Siriworn Kaewkan Thailand's 'Southern' Voice • Satun • THAILAND • ศิริวร แก้วกาญจน์-4
Far, far away from Bangkok is Thailand's southern most bookstore. It's in Satun, right on the border with Malaysia. The "Low Pressure Area" cafe is a small, one room affair. There's of course coffee and a comfy couch to sit and read. The coffee shop and independent publishing house are run by a prolific Thai author, Siriworn Kaewkan, and his wife, Beer.
Siriworn is Thailand's only 'southern' voice. While most of Thailand's authors and poets describe life in Bangkok or the Buddhist-influenced countryside, Siriworn sets his work in the "Deep South". Here Thai Muslims live alongside of Thais from a Buddhist or even Chinese cultural heritage. The low level war which has been fought in southern Thailand since 2004 is documented, but few pens try to understand the conflict by writing fiction.
"The Murder Case of Tok Imam Storpa Karde" is the first book by Siriworn which I read (translated by Marcel Barang). It's set in a small rural town in a Muslim majority area of Thailand's southern most provence. A murder has taken place of a prominent Thai-Muslim in town. Nobody knows who did it, but there are enough motivations and suspicions to fill this small novella. The book isn't so much a story than an exercise in learning about the multiple interested everyone involved with the town have in war and peace - from the police to detectives to villagers themselves. In the end, Siriworn doesn't give an answer, "who done it".
When I interviewed him, he mentioned that he writes about society and politics - especially the "Deep South" conflict to try and understand what is happening there. He doesn't seek to assign blame, but rather illuminate the problems and motivations for the conflict. Knowing who gains and who looses from the armed conflict make it easier to know how to find a solution to stop it.
Many of Siriworn's other books are short stories and poems. Even when he isn't writing about Thailand's Deep South, he seems to still be interested in conflict between people. For example his short story set on the island of Koh Lanta, at the time of the tsunami in 2004.
Siriworn says that every place in this world needs writers, especially southeast Asia and countries like Thailand. Of course, he points out that the government doesn't like too many writers and thinkers speaking directly to the people. Sirikorn says, he doesn't judge what is right or wrong but rather tries to point to norms of ethical behavior as a "measuring stick" in checking the mainstream's viewpoint.
949 Moo. 4 Yontrakarnkhamthorn Road, Khongkhud, Satun
(Across the highway from Big C)