The history of Thailand begins with the migration of the Tai- Lao speaking people from their ancestral home in southern China into mainland southeast Asia around the 10th century AD. Prior to this, Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms ruled the region. The Thais established their own states starting with Sukhothai, Chiangsaen and Chiangmai as Lanna Kingdom and then Ayutthaya kingdom. These states fought each other and were under constant threat from the Khmers, Burma and Vietnam. Much later, the European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Thailand survived as the only Southeast Asian state to avoid colonial rule. After the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand endured sixty years of almost permanent military rule before the establishment of a democratic elected-government system.
Thai Customs and Traditions
The most distinctive Thai custom is the Wai that bears resemblance to the Indian namaste demonstration of affection amongst friends are common in public. It is considered rude to put the feet above someone’s head or step on a Thai coin as it has the King’s head engraved upon it.
Culture of Thailand
The Culture of Thailand is heavily influenced by Buddhism. Other influences have included Hinduism, cultural and culinary influences from Southeast Asian neighbors such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, and repeated influxes of Chinese immigrants. Thai culture mainly influenced by Chinese and Indian culture.
The Thai can be broken down into various regional groups including the main Thai, northeastern, northern, and southern Thai with their own regional dialects of their mutually intelligible Thai language. Modern Central Thai has become more dominant due to official government policy which was designed to assimilate and unify the disparate Thai in spite of ethnolinguistic and cultural ties between the northeastern Thai and the Lao for example.
Thai People Believe
Thai people strongly believe in the power of Buddha and people wear these amulets not only to seek happiness, but also to ward off pain and sorrows. Earlier these images were carved over wooden or metal piece. In olden days, Thai amulets were made out of many different ingredients such as Din, Chin, Phong, Herb etc., or any other ingredients. Today colored plastic ones have become quite popular.
Majority of the inhabitants of Thailand, believe in ghosts and many of them claim to have seen them. In Thailand ghost stories or movies are extremely popular and come in many varieties from the comic to the gruesome. This phenomenon is not just restricted to rural villages but is also relevant among many university students and people from all walks of life. It is particularly strong in Northern Thailand where it is taken very seriously.
In Thailand you will find many people wearing this amulet to protect themselves against evil spirits and around Thai houses you will find Spirit Houses (San Phra Phum). Thai people believe that there are many ghosts that need to be feared and that each of them poses a different threat. This is the one big reason for Thai people resorting to wear such good luck amulets. In addition to protection against ghosts or evil spirits, amulets are also worn for protection from other people. For example, soldiers may use Thai amulets to increase their luck and to protect their lives.
The following is merely a summary. An expanded description of the values listed. The list presented here is not complete but is an attempt to note some basic values of Thai society as a reference for the Christian communicator.
1. RESPECT BUDDHISM Thai people respect or hold to Buddhism, but it is worthy of note that in the cities of Thailand people very rarely go to the temple or make merit by tak bat. On special days temple attendance and merit making increase. The respect Thai people have for Buddhism is more one of words (NOMINAL) than one of actions (PRACTICE).
2. LIFT UP MONEY AS SUPREMELY IMPORTANT Money is the most important item and is the, desire of all Thai people. Honor and honesty used to be more important than money but today money and the resulting materialism are emphasized much more.
Money brings POWER, POSITION, STATUS (EYES AND FACE), LOVE, RESPECT, ETC.
Money is seen as honor and those who possess it are lifted up and praised. The value of a person is not measured by personal attributes or goodness but by his money.
“If you have money they call you younger brother; if you have gold they call you older brother.”
“The poor have neither money nor friends (brothers).”
“Money is God.”
(Values in Thai Sayings)
3. LIFT UP POWER Thai society 1ifts up those with power. No one is concerned about those who have no power. As a result, power becomes the goal of not a few people who want power over others.
4. LIFT UP THOSE WITH STATUS Status is generally connected with government positions Thai people would rather work as a government employee than as businessman as it is easier to become a man with status (chao nai) this way. Becoming a “Chao Nai” is the popular pursuit of all Thai people as it is easy work, brings honor, gives power, and elevates one to a position where others give respect and homage. Parents encourage children to join government service in hopes they will get status.
5. RESPECT THOSE WITH SENIORITY Those with seniority refers to those with a high position who generally are older as well. They can also be those who have compiled much experience in which case they would tend to be older. Such people are always, catered to. One who is a lesser person should know his place and not disagree with the senior or even express an opinion in his presence. Certainly one should not argue ever with a superior!
