Culture Minister Worawat Ua-apinyakul recommended that various well-known charms should be made into good luck items and put up for sale. Harmless enough, surely? It sounds like a reasonable thing for people to do around the country, in the same way that OTOP helps to promote local products and boost local incomes while discouraging migration.
Well, it rather shows what kind of a situation we are in here in terms of the media’s (at least the English language newspapers) and the elite (as represented by various ‘academics’) continual attacks on the democratically-elected government. In the Bangkok Post today, a piece describes the minister as being ‘on the defensive’ after various critics had attacked the plan. He is reported as pointing out:
“…the folklore must be explained in detail and buyers be educated, so they do not become superstitious or be misled by false beliefs, he said. Each locality had its own story to tell and visitors would be interested to know about it.” Given the problems with the tourism industry caused by the PAD mob and the global economy, any kind of promotion must be sensible. Yet the story goes on with this:
“Academic Srisak Wallipodom said the idea of marketing the charms and selling them as souvenirs was a joke and Mr Worawat had humiliated himself for floating it.
The minister had shown that he has no understanding of culture. If the idea came to fruition, it would lead to a crisis of culture, Mr Srisak said.”
This is extraordinary – I have no idea who Khun Srisak is or what claim to being an academic he might have (and neither does the Bangkok Post let me know). But what can this crisis of culture be? Why the talk of ‘humiliation’? Nonsense, of course and not the usual way that academics talk in public – we follow Plato in understanding that wise people are wise because they realize how little they know and hence hedge our words. Most foreigners who come here like to buy souvenirs and many buy religious and cultural icons as souvenirs already. So what motivates Khun Srisak to speak so intemperately (assuming he is accurately reported)?