Friday, February 24, 2017

Igor Baskin paints

ShortcArt by Igor Baskin

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 'ShortcArt: 'Poetry of Shortcuts and Headlines'
project by Igor Baskin
White elephants of Ayutthaya said goodbye to the king of Thailand
2016.11.08 |


  1. Ratcha-anachak Thai (The Kingdom of Thailand) has always been called Mueang Thai by its citizens. Its former capital, Ayutthaya, was called "Xian" by the Chinese, which the Portuguese converted into "Siam," which was the kingdom's usual designation abroad until 1949. The people of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai, and their kingdom Krung Tai "The Tai country;" the name of their chief city was the Thai pronunciation of the Indian city of Ayodhya (Awadh), the the birthplace of Rama (''Maryada Purushottama," the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu), whose terrestrial career was the subject of the epic "Ramayana" (which was adapted into the Thai national epic, the "Ramakien"). In Thailand, white elephants are sacred symbols of royal power; all those discovered are presented to the king (although this presentation is usually a ceremonial one—the elephants are not actually taken into captivity). Albino elephants are rare but not actually white; their skin is normally a soft reddish-brown, turning a light pink when wet; the Thai term "chang samkhan" translates as "auspicious elephant" and is "white" only in terms of an aspect of purity. Historically the status of kings has been evaluated by the number of white elephants in their possession. The first Thai king to own one was Borommatrailokkanat ("Trailok"), who ruled Ayutthaya in the 15th century. The recent king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, owned ten, all of which died by 2006, the year the king became Thailand's longest-reigning monarch in history; currently none are known to exist in the country. Lower-grade white elephants used to be given as gifts to the king's friends and allies, and sometimes to enemies such as a lesser noble with whom the king was displeased): The animals needed a lot of care and, being sacred, could not be put to work, so were a great financial burden on the recipient.

  2. Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) ruled for 70 years (1946-2016). His name meant "Strength of the Land, Incomparable Power." He was a painter, photographer, author, translator, musician (saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, guitar, and piano), composer (whose works were recorded by Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Claude Bolling Big Band, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band among others), and, like his father, a former military naval engineer, an avid boat designer and builder. He also obtained several patents for rainmaking devices and a waste water aerator. When he was born in 1927 at Cambridge Hospital (now Mount Auburn Hospital) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his father was enrolled in the public health program at Harvard University. The family returned home in 1928 after his father obtained his certificate, but he died of kidney failure the next year. In 1933 his widow move to Switzerland, and the future king attended the École nouvelle de la Suisse romande in Lausanne. When his childless uncle Prajadhipok (who ahad been the kingdom's first constitutional monarch) abdicated in 1935, his nine-year-old brother Ananda became Rama VIII, while a regency council conducted the affairs of state since the royal family remained abroad another 15 years. Bhumibol Adulyadej received a baccalauréat des lettres (high-school diploma with a major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase Classique Cantonal of Lausanne and then began studying science at the University of Lausanne, but the family returned to Thailand in 1945. Ananda Mahidol died of gunshot wounds on 9 June 1946, perhaps self-inflicted though two palace aides were convicted of regicide and executed. Before the end of the 100-day mourning period the new king returned to Switzerland to study law and political science while his uncle acted as prince regent; during the king's absence, in 1947 the regent authorized a military coup against the government and in 1947 signed the 1949 constitution which returned to the monarchy many of the powers it had lost in the 1932 revolution.

  3. Rama IX was finally crowned in 1950 but returned to Switzerland another year to complete his studies. In his early years his political activities were limited; for instance, he started a jazz band and performed on a radio station he started at his palace. In 1957 general Sarit Thanarat seized power; during his dictatorship, until his death in 1963, the practice of crawling in front of royalty during audiences was revived in certain situations, the royal-sponsored Thammayut Nikaya order was revitalized, and many archaic royal cermonies were revived, but the king also ostentatiously attended public ceremonies, toured the provinces widely, and patronized development projects, establishing a reputation as the "development King" and the inspiration for the economic and political goals of the regime. Royally ordered projects were implemented under the financial and political support of the government, including projects in rural areas. Sarit was followed by another general, who staged a coup against his own government in 1971, dissolved the legislature, and appointed himself chairman of the National Executive Council before making himself prime minister for the fourth time in 1972. Student-led demands for a return to constitutional government caused him to flee in 1973, and democratic rule was restored until a new series of coups beginning in 1976. New lèse-majesté laws allowed the jailing for 3 to 15 years for criticism of any member of the royal family, the royal development projects, the royal institution, or any previous Thai king. After a general election in 1992, the majority parties invited general Suchinda Kraprayoon, a leader of the coup group, to be prime minister, leading to demonstrations and their bloody suppression. The king summoned Suchinda and the leader of the pro-democracy movement, retired major general Chamlong Srimuang, to a televised audience and urged them to find a peaceful resolution, leading to Suchinda's resignation. This was one of the few occasions in which he directly and publicly intervened in a political conflict, leading to a prolonged period of democratic civilian rule. However, with the king's approval, prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown in 2006 in advance of new elections, but when elections were finally held the following year Thaksin's party formed a new government. But in 2014 a new coup overthrew the government of Thaksin's sister. Since absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932, the country has been under civilian rule for only 55 years.


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