FUNERALS IN THAILAND
Funerals in Thailand are regarded as important events because they represent rebirth and the passage from one existence to another. The older and more respected an individual is the more elaborate the funeral rites. Most Thais are cremated in accordance with a Buddhist ritual. The formal wake period is seven days. At that time the body is taken to a house of a morgue where it may be kept for days or even years until it is cremated.
During a Buddhist funeral in Thailand the family of the deceased buys a temple-like bier made of wood and crepe paper. After the casket is placed on the bier a two-day outdoor wake with music, gambling and barbecues are held. Gifts are piled on top of the casket. Afterward the casket is carried by men with long bamboo poles to the cemetery. After the family the family says it final goodbyes and photographs are taken the bier and the remains of the deceased are burned by the cemetery keeper.
Richard Barrow wrote on thaibuddhist.com: “Funerals for Thai Buddhists can go on for much longer than what you may have seen before in the West. It could last from anything from one week to a year or two. Depending on how close you were to the deceased, you probably won’t be expected to attend every part of the funeral. For the parents of colleagues at work I probably would only attend the cremation on the last day. For relations of friends you probably would attend at least one if not all of the chanting sessions. If you are close to the family then it might be appropriate for you to bring a wreath. Either that or give the family some money in an envelope. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaibuddhist.com August 5, 2011]
On the clothes worn to a Thai funeral Barrow wrote: “You should wear either black or white or a combination of the two. You should avoid any bright colours but you could get away with it if it is a muted colour. For example, I have seen some people wearing blue jeans but with a white or black polo shirt. For myself I usually wear a white shirt and black tie for the main events and a black polo shirt for other times. “
Callousness Towards Death in Thailand
Thailand's newspapers are filled, on an almost daily basis, with graphic pictures of murder and accident victims. It is not unusual for ambulance drivers to pose with dead bodies and accident victims and post the pictures on Facebook. One posting on Isaanstyle blog reads: “I still remember vividly a horrible crash I had attended a while ago where a drunk Thai guy (surprising) ran into some girls on a motorbike. One girl was killed instantly and she was not a pretty picture to see. Another girl was in a bad way. As the crowd of gawkers gathered to do nothing other than rubber neck, there were tiny kids standing in front of their parents looking at the scene while parents talked. It made me sick to see this and I couldn’t believe that people could be such terrible parents. There are things that kids can see and other things that they just shouldn’t see. [Source: Isaanstyle blog, February 26, 2009]
Henri Paget, wrote on the ninemsn blog: “When Perth travel agent Michelle Smith was stabbed to death in Phuket, ambulance workers shocked her grieving friends by posing for a photo with her dead body. But scenes like these are commonplace in Thailand, a country with an extraordinarily desensitised attitude towards death and relaxed regulations when it comes to the treatment of dead bodies. [Source: Henri Paget, ninemsn, November 12, 2012*]
“Alan Morison, an Australian journalist who lives in Phuket and runs the local news website Phuketwan, was the first Western reporter at the scene when Mrs Smith was killed in a bungled street robbery in June. He said her distraught friends looked on as the ambulance workers took a "trophy shot" with her body. “[I] tried to explain this process to some of her friends,” he said. “To me it simply represents the acceptance of death in Thai society ... I neither condone it or reject it, simply see it as a cultural difference." *
Marko Cunningham, a New Zealander who operates a free ambulance service in Bangkok and also assists in body care and collection for people who die in Thailand, especially foreigners, said Thai people were not offended by these displays. “They see [death] every day in the streets and their lives. Everyone has a family member who has been killed in a road accident or other accident of some sort.”*
Why do ambulance workers pose with dead bodies? The majority of ambulance workers in Thailand are not paid – they are volunteers, required only to undertake a two-day first responder training course. When they arrive at the scene of a death they are responsible for taking care of the body until a paid official arrives to move them to the morgue. While undertaking the task they will often take photos to post on Facebook or other social media. “The posing with a dead body is a pride thing, to show that one has helped take care of that body...Mr “It’s a pride in doing a job that society generally shuns,” said Cunningham, the author of the book 'Sleeping with the Dead'. *
