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Thread: The Cultural and Class Structure of Thai Society

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    The Cultural and Class Structure of Thai Society

    Thailand has a highly stratified society Spot , best imagined as a pyramid with the K!ng at its apex , and the mass of common farmers at the bottom.
    Insomuch as that Thailand has never been conquered by a foreign power and colonised and therefore had its system changed/modified, its roots may be said to be feudal , rather like Europe had through the middle ages.

    Directly under the K!ng is his Nobles ( think Dukes and Barons) . These are fabulously wealthy , and have highly paid positions , some honourary and some real jobs.
    ( Read the first 6 paragraphs here .... Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Thai elite in denial over new Thailand)
    Of course , in modern times , they have used this position of power to gain partnerships in massive business ( if you wanted to bring Coca Cola /Sheraton etc to Thailand , you sought one of these out as a partner to 'smooth' your way , and the law says you need a Thai partner). If your name is 'Ayudhya' for example , you are pretty much untouchable.

    Theoretically below them is the 'warrior class' , the Military Elite ( think Knights), who are often children of the above , though some have risen up the ranks from outstanding service to the K!ng/Elite and created family dynasties thereafter. The Sarasin family is often sighted as a Chinese Thai family who managed to attain entrenched power despite being 'farang'.
    ( Sarasin family - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )
    This strata have been naughty boys in the last century , setting up many coups , and subverting the Thais idea of democracy. But mark my words , they wouldnt have been able to do so without the private wink of those above them.
    Nearly equal in rank were/are the beauracrats ( think scribes/European clergy), whose ability to control the documents of the land gave them special powers to in many ways control the Kingdom. Youve probably been in a government building , and these always have displayed a pyramid of passport size photos demonstrating the departments own vision of its power structure. Of course nowadays the ' apex person' could be a politician , but you can bet hes either sourced from one of the categories above OR has a member of the Elite as his Patron.
    Of course , below them is the business class , shop owners and the like that in modern times have the ability to become a Mr Woolworth ,if a canny businessman , and as his wealth rises , so does his power , much to the annoyance of those above ... They may seek to placate him with some honorary titles , or absorb him as a lower member of their ranks ...
    But if he chooses to follow the path Taksin did , and use the very recent democratic reforms to gain votes as a populist politician , well then , those 'above' him arent going to take that lying down. They see that as a threat to their power. They used the Bangkok elite ( the Yellow shirts) to topple Taksins government in his absence.
    Thus the political trouble of recent times.
    ( He was clever enough to cut the Prince into many a very profitable deal , and thereby gain a lot of protection to save himself from Elite , who are in the end , the Royal subordinates...)

    Of course , the overwhelming majority is your partner and mine and their families , the farm hands and factory fodder ( think , The Serfs) , who up until now , have been pretty happy to be left alone to grow their rice and tend their gardens.
    The fact that Thailand is geographically a fairly bounteous land ( there has been no famines that would surely foment unrest or revo1ution ) has probably ensured this old system has survived for so long...

    We falang and foreign business owners sit side-by-side with that heirachy. , something apart.
    We are foreigners , and will never really be integrated into Thai society , no matter how long we live here.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Spot's Avatar
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    Thankyou P Chob, goes back to me being happy in the village. Don't stick my head up, dont become a target, go with the flow and trust the village elders to take care of you. Contribute and participate at this level adn dont draw attention and reap the rewards of the Village. Suits me fine..

    Australia is perhaps even more convoluted, I was a vcitim of high level corruption, my problem was I thought it was wrong and did not exist, until I met it head on a lost out big time.

    Hence I live back in my home town (Village) where you can see the bad guys through the trees. Another reason I like Village life... Khup
    Ohhhh, Pigsy! You call yourself a demon? จูบก้นของฉัน Everything I post here is IMHO and IME... I am no expert....

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    Yeh fine.

    Just to demonstrate....

    I was at Divers 'Table of Wisdom' ( 555) y/day afternoon , and a fellow arrived who was a white male and very conversant and well educated.
    He was actually a Thai ( and Aus) passport carrying national , born here , and running a division of is parents small and deli goods nationwide company.
    Of course , he was fluent in 4 Thai dialects , and he also had degrees from Thai and Australian universities.
    He said that for all his Thai-ness , he didnt really have Thai friends.
    Oh , he dined and partied with Thais all the time , but at say a business dinner , the Thai men would convene to a private lounge to get down to nitty gritts , but he would not be invited , and have to stay on sitting with the wives and Mia Nois.

