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The One Book You Shouldn’t Carry In Thailand

Apparently, it’s a bad idea to read 1984 in Thailand.

If you’re heading to Bangkok, leave your George Orwell at home.

An in-flight magazine for the Philippines Airlines recently published its 5 tips for traveling to Thailand. The article says, “Despite being under military control, Thailand is very safe for tourists. If you want to blend in, try these for good measure.”

In addition to offering advice about passports and selfies with soldiers, the magazine says, “Don’t carry George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. You don’t want to be mistaken for an ‘anti-coup protestor.”

thailand

According to The Daily Mail, 1984 has reportedly been banned in Thailand. The novel has become a symbol of rebellion against the current regime, who seized power in a coup during May. Protestors have organized silent readings of the novel, and one man was dragged away and arrested by six police officers while reading 1984 outside a Bangkok mall.

The U.S. State Department doesn’t specifically mention the book in its alert about travel to Thailand, but it does say that “Individuals—including foreigners—may be detained for publicly criticizing Thailand’s current political environment, the National Council for Peace and Order, or the monarchy.”

And, apparently, the current political environment isn’t a big fan of George Orwell.

Can any Thai citizens or recent tourists share your experiences? Is there a sense of fear?

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36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Interesting…This really shows the power of the written word….

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  2. good to know XD

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  3. Reminds me of the good old Soviet Union.

    Like

    August 20, 2014
    • bryan seals #

      As far as I am aware, that’s where it reminded George Orwell of.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 1, 2016
  4. Although….the phrase ‘according to the Daily Mail’ can strike fear into the hear of the most avid of newshounds!

    Liked by 3 people

    August 20, 2014
    • Haha. Indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

      August 20, 2014
    • bryan seals #

      The Daily Mail is banned in Thailand, I believe that it insulted the monarchy in some way

      Like

      November 1, 2016
  5. I finally got around to reading 1984 for the first time this summer! Good thing I wasn’t in Thailand, apparently. It always amazes me when governments today still try to ban classic literary works.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
  6. alanjryland #

    George Orwell would be proud.

    Or disturbed by the extent to which his prophecy has been fulfilled. Either way, it’s fascinating.

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  7. That’s so interesting! Who’d’ve thought it?!

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  8. I had few chances to be in Bangkok but my instinct always says NO. Thus a good friend of mine travels often without a problem and gives some advice: don’t leave your luggage from your sight (you may become a drug carrier…) and never leave your drink on a table/bar…hold it.

    Like

    August 20, 2014
    • Sounds like any airport around the world after 9/11:)

      Like

      August 21, 2014
  9. Super interesting! I’d love to find out more about that or maybe hear from someone who experienced this first hand. How crazy to think that you cannot carry a simple book? While that book is on the reading lists for schools in our country. Seems unreal.

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  10. I know that its. It a good idea to take Wild Swans to China but would never have thought of 1984 as a problem. Wonder if Animal Farm would be more acceptable

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
    • Animal Farm will never cease to be relevant, as power will always have the ability to corrupt someone, somewhere. The more I know of oppression and of oppressive states in our time, the more that 1984 increases in relevancy and it’s really frightening.

      Like

      August 21, 2014
  11. My father expressed concerns about me traveling alone to the US with a copy of House of Bush House of Saud by Craig Unger, back in 2004, but this is the first time I’ve heard it recommended not to travel with a specific book.

    Like

    August 20, 2014
  12. I think Orwell is smirking in his grave. Can bookstores sell it though, one wonders.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
  13. Turns out Christopher Hitchens (Peace Be Upon Him) was right: ORWELL MATTERS!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
  14. ugh I haven’t got the time to read 1984 but this post is really intriguing and now I want to read it as soon as possible!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2014
    • It’s not a long read, or a difficult one, but the best of warnings. You will see things around you or in your life today that will seem spooky when you consider the publication date of the book, especially in terms of the watchful eye of Big Brother.

      Like

      August 21, 2014
      • Well I guess I have to start reading right after I finish my Anne Frank 😀 I just got my hands on the first English edition on sale so yeah. Thanks by the way :))

        Liked by 1 person

        August 21, 2014
      • Especially if you like pretending our world is more interesting and imitating of art than it actually is. Come on guys, the world is nothing like the gist of Orwell’s 1984 despite what Hollywood tells you!

        Like

        August 24, 2014
        • bryan seals #

          Whether or not 1984 echoes society, it depends on which sociey you live in.
          At least one counrty I know ofreminds me of Animal Farm

          Like

          November 1, 2016
      • I love how we like to pretend we live in a more dramatic world than we actually do. The Gist of 1984 is nothing like today guys, lets be honest. There are similarities, but even those are nowhere near as abused and exploited as in the novel…

        Like

        August 25, 2014
        • Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that “all” that happens in the novel has come to reality. The novel depicts extremes to serve as a warning. But there are many Big Brother aspects to our society that can not be denied. There are hypocrisies and existing institutions and departments whose names often appear a misnomer. In the U.S., Dept of Defense might be one of those, depending on who you ask. And if you have never experienced an oppressive employer who manipulates, demeans in subtle (or not so subtle) ways, or dangles the “raise” carrot with no intention of ever giving it, then you are one of the lucky ones.

          Like

          August 25, 2014
  15. I’m currently teaching in Thailand and have been for the last two months. Having been in an out of Bangkok almost every weekend, I can honestly say one would never know that there is any political trouble here at all. The Thai’s that I’ve asked about the coup don’t really seem to be bothered/worried about it at all. That or they’re either incredibly politically apathetic or don’t want to say anything!

    Read about my travels here: http://www.charsullivanlifeclass.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    August 21, 2014
    • Interesting. That’s the impression I got from reading about it too. But do you think there’s any truth to the Orwell thing, or is it overblown?

      Like

      August 21, 2014
      • Totally overblown. If you were running around in a red tshirt, waving a copy of 1984 in the air, protesting about the coup and bad mouthing the monarchy that’d be a completely different story..

        Liked by 2 people

        August 21, 2014
    • bryan seals #

      1984 is frowned upon by the military, Thai students have been prohibited from reading it in public. As for Animal Farm, I can think of someone here who closely resembles Napoleon

      Like

      November 1, 2016
  16. It makes me want to visit Bangkok even more now. Maybe if I visited Bangkok and just quoted lines every so often in conversation. Would that be okay?

    Like

    August 21, 2014
    • bryan seals #

      I wouldn’t bother if I were you. 99% of people wouldn’t understand what you are on about. The 1% might land you in jail

      Liked by 1 person

      November 1, 2016
  17. thanks for sharing this information. it’s interesting in particular, and as a travel blogger, your article actually suits for travel subject as well. now i’m curious what george orwell is saying in his 1984 book.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 21, 2014
  18. This is really good to know…and so sad. Brings better perspective though. Many US travelers still assume a lot and don’t always acknowledge that they are technically a guest when the visit another country. It’s good the travel brochures/travel council are giving the heads-up though.

    Like

    August 21, 2014
  19. If the Daily Mail said the sky was blue outside I would go to the window and check. A rag of a newspaper. On the outside chance that they have reported this correctly, I would say that it a real shame for people in Thailand as it is a really good read.

    Like

    August 22, 2014
  20. 1984 is still causing controversy after all these years, amazing.

    Like

    September 26, 2014
  21. Sunhanut Sudprasert #

    I don’t think that is true. I live in Bangkok, Thailand and there is George Orwell’s 1984 in my school library. My friend is reading it.

    Like

    November 19, 2015

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