Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thailand and Racial Discrimination


Thailand prepares first report on racial discrimination


Thailand is preparing its first country report on racial discrimination, to be presented to the United Nations next year, Justice permanent secretary Jarun Pukditanakul said yesterday. The report will be made under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Mr Jarun expressed confidence that the country has no problems related to racial discrimination, saying Thailand would be in the forefront of giving and protecting racial equality.

Thailand has been a party to the convention since January 2003 but has never sent a country report on its situation, problems and ways to eliminate racial discrimination to the world body.

Mr Jarun said a report drafting committee should straightforwardly present facts and information and propose practical measures in dealing with the issue. The committee, chaired by a representative of the Justice Ministry, comprises officials from various state agencies.

The report will be examined by 18 international experts who, Mr Jarun said, will eventually endorse it if there is supporting information.

He said that while Thailand may have a problem in dealing with alien workers, hilltribes and unrest in the South, it is not a case of racial discrimination and any state actions have been in line with international standards.

Mr Jarun said Thailand fared well in accepting ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.

The ongoing unrest in the South was caused by an ill-intentioned group that has distorted history and incited the public to misunderstand state officials.

The drafting committee expects to finish the report this year.

It will then hold public consultation sessions at both regional and national levels.

Regional forums will take place in major provinces including Kanchanaburi, Ubon Ratchathani, Chiang Mai and Songkhla.

The draft requires endorsement from the cabinet and the parliament before reaching the UN.

Is Thailand racist?

Racist immigration laws.

Racist property laws.

Racist investment laws.

Discrimination and bigotry against people from neighboring countries in employment, education, portrayals in movies, TV and news media. Here is an article in the same issue of Bangkok Post.

Discrimination and bigotry against hill tribe people, Isaan people, Thai-Indians and people in the South.

Discrimination and bigotry when it comes to hiring.

Racist advertising.

Racist in providing service.

Racist epithets are common in everyday language usage.

Racist national anthem

Racist in providing justice--court system, police, administrative problems, insurance, business conflicts, traffic.

Also, there is a lot of racist self-hatred as well, especially when it comes to things like skin color.

Here is also a commentary, The Racist Legacy of a Name, in today's Bangkok Post about the name Thailand, which many think is a racist name.

Personally, I don't think Thailand is a racist name. Thailand was called "Muang Thai" long before anybody even understood the meaning of racism. Indeed, the word Thai means "free" and it meant that before anybody decided to attach racial significance to the word.

Muang Thai is an old ancient name for Thailand, meaning "Land of the Free." It is not a racist term.

The only people who seem to get excited about this name change are the Thai-Chinese academics who don't have a drop of Thai blood in their veins.

But while Thai-Chinese academics worry about stupid things like whether Thailand should be called Siam or Thailand, real racist discrimination is happening in this country, which I made a long list of above.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this one, especially about Thai-Chinese academics/journalists being the ones riled up about the name Thailand. Just waiting for someone else to say it; don’t want to be accused of being a racist. But please don’t keep propagating the myth that Thai means free. The Thais have called themselves Tai/Thai since time immemorial; many tribal peoples living in China, Vietnam, Myanmar, etc. are still called Tai of one color or another. But there is a homonym of the word Tai which does mean free, probably of Indic origin; the connection between Thai and Tai was made for self-image building propaganda purposes. If the homonym had meant something unpleasant, the connection wouldn’t have been made. The Americans called their country the land of the free and home of the brave; the ancient Thais didn’t have such a concept. Why would they? Most of them (since Angkor) were serfs and slaves anyway.

Anonymous said...

So the Minister thinks there is no racial discrimination in Thailand? or he just wishes to say that for the sake of appearance?

He must surely be joking. I have lived in USA, Australia and UK. Thais are by far the most racist people I have ever come across, and it is almost offensively batant.

The fact that the minister is able to say what he said with a straight face (presumably) is yet another proof of the ability of the Thai to live in their own little worlds. Their dissociation from reality is almost psychotic.


Anonymous said...

You guys are way off base here. Mr Jarun is right- there's no problem with discrimination here.

Whether you're talking about getting a job, going to a prestigious school, paying the same price for the same service, and so on- what race you are is extremely important.