    He said , "Its simple , you cant BE Thai , if you dont LOOK Thai...."
    He said that was probably the case with most Asians.

    This made me appreciate more fully the often heard statements by Asian immigrants on how truly friendly they see the people of Aus/US/Canada/NZ are to them. They know that their own countries would never be so inclusive if the situation was reversed...
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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    Read from below 'Thonburi and the Bangkok Period' on here to see what happened to the Chakri Dynasty ( the current Ramas)....

    History of Thailand - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Keep in mind that no monarchy is without its intrigues , enen one such as Thailand has wherein the K!ng is almost a demi-god, and there are always nobles attempting to usurp power over perceived injustices or favouritism or claimed linear inheritances. But nowhere is there a 'peoples uprising' as happened in France or Russia or China or Vietnam.

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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน PeteGill's Avatar
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    Nice breakdown Chob. Actually there are similarities in the African way of doing things Not as well defined, but there are similarities.Just replace royalty with head of state and nobles with politicians / chiefdom's.
    They all operate from top down and look after themselves and family first.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    Well these leaders werent elected.
    They were strong men warriors who fought their way to the top both in battle , and in the internal squabblings of the tribes.
    To the victor goes the spoils , and they took as many spoils as they could.
    And they usually insisted on 90% of any of their subjects spoils as well.

    Thai kings managed to make that idea sound like they were being generous!
    Sending armies against the Laos , the Khmer , and the Southern tribes , some K!ngs offered 10% of any lands gained to be shared by warriors who chose to stay on.
    Not a bad psychology really , give peasant warriors border lands , and you can be pretty sure those men will fight off any more attacks or attempts by the enemy to regain it with a certain determination .

    The Chakri ( Current) Dynasty did something positive shortly after they took power but.
    They ceased hostilities with the minority tribes living within Siams borders , and attempted to integrate them into the larger society.
    They also rewarded tribes who stood by them in war.
    The Mon are a noticeable example here.
    The Mons , being slaughtered by the Burmese , the Thais age old nemisis , were given safe passage into Thailand , and founded large communities all over the kingdom.
    Theres a great island to visit in Bkk that is a Mon community. I really enjoyed my 3 hour walk around there...

    Ko Kret travel guide - Wikitravel

    There is even a Baan Mon in Patong BTW!
    Last edited by Chob; 30th December 2012 at 00:36.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    From Wiki....."Tai peoples who originally lived in southwestern China, migrated into mainland Southeast Asia over a period of many centuries. The oldest known mention of their existence in the region by the exonym Siamese is in a 12th century A.D. inscription at the Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which refers to syam, or "dark brown" people.[1] It was believed that Siam derived from the Hindi word shyam, or brown race, with a contemptuous signification..."

    Who would have thought that one name for Thai is Siam and means 'dark skinned'?
    I now ponder Thais preoccupation with skin colour...

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน meese's Avatar
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    thanks for the above info...did not realise how close the Thai way is to the african way...Just becouse an African is elected does not change things....Many in the rural areas will vote as the chief instructs them..Think we can have a good chat about this over a nice bottle of red..555

    i have always struggled to pin point where people fit into there so called class with Australians..but have always found it easy with the poms...perhaps becouse the two countries are so close

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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน PeteGill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chob View Post
    Well these leaders werent elected.
    They were strong men warriors who fought their way to the top both in battle , and in the internal squabblings of the tribes.
    To the victor goes the spoils , and they took as many spoils as they could.
    And they usually insisted on 90% of any of their subjects spoils as well.
    Again not that different to Africa, firstly tribal battles and the spoils going to the victors. Later the fight against Apartheid here in SA and many of those involved in the struggle securing top positions in the government.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Spot's Avatar
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    Meese we have prided ourselves since just past the convict days and then the demise of the Squatocrasy, when a hard working man can be a self made man, that we then had no class system.

    We invented the "Tall Poppy Syndrome" "yep mate so you made a couple of million just dont go thinking you are better than the rest of us" We are working hard and doing our best.

    Unfortunately we are heading into another class system. A marked increase in Lower class or Bogans or Nuf Nuffs in the vernacular. Multiple generations and still breeding who have never worked and live off welfare..

    Still inequality for indigenous Australians (Now this is a big topic.... sheesh - I have no answers)

    Quote Meese " i have always struggled to pin point where people fit into there so called class with Australians..but have always found it easy with the poms...perhaps becouse the two countries are so close ..."

    Sorry mate I keep looking back at this and am unsure what you meant?
    Ohhhh, Pigsy! You call yourself a demon? จูบก้นของฉัน Everything I post here is IMHO and IME... I am no expert....

