Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the successful integration of foreigners...

Thai authorities show us exactly how NOT to deal with foreigners and the integration of people with foreign ancestry into their newly adopted country.

Little boy Mong Thongdee, 12, is apparently the Thai champion in paper airplane flying. He is therefore qualified to go to Japan to represent his country in the world youth championship. But hang on, Mong can not represent Thailand because...he is stateless.

Burmese but not really Burmese, but certainly not Thai...

Born to ILLEGAL Burmese migrants (their illegality had to be emphasised in every article I read about this story), Mong doesnt have a nationality, and is therefore stateless.

The Foreign Ministry was prepared to grant him a 1-year temporary passport, however the Interior Ministry said because he is not Thai he can not have a Thai passport. Fair enough.

Why am I even writing about this little boy?

Because it perfectly fits with my post about Thai identity and the movie Citizen Juling.

In Thai thinking, everyone who doesnt have Thai blood running in his or her veins (e.g. speaks Thai, is Buddhist etc) can not be Thai. I find this mentality very counter-productive, perilous and just downright wrong.

In the movie, it was the evil Terrorist Southern Muslims, and in this case it is the Burmese. Two of the most-hated "non-Thai" groups that Thailand has to deal with on its own soil.

This little boy has been born in Thailand, never left the country (he has no passport and nationality, duh), goes to a Thai school and even has a Thai name!!!

Yet, it is not accepted that he could be Thai, yet even be part of the wider Thai society. I find this truly sad and disconcerting.

This country needs to accept it is also an immigrant country. What exactly is the cost to Thai society of giving a young "Burmese" (he is actually not Burmese, because he doesnt have a citizenship) Thai citizenship and fully accepting him as a young Thai boy? Indeed what speaks against giving citizenship to thousands of young children born and grown up Thailand who have never even seen other lands?

The cost is close to zero, but the future benefit for Thailand could be huge. It would lead to social inclusion of minorities, peace in the country and even add considerable human resources to the national economy.

Even the Bangkok Post, normally the champion of the Government, and all things Thai in general, is a bit critical. Read their article here.

I think the problems of mentality that I have highlighted in this post, and the last one, are among the major problems facing Thailand right now. If people are not taught to think more inclusively, I see a bleak future for this country.

By the way, I am off to Koh PhiPhi tomorrow with the boyfriend for a romantic getaway:)


prkmk said...

I am totally on your side! This is ridiculous. The boy deserves all the rights to be Thai...
And I hope you have a very romantic trip in PhiPhi... honeymoon trip? hehe

BB said...

thank you for your support prkmk. good to have Thais agree with me:)

thanks for your wishes too. it's probably going to be rainy, wavy and hot:) maybe not so romantic, but nice anyway. I have never been to the south so this is my last chance to go!

Ron and Ben said...

Hi BB I keep following your excellent notes. They are very interesting.
Good news!
Happily, this morning, just after midnight, Friday, the PM has interceded and allowed this young man permission to go to Japan and I am pleased that once again the PM has interced with logic and humanity. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Was Once said...

Thanks for spreading this more, Thailand finally needs to grow up.

Sepiroth said...

In some of the more developed countries that pursuit an official multicultural policy, there are still difficulties in forging a common national identity.

There have been many debates on what is meant to be an American/ British/ Australian/ French etc and there are periodic unrest among the ethic groups (including the Caucasians) about the policy.

If the more developed countries have difficulties in integrating people from other countries. Then, the problem facing Thailand is that much larger given Thailand seems to be trying to maintain their mono-culture.

BB said...

Hello Ron and Ben. which one are you by the way?
I have read the news in the BKK post at the airport today. Apparently quite a few other Thais also thought that the boy should get a better treatment. That's a good sign at least.

Thank you for your compliments anyway.

Was once. In the country where I am from, it's probably just as hard to become a citizen. And I consider Switzerland to be quite "grown up". The fact that others dont do it better shouldnt help to hide your own faults though.

This is in accordance to what sepiroth writes. There are debates in most countries about "national identity". I dont think the government-pushed identity-moulding works though.

What Thailand needs to do is realise and be proud of its diversity. It can already do that in terms of gender and sexuality, so why not with ethnicity. I think I know why but wont/cant write it.

Ron and Ben said...

This is Ron - the white guy...

Ron and Ben said...

By the way, BB, Ben had the same problem in US --- no matter how bright, how hard one works, getting even a Green Card is difficult. Canada, however, received us both as a couple, with open arms and smoothly and without hassle Ben became a Canadian citizen in June. I am following.. Canada welcomes everyone.

BB said...

Hey ronnie:) thanks for your response. I cant see a picture of you two though:)

happy for you that you managed to settle in canada. I have been to canada many times - but not really to the US. Find the canadians very welcoming and progressive on the human rights side of things.

I would also not mind living there, especially in Montreal or in Vancouver. Toronto isnt my cup of tea I think...

Luckily me and my bf dont have these citizenship problems. We can both settle in Australia quite easily.