» Posts tagged: ‘thailand

image0012The excellent New Mandala, featured an interesting post discussing a controversial Thai television series about a group of middle-class Bangkok teenagers entitled ‘Hormones’ (Hormone WaiWaWun).

The author, Pasoot Lasuka, notes that the series, which has just completed its first season, has been controversial in Thailand. He argues that this is largely due to ‘its explicit portrayals of social issues that can be found in actual Thai high school life. These issues include, for example: sexual desire among students (especially through Sprite, a female character who is portrayed as sexually open-minded); the discovery of homosexual desire (through a character called Phoo); and the challenge to the school’s authority of Win, a male character who is depicted as having a critical mind’.

As noted in earlier posts (HERE and HERE), young people’s bodies are often important sites of development governmentalities. Hence, the concern expressed by the Thai National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission about the apparent ‘inappropriate content’ of the series is not entirely surprising. On the other hand, Pasoot Lasuka notes that the series is also celebrated by, for example, a critic from Prachachat News who considers the series ‘useful for the youngsters and their parents to learn what really happens in school today.’

In his conclusion, Pasoot Lasuka raises the question whether despite all the controversy Hormones is perhaps not reinforcing conservative values more so than offering any progressive content. He bases this claim on the observation that the rebeliousness displayed by the youth in Hormones goes only so far; it doesn’t destabilise traditional conservative institutions like the family and religion. In fact, the author notes ‘the series puts a high emphasis on the importance of the family institution in helping the youngsters in the series get out troubles. For instance, when Sprite, the sexually open-minded person who likes to fool around with boys, learns that her mother is pregnant, she becomes a completely different person by staying at home and help taking care of her mother. Phoo, who becomes so confused with his gender identity, is understood by his mother and his younger brother, and can live happily at the end’.

A point that escaped the otherwise excellent analysis is the title of the series. Does the title ‘Hormones’ not effectively suggest that any of the apparently ‘rebellious behaviour’ displayed by these teenagers should not be interpreted as political, because it suggests that this is simply the result of the condition of the adolescent brain?

posted by Roy Huijsmans

imagesICTs have long been in the toolkit of development organisations, yet ‘development through texting’ appears a rather new practice.

As part of its ‘Youth Empowerment through Mobile Learning Project’, UNESCO Thailand, in collaboration with the Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education of the Thai Ministry of Education, has been bombarding ‘more than 1600 young Thais’ with daily text messages sent out through Facebook and by telephone SMS (see HERE).

The text messages contain quotes from famous scientist, business people and movie stars, including the likes of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. This is one such example, that would have popped up (in Thai script!) on the screens of the young Thais participating in the project:

“The only wrong thing would be to deny what your heart truly feels,” from the film “The Mask of Zorro”. 

With these texts, UNESCO aims to stimulate the development of mental skills, cognitive skills and technical skills among Thai youth’s. Mass-texting may thus well be regarded a development project.

As with most development projects, whether these goals are achieved is perhaps the least interesting of questions. What I would find more interesting is learning by whom and how these quotes are selected. There is a documented history (e.g. by Thongchai) on Thailand’s appropriation of certain western practices and knowledges in the name of ‘civilization’, and the examples provided by UNESCO suggest indeed that the quotes used in this texting programme are from famous people from the west exclusively. Despite this possible historical continuity, the absence of any quotes from the Thai king, from Buddhist monks, or former prime-minister Thaksin for that matter, would still raise really interesting questions. Also, what sense do young Thais make of such daily ‘feeds’ and how do they interpret such ‘development texts’ in relation to the many other ‘electronic updates’ they no doubt receive. There is also a question of political economy. Assuming that subscription to this UNESCO SMS service is free on the receiving end, the service still has a price which UNESCO might subsidise and/or has an agreement about with one or more of the companies providing mobile telephony services in Thailand.

posted by Roy Huijsmans



Category: education| Uncategorized

22 Jan 2013

posted by Roy Huijsmans

The Bangkok Post announces that Thailand’s education minister has ordered all schools ‘to abolish strict limits on the length of students’ hair.’

A 1972 regulation stipulates that schoolboys should have their hair no longer than five centimetres and schoolgirls should have their hair no longer than the base of their neck. Even though this regulation was overruled by a 1975 ministerial regulation allowing students  ‘to have longer hair, but stipulating it must look tidy’, in practice most schools have remained strict about hair-length.

Students are reportedly pleased with this announcement. One grade 7 student said: “We have had crew cuts since we were in primary school. Now we don’t need to have our hair cut every month.” Adults appear less enthusiastic. However, a deputy director of a secondary school observed that ‘ the 1972 ministerial regulation is a good rule because the crew cuts make students look tidy and differentiates them from adults.’

Interestingly, where Thai school uniforms and school hair cuts function to differentiate students from adults the precise opposite is the case in Laos, Thailand’s neighbour. In Laos, primary school uniforms are modelled on adult dress (so no shorts for boys, and long skirts for girls), as is the case with prescribed hairstyles (girls are required to wear their hair long, in ponytails).



posted by Roy Huijsmans

Sverre Molland’s The Perfect Business? Anti-trafficking and the sex trade along the Mekong is a highly accessible, ethnographically rich and theoretically stimulating account of trafficking and anti-trafficking.

Juxtaposing trafficking and anti-trafficking, the author raises a number of relevant questions. For example, whilst noting the ‘continuous problem’ that ‘officially identified Lao trafficked victims’ are being held in shelters in Thailand for ‘very long periods, in some cases more than one year’ , he observes that:

I cannot recall many trafficking cases from Laos where a trafficker confined an individual for so long. It is therefore not unreasonable to speculate on the possiblity that actions of govenments and organisations to “help” sex workers have done more damage to, and violation of, their human rights than the misdeeds of traffickers(p 27).

In this light Molland further argues that:

in the context of Laos and Thailand, any researcher worth his or her grant money would know that unconditionally committing oneself to reporting, say, the presence of underage girls in a brothel to the police would most likely result in entrenchment of exploitation (“rehabilitation,” deportation, imprisonment, abuse, confiscation of earnings, and so on) of the girls themselves and not many consequences for those who operate such establishments’ (p27)

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