#Thaistory, by Andrew MacGregor Marshall
For the second time recently I feel compelled to write a “non-book review” in lieu of my preferred fashion of reviewing the books I read in great detail. The first time , I did so because I wrote a more thorough book review that would appear somewhere else, and I did not wish provide any review that would compete with that publication of the book review. Today’s non-book review, on the other hand, is because I have read a book whose contents I cannot discuss in any detail without risking a lengthy jail sentence, something that must be made very plain.
Today I received a link to a book (or rather, a rough draft of a book) posted freely online by former longtime Reuters reporter Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who writers under the pseudonym Zen Journalist. His career at Reuters was ended in spectacular fashion when his writings about the delicate nature of Thai politics and the royal family based on the wikileaks cables as well as other released accounts from Thais and Western historians (and in least one case by King Bhomipol himself writing a bestselling fable about his beloved mongrel dog) threatened the lives and livelihood of himself and others. He, of course, cannot come to Thailand, because if he did he would almost certainly never leave again. This book alone would be worth a very stiff jail sentence, and I am surprised if links to the book (which I will not post here) remain accessible in Thailand for more than a few days.
About the book itself, nothing can safely be said, except I would like to note that the king himself is portrayed in a positive light, as being modest, desiring of peace and unity within his family and among his people, and burdened with a difficult task of appearing as a semi-divine ruler in the Buddhist (and especially Brahman) tradition to his people while also presenting the face of a modern constitutional monarch toward the West, a task that is in principle impossible, as the author sympathetically notes. I happen to be immensely sympathetic with the difficult position of the author as well, for the same reasons, despite my very strong Western mindset.
That said, just about everything else in this book, while not surprising to anyone with an unhealthy interest in politics (as I unfortunately must confess), is certainly enough to land anyone who quotes, translates, or writes any part of this work in jail for a long time. I do not want to be that person. Nonetheless, I feel it imperative to note that this material has been written in English, is openly available to be read (at least for now), and will no doubt be well-known in a country where this material is not likely ever to be allowed to be read and spoken of openly. Let the reader beware. You have been warned.