‘Extremely concerned’ Thailand to probe children’s books promoting democracy

“Extremely concerned” education officials have set up a team to examine if children’s books about a terrible dragon and a duck fighting for equality are subversive.

A series of eight illustrated children’s books called Nitan Wad Wang, or “Dream Tales,” is being probed by the authorities for themes deemed critical of the government and sympathetic with the pro-democracy movement. Taking the whole thing very seriously, Education Ministry spokesperson Darunwan Charnpicharnchai said the books could contain information that misleads children without parental guidance.

Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich is “extremely concerned” about the books, Darunwan added. A team led by ministerial adviser Phummisan Seneewong Na Ayutthaya will investigate the peril presented by the picture books.

Said to be appropriate for children over 5, the tomes were created by pro-democracy political activists including longtime Redshirt supporter Sombat Boonngamanong and actress-turned-activist Inthira Charoenpura.

The stories range from fighting a dragon that is destroying a hill tribe village to a duck adventure-questing for democracy. Other titles detail the life of dissident author Chit Phumisak and the events of the ongoing youth-led movement calling for reform of the monarchy.

The news that those responsible for education would investigate children’s books gobsmacked some.

“Ministry of Education is getting insane,” Twitter user Deeplogicreborn wrote. “They don’t encourage good things and, even worse, they encourage nonsense stuff for children.”

Others found the books to carry apt messages of self-determination.

“After I read all the books, I thought they were really interesting. I never thought before that there would be a storybook that is able to talk about politics as interestingly as this,” a Noey Pannarai wrote in an online review. “They are books of dreams, hopes, differences, self-worth … and the citizens’ power, and human rights in a way that is easy to understand.”

Read more Coconuts Bangkok stories here.

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