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The unbearable lightness of being Thai.

jonny low

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In today bkk post was a very good read , On being Thai, i have no idea how to post the link, hopefully someone can add the link for me :07:


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Interesting piece. Thanks.

"When the going gets weird... the weird turn pro" - Hunter S. Thompson


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good atricle! :GoldenSmile1:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hmmm, I clicked on the link and the 'Bangkok Post' website opens up but there was no content to be seen. I mean

there is just the Bangkok Post logo but no text and no pics at all. I have no idea whats wrong with the website.

Is Bangkok Post a 'pay on demand' website?

Pattaya: You can checkout any time you like - but you can never leave - Eagles

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For any others having probs connecting...



The unbearable lightness of being Thai


Writer: Voranai Vanijaka

Position: Editor (Bangkok Post)


I had an interesting conversation with a couple of gentlemen this past week. One was French and one was half Thai, half French.


These gentlemen work extensively throughout rural Thailand, among the villages and in the rice paddies. Through their working and travelling, their meetings and having conversations with various Thai persons and communities of the different regions, one question nags their mind:


What is a Thai person? To be more precise, what is the Thai identity? A question which I also find quite perplexing.


We live in a rather divided nation. Up north is an enclave belonging to one man. Down south _ well, apparently many of those living down south would rather have a separate state. In the islands, we have the locals that would rather make a toast with a tourist than look at a fellow Thai from the city in the face _ and they probably have good reason, too.


In uppity Bangkok, we thumb our nose at everyone else, including the majority of those living in the capital that isn't of a certain social status. In the Northeast, the village head is god-anointed and the village is the Garden of Eden unto itself.


For a medium-sized country, the many social and cultural gaps are startling. A Bangkok person would understand very little, if at all, of the Isan dialect. Stand a Chiang Mai woman next to a Yala woman and you wouldn't know they are from the same country. In fact, they are separated not only by geography, but also by ethnicity, religion and language. Not to mention the fact that, they would likely never have travelled to each other's regions.


The Thai-Chinese business elites (and common folk) certainly have a different outlook and different interests from your typical Bangrajan-style Thai folks. Even the half Thai, half western individuals _ whom society views as being privileged _ have their own complaints about acceptance and stereotype.


Then there are the legions of those who have lived in this country for generations and centuries, but without rights and recognition.


So what makes us all Thais? What is the Thai identity? Ask a Thai and there are certain expected answers. Cliches, if you will.


A typical answer may be that it's our smile. Well, everybody in the world including the village idiot can smile. And, on the world happiness index, we rank quite low. So it's just a marketing gimmick to attract tourists, not an issue of national identity. At least is shouldn't be.


Another popular answer is our collective love for the royal institution. Which is great, we all love and are devoted to the royal institution - and there's nothing cliched about that. But an ''identity'' is the condition of being oneself, and I'm pretty sure most of us haven't a drop of royal blood in our veins. As such, we shouldn't mistake a ''love'' for an ''identity''.


There's also a gem of an answer which I love. Part of our identity is never having been conquered by outside powers, but of course with a proviso that we're not counting the Ayutthaya period and beyond. But that is either delusional or simple ignorance of history.


On Dec 8, 1941, the Imperial Japanese armed forces invaded Thailand. We sued for peace. They occupied our country. A lot of people want to spin that in a lot of different ways. But those are the facts. Deal with it.


So what makes us all Thais? What is the Thai identity? A passport and an identity card are just paper and plastic. Watching the different people of the different regions singing the national anthem with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is just good propaganda, but not national identity.


Thailand is a country divided into fiefdoms with governing mandarins. Some have real power, most do not. The villages are an entity unto themselves which answer to the local strongman, who in turn answers to several other people all the way up the ladder to individuals sitting in parliament (or outside of it due to the banning of Thai Rak Thai party politicians).


Political individuals whom academics like to refer to as ''country bumpkins'', with their own vested interests.


Bangkok may be a melting pot where people from all regions come to find work and opportunities. Yet the social gap here is wider than the gulf between the talents of an Academy Fantasia contestant and a real singer. All the other regions are separated by not only geography, but also by ethnicity, religion and language. Not to mention the fact that most people would never have travelled to another region that isn't Bangkok.


So what makes us all Thais? What is the Thai identity? What do we stand for? Are we having an identity crisis? Is this something like a mid-life crisis which a middle-age person goes through? What is our common ground? Where is our synergy? What makes us ''related''?


Whenever I go on to the website prachatai.com, I read heated debates between the red UDD and the yellow PAD. An interesting observation is that, a lot of the reds do not care for Thaksin Shinawatra, while a lot of the yellows do not care for Sondhi Limthongkul.


What they care about is a ''change'' from the status quo. A change from how Thailand has been operated. Which means, they don't care for a government to which the military kowtows and which is influenced by old politics and the mandarins in order to maintain the status quo.


Yet, they wear either red or yellow because there isn't anything else. There isn't an alternative. There isn't another leader. A leader, an ideology that recognises what Thailand is, how Thailand became this way and understands the limitless capabilities of what Thailand could become. Thailand's identity crisis, it seems, is most apparent in those who are lost, but passionate.


Sitting that one night with the two gentlemen, I listened to them speak constructively and passionately about Thailand and Thais. Our strengths, our weaknesses. Our problems and overcoming those problems.


The all-French gentleman speaks of Thailand with care, sincerely wanting to explore ways of helping this country becoming a better place. And he's a complete foreigner.


The half Thai, half French gentleman admitted that people don't always heed his opinions because he looks western and speaks Thai with an accent.


Yet, his love and passion for wanting to make Thailand a better place for us and our future generations, his sincere frustrations with the present situation were genuine. They both care.


At the same time, I know too many of my fellow Thais _-people of privilege, wealth and of influence, those in a position to effect real changes. But they only show such passions for personal/business interests, social /business connections and their ''gigs'' - and are always scathing about the ''real'' issues.


And it just makes me think: What makes a person Thai?


What is our identity? If any of you dear readers have any idea, please let me know.

Edited by Temujin

"When the going gets weird... the weird turn pro" - Hunter S. Thompson


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