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Newly published[edit]

Paths to conflagration : fifty years of diplomacy and warfare in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, 1778-1828. Authors: Mayurī Ngaosīvat [Mayuri Ngaosivat]and Pheuiphanh Ngaosyvathn. Publisher: Ithaca, N.Y. : Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University, 1998. Series: Studies on Southeast Asia, no. 24. Edition/Format: Book : English. ID Numbers: Open Library OL433527M | ISBN 10 0877277230 | LC Control Number 98141866 | OCLC/WorldCat 38909607 | Library Thing 4223523


With this work, the authors, Mayoury and Pheuiphanh Ngaosyvathn, offer us a wealth of information on the history of a small kingdom, the Lao, centered at Vientiane, in modern Laos, caught between expanding core states (Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam) in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century. The authors draw upon a wide literature and an impressive range of languages to present a clear and careful picture of a very complex period in Lao and Southeast Asian history.
This book is really the story of Chou Anou, the last of the Lao kings of Vientiane and his struggle against rivals on all sides. Chou Anou played a political game between the expansionist Thai and Vietnamese states in the late eighteenth and ear]y nineteenth centuries, a game that his kingdom eventually lost. Because of the Tay Son, Vietnam was out of the picture for decades; the central Thai court was Chou Anou's chief antagonist. When Vietnam does enter the picture again under Minh Mang, it is as a supporter of Chou Anou, in the context of a larger Thai-Vietnamese competitive hostility. Fighting between Thailand and Vientiane appears on an extremely personal level in the text — the authors stressing at one point Rama III's anxiety that a massacre of Vietnamese emissaries and Lao guides by a Thai officer had not left enough dead, considering an earlier massacre of Thai by Chou Anou in Vientiane (p. 242); they stress also the personal nature of the fighting between Chou Anou and the Thai general Bodin. Further, the text seems almost to replicate, anachronistically, aspects of war more endemic to the post-World-War II conflicts in Indochina, including a reference to "sophisticated Siamese psychological operations" (p. 212).
Paths to Conflagration is organized into nine chapters, each covering a different episode of the period, examined step-by-step, and turns from one incarnation of Vientiane to another — from victim to provocateur to buffer state. Each page is heavy with documentation, but the narrative is lighter. This book has three real strengths. First, it discusses history at the point of intersection between three different polities and does not apply the nation-state "cookie-cutter" approach — looking only at developments as they relate to a state-centered narrative (thus framed by political borders). Instead of the history of Laos, we find here the history of a very turbulent period in which political borders did not mean very much in delineating the boundaries of action. Second, this book makes use of a very wide range of sources, especially from the Thai archives, spanning a large number of languages (including Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, English, and German — both primary sources and secondary literature) and a multitude of perspectives. Third, this book focuses attention on developments sometimes left out of analyses of mainland Southeast Asian history, such as the all-important impact of migration, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is no mistake that migration is referred to over and over again in chronicles of the period, from western Burma to Vietnam, and that migration is used as metaphor for political change and state reformation for far earlier periods in these chronicles. Here too, migration played a very important role, as the authors stress both migration into the Lao kingdom, and forcible expulsion by the Thais, as a basis for the well-being and even survival of the Vientiane-based state.

--Pawyilee (talk) 04:01, 31 October 2011 (UTC)