Saturday, 10 May 2008


It was the same, during Ramadhan, the holy month devoted to fasting. It started as soon as a group of religious teachers,known as ‘the Moonsighting Committee’ confirmed the sighting of the new moon.They took a plane and flew above the clouds , to do this ,and their decision was final. Many mountain villages in remote parts of Oman started fasting early – afraid that they would miss the start of Ramadhan. In the newspaper,there was an advice column written by a mullah , to help devotees to fast correctly.One man confessed to having inadvertently swallowed some saliva, and asked if this could be counted as an act of consumption.The mullah said yes,it was ,and to atone for this transgression , the man was solemnly instructed to do two extra days’ fasting.

ภาพจาก Destination Oman


I was immediately pitched into a society that was totally different to my own.I still vividly remember the original culture shock, and the difficulty I had getting over it. The first thing that struck you was the prime importance of religion in daily life, and how it completely dominated people’s thinking. The Omani day began with a booming call to prayer at 6 am, from the mosque outside my window.The end of the day was signaled in the same way. Religion provided a rhythm of life for the whole society. Ordinary Omanis, in common with other Muslims, exhibited a remarkable devoutness in their religious beliefs .They really believed. .They prayed five times a day without fail.They washed their hands before reading the Koran. They did not question religious injunctions.I was frequently asked by my students whether or not I ate pork. When I said I did, I was given dire warnings of the damage I was doing to my body.None of my students had ever eaten pork , but that did not matter. They believed the mullahs (religious teachers) implicitly, when they were told it was injurious to health.It simply did not occur to them to doubt or to question.

ภาพ Ruwi CBD Area จาก Wikipedia

Friday, 9 May 2008


I have been a teacher of English to foreigners for the last thirty years. . It has been an interesting, if frequently precarious existence, which has enabled me to see a great deal of the world. Sixteen of those years were spent in the Arab world.I feel I have acquired an understanding of what makes Arabs tick,and how they perceive the West and its culture.And I think I understand some of the motivations of the perpetrators of 9/11.

I first entered the Arab world in September, 1985. My motives were unashamedly
financial.I had been teaching for a number of years yet had very little in the bank to show for it. The Gulf countries offer high, tax-free salaries to people like me, and the Middle East is the one place in the world where language teachers can make big money quickly. I decided to take a job to teach air force cadets in the Sultanate of Oman, a little-known country on the south-east tip of Arabia.It seemed a great opportunity at the time.

ภาพจาก Welcome to the Arab World


It’s the question for our times.Why did a group of well-educated young Arabs choose to fly airplanes into New York skyscrapers? Where did this hatred for America and the West come from? Robert Butterfield, a British ex-patriate teacher who spent many years in the Middle East, offers a personal explanation.

In these times of conflict, friction and general mistrust between the West and the Arab world , it seems to me that we have seriously neglected Middle Eastern public opinion .How much do we know about what ordinary Arabs think about 9/11 ,about globalization?We do not really know why 9/11 took place , and only have vague ideas as to what actually motivated the perpetrators of those terrible deeds.Yet clearly it is vital to do this , if international peace , harmony and understanding are to be restored to a troubled world .In this article,I hope to make a modest contribution to this worthy goal.

ภาพจาก วิกิพีเดีย


This is simply not good enough. It is time for the Japanese to come clean. Japan has to admit her war guilt and show some remorse and atonement for the war of aggression she unleashed. Japanese schoolchildren must be told the truth about the actions of the wartime generation . War criminals should not be officially honoured and war victims should receive due compensation .Above all , the world needs concrete assurances from Japan that it will never happen again . Unless and until that happens , Japan’s neighbours and ,indeed , people everywhere will continue to regard her with suspicion and mistrust . The hatred will go on and the sufferings of Teddy Prosser,Bob and all the other unfortunates caught up in that terrible time,will have been in vain.



One is tempted to let bygones be bygones,until one reads of the Japanese Prime Minister’s annual visit to the Yakasuni Shrine in Tokyo.The present encumbent ,Mr.Shinzo Abe ,as well as his predecessor ,Mr Junichiro Koizumi make a great point of doing this.The shrine honours Japan’s war dead in many wars . Nothing wrong in that ,one might think until one learns that the Book of Souls in the shrine contains the names of one thousand and sixty-eight people indicted for war crimes and proven atrocities committed during the Second World War. It includes General Hideki Tojo generally regarded as the mastermind behind Pearl Harbour ,a man hanged for war crimes by the Allies.The visits have provoked a storm of criticism in China and Korea ,which the Japanese have completely ignored.BBC correspondents in Tokyo report that Japanese school history textbooks depict the Second World War as a ‘war of defence’ and that Japan was forced into war by America’s oil embargo.Generations of Japanese schoolchildren are being taught that their country did not commit aggression during the Second World War ,but was instead a victim of it.China has repeatedly asked Japan-to no avail- to apologise for the massacres of Nangking,in which over 100,000 Chinese civilians lost their lives.Similarly,the so-called‘comfort women’ – Chinese and Korean women forced to act as prostitutes to cater for the sexual needs of the Japanese wartime army- have received no compensation for their ordeal , despite repeated requests.No apology has been forthcoming,either.


Over sixty years later ,what are we to make of all this? Many say that it is time to forgive and forget , as far as the Japanese are concerned. In our modern world,they are a leading economic power and are important trading partners.They have a democratically-elected government,and are now part of the community of nations.Hatred towards them will only hinder efforts to build a better world.Nothing is gained by living in the past . It will not bring the dead back to life.The Japanese suffered terribly in the war too.What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is it not time to bury the hatchet?

Many Allied survivors and veterans find this impossible to do , however.In the seventies,the Japanese Emperor visited London and planted a tree in Kew Gardens as a symbol of peace and goodwill.Later,someone broke in and cut it down.In the nineties,the Emperor again visited London,and British veterans again lined the route,wearing their medals.As his carriage passed them,they turned their backs on him as a sign of contempt.A deep hatred still burns - sixty years on.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


Boulle died in 1994 and thus cannot speak for himself..In fairness to him, it must be said that his book was written as a novel , a work of fiction .It is not a historical record ,and we cannot apply the same criteria of factual it. Boulle was a prisoner of the Vichy French ,but he never worked on the railway and his knowledge of it was gleaned from talking to survivors.John Stewart says that it is his book and the film that have ensured that this whole dreadful period is known about , all over the world . It could so easily have slipped into obscurity. To the eternal credit of Boulle and Lean , people know about this place and what took place here.

This is why thousands visit Kanchana Buri every year.