In some of the photographs the ambulance workers can be seen pointing at the corpse. “Pointing at a dead body is just something that has come from pointing to small things in pictures to highlight them,” Mr Cunningham said. “It’s a little strange that the Thais still point at the obvious but [it’s] just something that they have actually picked up from Western media, although interpreted in a sometimes bizarre way.” *
Mr Cunningham said he believed the culture was slowly changing to align with Western values, and he had recently seen some volunteers begin to pixelate their gory images. But he said he respected the way the Thai people accept death and do not shy away from it. “I now realise how obsessed with the ‘horror’ of death that Westerners are,” Mr Cunningham said. “For Thais it’s sad to say goodbye but they see it just as the end of one journey and the start of another. We wish them well on their next journey and hope we meet them in the next life to be friends again.”*
Ideas About Death, Suffering and Funerals in Buddhism
According to buddhanet.net: “Funeral rites are the most elaborate of all the life-cycle ceremonies and the ones entered into most fully by the monks. It is a basic teaching of Buddhism that existence is suffering, whether birth, daily living, old age or dying. This teaching is never in a stronger position than when death enters a home. Indeed Buddhism may have won its way the more easily in Thailand because it had more to say about death and the hereafter than had animism. The people rely upon monks to chant the sutras that will benefit the deceased, and to conduct all funeral rites and memorial services. To conduct the rites for the dead may be considered the one indispensable service rendered the community by the monks. For this reason the crematory in each large temple has no rival in secular society. [Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association, buddhanet.net
“The idea that death is suffering, relieved only by the knowledge that it is universal, gives an underlying mood of resignation to funerals: Among a choice few, there is the hope of Nirvana with the extinction of personal striving; among the vast majority there is the expectation of rebirth either in this world, in the heaven of Indra or some other, or in another plane of existence, possibly as a spirit. Over the basic mood of gloom there has grown up a feeling that meritorious acts can aid the condition of the departed. Not all the teaching of Anatta (not self) can quite eradicate anxiety lest the deceased exist as pretas or as beings suffering torment. For this reason relatives do what they can to ameliorate their condition.
Books: “Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?” by Kenneth Iverson M.D., descriptions of funeral customs in different cultures; “A View of Death and Mourning” (1996) by Matt Cartmill, a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Duke University.
Immediately Before Death and the Washing Ceremony After Death
In accordance with Buddhist tradition, when a person is dying an effort should be made to fix his mind upon the Buddhist scriptures or to get him to repeat one of the names of Buddha, such as Phra Arahant. According to buddhanet.net: “The name may be whispered in his ear if the person is far gone. Sometimes four syllables which are considered the heart of the Abhidharma, ci, ce, ru, and ni, representing "heart, mental concepts, form and Nirvana" are written on a piece of paper and put in the mouth of the dying man. It is hoped that if the last thoughts of the patient are directed to Buddha and the precepts, that the fruit of this meritorious act will bring good to the deceased in his new existence. In a village, at the moment of death, the relatives may set up a wailing both to express sorrow and to notify the neighbours who will then come to be of help. [Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association, buddhanet.net
After death a bathing ceremony takes place in which relatives and friends pour water over one hand of the deceased. The body is then placed in a coffin and surrounded with wreaths, candles and sticks of incense. If possible a photograph of the deceased is placed alongside, and coloured lights are suspended about the coffin. Richard Barrow wrote on thaibuddhist.com: The Bathing Rite takes place on the evening of the first day. You would only attend this if you knew the deceased personally. The body is laid out on a table and covered with a cloth. Only the head and the right hand is showing. People then take turns to pour some scented water over the exposed hand. You can take this opportunity to make a blessing or to ask for forgiveness for past misdeeds. A sacred white string, called sai sin, is then tied around the ankles and wrists. The hands are held together in a prayer-like gesture holding a lotus flower and incense sticks. A coin is also put in the mouth.The body is then placed in a coffin and placed on a high table. It is then surrounded by flowers. A portrait of the deceased is also prominently displayed. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaibuddhist.com August 5, 2011]
Monk Chanting Sessions for the Deceased
