Many years ago, while doing research in Nakhorn Srithammarat, I was directed to a retired police officer who was more than a hundred years old but still very sharp, very knowledgeable, the go-to source for local history. This once notorious police officer was highly esteemed in Nakhorn, the kind of citizen proudly introduced to a foreign visitor. I was unable to interview the policeman on that trip, and unfortunately, on my next visit, I learned he had passed away. To my delight, a few years later, I learned that Craig J. Reynolds had begun work on a biography of that police officer, Butr Phantharak, more popularly known as Khun Phan. While Power, Protection and Magic in Thailand is a biography of Khun Phan, it is much more, delving into the historiography of the South, magical traditions, and the development of the Thai nation.

Khun Phan was born just before the...

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