Readers' Submissions

A Singapore Lady’s View 2

  • Written by Anonymous
  • August 9th, 2006
  • 7 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I've received a lot of encouraging emails from my last submission and once again I would like to thank those who took the time to share their views. A fair amount of you requested more input about Thailand from an Asian who is a non-Thai. So I thought, why not? If you are already familiar with Thailand's history, well, do let me know if I've made any mistakes. One can't claim to know it all!

When I was a student studying in Singapore, the history of Thailand (Siam, as it was called then) was featured prominently in history texts, apart from the founding of Singapore. While I shan't go into how our wicked teachers demanded that we memorize essays upon essays of dry history which happened centuries ago, it doesn't escape the fact that Siam had the most glorious legacy of civilization in the South East Asian region. While big boys like China and India were the strongholds in central Asia (do note: this is 15th – 18th century stuff), Siam had South East Asian kings paying suzerainty to the Kingdom of Siam. Now what's that all about?, you may ask. Evidently, the Kingdom of Siam was much feared by the local sultanates surrounding the country – like the federated states of Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos. Siam had a bigger army that could take over any smaller kingdom, so paying tributes of gold to the King of Siam was a way to avoid occupation. Now this wasn't always a voluntary homage and the Kingdom of Burma (now Myanmar) was always in confrontation with Siam. There have been plenty of wars between these two kingdoms and Siam has almost always come up victorious. These victories were being rubbed in the faces of the Burmese, as some became slaves to their Siamese lords. In fact, to this day, there is still some discrimination against the Burmese in Thailand and these migrants are mostly in the lower rungs of Thai society. So the next time you toss a coin to a street beggar in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, chances are they aren't originally Thai.

Coming to the 19th to 20th century, Siam had to contend with the influx of western traders from the East India Company. They were trying to do business with the sultanates who were the suppliers of exotic spice like pepper that was very valuable in the West. Suddenly, Siam found herself very vulnerable as she controlled most of the spice trade and the Westerners were hell bent on getting a slice of it. Since Siam's armies were no match to the power of western artillery, they started signing treaties and agreements to avoid being ruled by foreign powers <This sounds very familiarStick>. Soon, the entire South East Asia region was occupied by either the British, Dutch or Portuguese sovereignty – which explains why you see many historical styles of buildings in the South East Asian region but you'll be hard pressed to find any of these western architectural influence in Thailand. Even during World War II, Thailand managed to remain unoccupied by foreign powers by signing agreements to allow the Japanese armies to pass through their land to reach Malaysia and Singapore and wrestle these countries from the British. Till this day, the enemy has never had to invade Thailand, their sovereignty has never been broken and that partly explains the Thais' absolute respect for their King, not only because he is kind and wise.

In modern Thailand today, the Chinese whose ancestors have settled in Thailand are holding a lot of the nation's wealth. The pure Thais do have a cordial relationship with Thai Chinese, but like many local inhabitants the pure Thais do envy the Chinese knack for making money. This civil conflict is also present in Malaysia and Indonesia, and is the cause for much racial unrest. As you may have read of recent, the Thais aren't very pleased with their Prime Minister, especially when it was reported that he sold a major share of what is Thailand's core telecommunication estate to a Singapore government company (which is seen as a Chinese country). Some of their displeasure comes from the fact that he is also part Chinese and is a multi-millionaire in his own right. Some of you wrote to me and asked about Thai Chinese ladies, well for what I know, the parents of these Thai Chinese ladies often send their children abroad for studies, they are mostly highly educated and no, you won't be meeting them in your local gogo bars :) However, these ladies whom I expect to be extremely smart still manage to defy some logic. I shall relate this rather amusing episode I had during my flight to Tokyo from Bangkok: Finding my window seat being occupied by a Thai lady, I politely told her that she's in my seat. She frowned in a child-like way and said the seat assignment confused her but added that she would like to sit by the window. Now I'm not the sort to go into arguments and I was already dead tired. So I settled for the dreaded middle seat (economy class – Bleah) and hope I get some rest. Not long after, a Japanese man took up the aisle seat and before I knew what hit me, the Thai lady was trying to befriend him while I was stuck in the middle (literally) of halted English conversations. Turns out that this was the lady's first trip to Japan and she's a dentist on her way to a convention seminar in Tokyo. She had no idea how to get to her hotel and (I suppose) figured the best way was to warm up to the Japanese guy. It's funny in a way because this Japanese fellow has been away from his country for many years and I know the Tokyo rail system like the back of my hand (ok maybe just a fraction). But my attempts to explain how to get from point A to point B was met with blank stares, and the last I saw of her, she wasn't about to leave the Japanese guy alone by the baggage collection. Now I don't know about dentist qualifications but I certainly hope that includes at least a degree, which incidentally doesn't make a lady any smarter in directions. All I can say is, I hope she found her hotel.

So anyway, back to the article. Thinking back on those history lessons, I realise the nature of the famous Thai hospitality. While the traits of being kind and gracious has roots in Buddhist teachings, the Thais never had the misfortune of experiencing antagonism towards foreigners because they were never suppressed by any western power. In short you won't find Thai grandmothers telling their offspring nasty stories of white superiority. I guess that's why Thailand's tourism is still booming and they continue to welcome anyone to their country, with hardly any preconceived discrimination towards most races <Snigger, snigger… Stick>. I suppose this also lends a hand in their partner choices as I've seen some Thai girls here in Singapore having Bangladeshi boyfriends, having a laugh with Africans and marrying Singaporeans (oh yes they love Singaporean men).

Someone wrote to me expressing surprise about marriages of Thai women to Asian men, which by far supercede those of marriages to western men. I don't find it such a surprise, while westerners go to Thailand in search of a good time, Asian men from Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines – to name a few, go to Thailand, China, Cambodia and Vietnam to find a wife. This search for a life partner in a poorer country is no different than westerners from rich countries going to Eastern Europe to find a subservient spouse. While I haven't head of any horror stories of such unions, they do make the news once in a while, of Singaporean males being squandered of their savings and their Asian brides ran away after getting their permanent residence status.

So there, I hope this submission has answered some of your questions. Thanks once again for your emails. Don't ever be afraid to approach Singaporean ladies and liven up their lives, spare a little love for this tiny island while you are on transit to Bangkok next time :)

Stickman's thoughts:

A nice read. Don't stop there…. Why not tell us about the Thai community in Singapore, of Western guys meeting Singaporean women down there – and whatever else you care to write about!