Readers' Submissions

Racism is Alive and Rampant

  • Written by Marc Holt
  • June 26th, 2009
  • 6 min read


When I left Australia more than 30 years ago the White Australia Policy (WAP) was official government policy. It was embarrassing to be an Aussie back then. The Thais would throw the WAP in my face whenever they could. It didn’t matter that I told them I was not a racist. How could I be? After all, I had elected to live among the very Asians the WAP was aimed at.

Nor did it make any difference to their perceptions that I married a Thai woman. I was, in their eyes, still a WAP racist. I was tarred by the mob.

It took a few years for Australia to finally strike down the WAP legislation and begin making an effort to integrate and accept the many different races that live here.

But that didn’t help much. The Vietnamese boat people who arrived found themselves shunted off to refugee camps that were far worse than the life they had expected. Poor sanitation, crowded conditions, difficulties dealing with the bureaucrats who were tasked with processing their applications to remain in Godzone. Nothing was easy for them.

Yet, once they managed to get out of the camps they tended to group together in the western suburbs of Sydney, or other ethnic enclaves just for protection and security. It didn’t take long for the Viet criminal gangs to get organized, and for some nasty battles to take place with racist Australian youths. I remember a party one night back in the 1990’s on the Sydney north shore. I looked across the valley at a huge fire burning, and read in the paper the next day that it was a factory burnt down by racists because the factory employed VN refugees.

Despite this, as time went on many of the VN refugees went on to make decent lives for themselves. They opened restaurants, went into business in a variety of fields and started integrating into Aussie culture.

Then along came the Middle Eastern refugees, bringing with them their Muslim culture. Again, racism reared its ugly head and the refugees suffered.

As I read the newspaper reports while I lived up in Bangkok I thought that maybe Australia and Australians had matured enough to become a truly multi-cultural melting pot. Perhaps even that racism was finally going away as each racial group integrated. But it seems that is not to be.

Just recently, Indian students in the Sydney western suburbs have become targets. Two youths have been badly beaten up and even stabbed. The Indians have grouped together to try and protect themselves from attack.

It’s a pity the schools here don’t teach kids about racism and how to avoid it. This video is definitely worth viewing. Perhaps all Australian and Thai schools should try teaching this…

Soon after I moved to Bangkok I quickly found out that the Thais were just as racist, perhaps more so, than the Aussies. However, it was a subtle form of racism. Official government policy blocks foreigners from working at various professions and jobs. Nor can they own property. And until recently, if a Thai woman married a foreigner she automatically lost her Thai citizenship. <Lost her citizenship? Are you sure about this?Stick> Fortunately, that has changed. But rampant racism continues in Thailand unabated.

Yet, we rarely meet overt racism. Instead, the Thais cloak it, sometimes with a smile while actually berating you in Thai. If you don’t speak Thai, or they think you cannot understand them, some Thais, especially the lower classes, will soon blurt out what they really think of you.

I had a mate who fell in love with a very low class Thai woman who worked in a factory. She must have been amazing in bed, because even if I was drunk and stoned out of my mind I would not have touched her. But he was smitten.

If only he had known that whenever she referred to him in conversations with her Thai friends she always called him ‘mun’…which is only used by low class Thais to refer to an animal, or in this case someone she didn’t respect.

Now, let’s say you decide to become a Thai to overcome the racist attitudes and become one of them. Right away you are going to run into barriers. It is extremely difficult and expensive to become a Thai citizen which then confers the right to vote, and so on.

How many foreigners have ever bothered to go that far?

Not too many in my experience. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I know who have become PRs or citizens and still have a couple of fingers left spare.

The immigration people were always asking me when I lived there why I didn’t apply for residency and then citizenship. I just pointed to my face and asked them if I could ever look like a Thai, and so be accepted as one? That quashed that question pretty quickly.

Even in private life foreigners find lots of examples of racism directed at them. A lot of westerners resent being called “farang” as it seems to be a racist epithet to them. Farang singles them out from Thais and sets them apart. No matter how hard a farung tries he or she can never become a Thai, even if they have gone the whole hog and become a citizen. You could flash your Thai ID card as much as you want but you still don’t look Thai. So you are not Thai. That’s final.

You want to take your Thai teeruk or family to a national park? Fine. Your Thai family gets in for 20 baht each. You pay ‘farung price’, unless you can prove you are a Thai. And even then some officials just will not accept it. I don’t know about you, but whenever I came across this type of discrimination I just turned my car around and drove away. I was damned if I was going to pay a racist price, no matter how they tried to justify it. And let’s not forget that the Thai government owns and manages the national parks, so racism is official policy.

What happens if you have a motor vehicle accident? Do the police give you a fair hearing and apportion blame where it belongs?

Of course not!

You are a farung. You have plenty of money. You pay.

It got to the stage when I was up there that I was seriously considering changing my name to “Youpay”.

I’m nothing if not fair, so don’t get all excited and accuse me of picking on the Thais. Just the other evening as my wife was talking to some of her Thai and Philippina friends outside a Thai restaurant, a carload of youths drove by and yelled out something nasty and racist about the Thais. My wife was understandably upset. But as I pointed out to her, they were just young ignorant kids who do not understand anything about the world yet.

And I was thinking to myself that the day will probably come soon enough that they will have their own bad experiences with Aussie women. Maybe they will marry and then get divorced, losing everything they own due to the male-adverse divorce laws here. Then they may end up going to Thailand in search of a beautiful Thai woman instead.

When they bring their Thai bride back home, let’s hope they don’t find that racism is still rampant in Australia.

But if it is, they do say that revenge is best taken cold and it will be their turn to suffer the taunts of ignorant, racist youths.

Stickman's thoughts:

When I was teaching it used to always amaze me when students said they did not want to study overseas because of the racism they would suffer. It is in fact much worse for foreigners here, although with that said, violence against people is not a problem here, at least not for Westerners whereas in the West, in some places, it's a very real issue.