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    A gem of a letter in the BKK Post.

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    WTF

    Posts : 163
    Join date : 2010-08-06
    Location : Thailand

    'Farang cannot know' - even if they do understand (original article)

    Post by WTF on 2nd September 2010, 5:03 pm

    'Farang cannot know' - even if they do understand
    Published: 31/08/2010 BKK Post
    James, a 60-year-old American who lives in Khon Kaen with his Isan wife, still cannot get over the deadly incident in Bangkok's Ratchaprasong area on May 19, 2010. He has expressed his anger over the state's "crackdown" on red-shirted demonstrators and the arrest of the core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
    James believes that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is not sincere about pushing for political reforms and that it only aims at preserving the power of the traditional elite.
    Meanwhile in Bangkok, Brian, 45, an Australian expat working at a private bank on Silom Road, applauded the government for its decisive operation against the red shirts who had paralysed Bangkok's upscale shopping district for three months. Brian thought most of the protesters were uneducated and had been manipulated by an evil man, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and that they simply did not understand democracy.
    These are just two examples but they show that stereotypes on both sides of the expat fence are as crude today as they are entrenched. While some farangs who have settled in the North and Northeast with their Thai wives wish to identify themselves as part of the red shirt movement spearheading an agenda to eliminate double standards and social injustice, other farangs who work in the capital seem to support the elitist politics, probably as it corresponds better with their values and interests of resisting a shift in the status quo.
    Clearly, not only is the political fault-line running deep among the Thai people, but it also cuts through foreigners residing in Thailand whose lives have been affected one way or another by the current conflict.
    For farangs who have become sympathetic with the red shirts, their political opinions have often been construed as something of a threat to the traditional elite. When this threat grows large, the Thai elite find ways to discredit their views, humiliate their status in Thai society, even label them as "the other" in the perfect world of Thai nationhood.
    Traditionally, the general Thai view is that some farangs may know a lot about Thai politics, culture, way of life and so on, but they will never be able to reach the core of Thai-ness.
    Farang professors might have spent years studying Thailand, but they will never understand the country in the same way the Thais do. It is with this assumption that the Thai elite continue to build protective walls against the interference from resident foreigners.
    As the political conflict became increasingly brutal, the traditional elite embarked on stirring up a sense of xenophobia among the Thais. As a result, some members of the Thai public have shown their disapproval of those certain farangs whose political viewpoints are different from theirs.
    The case of the CNN reporting on the Thai crisis exemplifies how the discourse of "farangs-who-know-little-about-Thailand" has been played up in order to conceal the ugliness of Thai politics.
    Most Thais who have access to CNN, particularly those who have been well-exposed to international media, were quick to bring into disrepute the credibility of the American global news network.
    CNN was criticised for its allegedly biased coverage of the military operation to contain the red shirts' protest. Its correspondent, Dan Rivers, bore the brunt of criticism for his alleged "misinformation, generalisation and prejudice" as he reported the story of Thailand's conflict to the outside world. Some Thai patriots condemned Mr Rivers for failing to properly explain the political context prior to the violent clashes of May 2010.
    For Thais, although Mr Rivers may be an award-winning correspondent for CNN, he "obviously lacks knowledge of Thai politics".
    But all these allegations obscured the fact that some local media openly adopted a pro-government stance and rarely published any statements from the red shirt movement.
    Mr Rivers was undoubtedly reconstructed into a threat to the elites' view of the world, their power and their reputation on the global stage.
    There was even an ungrounded rumour going around that Mr Rivers had an Isan wife and was thus prejudiced in favour of the red shirts.
    Mr Rivers refuted the rumour in one of his tweets: "To those who say I am married to a northeasterner - yes that's true, my wife is from the northeast: Australia, not Thailand! And she ain't a red shirt."
    The CNN correspondent is not the first and will not be the last casualty of Thailand's political polarisation. Some of his journalist colleagues were branded "ill-equipped" to report on the Thai situation. Others were investigated for violating the lese-majeste law, including BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.
    Outside the media world, a few pro-red shirt farangs have been prosecuted, jailed and deported. In this process, their intelligence was insulted not only by Thais but also by other farangs who stood on the opposite side.
    Thai and farang alike did not protest when Australian Conor David Purcell and Briton Jeff Savage, who were seen at the anti-government rally, were arrested. They probably believed Mr Purcell and Mr Savage knew nothing about the Thai conflict but had agreed to support the red shirts because they wanted to become famous.
    This Thai aspect regarding expatriate foreigners unveils an irony that has long persisted in Thai society. In retrospect, the traditional elite have always viewed themselves as being caught in the dilemma of whether to wipe out the threatening farang culture or to welcome its modernity. Domestically, such a dilemma emerges as a challenge to Thai leaders, either to pursue a highly nationalistic policy in order to defend something "Thai", or to celebrate a pluralistic society. Today, the mounting Thai xenophobia has the potential to deconstruct the country's image as a land of great hospitality and open-mindedness towards foreign residents and guests.
    More quintessentially, the discourse on the "impenetrable Thai world" has continued to arbitrarily serve as a political shield for traditional leaders to undermine any threat that arises from the supposedly incompatible farang world.
    Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    This is another (one person) opinion from someone who only sees rich and poor, a bit simplistic though. I personally think it is a crime to perpetrate this myth, it divides the country as never before and for who's end? That the very rich portrays he is a champion of the poor is very suspect at least.
    Why do I have the nagging feeling that most "fellows", "academics" and those kind of people are just justifying their position (and wages?) by once in a while writing articles or essays which contain a high degree of bla bla bla. It's just an opinion of one person and there are literally hundreds who can write an equally correct sounding piece which is totally opposite. pig
    avatar
    WTF

