Thais view their history through patriotic lens
Re: "Thais also in the dark about their own history", Letters, November 25.
John Worthing has the basic facts correct, though his understanding needs fine-tuning and his assertion that Thais sided with Nazi Germany is a stretch.
US President Roosevelt judged that our declaration of war against the Allies on January 25, 1942, was made under duress after the Japanese invasion of Siam in December 1941. Siam’s regent refused to sign the declaration, rendering it illegal and ineffective, and the prime minister who did sign it was imprisoned after the war. Siam was ultimately recorded as having been neutral during the war.
Most Thais do have knowledge of their history, but that knowledge is somewhat twisted by patriotism. One illustration of this is the popular notion that Thailand/Siam was never colonised. Historians in Myanmar and Cambodia, as well as some scholars in the West, tell us differently. Siem Reap in Cambodia is inferred by most Thais to mean “plains of Siam”, but Cambodians translate it as “Defeat of Siam”. Both interpretations are correct, but Thai history books emphasise the plains over the defeat.