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In Buddha's CompanyThai Soldiers in the Vietnam War$
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Richard A. Ruth

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834197

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834197.001.0001

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Trading Magic for Modernity

Trading Magic for Modernity

Thai Contributions to the American Search for Invulnerability and Escape

(p.117) 4 Trading Magic for Modernity
In Buddha's Company

Richard A. Ruth

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter considers the ties that developed between Thai and American troops. Thai volunteers soon realized that despite the opulence and volume of goods housed in the PX shops, the Americans did not have everything. When the riches of the PX had satisfied the Americans' hunger for the food, drink, and luxury items that helped them feel at home, there emerged in its aftertaste a desire for the intangible and the exotic, for the magical and the otherworldly, for precisely the kinds of things that the Thais seemed to possess in abundance. So deals were made, quiet deals, that would satisfy the interests of both parties. Two kinds of relationships evolved out of this commerce. The first consisted of the unofficial business relationships that materialized between American and Thai troops in Bearcat Camp. A big part of the sub-rosa economy involved a vigorous trade in drugs and firearms. The Americans' interest in acquiring narcotics and the Thais' interest in obtaining automatic pistols, to name just two components, brought the two sides together for mutually satisfying trades. The other kind of relationship was the spontaneous friendships that resulted from this underground trade. According to the Thai troops who served in the camp, the Americans who sought rare or illegal commodities turned out to be their closest foreign contacts in South Vietnam.

Keywords:   Thai troops, American soldiers, Vietnam War, narcotics trade, weapons trade, South Vietnam

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