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Thai music, Thaksin, a ‘tattoo’: Thailand feels its way forward

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Tan Tam Mei reflects on her time as Thailand correspondent, and looks ahead to how the country could navigate geopolitical and domestic politics.

Synopsis: Every first Friday of the month, The Straits Times chats with ST’s correspondents in the Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe, about life as it goes on, amid the screaming headlines and bubbling crises.

A man sings. It is part of Thailand’s folk music tradition from its north-east region of Isan. But he is warbling in Laotian - a reminder of Thailand’s location in the heart of the Mekong region, and its shared culture, language and borders with its neighbours.

The pull and push dynamic that Thailand engages with its neighbours is one challenge. Another is how it is grappling with its turbulent domestic politics and shifting attitudes about traditional institutions and beliefs including the monarchy.

In this episode, ST’s foreign editor Li Xueying chats with ST’s former Thailand correspondent Tan Tam Mei about her two and a half years based in Bangkok, bookended by Covid-19 protests, and the return of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after 15 years in exile.

Highlights (click/tap above):

0:43 The rise of Thailand’s “rural people” music

6:00 Selling soft power

10:28 The pull and push of Mekong countries

12:41 Thaksin returns, but to a different electorate

13:11 Thailand looks peaceful, but an uneasy dynamic is at play

16:34 A ‘tattoo’, a souvenir of Thailand

Read Tam Mei’s articles here: and 

Produced by: Li Xueying ( and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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