About a month ago, Richard Barrow posted an extremely controversial photo on his social media (as seen above) – it showed a sign outside the Temple of the Reclining Buddha saying, ‘ONLY THAI PEOPLE, NOW NOT OPEN FOR FOREIGNERS’. Apart from the sign’s dodgy English, it highlighted what many foreigners living in Thailand have been experiencing for years. This was by no means a one-off incident and it illustrates the long-standing xenophobic mentality of Thai boomers, which I fear may eventually be passed down to the younger generation.
I felt the urge to write about this issue after having a discussion with my dad about the temple’s decision. At first, I thought he had an interesting viewpoint: he said that they simply didn’t want any visitors due to the COVID-19 situation, and that the only reason it was open for Thais was because they couldn’t restrict religious Buddhists from visiting the temple for too long. Then, as any sane person would, I asked him why they did not simply specify, ‘only Buddhists allowed’, which to me would make more sense if that were really the case. In response, he said that Buddhists are taught not to discriminate against religion, so could not write that. In what world is one prohibited from discriminating against religion, yet freely allowed to discriminate against nationality? This seems to reflect the ideology of most Thais his age, especially the more privileged ones; they do not bother to note that some Thais are not Buddhist, whilst some foreigners are. Richard Barrow is an expat of 30 years and even explained IN THAI to the temple’s staff that he was only there to ‘pay respects to the Buddha’ – to which they simply replied, ‘no tourists allowed’. If this was not enough, a spokesman for the temple later told the press that they did this for the ‘safety of visitors’ and ‘because most Covid-19 cases were found in foreigners’. This may make sense in some contexts, but no foreigner has been allowed to enter the country for at least a month now – Thais are at the very least just as likely to have the virus. Other events which have surfaced recently, such as one instance where a foreigner was prevented from entering a bank due to ‘being foreign’, are finally exposing this issue.
This is extremely worrying for expats, especially those with Thai spouses (or spice if you prefer). The fact that no foreigner has been allowed to enter the country for the past few months might seem to make some sense; however, this has been carried out in an exceedingly ruthless fashion. My mum’s friend, who has a South African husband, had to leave him behind on holiday because only she and her children could enter the country. Once again, this was not a one-off incident – multiple couples have shared similar experiences on social media.
Government-run tourist attractions have also been discriminating against foreigners for years. National parks and other attractions charge foreigners up to 10 times more than they charge Thais for entry – this includes anyone who does not have a Thai I.D., with no exceptions being made. The usual reasoning behind this is that foreigners have more money, but you can also see the common pitfalls of this argument. This dual pricing would not be as much of a problem if it were not so difficult to become a naturalised Thai citizen. Even if you have married a Thai citizen, lived in the country for decades, and pay taxes, you are still highly unlikely to gain Thai citizenship. Therefore, this rule often stops mixed-race families who are not so well-off from visiting these attractions, as the price of entry for one of the parents would be too expensive. It is nice to see that movements aimed to combat and raise awareness for this problem, like Richard Barrow’s '#2pricethailand', are starting to gain some traction.
Unfortunately, this xenophobic behaviour is actively encouraged by the current regime, which was ever so democratically elected. In early March, a viral video of the Public Health Minister calling all Westerners dirty made the rounds on Thai social media. Meanwhile, he praised Chinese tourists for wearing masks and being respectful. If you ask any stall vendor in Bangkok, they will be the first to tell you that the Chinese tourists are the far more disrespectful of the two groups, and a few would likely opt not to service any of them if it weren’t for their lavish spending habits. It can only be feared that, like Australia and Germany, the CCP and their money are starting to infiltrate our government.
With all the efforts to promote equality going on around the world right now, tourists and expats – whether they are here for the food & culture, the happy endings or to start a family or a business – should reconsider whether they want to be supporting this evil regime or the nonsensical thinking of the Thai boomers. This is not to say that this xenophobia is harboured by the entirety of the country – visitors will be the first to point out that the general public are some of the nicest people they’ve ever met, but we must not let the government or the privileged change their ways – we must make Thailand the actual ‘Land of Smiles’.
 Richard Barrow and his social media accounts constitute the number one news outlet for expats and foreigners in Thailand. Despite running his accounts by himself, he somehow still does a better job than most English language news outlets.
Written by Nick Pothikamjorn, 17
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