Thailand: Literature for Life is the Motto by Kya Cupino

Thailand is notable for being the only country in the Southeast Asian region that was never colonized by foreign entities. However, it does not automatically follow that the country did not acclimate to the substratum of its own milieu from each decade of the 1900s. This fact also does not signify that though Thailand was not colonized by foreign entities that were physically present, the country remained to be ineluctably impacted by some foreign mental constructions.

During the 1940s-1960s, most of the Thai writers were impinged with the concepts of Social Realism, a theory prevalent in the Soviet Union from the 1930s-1980s. Thai writers employed this theory to highlight the social injustices promulgating within Thailand during the aforementioned decades. Social Realism purports for socialism and a classless society, and Thai writers (those that adhered to the theory) found these tenets appealing for their own polemics against the Thai government of the time. This “Literature for Life,” as the theory was known among the Thai writers, enabled their political principles to become embroiled with their literature. The works of these writers enunciated the intellectual tenor that resulted in the overthrow of the military government in 1973.

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Though some of the Thai writers did not explicitly identify themselves as a Social Realist, their works would, nevertheless, subtly manifest precepts of the theory.

One of these works is Post-Colonial by Adam Aitken, a poem that recounts the migration of a Thai mother and her children to a new land, presumably Australia. However, the poem, rather than concentrating on the migration itself, broaches more the topic of Thailand’s justice system—if indeed the woman is justly penalized for her alleged crime as insinuated by the poem.

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The poem, with its interchange of references to both Thailand (the family’s native land) and Australia (the country they have migrated to) does not necessarily suggest a political discourse between the two countries. Instead, these references indicate, rather, hints on Aitken’s life—he was born to Thai and Australian parents, and lived in Thailand for most of his childhood before his family migrated to Australia.

On the other hand, besides connoting some aspects of the author’s life, the poem remains indeed its Social Realist tendencies with its references to Thailand’s justice system—the government discovered the women’s alleged treachery because “the phone was tapped for years.” There were also “tapes of weeping and recrimination,” that led to the woman’s job loss, and thus, inescapable migration to a new country.

Post-Colonial by Adam Aitken

They grew up – quicker, and rougher round the edges

than she’d planned, her children
hounding the North Shore’s lower end, losing laundry bags,

rationing snooker money.
They took their losses, spent their gains with pin-point precision
back spin, double off the side cushion,

chalked up cues
passing back and forth, back and forth.

She was beautiful then, glamorous at a distance
illusion plus and licensed
forklift driver, Samuel Taylor Aerosols. Suzy Wong they called her, Suzy Wong with a Noel Coward accent

lamenting a lost chauffeur, her husband. She should’ve been saving
for a new appliance
at Big Bear Shopping Mall.

Remember Louie the Fly
spreading disease with the greatest of ease?
Remember Menzies,
remember the CPA, and all the mates she cooked a hundred suppers for when she’d read
a union intercedes? Why invoke discrimination’s house?

Vietnam consumed
truckloads of flagons, teenage poets and the best efforts
of Dad’s advertising
agency.
The phone was tapped for years.

I hope they wiped those tapes of weeping and recrimination but mostly
inarticulate

silence between shifts,
quiet lunch breaks,
a word with the manager, prescriptions through a side window,

scribbled sick notes for the teacher.

They grew up –
quicker, and a little rougher round the edges
than she’d planned.

Thai literature is a microcosm of Thailand’s search for national unity—its literature manifests the dichotomy in social, political, and cultural affairs. In this case, Thai literature’s depiction of the writers’ quibbles with the government’s regime delves heavily on the subjects of just accusations and exoneration. The poem is an exemplar of Thai literature—the search for unity, presentation of local color, and subtle qualms on the government’s regime. These characteristics, however, are not confined to Thai literature alone, for they are also present in other Asian countries’ literature. Thus, Thai literature’s quest for national unity—whether in literature, society, or political beliefs—is what makes it truly Asian literature.

Works Cited:

Smyth, David A. “Thai Literature.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 18 Mar. 2016. <http://www.britannica.com/art/Thai-literature&gt;.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Socialist Realism.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. <http://www.britannica.com/art/Socialist-Realism&gt;.

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