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Thai social media gets nasty as old animosities resurface over the Burmese migrants

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PHOTO: Burmese migrant workers dumped on a highway this week - Thai PBS World

A Covid-19 outbreak in Samut Sakhon, centred around a seafood market and the local fishing industry’s Burmese migrant population, has unbottled a new wave of anti-Burmese sentiment in Thai social media, never bubbling far beneath the surface.

The revelations of an outbreak of some 1,000+ positive infections has opened a long-standing wound between the two countries, including straight out online hate speech as well as important questions over the treatment of the millions of Burmese migrant workers that are recruited by Thai companies wanting cheap labour.

The CCSA yesterday announced that there won’t be any national lockdown in response to the Samut Sakhon cluster, but says that Covid-19 control zoning is being introduced and continually updated to reflect the changing situation. New Year celebrations have been mostly cancelled around the country but may be allowed to continue “only under strict conditions”.

You can find out more about the colour coding in yesterday’s Thailand News Today.

The Mahachai shrimp market at Samut Sakhon, the hotzone in the current cluster, is only 35 kilometres from central Bangkok.

Comments have been flying thick and fast online as people respond to the outbreak. Many of the comments savagely blamed the Burmese migrant worker population who form the vast majority of the workforce in the area. Facebook has already removed hundreds of comments for violating the platform’s hate speech policies. Twitter says it is “looking into the issue” but has blocked several channels over hate speech directed towards the Burmese migrant workers.

The Social Media Monitoring for Peace group, and independent NGO, says it found 100s of comments which it described as hate speech on the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter platforms.

The Thaiger has also removed a number of incendiary comments from its platforms aver the issue.

In a video produced this week The Thaiger, without naming specific companies, tried to move the focus on the migrant workers back to the companies that employ them, the issues of human trafficking, slave labour in Thailand’s fishing industry and the corrupt officials that are involved in the trafficking and exploitation of cheap labour from Myanmar.

 

Sompong Srakaew represents a Thai group helping migrant workers, the Labor Protection Network, Speaking to the Bangkok Post he said… “Myanmar people are being labelled for spreading Covid-19, but the virus doesn’t discriminate.”

“Shifting sentiment had real consequences… workers from Myanmar, previously known as Burma, being barred from buses, motorcycle taxis and offices.”

“Burma people infect Thailand and cause all our problem.”

“Close the Burma border and shoot any Burma people who cross over.”

“Wherever you see Myanmar people, shoot them down.”

“Again the Burmese. Why always the Burma people come into Thailand and cause troubles.”

But there’s also been an outpouring of sympathy for the migrant workers with many Thais and foreigners recognising the issues behind the outbreak and pleading with people not to vent their anger at the infected workers who are simply trying to find work.

On Tuesday a group of workers ended up stranded on the side of a highway near Bangkok after their employer allegedly told them to get in a van to go get tested for Covid-19, then dumped them along the way. Daily News reported that an employer “dumped” a group of 24 Burmese migrant workers at the side of a highway in Samut Prakan’s Bang Plee area, just outside Bangkok. The Ton News Facebook page even posted live videos of the immigration police confronting the group.

Thailand has 1.6 million Burmese workers, officially. But the actual number is anecdotally recognised to be 2 – 3 times higher. The Thai/Myanmar border is over 2,000 kilometres and even as recently as last week the Thai Army admitted that the leaky border is impossible to police.

Although Thailand has has a long-standing tolerance of foreign visitors, there’s also a historic enmity between the Thais and Burmese which stems from the 18th-century destruction of the Ayutthaya capital of Old Siam by Burmese invaders. The Thai capital was then moved to its current location in Bangkok but the animosity has festered ever since in literature, popular culture and school text books.

 

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46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mike

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:44 am

    As other countries develop more efficiently than Thailand .there will be Thai migrant who will have to go to neighbouring countries to earn money… Maybe not they might have to actually work .. the worm will turn

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Plenty of Thais already work illegally in Malaysia, where they are treated much the same as Burmese here, but I’d suggest it’s rather unlikely Thais will do the same in Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia.