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    Foundation Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Sydney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spot View Post

    Still inequality for indigenous Australians (Now this is a big topic.... sheesh - I have no answers
    Not wrong there Spot....big topic and hard to find answers

    My only comment and one i have taught my kids.....they are not as primative as we think, and maybe its us white folk thats more primative...anyone who can survive and make the land survive for 40 - 80 thousand years gets my vote as smart...look what we have done in 200 years, in terms of distruction
    The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Chob's Avatar
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    I think that the classes have been well disguised in Australia since about the irreverant 70's but have nonetheless continued to exist , Khun Meese.
    I pick that era because I was around then , and recall seeing that about that time , society had begun to embrace a feeling of challenging the status quo , and events such as the unpopular Vietnam War and the sacking of the elected Prime Minister by the Queens representative ( an entrenched symbol of class ) only served to convince the majority that the our ' betters' were losing the plot and not to be blindly followed as we had before.
    The hippy era contributed to that feeling across much of the Western world , I guess.

    Still , the power elite were there , perhaps a tad quieter than before , but directing sporting boards and attempting to keep archaic rules in place , and of course , directing corporations and puting up their sons for political posts.
    Since virtually everyone that made good in Australia had arrived by boat , or was the offspring of immigrants , Australians on the lower rungs could be soothed by the idea that anyone ( if white) could make good if they only worked hard... never mind that those who arrived early enough , and ran the blackfellas off their land , invariably were entrenched and wielded somewhat unequal power.

    Dynasties: Sir Sidney Kidman

    And being a country boy , the 'squatters' as Spot refers to...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting_(pastoral)



    Still , as far as democracies went , there was lots to crow about in the 60's.
    A nation that had never experienced war on its shores , a strong election turn out due to compulsory voting laws , the woman had the vote , plenty of well payed work and proper labour protection laws ( for then), massive public works ( The Snowy River Irrigation Scheme etc) a harmonious society devoid of racial or demographic tensions , and in fairness , a place where new immigrants could truly rise quickly through the ranks. Thy could even make good money from farming! ( Riverina development)

    Frank Lowy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Unlike South Africa , the indigenous folk were a very small percent , and had been dessimated by disease and alcoholism, as well as murder. There lands were the governments , to be leased to the Elite who could come up with a grand plan and make a revenue and tax generator.

    I grew up in a migrant area on the outskirts of western Sydney , and watched immigrant neighbours ( Italians , Greeks , Slavs , GBs ) become Mayors and prominent businessmen through pretty much legal means. My next door neighbour was the Gatellaris , 13 Italians living , for the first 5 years at least , in a shed.

    Rocky Gattellari - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    But to deny that the harbourside citizens of Vaucluse and Mosmen werent of a different or advantaged class and that their presence in the political and economics spheres of influence more numerous on a percentage basis , would be naive. Things changed for the better , if you were working class anyway, as the 70s and 80s progressed.

    An era of truly Free University education at ALL universities, in which I participated , only served to further weaken the Voice of the Elite , and it also served to give the aristocratic kids a good dose of 'normalcy' by exposing them to the ideas and ways of the working classes , something their parents had never had in expensive Fee Paying Universities before.
    Now not every rich kid graduated o a higher paying job, because academic achievement over-ruled a willingness to keep paying fees till 'junior' passed , and those of the upper crust that did graduate to run Fathers company , did so with a new gained knowledge of how to appear more blended than Father had.
    Hell , some even took home working class girlfriends.

    The 70s thru the 90s was also an era of rampant Unionism ( often detrimental) and the rise of active Environmentalism, further challenging the idea that old money could do what it wanted with the lands and nobody would challenge it.
    Corporations run by free wheeling elites , and their new foreign financiers , had their wings clipped by waterside workers refusing to load socially or environmentally dubious cargos , unions and then local councils started refusing to demolish historically significant buildings and suburbs , students turned about en masse to see unjust laws repealed , forests protected etc and usually got a smile from the now more egalitarian minded Australian population.....
    Juanita Nielsen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jack Mundey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I can only speak for Sydney here , but this sort of thing was happening right across Australia then , even out at nuclear testing sites in the middle of the desert , like Woomera.
    Aborigines at last got a vote , and shamefully , some argued against that , then won land rights stopping uncontrolled exploitation of their lands by big business, and populist politicians arose and stopped the wholesale rape of forests and raised land degradation as a political platform ...