So yep, he's right, no problems with discrimination. It's so entrenched in everyone's thoughts and actions that no one has a problem with it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thailand isn’t really a racist country and Thais aren’t racists, at least not in the dictionary meaning of the word, which is: the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others. Therefore to be racist, Thais need to be convinced that they are an inherently superior race. I doubt if anyone thinks that anymore, if they ever did.
Such things as immigration laws, property laws, investment laws, etc. are not racist as such; view them as handicaps. The underlying fear is that, without this handicap in place, foreigners could buy us out; the laws apply equally whether you’re a Japanese, Hong Kong, or a Western businessman.

Okay, I admit some points are true, such as racist advertising. But this is usually reverse racism. Ads for native speaker English teachers only, meaning someone with white skin and preferably blond hair, shouldn’t be permitted. But even here the intention is not to be racist, just satisfying market demand.

For me racist is when you aren’t accepted socially in a community, you’re not good enough to marry their daughters or sons, or the door is slammed in your face because of your skin color. Can you really say this happens in Thailand?

Fonzi said...


I appreciate your comments. It made me really think about this position some more.

In Thailand, there is definitely de facto and dejure discrimination based on race, especially against whites, blacks, and Asians--notably Indians, Arabs and people from neighboring countries.

It is hard for me to believe that you have never heard a Thai refer to another person of another race in a derogatory way or have never heard of Thais discriminating against foreigners just because they are foreigners.

I have heard Thais refer to black people as niggers and have heard very educated Thais say horrible things about Jews like they were responsible for the 1997 crisis and control the world's media.

Even the Chinese, people who have been here forever, are referred to as Jek.

Many farang believe that the word "farang" is the equivalent of being called a nigger.

If you search around on the internet, you will read about stories from farang about how when dealing with the police, most of the time they will side the Thais--even when the Thai was clearly wrong.

There is one particular court case where a farang father tried to sue for custody of his children in Thailand. The judge told the father that he wouldn't reward custody to him just because he was a farang, and actually said it to his face. The Thai government actually censored the website that disclosed this information.

What about when farang are pulled over for traffic violations when they have done nothing wrong just to get a quick bribe? That is extortion based on race.

As for notions of superior race theory, just look to the Thai national anthem or the movie King Naresuan for examples.

Also, Princess Ubolratana lost her HRH title because she married an American. And her children weren't given titles because of the farang blood in their veins.

Anonymous said...

Though there probably is a lot of de facto, perhaps even de jure, discrimination based on race, this doesn’t make Thailand a racist country. I admit the logic is contorted. But as I said, any de jure discrimination was meant as a safeguard against being totally bought out. This in itself is hilarious because the people who own the country now were once foreigners to begin with anyway. And of course I’ve heard people use the words ai kaek, ai dam, ai jek, in a derogatory manner. This isn’t racism as such, but lack of education, or circling the wagon. Anything educated Thais say that is derogatory about Jews can’t really be considered racist (it’s ignorance) because these same people would probably express admiration for Israel.

As for Thais treating foreigners differently, this is true. But my take on this is that on the whole foreigners are treated better than the average Thai. In most situations (exclude anyplace near bars) a foreigner who stands out from the crowd of Thais is usually given preferential treatment. He will end up sitting next to the village headman or the provincial governor at any unofficial gathering. I am not convinced that farang can ever have the same denotation as nigger or chink.

But again, Thais have an order of preference. If my daughter were to tell me she was marrying a farang, my first thoughts would be, “Oh, my god. Will she be treated right by the in-laws?” If she were to tell me she was marrying a black man my reaction would be, “Oh my god. Are you sure you want this?” Does this make be a racist or a pragmatist?

As for Princess Ubolratana losing her HRH title, the palace law on this was written centuries ago. Her children not being given titles because of farang blood in their veins was probably a personal choice (I’m not sure); they had expected to live in America where royal titles are superfluous. Prince Chulachakrabongse was excluded from the sucession because of his Russian blood. His daughter who has Russian and English blood is an MR.

Anonymous said...

So Trirat, allow me to summarise your posts for you.

Thailand isnt a racist country though there is racism here. Thais are not racist except sometimes. And the killer: Thais dont consider themselves racially or culturally superior.

Did I get all that right?

Where actually is it that you live? Only it seems to be quite a long way away from this planet...

hobby said...

My observation is that the racism (ignorance) goes both ways.

Anonymous said...

I've got no problem with racial discrimination in Thailand.... but those lazy ugly dumb Lao might.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I look forward to this report eagerly. My sentiment is exactly the same as Carter.