Are Some Thais Jealous of Foreigners

My friend Sengdeuan has a Taiwanese partner. He speaks both fluent Thai and the local dialect. He has been in Thailand for 15 years and has built up three businesses, mainly exporting quality bamboo products overseas. Tonight, he was explaining the difficulties for a foreigner working in this country. Thais, he claimed, are not even-handed in dealing with non-Thai business owners.

Despite the Taiwanese being similar to Thais in appearance, he is still a foreigner and seen as competing with Thai entrepreneurs while living in a Thai village. Lee and his Thai wife support the local community. They make donations to the local wat. Sengdeuan paid her respects at the funeral of Dta Sompet (Thailand Take Two: End of a Life,) and her husband opened up their factory parking area for the mourners’ cars. Yet Lee would still be referred to as kon taiwan by those who do not know his name. (Farang is used only for white-skinned Westerners, kon plus nationality for Asians)

When Lee first arrived in Thailand, there was some local opposition to his setting up a small factory even though he would be recruiting local labour. He dealt with the bureaucratic paperwork which he knew would be tiresome but inevitable. He did not appreciate some locals throwing stones at his factory roof. The pooyaibaan did not seem too keen to involve himself in a dispute with a newly arrived foreigner. Lee threw the stones back at them. The trouble stopped though atmospheres were strained.

Taiwan is economically more developed than Thailand and Lee thought some jealousy was creeping in when the locals saw his hard work and long hours paying dividends as his business steadily grew.

There is a mood of distrust and suspicion in all Thais. Although Mai pen rai is a strong force that sometimes means it does not matter what others do, some Thais resent the fortunes of others. There can be an attitude of jealousy when people are more successful than you are.

Thais generally accept their place in society and follow the rules of their country’s pecking order closely. A hint of resentment is always in the background. It is never discussed openly and facial expressions will not betray what the Thai is really feeling. Much of the gossiping that habitually takes place in Thai society revolves around the jealousy of others.

Sengdeuan agreed with Lee that it was an unfortunate feature of many Thai people. Thais are fervently patriotic and can resent foreigner success.

She added, “I am Thai, but I am uncomfortable with the envy I see every day in some of my fellow Thais.”

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