ABC INTERTEL DOCUMENTARY
April Is The End Of Summer, a documentary which looks at Thailand today, is ABC-TV’s seventh programme for Intertel.
The programme examines the only nation of South East Asia which has never been colonised, and is thus the only measure of how other countries in the area might have developed without French, British or Dutch rule.
It has 32 million people, increasing at the rate of a million a year.
One adult in four can neither read nor write. Most of its people are Buddhist, and the country, as one of the biggest exporters of rice in the world, is in a leading economic position among the developing nations of Asia.
Thailand is hemmed in by Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Burma and has been proclaimed by Peking as the next target for Communist conquest. It is separated by a hundred miles of Burma and Laos from China.
Now, after centuries of diplomatic manoeuvres – policies which have been called divide and rule in reverse – the Government in Bangkok has become firmly allied with the United States and is strongly anti-Communist.
Directing this marked change in outlook is a predominantly military government, headed by Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn. Generals have dominated the political scene since 1932, when a group of officers and young civilians staged a coup d’etat, the first of a series which have punctuated recent Thai history. The coup did away with the old absolutist system and replaced it with a constitutional monarchy. However, the constitution has been suspended, abandoned and virtually ignored at various times.
One of the people on whom the film concentrates is Air Chief Marshal Dawee Chullasapya. Trained as a fighter pilot in Britain, he is now Deputy Defence Minister.
A big difficulty confronting the government is the traditional neglect of remote areas. The northeastern region contains a third of Thailand’s population and is the poorest part of the country. A programme which the Government in Bangkok calls accelerated rural development has been mounted in an effort to ward off Communism.
American influence is very strong in Thailand, and with American help roads are being built, agriculture improved and health service introduced in an effort to win back the loayalty of a people who’ve been ignored and neglected.
Nor is the northeast the only trouble spot. The north is filled with tribesmen who have wandered through the hills of Burma, Thailand and Laos for centuries, though they originally came from China. They grow opium which they sell to the remnants of the Kuo Min Tang army, which was driven out of China with Chiang Kai-shek almost twenty years ago. Their rivals in the opium trade are Shan tribesmen who are members of a movement which has been waging a civil war with the Burmese government for years. Occasionally there are armed clashes between these two groups.
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