in

Opinion: A Case Against Emigrating en Masse From Thailand

Photo: Alexandr Podvalny / Pexels
Photo: Alexandr Podvalny / Pexels

A week-old Facebook group encouraging Thais to emigrate has become one of the biggest talks of the town this week.

“Let’s emigrate”, has over 907,000 members as of Friday afternoon, despite the Thai government warning that some of the posts may constitute defamation of the monarchy, a crime punishable by a maximum prison term of 15 years under the lese majeste law.

Majority of the posts are about Thais feeling desperate and hopeless about the kingdom, politically, economically and socially. Information on how to emigrate to various countries are shared.

On the political front, Thailand found herself stuck with less-than-able and autocratic Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha since the May 2014 coup and even after the 2019 elections, where he managed to hold on to power, not officially as a dictator but a prime minister still.

With the third-wave of COVID-19 affecting the lives and livelihood of many Thais, particularly a very slow and inadequate inoculation process. 

The Bank of Thailand announced on Wednesday another slash on the GDP growth forecast for 2021 to 1 to 2 per cent, depending on how quick COVID-19 vaccines will be procured and distributed.

On the social front, monarchy-reform demands, pushed by mostly idealist young activists, have stalled. Most key protest leaders end up at Bangkok Remand Prison, charged under the lese majeste law. Although half of them are released on bail, the bail conditions include not participating in any activity that would undermine the reputation of the monarchy.

Many Thais who joined the Facebook group, which have since been renamed: “Emigrate, Swing Your Hip and Emigrate” say they want to leave Thailand for good not just for better economic opportunities, but because here they are a second class citizen in their own country anyhow. Some suggest that there are more than three social classes, and I would definitely not disagree.

The Swedish Embassy in Bangkok was very nimble. Earlier this week, it capitalized on the growing sentiment and posted a promotional message on their social media platforms for Thais who want to emigrate to come to Sweden, promising not just good social welfare but social equality – the latter something that does not exist in Thailand.

People have the right to emigrate and leave Thailand for good because life is too harsh, living conditions too substandard, pay too low, and hope for betterment. It’s an individual choice.

Nevertheless, if millions of young Thais, particularly young professionals, emigrate en masse in the years ahead, it would create a hollowing-out effect on Thai society. Imagine Thailand with a third of its medical workforce suddenly gone, and think how bad the current COVID-19 third outbreak which is already severely straining medical professionals to the limits would be.

Think about the hollowing-out effect in the Philippines with millions of professionally-trained white-collars gone – becoming a permanent diaspora around the world and what’s left for the Philippines.

Or to take an extreme example, think what happened when the Khmer Rouge launched a genicide on its own people, particularly the educated class.

If you still find that hard to imagine, look at the merciless economic realities of Bangkok vis-à-vis the provinces. Bangkok sucks most promising students and educated workforce to the capital, leaving some rural areas ‘dead’ socially and economically.

In many rural Thailand, it’s the elderly taking care of the very young because working-age men and women find better opportunities in Bangkok. Many now believe they can find better opportunities abroad and even if they end up a second-class citizen somewhere, or face racism, they reckon in Thailand they were never a first-class citizen to begin with and have long been suppressed, socially and politically.

Thailand is my motherland, so I cannot with good conscience be advocating for a massive emigration because it will leave Thailand without enough able hands and brains and even fewer taxpayers. This is my motherland, my homeland. I am not saying Thailand is better than other countries. No. Never. Actually it’s the opposite.

We have many problems here and some, such as economic, socio, and political inequalities are structural and deep rooted.

Things as basic as poor infrastructure such as very old-outdated public buses that belong to the 1990s and hazardous and uneven footpaths in Bangkok and beyond disturb many.Others feel if you didn’t go to a top university or the right school, you are already a second-class citizen for life. But that’s why we need to fix Thailand and not flee.

Every Thai has a choice to either try to make this country work, make it better, more equal or end up becoming a human resource, a citizen of another state.

Call me patriotic if you will, but I would like to urge those who are adequately fortunate, privileged even, to stick and fight to make Thailand a better society for all so many young Thais do not have to dream about fleeing this land.

A lot needs to be done, to be fixed, to correct. And Thailand needs you. If enough people give up on Thailand, then there’s no hope for Thailand, your motherland.

That is my case for you to not leave Thailand for good. Do not run away from difficulties. Thank countries like Sweden for the kind offers. Don’t be a fair-weather citizen. Have fortitude and collectively let’s try by not forsaking this society. Thailand can be made a freer, more prosperous and equal society for all if we are committed to see it through.

Reference