Monthly Archives: October 2004

Muslim or Buddhist? Thai

Hi guys, back again!

I’ve got lots of stories to tell: four days at the Mekong River between Laos and Thailand; touching the Heart of Buddha; half a dozen Thai celebrations and more. But one issue is more pressing: you no doubt heard that the tension between the Thai government and Muslim extremists escalated to dangerous levels. This prompted me to dig up some old books and look at history to answer my questions: How did Islam appear in Southern Thailand? How did Thailand handle Muslim minority in the past? Is there any basis for the attackers’ claim that Muslims are discriminated against? This is what I found so far:

Islam appeared in southern Thailand in the 13th century shortly after it was introduced into Malaysia by Arab traders. Islam comprises 4 percent of the population. About 99 percent of Thai Muslims are Sunni and one percent are Shi’ite. More than 100 mosques are found throughout Bangkok. They intermingle with Thai Buddhists with minimal friction. A special government fund finances the repair of mosques; government-employed Muslims are given special leave for important Muslim holidays and are required to work only half days on Friday, which is the Islamic holy day. Like the special dispensation given to Buddhist men to enter the monkhood, Muslim men are given four months’ leave with full salary to make the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The King helps Islam: donation and assistance to Islamic activities, such as the translation of the Koran, the construction and restoration of mosques and the promotion of many agricultural projects.

The government helps Islam: support of Islamic activities and the promotion of Islam identity. Promoting the international competition in reading the Koran, supporting the celebration of the Maolid Day (birthday of the prophet Muhammad) providing assistance to Thai Muslims for their pilgrimage to Mecca; giving financial support for the construction of central Musjids (Mosques; there are about 2500 in Thailand) and for other activities, organizing lectures by Chularajamontri (the King’s advisor on Islamic activities) and the Islam Central committee on the Islamic principles for the Thai Muslims in different regions.

Power to local people Dato of Justice: an official who reviews and judges the Islamic laws on civil cases concerning family affairs and estates. He sits in a law court in the 4 provinces. A Dato is selcted from a qualified list of local people. A quota is reserved for qualified graduates from the Muslim provinces to enter official service without examination. Such quota is also applicable to Muslim youths for a place to study in universities around the country. Islam is taught in schools, in Rajabhat Insititute Yala, and in Prince Songkhla University.

Well, folks – that’s it so far. From this, it seems that Thailand did more than her fair share – to accomodate the needs of the minority, that is! I can’t see anything that’d substantiate the separatists’ claim of discrimination. What I see is people trying to invoke a religious cause for their hidden political agenda.

Now the situation seems like a vicious cycle of violence. So what came first, the egg or the chicken? Let’s go back a hundred-and-some years and read a newspaper article of that time for a clue:

In an announcement in the name of the King [Chulalongkorn] contained in the latest issue of the Royal Gazette, it is stated that all religions are, from old, equally tolerated and respected in the Kingdom of Siam. The occasion of the announcement is the rebuilding of the Mohammedan temple on Klong Bangkok Noi. The site of the temple is required for the new Petchburi railway and the arrangement come to was to remove the temple to a new site across the creek. It is understood that His Majesty is having the temple rebuilt at his personal expense.
September 1901, Bangkok Times

King Chulalongkorn

Statue of King Rama V

You will find in many houses in Thailand a picture of a waterfall (not from Thailand) and a baby (not their own baby). You see these pictures everywhere and they are very tacky. Many households also have a picture of King Rama V. If you don’t know, Chulalongkorn is very revered by all Thai people although he died many years ago. October 23rd is the anniversary of his death and people lay wreaths at the foot of his statue. We have one here at City Hall in Samut Prakan and I am sure every province has one as well. I took the picture above in Bangkok this afternoon. Foreigners know this king best as the boy in the banned movie “The King and I”.

