Thailand Culture and Current Events

After reading our post on popular islands and its best beaches in Thailand, a friend asked about travel to Bangkok and the beaches.  His concern was with the current political unrest in Thailand, detailed almost daily by The New York Times’ coverage of Thailand. Should he go or stay away?   When will it end?  Is this normal for Thailand? Fair questions.

First the news is improving.  Things have changed quickly with the 4 months of protesting and for the better.   Secondly, while the protest may not be “normal”, it appears the Thais are pulling it off, while holding onto key aspects of its culture.

Below is a summary of news as of today, and then a discussion of Thailand Culture, and what changed with the protests.

International News Summary

According to the UK’s Daily Mail news on March 3, 2014.”Bangkok ‘shutdown’ comes to an end as protesters clear camps at road intersections, By Sarah Gordon”  “Tourists are able to travel around Bangkok, after demonstrators moved their camps from the city’s major road intersections to a nearby park”.

The UK Daily mail news article went on to say that protester’s tents are now in Lumpini Park in Bangkok. With  the demonstrations moved away, roads and traffic can once again flow.  Finally, the protesters will begin the clean-up of the 4-month siege on intersections, themselves. This was a protester decision.

How does this Protest square with the well known Thailand Culture?

According to Wikipedia, Thailand is different than western culture in may ways.  To begin, its 65+ million people’s origin are 75% Thai, 14% Chinese 14%, and 11% other.  Citizen religions are Buddhists (95%), with the remained being Muslim (3.8%), Christian (0.5%) and Hindu at 0.1%.  Since 1932, the government of Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy.

As a result of this unique blend, Thailand’s culture is based upon having a non-colonized origin, and its majority following the principles of Buddhism.

For example, we read often of its Thailand/Buddhist culture, such as:

  • Public Respect:   For Monks, Government, King, Royal family, Elders, Temples and Holy Places, Holy Objects
  • Daily Courtesy:  To Strangers, Animals, and Family
  • Pleasant Greetings:  Frequent Smile and Wai (historically); and Smile and Handshake (recently)
  • Patience:  Limited Confrontation; deference to elders and other opinions
  • Public Privacy:  Limited Public shows of affections; limited photos;
  • Positive Appearance:  Strive to be neat, clean, well dressed, and have attention to detail
  • High Sanitation:  High, even in poorer areas
  • Relaxed Life Tempo:  Relaxed, Slower pace.  i.e., Sabai Sabai – “take it easy/relax”, and  Mai Pen Rai translated as “never  mind”.
  • Inner Strength:   Resilience to difficult situations, self defence, justice
  • Important/Unique Customs:  Not touching top of head; not pointing its toes, or lifting it feet, toward people, and holy objects; limited physical, person contact in public; no woman to physically contact a Monk; and use only red wrapping paper when giving a gift to a Chinese Thai.

So, one would ask, how then could these patient, respectful people protest, and for 4 months?  Well, I suppose, everyone has limits, even the Thais.  But how they ended the protest, appears all Thai.

Thais are Ending the Protest True to their Culture

They protested for 4 months, and then pulled back without a great deal of bloodshed, and with victory within their grasp.   Then, they decided to organize a protest-lead cleanup. Have you ever heard of  a protester lead clean-up?  I never did.

Well, the cleanup is underway this week, following Thai protester’s move to Lumpini Park.

Summary

Protests are rare, but what’s normal here is that Thai people appear to hold to their culture, even when confrontation – undesired – is necessary.

So go to Thailand, and meet the people, and see their cities, islands –  and of course  – their best beaches.

CL Beach March 5, 2014

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