Thailand History and Cinema

By | December 17, 2021


After a brief phase of civilian rule (1974-76), the end of the 1970s saw the return to power of the military, a traditionally dominant group in Thai political life. The regime, led since November 1977 by gen. Kriangsak Chomanan and institutionalized in 1978 by a new Constitution, had to face, after the development of the seventies, the economic difficulties linked to the increase in the price of oil. The rapid growth of inflation and the consequent popular discontent pushed Kriangsak to resign (February 1980); he was replaced by the commander in chief of the armed forces, gen. Prem Tinsulanond (former defense minister), who led several coalition governments between the country’s main parties over the next eight years: the moderate Social Action Party (PAS) and Democratic Party (PD) and the conservative Thai Nation (NT, which, however, placed itself in opposition between 1983 and 1986). The improvement in the economic situation ensured relative stability to the regime, which also took advantage of the crisis of the communist guerrillas; in fact the latter, which had represented one of the main threats to the various Thai regimes until the end of the seventies, had subsequently suffered a strong weakening, mostly caused by the conflicts between the neighboring socialist countries.

The resistance opposed by the most extremist sectors of the armed forces to the progressive downsizing of the powers and role of the military, envisaged by the same 1978 Constitution, nevertheless represented a serious source of tension, and two coup attempts were thwarted in 1981 and 1985. Following the affirmation of the NT in the early elections of 1988, the leader of the party, Chatichai Choonhavan, assumed the leadership of the government. Chatichai’s economic policy, oriented towards an increase in exports, guaranteed the country a period of strong economic growth, accompanied however by the persistence of imbalances in the distribution of wealth and pockets of very high poverty, especially in the countryside. Beginning in 1990, allegations of corruption, popular discontent and strife within the majority weakened the position of the government, which was overthrown in February 1991 by a new military coup. Power was assumed by a National Peacemaking Council (CNP), led by the supreme commander of the armed forces, gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong, but in fact dominated by gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon (who assumed command of the armed forces in August). Martial law was declared (repealed in May), the Constitution suspended and the National Assembly dissolved. The president of the industrialists, Anand Panyarachun, was appointed prime minister and called a provisional legislative assembly (made up mostly of military personnel), which in December passed a new constitution. The 360-member elective chamber was flanked by a 270-member Senate, appointed by the CNP according to a provisional clause which also attributed the choice of prime minister to the junta. For Thailand 2007, please check

After the legislative elections (March 1992), won by the Justice and Unity party (GU), an expression of the CNP, the latter was dissolved, and Suchinda assumed leadership of the government in April. The appointment of a person from outside Parliament to the post of prime minister was strongly contested, and extensive demonstrations followed one another in the following weeks; the regime tried to violently repress the protest, but the escalation of tension (100 deaths between 17 and 20 May) led to an intervention by the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who pushed Suchinda to resign (24 May). Anand was recalled to lead the executive, while major constitutional amendments, approved by the House, reduced the powers of the Senate and introduced the requirement for the prime minister to be an elected member of Parliament. leader, Chuan Leekpai, became prime minister of a coalition government comprising the main forces that together with the PD had opposed the Suchinda regime: the Spiritual Straight Front (SDF; progressive formation led by Chamlong Srinuang, former governor of Bangkok), the small Solidarity group and the conservative New Aspiration Party (PNA), which left government in December 1994; for a few months the PAS was also part of the coalition, despite its previous participation in the government led by Suchinda. The government action, aimed at a democratization of the country’s political life, clashed with the pro-military opposition in the Chamber, supported by the (mostly military) members of the Senate. Despite the difficulties encountered during 1994,

On the international level, during the first half of the 1980s there were clashes both on the border with Laos and with the Vietnamese forces on the border with Cambodia; the improvement of relations with neighboring countries, already initiated in the late 1980s by Chatichai, was continued by his successors. In 1991 an agreement with the Cambodian government established the repatriation of the refugees still present in Thailand, but relations with Phnom Penh were later hampered by accusations made by many in Bangkok of continuing its traditional support for the Khmer Rouge.


The first film shot in Thailand was in the 1920s, by the American H. McRay, Nangsao Suwan (“Miss Suwan”, 1924), based on a literary work of the reigning sovereign Rāma vi. The Wasuvati family, who had participated in McRay’s venture, founded the Sri Kung company in 1927 under whose brand Chok Song Chun (“Double Fortune”, 1927), the first film entirely controlled by Thais, and Long Thang ( “The Lost Direction”, 1931), the first sound film.

Interrupted during the Second World War, production resumed at the end of the conflict, characterized by a low quality level and prevalent homologation of the works. All shot in 16 mm, they re-proposed, for the most part, film versions of theatrical performances and sung works, while the sound was added live, at each projection, by voice actors present in the room. It was only in the late 1960s that producer D. Kanyamarn introduced 35mm film with built-in sound and, at the same time, started the musical film trend that ran throughout the 1970s. Since 1973, a drastic reduction in government taxes on 35mm film marked the disappearance of 16mm films, and production was increased. In 1976, the state raised taxes on

Centered on stardom and played mainly on the themes of love and violence, Thai cinema still has a few titles and a few above-average names: Thon (1970) by Piak Poster; Thongpoon Kokpo (1978), free adaptation of De Sica’s film Thieves of bicycles made by Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol, a director who trained in Hollywood; Thepthida Bar 21 (“The Angel of Bar 21”) by Yuthana Mukdovanit. The works of S. Vuthivichai, K. Suwannasorn and S. Phatam (Khru Ban Nok, “The village teacher”, 1977), due to the presence of realistic elements and social criticism completely missing from current consumer products. Permpol Cheyaroon and Vichit Kounavudhi, the major Thai authors, respectively signed Pai Daeng (“Red Bamboo”, 1981) and Khoon phuu kaow (“Mountain People”, 1979), two films capable of combining artistic success and public success. The young poet and ethnologist Manop Udomdej, who in 1981 made Prachachon Nork (“On the margins of society”), stand out among the other directors that cannot be homologated in the lower commercial vein ; Cherd Songsri, author of Puen-Paeng (“Puen and Paeng”, 1983) and Ploy talay (“Pearl of the sea”, 1987); Toranong Srichua, who provokes the reaction of the censors with his erotic films. Bandit Ritthikol, author of successful comedies, is one of the most popular authors of the early 1990s.

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