Thailand is an extremely racist society

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

When the beach chair attendant, who kicked sand at a tourist sitting on the ground, was discovered to be a migrant worker from Cambodia, many Thais were relieved, believing that “a Thai would never do that”. But no one bothered to ask whether his boss was a Thai and what pressure was put on this worker to try to make sure that everyone paid to sit on the beach chairs.

When Prayut and his cronies ordered his Thai troops to gun down 90 pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010, some red shirts claimed that the snipers were Cambodian because “Thais could never shoot Thais”. But the facts are the opposite. Thai soldiers have murdered pro-democracy citizens on many occasions since the early 1970s.

It is common to hear many Thais referring to something which is stupid as being “Lao”.

Most Thais refer to anyone who looks Malay, Indian, Turkish or Arabic as “Kaak”. This is no different from Anglo-Saxon racists referring to “Wops”, “Spiks” or “Dagos”. The highly offensive word “Kaak” is also used to belittle the Muslim Malays of Patani, thus increasing their oppression.

A lot of Thais refer to black people of African origin as “Aye Murd”, the equivalent of “black bastard” or even the “Nigger”. The word even appeared in a public statement by a pro-democracy academic.

All Thais refer to white people as “Farangs”, a derogatory word equivalent to the use of the term “white devils” by Chinese racists. The term is used by academics. It depicts difference. “We are Thais”, they say and think proudly. But they are Farangs. And of course all Farangs think alike because democracy is a Farang concept. There is no recognition that there are right-wing and left-wing westerners. And of course, Farangs cannot possibly understand Thailand.

Until recently many Thais, including those of Chinese ancestry (which they covered up in the past), used the term “Jek” to refer to Chinese people. Today they refer to Vietnamese people by the offensive term “Yuan”. Japanese people are called “Aye Yun”.

It is common to see official posters in the streets telling people that illegal migrant workers bring in diseases and crime. There is no outrage at this racism.

When challenged on this continuous racism, most will deny that they are racist; some will say it is the “Thai way”. Intellectuals will say that to discuss these things is just “political correctness”. But the real political correctness is the enforced grovelling to the elites, calling them “Tan” and using royal language for the royal family.

All this is the result of the constant socialisation of Thais by the ruling elites which reinforces jingoism every morning and night when the national anthem is played. Thai is best and everyone else is foreign and inferior, is the message. It is also a sign of the weakness of a progressive Left.

Leon Trotsky once wrote that the middle classes in Nazi Germany waged war on workers and Jewish people while bowing down before the capitalists. While Thai racists grovel to those in power they look down on foreigners. And Karl Marx once wrote that the British working class would never liberate itself while they continued with racist attitudes to the Irish. Thais cannot liberate themselves while being racist about others.