Sometimes the cremation is deferred for a week to allow distant relatives to attend or to show special honour to the dead. In this case a chapter of monks comes to the house one or more times each day to chant from the Abhidharma, sometimes holding the bhusa yong, a broad ribbon, attached to the coffin. Food is offered to the officiating monks as part of the merit-making for the deceased. The food offered in the name of the dead is known as Matakabhatta from mataka ("one who is dead"). The formula of presentation is: “Reverend Sirs, we humbly beg to present this mataka food and these various gifts to the Sangha. May the Sangha receive this food and these gifts of ours in order that benefits and happiness may come to us to the end of time.” [Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association, buddhanet.net
Richard Barrow wrote on thaibuddhist.com: “Four monks are invited to chant daily for the deceased. This usually take place over a period of seven days. However, this might be shortened if the cremation needs to take place on a certain day, like the weekend. If the chanting sessions are shortened to say five days, the same amount of merit still needs to be created for the deceased, so on two nights the chanting sessions have to be done twice. Notice the ribbon in this photograph. It goes all the way to the coffin which is how the deceased receives the merit. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaibuddhist.com August 5, 2011]
“In Bangkok, the daily chanting sessions for the deceased will probably start at 7 p.m. and last for about an hour. Upcountry these are often done at the house and may go on all night as they are social events. It is not a completely sad affair. There are four main chants with regular breaks in-between. During the breaks people chat or listen to some traditional Thai music. There is also often a break with some Thai dancing. The hosts are always generous and you will find that you are also given drinks and snacks. Even full meals. Before my first chanting session I thought I would have to sit on the floor for hours. But, there are always seats and the time passes quickly.”
Cremation in Thailand
Richard Barrow wrote on thaibuddhist.com: “After seven days of chanting the cremation can take place. Some families will do this straight away while others might wait a year or more. Quite often a young family member, usually the grandson, will ordain as a novice monk in order to make merit for the deceased. They do this for only a day or two. Even though it is only for a short time, they still have to do the full ordination which includes the shaving of hair and eyebrows. It also should be noted that cremations cannot take place on Fridays as the name for that day sounds like the Thai word for “happiness”. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaibuddhist.com August 5, 2011]
“On the morning of the cremation there is more chanting and food is then offered to the monks. Once everyone has eaten, it is time to move the coffin to the crematorium. The coffin is carried outside and placed onto an ornate cart. A procession then takes place to the crematorium. Leading the way are family members carrying a portrait of the deceased. Behind them are a couple of monks holding onto a white thread that is attached to the coffin. The mourners walk behind the coffin. If you have ever done a procession around a chapel at a Thai temple on a Buddhist holiday you know that you have to walk around it three times in a clockwise direction. However, for funerals, you must walk anti-clockwise.
“The coffin is then taken up the steps and placed on a high table in front of the crematorium doors. The portrait of the deceased is also placed here. The crematorium itself is decorated during the afternoon with black and white cloth and beautiful flowers which were the favourites of the deceased. The cremation ceremony is often in the late afternoon. If you didn’t go to the Bathing Rite or any of the nightly chanting then the cremation ceremony is the one that you should really attend.
“At cremations you don’t get to see much of the ceremony. Most people are seated far away. During the ceremony, honoured guests will come forward with monk robes and place them on a pedestal in front of the coffin. As you can see here, the same ribbon is being used to connect the pedestal to the coffin. A monk then comes to receive the robe as if it was offered by the deceased. The monk here is saying a prayer before receiving the robe. During the ceremony someone will also give an eulogy about the life of the deceased. There is often also some kind of traditional dance performance.
“Cremation ceremonies are often over very quickly. Anything from 30 minutes to an hour. When you arrive you are given a flower made from wood shavings. You will need this for the last part of the ceremony. The monks at the cremation will go up the steps first with their “flowers”. These are placed under the coffin as if you were lighting the funeral fire. Once all of the monks have done this then it is the turn of the guests. What most people do is tap the coffin a couple of times with the flower then place it in a tray under the coffin and then give a quick “wai”. You are also supposed to say a short prayer telling the deceased person that you forgive them for any wrong doings in the past. On your way down, you will be given a kind of souvenir of the funeral to take home. Sometimes this a book about the life of the deceased person.
