How patriotic are Thai people?

(Wow! My technophobic self has finally figured where the link to blog on this website is!)

“So… They proceeded to return to their own land, because the years have left a kind of emptiness when we spend too many of them on a foreign shore. But, if we do return, we find that the native air has lost its invigorating spirit and that life has shifted its position to where we have deemed ourselves only visitors.
Thus, between two countries, we have none at all.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne

I sometimes say that, to me, the notion of nationality is little more than the field I fill in on forms. Although I am admittedly one of the least patriotic people I’ve ever known (I was born in Thailand but only lived there for about three years and then moved round and round the world – I’ve now lived in seven countries), I know it’s untrue. It seems to me that wherever you go, people judge you and have immediate preconceptions about you according to your race and nationality. And that really galls me. Not that I’m at all ashamed of being Thai, but people in the West seem to associate Thailand with particularly unscrupulous things. Where Thais (or at least the few I know) often go on about the fact that Thailand is the only country in South-East Asia not to have been colonised, my British friends immediately conjure up images of prostitution, poverty, and transvestites (well, I am a teenager, and transvestites seem to be a source of never-ending amusement for my guy friends).

I think referring back to history can indeed fuel some people’s patriotism, but it’s quite hard to do so when the international media is depicting the Thai government as behaving in a rather banana republic-like way, especially with their dealing of the Islamic insurgency in the South and human rights records. (Hmm… I’m speaking like a peace activist, aren’t I? Sorry!) I think my brother worded it best when he frustratingly said “When the Americans have problems, they get boots on the ground, they get armaments… and what do we send to quell the problems in the south? Paper cranes!!!” I’ve no doubt it was a very symbolic act on Thaksin’s part, but gosh, is that actually effective? Judging from the continuing friction, I gather the answer’s “no”.

So, how do you guys perceive nationality and patriotism? Is it still relevant? How do expats, Thai or otherwise, feel about it? I’m sorry if I’ve been unduly harsh to Thailand in this article or if it’s descended into something of a rant. It wasn’t my intention, though it does sort of reveal something of an inferiority complex regarding nationality. I’m not quite sure if I’d ever feel ‘at home’ outside of Thailand, but, judging from the fact that my Thai pronunciation and accent have gotten so bad that market vendors immediately switch languages to poor English when I address them in Thai, I’m not sure I’d ever feel ‘at home’ in Thailand either.

13 responses to “How patriotic are Thai people?