Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cartoon and caricature maps of Thailand

With a bit of imagination the shape of the boundaries of Thailand  resemble an elephant, with the long southern part on the Malay peninsula to for the trunk. I remember to have seen cartoon maps playing with exactly that image, especially as the elephant is such a symbolic animal for Thailand - it was present on the old flag before 1917, and the white elephant is still a royal symbol.

Cartoon map of communism threatening ThailandStrangely, it seems my memory is playing tricks on me. I believed to have seen several such maps in Thongchakul Winichakul book Siam Mapped, but when I now checked it to scan the best ones to show here, I noticed that in fact it has just a single one, and not quite like the one I had in mind.

Sadly no citation for that drawing is given, it must have been published in Thai media since it has Thai characters all around. Also it is not dated, yet the topic of Thailand being threatened by the spread of communism into the neighboring Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia suggest it should be from the second half of the 1970s, after South Vietnam fell, the Khmer Rouge overtook Cambodia, and the communist insurgents in Thailand were at its high following the return to military rule in 1976. The reproduction is to much blurred, so I cannot make out the Thai letters - in Siam Mapped it is titled "Wake up, Thai people".

The artful map I had in mind more similar to those maps of Europe during World War I, or the Japanese map of Asia, both found on the bibliodyssey blog. As I cannot find them in any of my books, it must have been a website where I saw them, but seems like I did not bookmark it then.

But to add a contemporary example - often features the Kao Lao political cartoons from the newspaper Matichon (มติชน), and at the height of the Preah Viharn crisis it showed the caricature to the right which shows Thailand biting a chunk out of Cambodia. I have cut out the relevant part, the whole one can still be seen in the 2bangkok archive. The text ถูกสอน ให้คลั่งชาติ ตั้งแต่เด็ก translates to Being taught to be a nationalist from childhood.


Rikker said...

That cartoon map depicting the communist threat must be very famous--I recall seeing a parody of/homage to it in recent years, in which Thaksin was the one chewing on the country.

Also, ตื่นเถิดชาวไทย "Wake up, Thai people!" is no doubt an allusion to the very famous song of that name written by Luang Wichitwathakan in the late 1930s, and well-known by Thais to this day. He wrote many plays, songs and books with a strong nationalistic bent. (You can hear a recording of the song at that link, on Thai Wikipedia.)

I can make out the following towards the bottom:
สามัคคี คือพลัง ป้องกันชาติ หยุด! ฉ้อราษฎร์ ชาติเจริญ Translated roughly, "Unity is power. Protect the nation. Stop the fleecing of the people and the national will prosper."

And finally, the large text at the bottom reads หลวงพ่อสำเนียง อยู่สถาพร, the name of a famous monk. Judging by the internet hit results, his amulets are still very popular, but I didn't find any biographical information about him, so that's all I can offer about that clue.

peacay said...

Damn! I spent 30mins looking for an elephant=Thailand map.
No luck, unfortunately. But I think I have seen one before...somewhere!

(I love Thailand and have been there a few times)


Andy said...

@Rikker: Thanks for the background, so that map was chosen well by Professor Thongchakul. If you spot more such maps and can scan them for me it'd be great.

@peacay: That was exactly the same feeling I had when I started to write this posting, and then noticed that this map I had in mind wasn't where I thought I had seen it. I also tried to find it with Google then, but did not succeed. If you spot any nice Thailand map in your historic books, just post them on your blog and I will cite you.

Ian said...

Hello Andy,
I was browsing through your blog and came across your 'cartoon' post.

In Cambodia I came across something similar, but from an opposite perspective—the pop culture/public perception of Thailand (which is not too popular in Cambo at the moment).

These are cartoons and a map, which depict the Khmer empire at its height, as ruling a large part of SEA. Certainly, modern Thailand and much of Laos and Vietnam.

It looks to me as if the French government original made such large claims, very likely to bolster their claims to expand their Indo-China empire. The map, from which the cartoon originates, is on display at the Cambo Royal Palace, so this view of the world has 'official' support.

I am in Battambang at the moment, trying to find the Thai City Pillar Shrine. No one knows its location. Unfortunately, I happened to visit during a major Buddhist festival, and the museum is closed. I was hoping to find there someone in the know.

A few people I have spoken to told me that they believe that the Thais would have taken the pillar with them when they left. (The Romans did something similar when they abandoned the Antonine Wall in northern Britain, c. 160 AD, taking or burying their religious artefacts :). ). I am here for a few more days, and will keep looking.

re your book. I will be in bkk next week and will see what I can find.

All the best. Great blog read.