Protests and coups: Is Thailand still the ‘land of smiles?’ Take our quiz.
by Simon Montlak
June 23, 2014
Thailand’s beaches, temples, and nightlife attract millions of foreign tourists. Few stay long enough to learn the language or engage with the country’s complex political history and spicy popular culture. Are you the exception?
Well done! You passed our “Land of Smiles” quiz.
You really missed the boat on this one. All is not lost, however. Perhaps staying a bit longer in Thailand might help.
#1 Why did Thailand ban the import of an English language dictionary in 1993?
In 1993, Longman’s Dictionary of Language and Culture was banned and copies pulled from bookstores after Thailand’s government objected to the entry for Bangkok, which noted widespread prostitution. Longman apologized but argued that the dictionary sought to “set words in their cultural context” as understood by native English speakers. It agreed to revise the entry in the next edition. Thai officials said the definition was technically accurate, but discriminatory. “We do not deny the existence of the problem. But we do not believe it should be used as the definition of this city,” a government spokesman said.
#2 Bangkok’s official name in Thai is the world’s longest place name. What is the meaning of the shortened, everyday version, “krung thep”?
Krung means city; thep means angel. The Thai capital was founded in 1782 by the first ruler of the current Chakri dynasty. The full 21-word Thai name is a string of superlatives that refers to the previous capital, Ayutthaya which lies upriver and had been sacked by Burmese invaders.
#3 Which member of the household of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn holds the rank of an officer in the Thai Air Force?
Prince Vajiralongkorn’s poodle, Foo Foo, holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal in the Thai Air Force, in which the prince has served as a fighter jet pilot. A leaked 2009 US diplomatic cable described a gala dinner held by the prince where his poodle was dressed in “formal evening attire complete with paw mitts.”
#4 Which of the following Asian movies is a Thai production?
Ong Bak is a 2003 martial arts movie starring Tony Jaa, a Thai stuntman and actor. The plot turns on the recovery of a stolen Buddha statuette known as Ong Bak. Two sequels were later released. Azumi is a 2003 Japanese action movie about a female ninja. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a 2000 Hollywood film directed by Ang Lee that takes place in ancient China. The Killing Fields is a 1984 film about the genocide in Cambodia.
#5 In June 2014, anti-coup protesters in Bangkok adopted a three-fingered salute from which US filmed entertainment?
#6 What is the name given to the opium-growing highland region that overlaps Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos?
Traditional opium growing in mountainous areas of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos increased dramatically in the 1950s with the arrival of defeated Nationalist troops from China. The area of production was roughly in the shape of a diamond; the gold was the unit of currency of traders. The Vietnam War further boosted demand for opium and its refinement into heroin. Cultivation has since declined, though Myanmar remains a major supplier of opium.
#7 In 2011, Thailand was the world’s largest exporter of rice. Of which globally traded commodity was it the second largest exporter?
Thailand exported 7.9 million metric tons of sugar in 2011/12. That was less than Brazil, the largest exporter. Thailand lost its status as the world’s leading rice supplier after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra launched a costly subsidy program in 2011 that led to a stockpiling of supplies. Vietnam passed Thailand to claim the top rank in rice exports.
#8 Which script is Thai?
This means “Thank you for completing our quiz!” A is Russian. B is Arabic. C is Hindi.
#9 Prior to 1939, Thailand was known by what name?
In 1939, dictator Field Marshal Pibul Songkram, influenced by European nationalism and fascism, dropped the name Siam in favor of Thailand. Thais are the largest ethnic group; Thai also means free, so the name can be translated as land of the free. Lanna is the name of a kingdom in what is now northern Thailand. Isaan refers to the northeast of Thailand, which was formerly under the control of a Lao kingdom. Angkor is a name given to the kingdom that ruled ancient Cambodia and built Angkor Wat, a temple complex in present-day Cambodia.
#10 What is Thailand’s national sport, known as “muay thai”?
Muay thai is a form of unarmed combat in which fighters land blows on any part of the body using fists or feet or knees, though not their head. Modern rules adopted in the 1930s codified the sport, which is known as kickboxing, or Thai kickboxing. It remains popular in Thailand, in part because betting on games is permitted at boxing stadiums, but is illegal elsewhere.
#11 Which of the following countries does NOT share a land border with Thailand?
Thailand borders Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia.
#12 In 2008, a court removed Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej from his post for illegally hosting a cooking show. What was the name of the show?
Samak Sundaravej, a veteran right-wing politician, was a gourmand and TV personality. One of his shows, a cooking program on a state-run TV channel, was called Chim Pai Bon Pai, or Tasting and Ranting. In December 2007, Samak was elected as prime minister. Within months, he was under investigation over whether he had broken the law by continuing to host his show since the TV station was still paying him, creating a conflict of interests
#13 Thailand was formerly a colony of which European power?
