Greg and Ed try something new with the first in a series of episodes that look at interesting events in Bangkok’s history. For this one, they delve into one of Thailand’s most interesting personalities – Phlaek Phibunsongkram.
Phlaek, or simply Phibun, was a military man who gained prominence as a member of the group that organized the 1932 coup that ended absolute monarchy in Thailand. Phibun was enamored with the fascist leaders of Europe and crafted a cult of personality around himself in Thailand. Along with his partner in crime Luang Wichitwathakan, or Wichit, Phibun led an ethno-nationalist movement designed to both define what it means to be ‘Thai’ and to modernize Thailand so that it could join the developing world.
Consequently, Siam’s name was changed to ‘Thailand’ to make clear that a particular type of ancient Chinese immigrant was the true race of the country. But Phibun and Wichit also passed national ‘guidelines’ for using western silverware and even western clothing such as bowler hats for men – not to mention ordering the creation of Thailand’s signature dish, pad thai!
The story only gets weirder and more complicated when the Japanese Army shows up on Thailand’s doorstep in the early days of WWII with an ultimatum for Phibun. In between there are coups, counter-coups, declarations of war, daring escapes, and crafty espionage stories that would be right at home in a Tom Clancy novel – with Phibun usually right in the middle of it all.
Listen in to get the scoop on this thoroughly interesting Thai leader. Trust us – it’s hard to believe some of this even happened!
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