After the Cremation
After the cremation Richard Barrow wrote on thaibuddhist.com: “most people would go home. They have paid their respects. Unless you were close to the deceased, you would go home too. It is mainly family members that stay for the actual cremation. What happens first is that the ornaments decorating the coffin are removed. The coffin is then lifted off its base and then carried towards the crematorium oven. The lid is then taken off. A coconut is cut open and the juice poured over the deceased person. The coffin is then pushed inside the chamber. This is the last chance for family members to pay their respects. The remaining sandalwood flowers are also thrown into the coffin. Everyone then goes down to the bottom of the steps where they gather around to watch the cremation. At some funerals I have attended, rockets are fired into the sky. However, this is banned in residential areas. [Source: Richard Barrow, thaibuddhist.com August 5, 2011]
“The friends and relations don’t wait for the fire to finish. They will come back the next day to collect the ashes. A monk is present for this ceremony. Sweet smelling flower petals are mixed in with the ashes. Depending on the family, these might be placed in one urn or several. Once they are collected they are taken to the prayer hall where there is more chanting and robes and food are again presented to the monks on behalf of the deceased. What happens next to the ashes will vary. Most will keep the ashes at the temple as there will be further merit making ceremonies on the 50th and 100th days. Some people keep them at their home.
“A third option, which is seemingly becoming more popular these days, is called “loi angkarn” which means the floating or scattering of ashes over the water. However, they might keep some relics, like pieces of bone, in the shrine at home. It is not really a Buddhist tradition as it has been adapted from Hinduism where they often scatter ashes in the Ganges River. Some Thai people believe that floating the ashes of their loved ones in a river or in the open sea will help wash away their sins but also help them go more smoothly up to heaven. It doesn’t matter where you do this, but if you are in the Bangkok and Samut Prakan area then an auspicious place is the mouth of the Chao Phraya River at Paknam where I live.
“There are a set number of rituals that have to be done in the correct order before the main ceremony. This includes paying respect to the guardian spirit of the boat and then later the god of the ocean and the goddess of water. Next comes the prayers where the mourners request the spirits and gods to look after the deceased person. It is then time for the white cloth containing the ashes to be carefully dropped over the side. They don’t actually scatter the ashes, they just let the cloth float away and then sink. As they watch it go, they say their final farewells while at the same time scattering flower petals on the water.
Ordinary Funeral in Northern Thailand
According to buddhanet.net: “At an ordinary funeral in northern Thailand the cremation takes place within three days. The neighbours gather nightly to feast, visit, attend the services and play games with cards and huge dominoes. The final night is the one following the cremation. On the day of the funeral or orchestra is employed and every effort is made to banish sorrow, loneliness and the fear of spirits by means of music and fellowship. Before the funeral procession begins the monks chant a service at the home and then precede the coffin down the steps of the house, - stairs which are sometimes carpeted with banana leaves. It is felt that the body should not leave the house by the usual route, but instead of removing the coffin through a hole in the wall or floor, which is sometimes done, the front stairs are covered with green leaves to make that route unusual. [Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association, buddhanet.net
“A man carrying a white banner on a long pole often leads the procession to the crematorium grounds. He is followed by some elderly men carrying flowers in silver bowls and then by a group of eight to ten monks walking ahead of the coffin and holding a broad ribbon (bhusa yong) which extend to the deceased. Often one of the monks repeats portions of the Abhidharma en route. The coffin may be carried by pall bearers or conveyed in a funeral car drawn by a large number of friends and relatives who feel that they are performing their last service for the deceased and engaged in a meritorious act while doing so. If the procession is accompanied by music the players may ride in ox carts or in a motor truck at the rear. During the service at the cemetery the monks sit facing the coffin on which rest the Pangsukula robes. After the chanting the coffin is placed on a pyre made of brick; the people then come up with lighted torches of candles, incense and fragrant wood and toss them beneath the coffin so that the actual cremation takes place at once. Later the ashes may be collected and kept in an urn.