Thailand was never colonized. In the 19th century, it granted commercial concessions to rivals Britain and France, which were expanding their empires in the region. Thailand, or Siam, was seen as a buffer state between British Burma and French Indochina; neither Britain nor France made a move to grab territory.
#14 In 2005-06, royalist protesters wore yellow shirts at anti-Thaksin rallies in Bangkok. Why yellow?
#15 Which Thai hot sauce was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit filed in Irwindale, California?
The city of Irwindale initiated legal proceedings against an American factory that produces the “rooster” brand of Sriracha sauce, a famous Thai dipping sauce. Named after a coastal town east of Bangkok, Sriracha is a pungent combination of jalepeno chilli peppers, vinegar, salt, garlic, and sugar. Irwindale’s lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods followed complaints from residents over the odor from the factory. The city dropped its lawsuit after the company agreed to address the concerns over its fumes.
#16 Pad Thai, a stir-fry noodle dish, was introduced by authorities in the 1930s. Why?
Pad Thai, or kway teow pad Thai, is a dish of rice noodles, bean sprouts, egg, peanuts, scallions, and chillies. Its roots lie in the stir-fry noodle dishes brought by Chinese immigrants to Thailand. In the 1930s, Thai dictator Pibul Songkram wanted to boost unity and promote nutrition via a national dish: pad Thai was born.
#17 The 1951 musical “The King and I” told the story of an English governess who worked in the court of which 19th century Thai monarch?
Anna Leonowens was employed in 1861 to teach the children and concubines of King Rama IV, known as King Mongkut, whom she also tutored. Her service ended in 1867 and she later wrote a memoir about her experiences. Her life was fictionalized in a 1944 novel, which was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1951 and a subsequent movie in which Leonowens and Mongkut have a romantic flirtation despite their differences. The film has never been shown in Thailand where its storyline was seen as disrespectful and inaccurate.
#18 During World War II, what was Thailand’s official stance?
In December 1941, Japanese troops demanded free passage through Thailand in order to invade British Malaya and Burma. Thailand agreed, and later signed a military alliance with Japan, but it didn’t participate in the invasion of Malaya or Burma. As a member of the Germany-Japan Axis, Thailand was technically at war with Britain, America and other Allies. But the Thai ambassador to Washington, whose sympathies lay with the Allies, refused to deliver the formal declaration to the US government so the two countries were never at war. Thailand did host a small but determined anti-Japanese resistance movement called Seri Thai that received US support. But it only made a marginal contribution to Japan’s defeat in 1945.
#19 King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s constitutional ruler and the world longest reigning monarch, was born in 1927 in which city?
Bhumibol was born on Dec. 5, 1927 at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. At the time, his father, Prince Mahidol was studying medicine at Harvard Medical School. In 1946 he was crowned as Rama IX. In 1990, Cambridge designated an intersection near Harvard Square as King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square in his honor.
#20 Thailand’s military seized power in May 2014, its 12th successful coup since 1932. How many coups have failed?
The 1932 coup marked the end to absolute monarchy in Thailand. Since then, the military has been a pivotal force in politics. The exact number of thwarted coups is disputed; historians point to other minor rebellions that could be classified as coup plots.
#21 Which state is Thailand closest in size to, in terms of land area?
Thailand’s land area, excluding water, is 197,255 square miles; California’s is 155,779 sq m. New Mexico is 121,298 sq m. Maryland is 9,707 sq m, and Connecticut is only 4,842 sq m.
#22 What country is closest to Thailand in terms of population?
Thailand’s 2012 population was estimated at 64.4 million compared to 65.9 million for France. Brazil’s population is estimated at 202 million. Belgium has roughly 11.2 million, Canada 35 million.
#23 The Asian Financial Crisis began in July 1997 when Thailand took what unexpected step that triggered regional capital flight?
After months of pressure on its currency peg, Thailand’s central bank decided on July 2, 1997 to stop defending the baht. The baht fell dramatically against the dollar, hurting Thai companies that had borrowed in dollars to invest in local assets, including property, and forcing Thailand to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.
#24 Thaksin Shinawatra is Thailand’s most popular and polarizing politician. As prime minister, he unveiled what deal in January 2006 that sparked mass protests and led to his downfall?
Thaksin sold a majority stake in Shin Corp, his telecoms group, to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings for $1.7 billion. The deal was structured so that Thaksin and his family members incurred virtually no capital-gains tax. Within weeks, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to seek Thaksin’s removal.
#25 In April 2010, pro-Thaksin “red shirt” protesters clashed with soldiers in central Bangkok. A group of armed men among the protesters fired on soldiers before escaping in the chaos. How did the Thai media label this group?
The so-called “Men in Black” wore black ski masks and carried automatic weapons. The government accused the red shirts of conspiring with “terrorists”; protest leaders denied any knowledge of them or their activities. None were ever arrested or tried for taking part in the violent clashes of April-May 2010 that resulted in over 80 deaths. Rogue Army officers were suspected of being behind the “Men in Black.”
This quiz originally appeared on The Christian Science Monitor.