    Peter Garrett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    How the Wet Tropics was won - CAFNEC


    All around , this era was a time of a raising of conciousness in the average Australian IMO, as they were now asked to express their opinion on issues only ever the domain of government and big business before...

    The way I see it now , its somewhat different.
    Money and elitism is all about how much cash one has NOW , in todays Australia... well Sydney anyway.
    No one gives a toss about titles anymore , its what you can buy , and how patient you are about waiting for governmental approval to receive the windfall.
    If you can put up with the paperwork and put up the money , you are then somewhere on the way up , or even part of the new elite.
    Of course some of the old 'gentry' are still up there , and it'd be interesting to see how many.

    Whether there exists a Power Elite now in Australia as I have come to believe is evident in the US is doubtful , simply because the Military component is insignificant .
    (Well worth reading : The Power Elite - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

    But there is certainly a concentrated group of companies and people like Gina Reinhart , the Murdoch and Fairfax families , and the likes of Lowy and BHP and others, who wield enormous influence over Australias current well being , and its future.
    While its an annoyance to nearly everyone , such things as Environmental Impact Statements , public input on large developments and governmental investigations on all aspects of change has certainly curtailed the wholesale degeneration of the Australian landscape that was occuring when I was a child in the 60's.
    It cant be all bad considering Australias enviable position when measuring life chances and personal wealth and freedoms with other nations...
    Last edited by Chob; 30th December 2012 at 17:35.

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน meese's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spot View Post
    Meese we have prided ourselves since just past the convict days and then the demise of the Squatocrasy, when a hard working man can be a self made man, that we then had no class system.

    We invented the "Tall Poppy Syndrome" "yep mate so you made a couple of million just dont go thinking you are better than the rest of us" We are working hard and doing our best.

    Unfortunately we are heading into another class system. A marked increase in Lower class or Bogans or Nuf Nuffs in the vernacular. Multiple generations and still breeding who have never worked and live off welfare..

    Still inequality for indigenous Australians (Now this is a big topic.... sheesh - I have no answers)

    Quote Meese " i have always struggled to pin point where people fit into there so called class with Australians..but have always found it easy with the poms...perhaps becouse the two countries are so close ..."

    Sorry mate I keep looking back at this and am unsure what you meant?
    i think wheather you like it or not all countries have a class system..its just there..its never going to change....for eg you called me mate....yes i know its a common word in aussie but would that not put you in a certain class system???..im might be wrong but unlikely to hear a judge call someone mate.. please dont get me wrong..im just trying to illustrate a point...(would be worried if you did not call me mate 555)
    i suppose it all boils down to what kind of work you do...that puts you into differant class systems and of course differant accents....thats why i made the comment that its easy for me to tell where a pom fits in rather than an aussie...becouse of the accents
    btw it does not bother me one way or the other...i try to treat people as equally as possible...and hope they treat me the same.now that i think about it im middle class guy who has done okay...hope im making more sense Spot

    to answer you question...agree sorry not clear now that i have re read it....easy to tell as regards the poms becouse saffa and uk are so closely linked....dont come across many aissies wondering around here..so hard for me to tell
    Last edited by meese; 30th December 2012 at 18:03.

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    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน PeteGill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sydney View Post
    Not wrong there Spot....big topic and hard to find answers

    My only comment and one i have taught my kids.....they are not as primative as we think, and maybe its us white folk thats more primative...anyone who can survive and make the land survive for 40 - 80 thousand years gets my vote as smart...look what we have done in 200 years, in terms of distruction
    People who were (and still are) able to survive off the land and often in harsh conditions were often branded (and again still are by many ) as being uncivilized. But if you look how they took very little and then moved on to allow the land to regenerate. They were 'green" and left almost no carbon footprint long before we westerners ever thought up the concept..
    Like you i take my hat off to them and realise that there is a lot that they can teach us.

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    The artist formally known as Wabbits Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน wabbits's Avatar
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    What a great thread look forward to delving in here need to do some research first try and do some lernin first.
    .

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Zablive's Avatar
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    Thanks for starting this very interesting thread Chobby.

    One small correction - Australia did suffer "War on its shores"

    Pacific War

    The bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was both the first and the largest single attack mounted by a foreign power against Australia. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin's harbour and the town's two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasions of Timor and Java. The town was only lightly defended, and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves. The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids, and there were a number of civilian casualties.

