Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ethnic Component of the Crisis That Nobody Wants to Touch

Very few seem to want to point out that this crisis is not just about yellow versus red, but Bangkok Chinese versus upcountry ethnic Thai/Lao. Just look at the faces of the people who are Red and Yellow.

I know the ethnic lines are not 100% clear cut, and Thaksin is Chinese himself(though from the Lao North), but frankly, I think part of the simmering anger of the Reds is the "Apartheid" component of this crisis. Who owns the modes of production in Thailand? Who controls the media and bureaucracies?

Is it fair to ask, are the ethnic Thais/Lao slaves in their own country?

Regardless, maybe we should stop the pretence that Thailand is this country united under a benevolent monarch, where the birds sing endlessly, the virgin maidens frolic in the rice fields, and everybody holds hands and sings kumbaya.

Thai history tells a different story. There has always been regional divisions, seperatist movements and political autonomy for upcountry muang. There was always a lot of rebellion from the Lao against Ayutthaya and Bangkok during the early Rattanakosin period. The Deep South is in open state of rebellion as we speak. No peace, love and granola, ever.


Bangkok said...

Mixed Chinese-Thai residents in BKK do not hide the fact that they are racist. Ask one and he or she is likely to tell you that the people of Isaan are lazy, stupid, etc.

This is how Team Yellow was able to draw so many people to their rallies as the idea of Isaan becoming the major political voice in the country drives them crazy. Isaan people are supposed to be nothing more than servants that lower their heads when they walk by their boss.

The PAD rallies were quite open about their belief that the Chinese Thais were the ones to save the country. Lots of t-shirts were printed with that exact message.

So yes, it's more about race and class than ideology or "corruption". The Thai middle class using corruption as a reason to protest is one of the better ironies.

Anonymous said...

Fonzi and Paris - Are you both sure you are not under the influence (of some drugs) and still coherent?

Jeeez . . . now it is Chinese-Thais being racists on their fellow Thais Isaan . . .

I puke at your opinions both.

Fonzi said...


Not all Chinese Thais are racist. Many are very progressive and fight for human rights.

Historically, when the Chinese first emigrated to Thailand, they were very poor and got the shaft.

So take it easy. Just pointing out a component of the crisis that I thought needed to be said.

You can still puke on my opinions though, as your right.

hobby said...

Fiji in reverse?

Bangkok said...

Vichai N,

The idea that the wealthier Thais of Chinese descent are in no way racist is unbelievable. Your violent reaction to the idea shows you have no willingness to dig deeper into the realities of your own country.

Vichai, do you not wonder why popular Thai culture is dominated by people that do not look like 90% of the population? Why fair skin is some how better looking than dark skin? Why darker skinned Thai models can find employment abroad, but not in Thailand? Racism exists in every country and the first step to eradicate it is to open honest dialogue on it.

Anonymous said...

Fonzi and Paris

read this article by Chang Noi :

"Muddle class"

"Most of the top officials and professionals came from an old elite of noble lineages and long-settled Chinese families...

The overwhelming majority of this new Bangkok middle class were descendants of the Chinese migrants who had arrived in Siam between the 1870s and the 1940s. After the Chinese revolution of 1948, these families were stranded in Thailand and intent on making a success in their new home. They spearheaded the surge of the urban economy and enjoyed its benefits... They intermarried with Thais and with foreigners, but the overwhelming mass of families in the new middle class could trace some Chinese heritage.

In the middle of the great boom of 1986-96 there was a cultural transition: this Chinese heritage became a focus of legitimate pride. Television dramas celebrated the role of the Chinese immigrants that had been left out of the history books. Chinese language teaching boomed. How-to books re-educated those who had forgotten their heritage. The celebration of Chinese New Year became showier. The pan-Asian and Eurasian faces faded from the fashion spreads and television screens, replaced by porcelain dolls. ...

The systematic neglect of the rural economy ensured a supply of cheap food and cheap labour.The political priority for the middle class is to maintain the economic growth that underlies rising prosperity. Increasingly, the middle class feels that requires political stability, however that is achieved ...

The Bangkok middle class has the added insecurity of being so new and economically vulnerable. It would rather not have to choose between prosperity and democracy. It hopes to muddle through with "managed democracy" as a gift from the generals. The muddle class."
Vichai N is naturally outraged by this :)
but what to do - these are the FACTS ! ;)