Thailand takes lèse-majesté seriously — as Yale University Press is finding out.Well, I for one refuse to believe it until I see actual video on CNN of well-armed bodhisattvas brandishing their weapons, of masked mendicant monks carrying C4 in their begging bowls, of Theravadan thugs in Gitmo-orange robes chanting
The Thai government has blocked access in the country to the Yale University Press Web site because it includes information about a forthcoming, critical biography of Thailand’s king. The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej is described in Yale publicity materials as the story of “how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political, autocratic, and even brutal.” The author is Paul Handley, a journalist who spent much of his life reporting from Asia, including 13 years in Thailand.
The book is due out this summer — in a year in which Thailand will be celebrating the 60th year of the king’s reign. The book acknowledges his popularity with the Thai people, but — according to the press — “portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the murderous, corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty.”
This illustrates in a small way the fatal weakness of area studies in academia: One can never be too critical of the areas one studies. One must always be their advocate and apologist. Well, except perhaps in American studies.