Thai editor exposes racialism against expats

Published:  15 Jun at 6 PM
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A major English language newspaper in Thailand has posted an article by one of its editors which analyses Thai racism against Western expats.

Following two shocking reports on xenophobia in Thailand and its effect on expats trapped overseas due to the pandemic, one Thai journalist is telling it like it is. The two incidents analysed by the editor are, firstly, the banning of entry to foreigners by one of Bangkok’s most famous Buddhist temples, with the other the refusal by a state-owned bus company to allow Westerners on board.

Stating she’d wondered, after reading the two reports, whether both were fake news, she wrote that she’d phoned the transport company’s cell number only to have the rule confirmed. Apparently, the strange ruling wasn’t just aimed at tourists but also included Western expats who’d been resident in the country for many years. ‘If they are foreign and cannot produce a Thai ID card’, she was told, ‘they can’t travel on our buses as this is the company policy’.

The author of the article was left wondering how, with the entire country under lockdown and no foreigners allowed entry, a travel-related virus could pose a threat. At the same time the bus ban became hot news, another example of discrimination hit Thai media, as the famous and much-visited Wat Po also forbade entry to non-Thai’s, no matter what their reasons for wishing to enter, giving renovations of the interior the reason for the ban. After social media and several English language on and off-line newspapers picked up on this, widespread criticism took hold, with many referring to the ban as blatant discrimination.

The writer of the condemnatory article pointed out that blame is also due to Thailand’s Centre for Covid19 Situation Administration for pushing the idea that Westerners and Thais living overseas are responsible for spreading the virus within the country. The state’s response was to disallow access to not only foreigners but also to Thais returning to the country from overseas, thus putting both categories at risk of overseas infection due to less-than effective anti-pandemic programmes across the world. It has to be said that the Thai government’s reaction seems to be one of the most successful, along with those used in Vietnam and Cambodia, as it’s proven the pandemic is controllable.

As regards these two examples of Thai xenophobia, the bus company has now reversed its ban and, according to independent reports, the temple had imposed its anti-foreigner ban some while ago although it has always charged an entrance fee for non-Thai visitors. Expats who are Buddhist, and there are many, have to pay to enter and make merit, along with tourists eager to see the famous Buddha image.

The same dual pricing scam has always applied to expats and visitors, all of whom are charged double or triple the Thai amount to visit attractions such as national parks, museums and other places of interest to visitors, and cheaper bus and train fairs for retirees also apply only to Thai nationals. Thailand is expecting its Teflon reputation to kick in and rescue its hospitality sector from total collapse, but encouraging racism, especially at this crucial time in world history, isn’t the way to go about making it happen.
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