For decades, scholarship on the Thai peasantry has proceeded as if the history of the peasantry were known. Scholars have luxuriated in tourist-brochure images of primeval abundance, reiterating unchallenged the famous adage from the thirteenth-century stele of King Ramkhamhaeng, “There is fish in the water and rice in the fields.” Little hyperbole exists in Thadeus Flood's statement, “For the past century much Western imperialist scholarship and Thai royalist scholarship has sought to perpetuate the image of benign Thai royalty ruling over a happy, carefree, and subservient populace dwelling in a land of sunshine and smiles” (1975:55). For observers of modern Thai society, demonstrations by discontented peasants and assassinations of their leaders have destroyed the myth of a rustic paradise. Nonetheless, the theme of self-sufficiency continues to dominate the literature on Thai history.

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