6. LIFT UP EDUCATED Thai people believe educated people (those who have degrees) are those who know all things and are worthy of belief. Those who are educated have jobs which bring honor and have good status. Education is a mean to lift oneself up and out of lower positions.
7. DON’T LIKE TO DISAGREE WITH ANYONE Thai people do not like to disagree because they “Krengchai” (are afraid of offending). As a result Thai people respond to requests by agreeing, but they agree many times only to relieve themselves of the immediate problem of responding in honesty. Whether they will actually do what they have agreed to is another matter.
8. DO NOT LIKE TO RISK AND LACK PATIENCE Thai people are not inclined to taking risks. For example Thai people like stable jobs (government jobs) and do not like business jobs which demand risk. They do not like risking anything that does not give immediate results. This way of thinking comes from teaching given by parents who counsel children to became government workers. As a result most businessmen in Thailand are foreigners (Chinese and Japanese) because they have been taught to strive and be aggressive and not give up patience, whereas Thai people have not.
9. LIKE TO GAMBLE (RISK LUCK) Thai people want to be rich but do not want to work and so gamble in order to make it rich with the 1east possible effort.
10. LIKE FUN Thai people not only like to have fun during free time but also during work. As one saying goes: “Make work play and play work.” This desire results in an attitude toward work which does not give work much importance. It also results in playing at work and not really working hard (aow ching aow chung). Thai people like to put money or effort in work that is fun rather than in work that may not be fun but is basic.
11. LIKE TO BE EXTRAVAGANT WHEN COMPETING IN SOCIETY Even the lowest Thai person feels he is as good as the next person. Thus everyone must prove he is as good as the next person by doing big things or by dressing up to fashion. Much money is spent on clothing to show one is as good as the next. The fear is that someone may look down on (doo took) them and this is not acceptable to the average Thai.
12. LIKE IT EASY Thai people do not like organization or planning. They like an easy life, not one which takes effort or real doing.
The approach to life in general is do what is easiest and most convenient for oneself. Queuing up for anything is out as this would be inconvenient for oneself.
13. LIKE CEREMONIES Ceremonies are needed for honor. They give position and help lift their organizers up so others can see them and give them recognition. The pursuit of “face and eyes” (mee na mee taa) is the reason for most ceremonies. If one does not have enough money one borrows to throw a ceremony.
14. BELIEVE IN SPIRITS AND LUCK Shows lack of faith in selves because they place trust in spirits, thevadas, magical items, etc. Uncertainty and fear produce the need to find help elsewhere against bad luck and evil forces.
15. LACK ORDER AND DISCIPLINE Thai people do not like doing things for the group but rather do things for self and the satisfaction of self. There is no concept of disciplining oneself for the sake of the majority. This can be seen in the way they drive cars – whatever is most convenient for oneself is OK, or in the conduct at parties or ceremonies – “give me everything and who cares about the others.”
16. DON’T CARE FOR CORPORATE THINGS Thai people like to do things that satisfy self and have little or no concern for group or corporate items. If something belongs to a group it is ill-treated because “it really does not belong to me.”
17. TO EACH HIS OWN The majority are concerned with doing their own thing. As a popular saying goes, “The best thing is to look out for oneself.” Oneself is the most important consideration. Let the others fend for themselves. This attitude has developed in recent times as a response to the rigors of modern society and the competition this has brought to Thai society.
18. INDIVIDUALISTIC Thai people like the freedom of being “one’s own man!” The ability to be on one’s own is important and goes along with the desire not to be under anyone. As a result there is no desire to work as a group or a team. Such efforts as cooperatives or team sports have very little success in Thailand.
19. DON’T LIKE TO SEE OTHERS AS GOOD (OR BETTER) As a saying goes, “Two tigers cannot live in the same cave.” So in Thai society no one likes to admit anyone is as good or better. Criticism or fault finding is engaged upon by the people in an attempt to weaken others and do them in. This often leads to irrational attempts to discredit the threatening person.
20. LOVE “FACE AND EYES” IN SOCIETY This is an important part of Thai society. The Thai person will not allow anyone to look down on him. He would rather die (run away or quit) than to suffer loss of face in society. What others think is more important than anything else and one would willingly go into debt to “keep face.”
21. LOVE GROUPS TO WHICH ONE BELONGS One’s love of the groups to which one belongs is shown clearly when the group or any one of its members receives an external threat of any kind. The entire group mobilizes to confront the threatening outsider(s) and deal with them. This can be seen in schools raiding other schools after one of their members receives a threat from the other school. It can be seen in family groups when they are arguing. If anyone dares to intervene the family members unite and deal with him. There is a sense of loyalty to group members which causes all members to help any member in the face of an external threat whether he is right or wrong.
