11 July 2024

I grew up in the Thai education system. Stories from the past, including folk stories, are something I read mostly for entertainment.

My curiosity about what has happened in the country’s history was piqued when I was in Junior high school. There was a coup in 1992, dubbed “Black May”. For a 14-year-old, everything felt odd and misplaced.

I saw that buildings were burned. I saw that soldiers walked around with machine guns. I saw things I shouldn’t have seen in a normal, modern and peaceful country.

The whole thing, however, ignited my interest in modern Thai history and politics, but it’s something which is not taught in school. History lessons in my years at school brushed past each year in history like just milestones. You learned the date, the name, location and, maybe, one or two sentences to describe it. Kids would not, could not relate to the story. It’sjust like reading another folk story from a book.

So, I searched for books about the protests in the 1970s, about king Rama 7 and 8, about modern history and more. I found so many informative old books and magazines from the period. I gained more understanding of how politics has been in Thailand. I can, as a result, form my own opinion on issues related to politics and coups, the role of each institution in the country. The successes and progress the country has or has not made.

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This all happened only because I wanted to know, to learn and to search for information outside the classroom. I was a fortunate child with parents who enabled me to do that. Many children aren’t so lucky.

Learning real history in school is something I agree with, but it has to be comprehensive. It has to be gathered from various points of view, not only from one source. It can’t be the history written only by the victor in any one indecent.

We need to know and understand from where we come, before we can move forward. We have to know who we are to make progress. So, learn from history, from the most accurate version possible, and build from there.

By Tulip Naksompop Blauw