I was recently invited to the Royal Thai Air Force 100th Anniversary Concert at the Askra Theater in the King Power Complex in Bangkok. Our seats were center theater and about 15 rows back– better than the “Royal” Box at the back. This was an invitation only VIP concert commemorating the founding of the Thai Air Force.
The Air Force’s high command attended en mass and the concert featured performances from across the Thai musical spectrum — up and coming stars from Academy Fantasia, a hugely successful Thai clone of American idol and the most popular show on Thai TV, old time Thai Divas long past their prime, and the Air Force orchestra. a performance of traditional Thai music using traditional Thai instruments was included.
A representative from the Royal Family was in attendance, and high ranking Air force officers performed the traditional down on the knees, hands above the head wai to the royal representative before the concert began.
Throughout the performance, historical footage flashed onto the screen behind the performers and the long standing presence and influence of American military and intelligence agencies in Thailand was evident. It is no surprise that the U.S. snatched terrorists and rendered them to secret interrogation sites in Thailand — a cooperative country where extra legal means methods could be used outside the purview U.S. laws and host country interference. The U.S. influence is not much in evidence on the Bangkok streets but old photos showing B-52’s taking off from Don Muang and F-105 Thunderchiefs based in Ubon Ratchathani evidence the long standing and deep roots Americans and our culture have embedded into Thailand, Thai society, and Thai military/intelligence institutions.
I love attending events like these because unlike many expats, I do not view Thai people, Thai Culture, or Thai government as inferior to the western political systems in place in the United States and Western Europe. Thailand is country of young people anticipating and working hard to build better lives than their parents lived. Thailand is a country where everything is in flux and hopefully evolving toward a better future. Incomes are rising, real democracy is emerging, the poor are getting their hands on disposable income for the first time, and ossified social, economic, and class barriers are being eroded. Being in Thailand, at the center of the action, even if it is a riot where a prominent government critic takes a sniper round to the head or armor rolls over and crush to death farmers whose transgression is objecting to the ruling class refusing repeatedly to abide by the results of a fair election, is a great pleasure, immensely exciting, and intellectually engaging. It’s almost as good as travelling in time to simlar periods such as Victorian England during the industrial revolution, the American south when Jim Crow came to an end, or the day in the future when the dictators of the Communist Party in China get their comeuppance. I love attending these events because you get to see the real face of the elites who have ruled Thailand for generations and who 20 years from now may be like English royalty whose power has largely faded away.
The Askra Theater is relatively new, gorgeous, with excellent acoustics and unlike U.S. venues allows cameras and video recording devices.
Here is a selection of the performances. The ones marked HD are suitable for viewing on a widescreen TV and are quite large. The others are formatted for a smartphone.