22. LIKE TO PUT THINGS OFF Anything that can be done tomorrow, next week or next month will never be done today. Favorite sayings are, “Leave it for now, we can do it later,” or “It doesn’t matter, do it tomorrow, there is no need to hurry today.”
23. GRATITUDE AS A RESPONSE TO SUPPORTERS OR PATRONS Every person in every age should possess this value if he is to be truly Thai. For example, every Thai should feel and express gratitude to mother and father, teachers, and those who have supported or patronized him in any way. Society provides ways (ceremonies) for expressing gratitude. For example, the ceremony for showing respect to teachers (wai khruu) is an opportunity to express gratitude to teachers for their help. Another example is the ordination of men into the priesthood. This act is in payment to mother and father for raising the son (“Pay debt of mother’s milk”). The parents receive merit from the act of their son entering the priesthood (vicariously) and the son is considered a good person because he has responded to their goodness.
24. CURIOUS (NOSY) ABOUT THE AFFAIRS OF OTHERS Thai people are naturally curious about the affairs of others. This is seen in questions asked when meeting other people, “Where are you going?”, “Where have you been?”. “How much did you pay for it?”, etc. This interest is coupled with the activity of gossiping about the affairs of others all the time. Stories about another’s failure or misfortune are of most interest although any story about others’ affairs is of interest.
25. FORGIVE EACH OTHER EASILY This value is taught by Thai Buddhism, “Have a heart of mercy toward each other.” It is taught from childhood up and accounts for the “mai pen rai” responses to situations involving conflicts. For example, when two cars crash the person in the wrong apologizes and the offended person responds, “mai pen rai.” “Mai pen rai” (it does not matter) as a result has become a byword for Thai people.
Social stratification Social stratification is based on age, occupation, wealth, and residence. On the social scale, the rural farmers rank below the artisans, merchants, and government officials, but there is social mobility in Thai society. The priesthood is considered to be apart from the rest of society.
Social system In the Thai social system, the village is the unit. In the olden days. The based mainly of the people’s habits and customs were tillage and religion. Buddhism was the center of village. All arts, crafts and learning emanated from the monastery where the meeting place for social gatherings on festive occasions was. The village shrine it was used only occasionally in times of distress or on New Year’s Day when offerings were made. It had nothing to do with Buddhism. Buddhism softened and tamed animism in many of its cults wasn’t doubted. The story is only a fundamental and comparative statement which a student has to bear in mind when dealing with modern cultural problems those superficial modifications of the fundamentals and in a comparative degree only.
In some outside districts where there are retarded developments of culture due to lack of intercommunication, the people are still in their simple states that contrast to the progress in the capital. In these progressive parts “old times are changed, old manners gone” and a new type of cultures fills its place. This is a sign of progress but it must come gradually. Adapt the old to the new but not in a revolutionary way. The new cultures have also dangers with problems to be solved, because people more interested in politics. To adopt new cultures aren’t suited to the peculiar needs and a danger particular place of characteristic. Vary culture by characteristics of its own in each place , harmonizing, however, with the a unity in diversity.
* Over react with a new born Panda, and forgot about Thai elephant which should be Thailand mascot.
* Feminism – need equal right of men and woman, promotion, compensation
* Royal petition – Thaksin
Most of the following newspaper clippings came from Bangkok Post and The Nation. They are all about Thai Youth issues here in Thailand. This is just some of The Youth issue in Thailand.
* Troubled teens can’t turn to teachers’ – Experts yesterday blamed the distant relationships between teachers and students as a cause in the surge of aggressive behaviour among youths.
* Bring them up RIGHT – The teenage students who went on separate shooting rampages last week may well have had their own particular reasons for doing so, but from a larger societal perspective, their violent actions were a reflection of the failure of the family unit, says family experts. (June 2003)
* Fighting: the first solution – Young people are physically fighting their way through life and say it’s not their fault (June 2003)
* Spending for the wrong reasons – Teen spending habits are often the subject of major contention in families. Unfortunately, it’s often too late to solve this laying out of cash (or use of credit cards) when the children are nearing adulthood. (May 2003)
* VOICE OF THE CHILDREN: ‘Give us totally free education’ – An “absolutely” free education for 12 years, native English teachers and computers top a students’ wish list, a seminar involving 300 children from around the country has revealed.