    This event is, on occasion, referred to as the "Pearl Harbor of Australia".[2] The Japanese raid was not like the Pearl Harbour raid, since Australia had declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 so the Japanese were legitimally attacking an enemy. Although it was a less significant military target, a greater number of bombs were dropped on Darwin than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbor.[3][4] The Australian government downplayed the damage from the bombing raids on Darwin believing its publication would represent a psychological blow to the Australian population.[5] The raids were the first and largest of almost 100 air raids against Australia during 194243.
    Contents

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Zablive's Avatar
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    What interests me - and is probably more relevant to us here than the upper echelons of Thai society is the class structure within the "working class"
    Apart from tribal distinctions (Baan Mon being a good local example) you have non-tribal village distinctions, each with their own power structure.

    For example - Kamala contains 5 villages, each with a headman and presumably a power structure under him.
    Our village, Hua Kwan, is not noticeably different to and is contiguous with the rest of Kamala.
    However, we have our own water supply.

    Kamala Orbortor has some over-reaching powers over the villages but, being a largely Muslim area, so does the Iman.
    The Orbortor's building is opposite the mosque.

    It makes it very difficult to know sometimes who is "The Man" to deal with to get things done - you don't want to pay the wrong person! 555

    As I understand it the power pyramid locally goes Poo Yai Baan - Kamnan (in our case the Iman) - Orbortor.
    eg. We were recently asked for 20,000 baht to expedite the process of granting our chanote title for our land.
    As I was aware that this was in a long queue at Phuket Land Office I couldn't see the connect with paying our village headman (Poo Yai Baan)
    Besides the delay wasn't affecting us in any way (other than delaying a neighbouring development).
    He lost the election 3 weeks later ...
    Last edited by Zablive; 1st January 2013 at 12:22.

  18. #18
    ประเทศไทยเพื่อน Founding Member Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Changone's Avatar
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    Culture is first and foremost about what people do together for a common benefit.
    This will almost always involve spiritual beliefs and time honoured ways of doing things.

    Class on the other hand is more about the structure through which individuals can bring about change.
    After that it becomes an exercise in bringing about a redirection of power through personal and political influence at a number of levels.

    Power elites are organized groups within a class system that have achieved additional power through leverage.
    Armies, Police, Religious leaders, Tribal chiefs and Criminal gang leaders are among the power elites.

    Further down the totem pole, other legitimate organizations with less power, such as local government will then marshall their share of the pie by holding individuals and businesses responsible for contributing a share of their wealth toward local causes.

    Our traditional view of the class system as being the freehold of a few "Named" families is flawed. Even the view that some countries are "Classless" is equally flawed. There are new classes of people springing up to fill the void every day.

    Don't mistake Snobbery for Class distinction either.
    A bunch of Toffs at a country club are not usually the movers and shakers that matter to those in power. Often they are the "Class rejects" who haven't the wherewithall to organize themselves, let alone anyone else.

    That being said, having money and power doesn't automatically confer class.
    Oh but you can buy it in spades. Just ask Aristotle Onassis.

    Class will always depend on acceptance. And that means who you have interacted with and how along the way. This is especially true in the Thai system.

    Thats about my two cents worth.

    jontymate likes this.
    And where the hell was Biggles.....?....when you needed him last Saturday....?

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    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Spot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sydney View Post
    Not wrong there Spot....big topic and hard to find answers

    My only comment and one i have taught my kids.....they are not as primative as we think, and maybe its us white folk thats more primative...anyone who can survive and make the land survive for 40 - 80 thousand years gets my vote as smart...look what we have done in 200 years, in terms of distruction
    "Like" mate I taught my kids the same, no bogans there until we arrived and shat on them.... Whoops this is a whole nother thread and cannot be dealt with easily. I'll think about it for a bit but wonderring what Meese, VG, PeteGill th... Nah its too big and this is TD.... I'll drop it here.
    Ohhhh, Pigsy! You call yourself a demon? จูบก้นของฉัน Everything I post here is IMHO and IME... I am no expert....

  20. #20
    Uber Star Soi wanderer Thai Dreamer ผู้เพ้อฝัน Spot's Avatar
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    I think this is a short Cut to what Chob was referencing in regard to the Squatocrasy Khup

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting_(pastoral)

    Also in deference and support of Chobs post. I know Jonty doesnt have the time but JC Mike etc.. a comment on the Joh Bjelke Petersen's years in QLD... I never started work up thier until 95, but the stories I was told... Sheesh... And the stories off the land on how the Blackfellas and the land degradation was a race against time when Qld had to catch up with the rest of Aus, probably similar stories from west of the dog fence.....
    Ohhhh, Pigsy! You call yourself a demon? จูบก้นของฉัน Everything I post here is IMHO and IME... I am no expert....

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