Us vs. Them

When I first came to Thailand, I was working in Bangkok on a month appointment. Had a few days off, and decided to get out of town, so I went to MoChit station and took a bus to the Cambodian border, where there is a casino and a big used goods market. On the way back, I noticed the bus was stopped and borded several times by army officers who scanned the faces of the passengers, ordering several off the bus. They ignored me. Then I learned they were looking for Cambodians. Since this was my first time in southeast asia, I hadn’t yet noticed any differences in the looks of people here. But these guys could spot a Cambodian across a crowded bus.

Now I live in Chiang Mai, where the “foreigners” are mostly Lao or Burmese. In any case, they are the underclass, doing work that Thais would prefer not to be bothered with. If I see a truck carrying twenty people crowded together in the back, they are Burmese workers on their way to or from a construction site. The maids in hotels are almost all Burmese. The Burma border is very close.

Now, thanks to Covid 19 (here they pronounce it “Covid-Nineteen” in English, to emphasize that it comes from somewhere else) fear of foreigners is once again in favor. People from Myanmar keep their heads down. The Minister of Health railed against “dirty farang” a few months ago, using the word they use to describe caucasians. Asians aren’t farang. Don’t know what the word is for non-Thai asians.

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