Opened in 2008, the Museum Siam features state-of-the-art displays primarily aimed at kids (think lots of games, interactive screens, and photo props). While it doesn’t quite achieve its self-professed mission of deconstructing Thai national identity, the museum does offer a number of fantastic dioramas.
Of these, the most impressive are the three that depict the long-destroyed kingdom of Ayutthaya that flourished between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Some of the set-ups wouldn’t look too out of place on a WWII tabletop.
This drum tower probably won’t, however.
Whereas this warehouse is too Thai (and of a style that had probably disappeared by the 1920s).
Piers like this, on the other hand, still exist, and can probably be found elsewhere in the region.
A large samurai contingent existed in 17th century Siam, for the sharp-eyed among you are wondering about the presence of kimono-wearing figures.
There is a massive diorama devoted to early 20th century Bangkok. Sadly it lacks the craftsmanship of the previous diorama.
Funnily enough the semi-fascist period that saw the refinement of modern Thai nationalist thought is only briefly glossed over.
The examples of Thai Second World War propaganda more than make up for it though.
My favourite of the bunch: the June 1941 cover of Modern Thai magazine celebrating the annexation of territories gained at the end of the Franco-Thai War.
Thailand’s best-selling daily has put out a short animated video on the Franco-Thai War’s best known battle. It can be viewed here.
Some idle soul has done the world a favour by amalgamating wartime newsreel clips from the British Pathé and Japanese NHK archives.
As the running time is quite substantial, what follows is a breakdown of the bits of most interest to wargamers (not that the rest isn’t worth watching, particularly for those wishing to see a leafy Bangkok unsullied by today’s congestion):
00:04 Primary school members of the Yuwachon youth movement participating in irredentist marches.
0:54 Arrival of a Laffly S15R bearing Japanese mediators.
00:59 French troops, including one cheeky-looking chap in a non-regulation beret.
01:42 Thai reservists presenting arms to the Franco-Thai-Japanese armistice commission.
Lying astride the mighty Mekong is Savannakhet, Lao’s second largest city and the birthplace of Kaysone Phomvihane, the bullnecked éminence rouge of the Pathet Lao. A good embodiment of what Martin Windrow calls “the ultimate Buddhist languor of Laos” (a rather orientalist comment I know), Savannakhet has a wonderfully atmospheric old quarter graced with colonial mansions and shophouses. Sadly the chief reason for their existence is poverty and not conservation, and apart from a few beautifully restored ones it’s unlikely they’ll see out the decade.
Apart from the bread bag I’m quite pleased with how he turned out, and shall be doing the rest of the unit this weekend.
In other news I’ve got a few more Thai tanks lined up, as well as a couple of infantry guns. Here’s hoping nothing upsets my weekend plans.