Year published :2012

Pages :415 pp.

Size :14x21 cm.

Black & White photograph :23

ISBN: 9786162150432

Man Who Accused the King of Killing a Fish, The: The Biography of Narin Phasit of Siam, 1874-1950

by Peter Koret

Narin Phasit was one of the most remarkable yet little‐known figures in the annals of Thai history, a man who devoted his life to what the seventh king of Siam called “seeking a name for himself in a wildly inappropriate manner,” and he himself preferred to describe as “working contentedly for my country, alone and despised by my fellow countrymen.”

Narin Phasit was the founder and acting president of half a dozen societies with names such as the Society to Assist People in the Overcoming of Their Barbarian Craziness, of which he was often the sole member. With such little support, he had rather ambitious and equally controversial plans, so controversial in fact that the list of those who hated him included two Siamese kings, the Buddhist Council of Elders, and a succession of prime ministers.

For what reason was Narin so despised? During the period of the absolute monarchy, he insisted that government officials should be held accountable for their actions, and in the years that followed the revolution he spoke out strongly against the rise of the military. He established the first line of female monks in the history of Siam, fought to abolish capital punishment, and for one precarious moment came close to wresting Buddhism in his kingdom from the tight grip of government control. The place that he properly belonged, said Prime Minister Phibul Songkhram, was inside a mental institution. Written as creative nonfiction, this is the engaging story of one man’s relentless attempt to build a more humane society. Often told in Narin’s own words, it is an unlikely tale of Buddhism, politics, and the creation of modern Thailand.

What others are saying

“In modern Siam, there were only three intellectual commoners who challenged the Thai establishment, and they were punished severely. Narin Phasit was one. Quite a number of his initiatives were wonderfully creative. We are indebted to Peter Koret for skillfully presenting Narin’s colorful biography for an international readership.”—Sulak Sivaraksa, author and social critic

Highlights

  • An important topic in Thai political, religious, and social history that has been neglected by previous scholars
  • Sheds light on the makings of the Thai state and Thai state Buddhism from a radically different perspective than is commonly found in studies of Thai history
  • Study of one of the most remarkable figures in Thai history
  • Based on substantial historical records from the period and extensive interviews with the daughter of the subject of the biography
  • Unique creative non‐fiction approach

About the author

Peter Koret has taught courses in Buddhism and Southeast Asian culture and the Thai language at the University of California, Berkeley, and Arizona State University. He writes about Buddhism and politics in Southeast Asia with an emphasis on traditional Lao literature and Buddhist prophecy.

Review

Keywords

Thai history | politics | buddhism | biography | social reform