Elaborate Funerals for a Wealthy Person in Thailand
According to buddhanet.net: “Frequently the bodies of prominent or wealthy persons are kept for a year or more in a special building at a temple. Cremations are deferred this long to show love and respect for the deceased and to perform religious rites which will benefit the departed. In such cases a series of memorial services are held on the seventh, fiftieth, and hundredth days after the death. In one instance a wealthy merchant did not cremate the body of his daughter until he had spent all her inheritance in merit-making services for her. Another merchant spent the ten thousand baht insurance money received on the death of his small son entirely for religious ceremonies. [Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association, buddhanet.net
“As along as the body is present the spirit can benefit by the gifts presented, the sermons preached and the chants uttered before it. This thought lies behind the use of the bhusa yhong ribbon which extends from the body within the coffin to the chanting monks before it. The dead may thus have contact with the holy sutras. When the body is cremated the spirit is more definitely cut off from the world, it is best therefore not to force that spirit to enter the preta world finally and irrevocably until it has had the benefit of a number of religious services designed to improve its status.
“At cremations it is quite common for wealthy people to have printed for distribution books and pamphlets setting forth Buddhist teachings in the form of essays, translation of the sutras, historical sketches and explanations of ceremonies. Such books, numbering in the thousands, are not only a tribute to the dead and a means of making merit but they have practical value as well.
Royal Funerals in Thailand
Royal family members are put to rest with an elaborate six-day funeral and honored with a 100-day mourning period. Thais wear black and stay quiet during the funeral period. White flags are flown at half mast. The ritual ends with a cremation, the collection of deceased’s ashes in a lacquered, diamond-encrusted urn and a procession with several hundred soldiers from a specially-built crematorium to the Royal Place in old Bangkok.
The last royal funeral before the death of the king was in January 2008 for King Bhumibol’s elder sister Princess Galyani Vadhana. Reuters reported: “The palace announced a 100-day mourning period and government offices lowered their flags to half-staff, as thousands of Thais placed garlands in the princess’ honor outside the hospital where she passed away. The princess’ body was to be transferred to the Grand Palace later in the day in a teak coffin. Thais were requested to “refrain from entertainment activities” for 15 days. A major golf tournament in Thailand was postponed to show respect for the princess after she died.
Chularat Saengpassa wrote in The Nation: “In Thai culture, a mourning period is traditionally followed by entertainment. In line with ancient beliefs, a royal cremation ceremony is a way to see the late royal off to heaven. The tradition for a royal cremation to be accompanied by major entertainment programmes can be traced back to the Sukhothai era. The entertainment serves to mark the end of mourning and also to honour the late royal. When the Rattanakosin period began, King Rama I followed the centuries-old tradition. At the king’s orders, various forms of entertainment such as khon (Thai classical masked drama), puppet shows and Chinese opera accompanied the cremation of his father. [Source: Anucha Thirakanont, Thai Khadi Research Institute director, Chularat Saengpassa, The Nation, November 18, 2008]
Entertainment at royal cremations continued until the reign of King Rama VI who decided to stop the practice because of the high cost. The ancient tradition was later revived by the current monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. One of his daughters, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, suggested having entertainment at the cremation of her grandmother, Princess Sri Nagarindra the Princess Mother, in 1996. The suggestion came because the Princess saw how sombre without any entertainment the atmosphere was at the 1985 cremation of Queen Rambhai Barni, wife of King Rama VII. In response to Princess’ suggestion from, the 1996 cremation of the Princess Mother was accompanied by khon, stage plays, shadow plays and Thai puppet shows. Similar performances were a part of the cremation of Princess Galyani Vadhana in 2008 More than 2,000 artists performed shadow plays, khon, music and Thai puppet shows as part of the Princess’s cremation.
My Grandfather's Funeral
Nattawud Daoruang wrote in his blog Thailand Life: “My grandmum and her daughters (my aunts and my mum) have their photo taken in front of my grandfather's coffin. Another picture shows the monks are chanting. Can you see the white string? It's call "sai sin" in Thai. It goes right to my grandfather's coffin when the monks are chanting. Sai sin is taking some of the monks good words to my grandfather. [Source: Nattawud Daoruang Thailand Life]
My family and me went to the ceremony every day and on the final day, thousands and thousands came Because my grandfather had lots of friends and lots of people liked him. He was always kind to every person. They are coming up to pay respect to my grandfather for the last time and they have a flower made from paper thin wood to give to him as well. I am sitting behind my grandfather's coffin watching those people come up to pay respect to my grandfather. And that time my brother and I were novice monks for my grandfather as well.
