A historical soap reveals a lot about modern Thai politics

May 31, 2018

IN SWELTERING heat at Ayutthaya Historical Park north of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, a bevy of beautifully clad ladies strut ostentatiously in their silky traditional costumes, known as chut thai. They are among thousands who visit daily to have their pictures taken amid the scenic ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, destroyed by Burmese invaders in 1767.

Many of the tourists are not really there for the remains. Ayutthaya is the setting of a television series called Buppesannivas or “Love Destiny”, which has broken audience records in Thailand and stirred the nation into a frenzy of sartorial nostalgia. It is a time-travel love story about a woman in contemporary Thailand who is reincarnated in ancient Ayutthaya. In front of an old royal temple, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, half a dozen women dressed in the protagonist’s iconic pink chut thai wait their turn for a professional photo shoot. The temple’s periphery is plastered with...

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