, May 23) doesn't understand how barfines work. When a customer pays a barfine he is reimbursing the bar for taking out the bargirl when she's supposed to be working. The customer knows he then has to pay a negotiated fee to the lady for her services. There are some bars where the customer will pay a bigger barfine and then the owner splits the money with the lady. But in that situation the customer is not obligated to give her any more money and she thus may end up making less. Also, the bar might cheat her out of her cut.

What's needed are laws which define the rights of a bargirl and regards her as a legitimate working woman. But because of the moralistic hypocrites on one hand and the man-hating feminists on the other (feminists believe sexual freedom is only for them) I doubt this problem will be resolved in a mature and sensible matter.

Eric Bahrt

Matters of military service

I am a British national who has lived and worked here for over two decades. Since our eldest son turned 18, I have been keen for him to honour the requirement that every Thai male be registered with the Thai military. As I understand it, this may require that he later be entered into a "draft lottery."

Since our eldest son has now turned 20, the official age of adulthood in Thailand, I am at a loss as to what to do. Clearly, his mother tells him he does not need to be registered, despite his younger brother currently carrying out a form of military service (ror dor) at school.

I have never considered my life here to be a given, so I am not comfortable with my son essentially "dodging the draft," as intended by his mother. I have heard wealthy Thais can buy their way out of doing national service, but our family is in no way wealthy. Moreover, as I understand it, if you do not complete your national service obligations you are not even supposed to be employed officially -- this gets around it by being unofficial.

My understanding is that the only reasons someone would be excused from military service is if their sexuality is called into question (LGBTQ and so on), or they are medically unfit to serve. Isn't any other excuse simply construed as a form of cowardice?

The issue has put my family in stress, but I really feel I need to contact the correct authorities about this. I need to find whether or not our son is obliged to be registered with the military and, if not, why not? And, if not, what can I do to show that I wish my son to conform in this process in good faith? I hope someone can offer me genuine advice on these matters.

Ivor Hunsch

It's not just news that's fake

A new book entitled, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, details a fascinating scandal involving a fine looking female entrepreneur, the fame of fake news has been one-upped by fake science.

It began with Theranos Corporation and its CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, once hailed by the mainstream media as the "next Steve Jobs".

It ended under the weight of scientific papers and related hype that in aggregate turned out to be a well-orchestrated fabrication, resulting in the former feminist startup darling being charged with massive fraud.

Moral of the story: it's not just the news that is possibly fake, but everything from eggs, rice, milk, and medicine all the way to online fact checkers and science itself that requires diligent personal scrutiny.

Michael Setter

Let down by the monks

Re: "Search for two top monks ratchets up," (BP, May 26).

If you can't trust a monk, who can you trust in Thailand?

Mr P

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All letter writers must provide a full name and address. All published correspondence is subject to editing at our discretion