I also have a lot of respect for him as he achieved a lot in his lifetime. He did much to bring Thailand into the modern age. He was also the first king to travel widely abroad. His portrait is also considered a good luck charm for businesses. I wouldn’t object to hanging up his picture in the office, though I refuse to buy one of those tacky ones they sell at Big C and Tesco Lotus. I don’t really understand why they want to put glitter all over the picture.

Talking of good luck charms, there are couple of other things I should maybe buy for the office. One is the Beckoning Lady which might be good for bringing customers into the book store. Second is a flower which I forget the name of at the moment. It is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity to the householders. It has a red flower and I think I saw it at the garden centre outside Big C the other day. Well, there was only one that seemed to fit the bill. I’ll have to do some research first.

Bendy spoons and forks

Do you remember that Russian guy Uri Geller that bent spoons by the power of his mind? Well, I think I have bent just about every fork I have bought from Tesco Lotus. Note to self: if you buy cheap things you get what you pay for. The same goes for the mops and the broom with a scrubbing brush on the end. I wanted to give the back yard a good scrub but the thing snapped in half on the second sweep. The same with the mop. I guess they weren’t built for Westerners.

My wife ate what!!???

I am a farmkid, from the mid-West USA. My father has a horse farm still, he is one of the few who refuses to retire and live with the old people in the sunshine state Florida. I can’t even begin to express how much the children LOVE staying at grandpa’s house. This past summer they lived there while we worked our overtime, and they were out of school. We would go see them after work, and on the weekends have large meals. But the summer was not enough, yesterday Daniel asked if we could live at the farm…. ALL of us! HAHA

Well this year, since Dad, myself, and my younger brother’s families all have freezers, the farm is again operational….. Sort of. Dad bought two baby cows to raise for beef. We bought 20 chickens for their eggs. In the spring my brothers are going to buy 100-175 chickens to raise for meat. The garden this year was at the farm, and will be at the farm again next year. There is more reason now for the children to go. Dad has a tough time taking care of all the new animals as well as the horses by himself. Daniel is a great help to him when he is there, but Daniel is in school now so we drive there a few times a week now.

Last year the children were somewhat in awe as they insisted on helping us slaughter 75 chickens, to put into our freezers. There was nothing inhumane about the methods used, but they had never seen people kill animals intentionally before. My wife went on to teach them about the way she grew up. Even scaring the hell out of the children telling them that she ate the Kwai that they used to farm with one year.

The children were surprisingly eager to get the chickens for the eggs and even are looking forward to the next season’s chicken for the freezer. Everytime we go to the farm they are rushing to the chickens to gather the Kai Gai.

Not too much is shocking to them these days. Our refridgerator has so many vegatbles in it, it looks like a forest, I have to dig around to see the white walls on the sides. The vegetables are all Som or Kom to taste. Flavors that tend to repel any farang with such bitterness. Many I have yet to learn the name of. She eats eggplant raw before it is mature, in the USA you let the fruit mature before you eat it. Of course her papaya is never ripe, that one I knew about before we dated. There are always 10 different varieties of leaves in the icebox at all times. Nearly anything the farang would call a weed is something she likes!

We were driving in a state park in the mountains and she spotted something she liked, jumped from the car before it was even stopped. She ran to the side of the road and mountain grabbed a plant and plucked it out of the ground before anyone could stop her. Little did she know what she had just done would have given her 1 year in prison had she been caught. So what was the emergency? A FERN! She wanted a fern. My parents asked her why she wanted it when we got back to Ohio. She went on to explain to them her aunt who lives 45 minutes from us loves to eat it with that thing. That thing is what she calls a part of the cow we throw in the trash due to health risks….. The gall-bladder. She no longer eats it, sheis concerned over what is healthy and such, but her aunt still eats it often, seeping yellow cream and one of the most bitter things a person can ingest, not to mention the smelliest.

So I explain to my father what That Thing was. He asked a couple questions, and asked her if she liked it. Then looked at me and said in all seriousness, “what do you feed the children?”. I still to this day think to myself, ‘my wife ate what!!??’.