    Posts : 163
    Join date : 2010-08-06
    Location : Thailand

    Re: A gem of a letter in the BKK Post.

    Post by WTF on 2nd September 2010, 5:10 pm

    WTF wrote:'Farang cannot know' - even if they do understand
    Published: 31/08/2010 BKK Post
    James, a 60-year-old American who lives in Khon Kaen with his Isan wife, still cannot get over the deadly incident in Bangkok's Ratchaprasong area on May 19, 2010. He has expressed his anger over the state's "crackdown" on red-shirted demonstrators and the arrest of the core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
    James believes that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government is not sincere about pushing for political reforms and that it only aims at preserving the power of the traditional elite.
    Meanwhile in Bangkok, Brian, 45, an Australian expat working at a private bank on Silom Road, applauded the government for its decisive operation against the red shirts who had paralysed Bangkok's upscale shopping district for three months. Brian thought most of the protesters were uneducated and had been manipulated by an evil man, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and that they simply did not understand democracy.
    These are just two examples but they show that stereotypes on both sides of the expat fence are as crude today as they are entrenched. While some farangs who have settled in the North and Northeast with their Thai wives wish to identify themselves as part of the red shirt movement spearheading an agenda to eliminate double standards and social injustice, other farangs who work in the capital seem to support the elitist politics, probably as it corresponds better with their values and interests of resisting a shift in the status quo.
    Clearly, not only is the political fault-line running deep among the Thai people, but it also cuts through foreigners residing in Thailand whose lives have been affected one way or another by the current conflict.
    For farangs who have become sympathetic with the red shirts, their political opinions have often been construed as something of a threat to the traditional elite. When this threat grows large, the Thai elite find ways to discredit their views, humiliate their status in Thai society, even label them as "the other" in the perfect world of Thai nationhood.
    Traditionally, the general Thai view is that some farangs may know a lot about Thai politics, culture, way of life and so on, but they will never be able to reach the core of Thai-ness.
    Farang professors might have spent years studying Thailand, but they will never understand the country in the same way the Thais do. It is with this assumption that the Thai elite continue to build protective walls against the interference from resident foreigners.
    As the political conflict became increasingly brutal, the traditional elite embarked on stirring up a sense of xenophobia among the Thais. As a result, some members of the Thai public have shown their disapproval of those certain farangs whose political viewpoints are different from theirs.
    The case of the CNN reporting on the Thai crisis exemplifies how the discourse of "farangs-who-know-little-about-Thailand" has been played up in order to conceal the ugliness of Thai politics.
    Most Thais who have access to CNN, particularly those who have been well-exposed to international media, were quick to bring into disrepute the credibility of the American global news network.
    CNN was criticised for its allegedly biased coverage of the military operation to contain the red shirts' protest. Its correspondent, Dan Rivers, bore the brunt of criticism for his alleged "misinformation, generalisation and prejudice" as he reported the story of Thailand's conflict to the outside world. Some Thai patriots condemned Mr Rivers for failing to properly explain the political context prior to the violent clashes of May 2010.
    For Thais, although Mr Rivers may be an award-winning correspondent for CNN, he "obviously lacks knowledge of Thai politics".
    But all these allegations obscured the fact that some local media openly adopted a pro-government stance and rarely published any statements from the red shirt movement.