My mum's friends are coming to give a flower made from paper thin wood. This is called "dork maijan" in Thai. They are pretending to give the wood to the fire. Then they move the coffin inside the crematorium. They opened it up and my aunt poured some of my grandfather's favorite perfume on his body.
We are going out to scatter my grandfather's ashes on to the Chao Phraya River. One picture shows my mum and my aunt are getting ready by putting some of the flowers onto my grandfather's ashes. We are taught not to cry because it will make it harder for him to go to heaven because he will be worried.
Thai Memorial Booklets: Wisdom of the Dead
Kupluthai Pungkanon wrote in The Nation, “Little known outside Thailand, cremation keepsake books collectively form a substantial history, covering not just the biography of the deceased - including many famous people - but also significant information about their times. Printed only for the friends and family attending the funeral, they are not available in public bookstores, and thus appeal to collectors for their academic value. The Thai tradition of distributing memorial booklets at funerals dates back to 1880, when King Rama V published a dharma prayer book for the cremation of Queen Sunandha Kumariratana. However, the cremation memorial books have never been the profitable business they are now. [Source: Kupluthai Pungkanon, The Nation, October 1, 2013]
In a lecture called the talk "The Charm of Cremation Memorial Book", Professor Dr Attachak Sattayanurak of the Chiang Mai University History Department explained how the memorial books comprise an important facet to society's collective memory. "These books were introduced at a time when most Thais were poor and poorly educated," he noted. "They're given away freely as a way of making merit, but they also have practical value. "They're usually divided into two parts - the biography, which underlines the prestige of the deceased in the community, and general knowledge about the community and Buddhist teachings like the rules of karma. There are also usually prayers and often recipes for favourite dishes and information about the ailment from which the person died, along with advice on how to deal with it."
Historians have delineated three periods, marked by differences in content. The first, from 1917 to 1947, saw most of the content devoted to the writings of King Rama V and Princes Damrong Rajanubhab, Narissara Nuvadtivongs and Wan Waithyakon, while books for commoners often contained stories written by the famed scholar Luang Wichitwathakan. From 1947 to 1977, as the middle class expanded, funeral booklets tended to focus on the prestige of the deceased, including their royal decorations. A mourning message became popular, along with Buddhist teachings, such as the sermons of Buddhadasa, and essays about health concerns. Since 1977, "how to" content - regarding health, cooking and the special interests of the deceased have been more common.
Rare-book collector Thongchai Likitpornsuwan is more interested in the biographical aspects of the books. "I find many of the books very impressive, especially in terms of history," he said, citing an anecdote he discovered about a palace employee becoming angry with a prince and pushing all of his toys away from the boy. "Information like this you can't find anywhere else. Information about "Phra Rachabithi 12 Duens", written by King Rama V, is among the classical knowledge reprinted in the memorial books."
Thongchai and other collectors looks for such treasures the stalls spe cialising in antique books in the Tha Tian, Tha Chang, Worachak and Chatuchak markets, at book fairs and online. The price can be thousands of baht depending on the content, the book's age, condition and craftsmanship, and the fame of the deceased. The keen interest in getting copies of the funeral book of General Khattiya Sawasdipol made headlines recently. Seh Daeng, as he was known, was the red-shirt leader assassinated in 2010.
Obviously there is money to be made from cremation books. Some people are paid specifically to attend funerals and get the books, and the printing shops dedicated to keepsake books are booming. They offer the next of kin a variety of templates to choose among, complete with blank pages for the personalised information about the deceased.
Associate Professor Srisak Wallipodom, an anthropologist, said he has learned a great deal from cremation books. "The tradition became widespread as a way of giving those in attendance a souvenir that celebrated the social status of the deceased," he said. "In the past the content focused more on the history of the community, with travelogues, poems and the local traditions. Today that's all changed." The change that Srisak doesn't appreciate is having monetary value attached to the booklets, creating a business based on profits.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.
Last updated May 2014