Thailand: The New Siam

By Virginia Thompson
THAILAND, better known under its recently discarded name of Siam, is remembered by travelers for the garish yet beautiful architecture of the innumerable Buddhist temples of its picturesque capital, Bangkok. It has been an object of concern to diplomats and to military and naval experts because it is a pawn in the Far-Eastern game of power politics, wedged in between Japanesedominated Indo-China and British Malaya and Burma.
Quite apart from the fact that Thailand may soon appear in the headlines about a potentially explosive Orient, it is an interesting country in its own right. And Miss Thompson is to be congratulated on the thoroughness with which she has covered every detail of Siamese history, politics, economics, religion, daily life, and folklore in the 865 pages of her book, which is well documented. Along with the detailed analysis of Thailand’s politics, the lighter sides of life in that country of jungles and rice lands are not overlooked. Strenuous and heavily taxed Americans may learn with interest and envy that only 2731 citizens of Thailand paid income tax in 1940 and that the Siamese, if not ‘incorrigibly idle,’ are recognized by their own countrymen as ‘incurably indolent.’ And there are a host of Ripleyesque facts in the book. It costs more to be burned than to be married, and it takes the earnings of sixteen Siamese males to provide for the upkeep of one saffronrobed priest.
W. H. C.