    Mr Rivers was undoubtedly reconstructed into a threat to the elites' view of the world, their power and their reputation on the global stage.
    There was even an ungrounded rumour going around that Mr Rivers had an Isan wife and was thus prejudiced in favour of the red shirts.
    Mr Rivers refuted the rumour in one of his tweets: "To those who say I am married to a northeasterner - yes that's true, my wife is from the northeast: Australia, not Thailand! And she ain't a red shirt."
    The CNN correspondent is not the first and will not be the last casualty of Thailand's political polarisation. Some of his journalist colleagues were branded "ill-equipped" to report on the Thai situation. Others were investigated for violating the lese-majeste law, including BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.
    Outside the media world, a few pro-red shirt farangs have been prosecuted, jailed and deported. In this process, their intelligence was insulted not only by Thais but also by other farangs who stood on the opposite side.
    Thai and farang alike did not protest when Australian Conor David Purcell and Briton Jeff Savage, who were seen at the anti-government rally, were arrested. They probably believed Mr Purcell and Mr Savage knew nothing about the Thai conflict but had agreed to support the red shirts because they wanted to become famous.
    This Thai aspect regarding expatriate foreigners unveils an irony that has long persisted in Thai society. In retrospect, the traditional elite have always viewed themselves as being caught in the dilemma of whether to wipe out the threatening farang culture or to welcome its modernity. Domestically, such a dilemma emerges as a challenge to Thai leaders, either to pursue a highly nationalistic policy in order to defend something "Thai", or to celebrate a pluralistic society. Today, the mounting Thai xenophobia has the potential to deconstruct the country's image as a land of great hospitality and open-mindedness towards foreign residents and guests.
    More quintessentially, the discourse on the "impenetrable Thai world" has continued to arbitrarily serve as a political shield for traditional leaders to undermine any threat that arises from the supposedly incompatible farang world.
    Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    This is another (one person) opinion from someone who only sees rich and poor, a bit simplistic though. I personally think it is a crime to perpetrate this myth, it divides the country as never before and for who's end? That the very rich portrays he is a champion of the poor is very suspect at least.
    Why do I have the nagging feeling that most "fellows", "academics" and those kind of people are just justifying their position (and wages?) by once in a while writing articles or essays which contain a high degree of bla bla bla. It's just an opinion of one person and there are literally hundreds who can write an equally correct sounding piece which is totally opposite. pig

    Farangs know better

    Contrary to the premise of the article about the impossibility of farangs to comprehend Thailand ("Farang cannot know - even if they do understand," Bangkok Post, Aug 31), Thais often have to turn to farangs living on the other side of the world to learn about their own country, as we have seen in many high-profile corruption cases as well as in the identification of other social ills, particularly in the areas of human rights and human trafficking.

    Thais are often uniquely incapable of learning about their own country, being too deeply entangled in the characteristics of Thai-ness that prevent them from seeking the truth. They are hampered by superstition, the importance of image over substance and of social harmony over truth, a natural tolerance of social ills, and a willingness to smooth things over instead of addressing ugly problems head on.

    Farangs are an asset to Thailand in many ways, including their objective view of Thai society that exposes obvious truths that are often invisible to Thais. CHA-AM JAMAL
    ----------------------------
    I must say, concise and well written and o so true.


      Current date/time is 12th December 2018, 8:55 pm