By TANPISIT LERDBAMRUNGCHAI,
OMISSION FROM HISTORY TEXTBOOK CALLED AN 'ABERRATION', BUT CRITICS BLAST MOVE
EDUCATION authorities yesterday dismissed a report that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was intentionally deleted from high-school history textbooks, claiming that international media had misquoted an official.
“I think the editor may have cut it out,” the official said.
The New York Times yesterday cited Winai Rodjay, chairman of a committee on the teaching of history and civic duty, as saying that the omission of Thaksin’s name was an aberration. However, he could not explain how it had happened or why.
He said he would prefer that Thaksin’s name be inserted the next time the textbook is revised.
Under the new curriculum, students will learn more about the meaning and symbolism of Thailand’s tricolour flag, and songs such as the King’s anthem will be played in schools, the New York Times reported.
Winai said a reporter from the newspaper had talked about the issue of teaching history and high school textbooks with him days ago.
“The farang reporter asked me why there was no story of former prime minister Thaksin. Thai political history happened to end only at the government of Chuan Leekpai. I asked the editor of the book, who said it had not yet been updated,” he said.
“The textbook will be updated from time to time but I reaffirm that we don’t have any policy to remove the name of Khun Thaksin from history,” Winai told The Nation.
Thaksin became prime minister after Chuan in 2001. He was ousted by a military coup in 2006 but remained influential in politics.
Winai told reporters in a separate interview that the textbook he had seen did not include Thaksin’s name, but just mentioned the period of the political difficulties.
He could not explain why the book did not include the former PM’s name.
Suthachai Yimprasert, a history lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said that from a historical perspective, it would be wrong to remove Thaksin from history textbooks.
“Regardless of whether Thaksin is good or bad, it’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.
‘It’s been done before’
This is not the first time some historical content has been removed from official history textbooks.
Suthachai pointed to the October 6 massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976 and the Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989.
“I wouldn’t worry about this, because it’s impossible to erase Thaksin from public memory. It will not succeed,” he said. “They can do whatever they want. It’s not going to matter.”
Weng Tojirakarn, a former red-shirt leader, said he condemned such actions and called for the organisations responsible to revise their decision on the matter.
“This shows their disregard for truth. How are we supposed to answer if children ask who our 24th prime minister was? Who was ousted by the 2006 military coup?”
An attempt to purge Thaksin from children’s memories will not succeed because of the power of social media and the Internet, he said.
“Children can go on the Internet and find out about Thaksin, so they will not succeed.”
The evidence that Thai education is weakening year by year is strengthened by this kind of behaviour, he said.
“Such acts will degrade children’s intellectual capability, and I am very concerned.”