Readers' Submissions

The Normal Side of Thailand, Statistically Speaking

  • Written by Professor
  • September 14th, 2011
  • 5 min read

Many thanks to all of you who wrote in with positive response to my submission “The Mysterious Second World of Thailand”. I received dozens of emails complimenting the submission and asking for more submissions about the “Normal Thailand” (that is, the non- bar scene Thailand.)

The point of my original submission was to speak to those people who have never talked with a Thai outside of a bar and who think that Isaan bar girls are representative of all Thai people. I said in my submission that there was another world out there, a normal world, of regular people who went to the office, helped their kinds with homework, and never went to a girly bar.

Here are some responses:

Just a few words to say how much I enjoyed your post. What you describe has been largely my experience with Thailand and Thai people. My in-laws are very solid people and in many ways no different than good people in my own American city. My Thai wife and her 5 sisters are the hardest working people I have ever met. They are all great people and I have very solid proof that they can be trusted without question. What I have found is most of the Thais are a lot more like us than not. The “bar” industry is a very small part of Thailand.”

I enjoyed reading your submission. I bet that will be letter of the week on Sunday. Keep writing in as it would be good to know what respectable, normal people do in LOS. I am especially interested in the business side of Thai life as I am a business person myself.”

Excellent essay from you on Stickman, "The Mysterious Second World Of Thailand”. Thank you for taking your time to write as you have. All my experiences here confirm your observations. Including your observations about the limited horizons of most farang. Unfortunately, those farang who could most benefit from what you wrote, are those least likely to read it.”

I just wanted to let you know that your submission was right on the money! There is so much more to Thailand that most Farangs never see

As a woman, I must say , after reading the same old thing again and again about the horror of Thai bargirls , it is indeed a breath of fresh air to read something like yours, where you put things more in perspective and show that in Thailand, or any part of Asia for that matter, there are really different ways of life and most of us do live normally and the bargirl scene is just a tiny part of what that whole country is all about.”

However, I did receive one negative response, from a gentlemen who had lived in Thailand for some time, and asserted that Thais were “the stupidest people in Asia” and also "absolutely the most dishonest, corrupt, and lewd people on the face of the earth."

I did not say in my submission that all Thais were smart, honest, or non-racist. By saying that Thais were "normal" I meant that they had the same strengths and weaknesses of all people around the world. Of course you can find dishonest racist Thais, same as you can find in America, Europe or anywhere else in Asia.

This negative response got me thinking, and I wanted to see what facts I could find to better describe and define the Normal Thai.

1- Do Thais have a low IQ?

While there are many studies, the most recent from July 2011 showed that the average Thai IQ's was 99, just below global norm. IQ's were lowest in the Northeast, which the researchers found was due to low iodine consumption. But in Bangkok, IQ’s were at 104.

http://www.edvantage.com.sg/edvantage/news/news/687304/Thai_students_found_below_global_average.html

2- – An older study, from 2006, shows IQ's from Indonesia and the Philippines being lower than Thailand.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_Global_Inequality

3- Are Thais the most corrupt people in the world?

There is no question that corruption exists in Thailand. The question is, is it worse elsewhere?

The most respectable quantitative analysis of corruption and dishonesty is from Transparency International. While the 2010 results certainly show Thailand as having weak scores on corruption, at 3.5 out of 10, many other countries including Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam Laos, India, Cambodia and The Philippines all score lower. In fact, Thailand’s country ranking was 78 out of 178 countries, putting it in the top 50%.

http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results

4- Are Thais the most “lewd” people on earth?

I really didn't know how to address this remark. The best I could come up with was an index of rapes/population, where Thailand ranks 27th in the world, after the US, UK, Australia and Canada…oh yes, and New Zealand.

Now we all know that many rapes in Thailand are not reported, and in the west many “rapes” are reported that may not be considered a crime in other countries. Be that as it may, the statistics certainly show that for reported violent sexual crime, many western countries fare worse than Thailand.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita

5- Are all Thai men “bad”, that is do they divorce their wives and leave them without support?

Comparative divorce rates by country are hard to reconcile, and the math involved in doing the calculations is harder than I would have suspected. However, many sites show that the divorce rate in Thailand is significantly below that in the west…88% below the US, 82% below the UK and 78% below New Zealand.

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_div_rat-people-divorce-rate

So what is the conclusion? Statistically, Thais are of average intelligence, corrupt, but less corrupt than most other Asian countries, with low divorce rates and low incidences of sexual crimes.

On that note, I will leave you. Thais are not perfect, neither are they the monsters many writers to Stickman make them out to be. They are NORMAL.


Stickman's thoughts:

I don't know if "normal" is the word I would have used…and I don't think the surveys you allude to really support the point you're trying to make. When using statistics to make or reinforce a point is good the stats need to be relevant.