Earlier this month, a well-educated Thai by the name of Pathonpong Charoenwut wrote this widely spread message in English on his Facebook page.
“Dear some expats living in the KINGDOM of Thailand:”
“Please rethink before posting all complaints like you’re so upset of the traffic cause by the mob or you are so bored of this country. Just to be clear, nobody asks you to stay, nobody needs you here, without you we’re fine or even better. It’s you who ran away from problems, unemployment and losses…”
“Please be respectful and careful before you post some comments that show the flaws in you that remind both yourself and us that once you were LOSERS. And sadly but unsurprisingly, you still are.”
“Unfriend me as you like because I don’t need you!!”
The Thai version posted along with the delicious English version was in fact more vulgar, with foreigners referred to with a pronoun normally reserved for animals – bang tua. Pathonpong was fed up.
“Fed up with red-shirt farangs,” he added in the comment section after a long debate. “Been fed up for a long long time. Go and die… I’m not threatening anyone.”
This is no isolated incident. BBC Southeast Asian correspondent Jonathan Head told this writer on Sunday that while carrying out his assignment among the protesters, one shouted at him: “It’s total lies!” Some protesters also “religiously” told Head that pro-government red shirts are duped by propaganda.
It’s not just the red shirts who are accused of being gullible. In fact, one travel editor at a major Thai newspaper recently employed the word “gullible” to describe the foreign media in his article.
PDRC supremo Suthep Thaugsuban has also warned foreign media not to judge the situation by their Western “feelings” and culture.
Thus Westerners, or farangs as they are referred to in Thai, are now regarded as either gullible or bought out by Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra if they’re not supportive of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).
The latest target is The New York Times’ Bangkok correspondent Thomas Fuller, accused of wilfully distorting the situation in Thailand. No evidence has ever been produced to prove that people like Head, Fuller or any other foreign correspondent from a reputable news organisation have been bribed by either Thaksin or caretaker premier Yingluck.
On the contrary, these foreign correspondents, unlike most Bangkok-based Thai media, routinely interview rural folks and never mistake Bangkok as representing the whole of Thailand, no matter how many “millions” of protesters are out on the streets of the capital.
Putting it simply, foreign journalists and expats who do not wholeheartedly support the PDRC are now the new bogeymen!
CNN, BBC, International New York Times, Al Jazeera, etc – then you have most of the Western world up against the PDRC and the ultra-nationalist protesters with their Thai flags feeling they’re fighting a mighty worthy battle against all odds. It inflates their sense of self-importance and elevates their struggle into something holy – like Thailand versus the rest of the evil capitalist Western world.
With the imagined “enemy” bigger than reality, protesters feel more outraged, more united and committed. But committed to what?
I never see xenophobia as a recipe for genuine democracy and equality although I will leave that conclusion to both Thai and foreign readers’ good – if allegedly “gullible” – judgement.