      … and the way Thai workers (and others) are treated in the Gulf is widely known.

      Two wrongs seldom make a right.

      • Avatar

        Mike

        Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:53 pm

        Nope. Thais are treated far better in Malaysia than are Burmese in Thailand. Ive worked in Thailand and Malaysia and can say this with certainty. I now work in Hong Kong where Thais are treated the same as everyone else. Although I have seen with my own eyes instances if Thais treating Filipinos like dirt.

        Where the Burmese are concerned, racism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred and exclusion are never very far away in Thailand. It’s very sad.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:39 pm

          Sorry, Mike, but unless you were in the same line of work as the Thais in Malaysia, which I doubt, or an NGO involved with them, I doubt you can talk with any sort of “certainty” about how they’re treated as it’s simply not something you see – even less in Malaysia than Thailand.

          Maybe if you look at some of the reports from NGOs there, which are sadly very similar to those on Burmese here, you’d be surprised as, just like the Burmese illegals here, they’re generally kept well out of sight.

          How many Thai canning factories have you been in, or how on many Thai fishing boats, to see how the Burmese are treated here, for example?

          (FWIW I haven’t been in / on any either, but I trust reports from the likes of Andy Hall).

          If you honestly think “Thais are treated the same as everyone else” in Hong Kong, at least by the Hong Kong Chinese who make the mainland Chinese look positively colour blind with the way they look down on and treat other Asians, then I think that puts your “certainty” into perspective.

          • Avatar

            Mike

            Friday, December 25, 2020 at 8:30 pm

            I work with Hong Kongers, Thai, Filipinos, Nepalese, Indians and many other nationalities every day so I know exactly how people are treated. You live in a bubble in in “Issan” so you know next to nothing.

            I’ve worked with these people in Thailand an Malaysia and I speak from personal experience. You speak from things you’ve read on the Internet. Hush now.

        • Avatar

          Richard

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:56 pm

          I love my choosen Country of Thailand, just wish all others would stay away.

        • Avatar

          Jeff

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 8:58 pm

          I have no problem with LEGAL migrant workers and LEGAL immigration. Those who are illegal should not be welcomed into any country and removed when found. Their employees should face severe sanctions,including criminal charges. Where was The Thaiger when Farangs (legally in the country) were being denied entry to restaurants and being denied bus tickets?

        • Avatar

          Jeff

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:01 pm

          You almost got all the virtue signaling terms in there. Try a little harder next time.

      • Avatar

        Joe

        Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:26 pm

        Issan John is as usual talking out of his backside again, with every message from him there should be a warning message like twitter and Facebook now have for when people like Trump are saying something unsubstantiated.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 8:46 pm

          Feel free to say anything that’s “unsubstantiated” … anything at all … 🙂

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:14 pm

          So, Joe, you think Mike’s worked in a Thai canning factory and on Thai fishing boats alongside Burmese immigrants?

          … and he’s worked worked alongside Thai immigrants in Malaysia as well, and so he can “speak from personal experience”?

          Really?

          I gave him some credibility before, but the idea that Chinese, particularly Hong Kong Chinese, in Hong Kong, treat “Thai, Filipinos, Nepalese, Indians and many other nationalities” in the same way that they do themselves and he’s “certain” of that from “personal experience” is so wildly misinformed it’s almost amusing.

          • Avatar

            Mike

            Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 11:26 am

            Yes, I have John. If your tiny brain can’t accept that then you should step out of your bubble and come to the realisation that there are people out there with life experience far different from yours.

            If your personal racism is so far reaching that you cannot accept as true when someone tells your from personal experience that Hong Kong Chinese treat immigrants equally then you have some very serious problems and your racism is just the tip of the iceberg.

            Also, learn to debate intelligently. Your disingenuous and straw-man arguments make you look like an idiot. Nowhere did I state I have worked in Thai canning factories or on Thai fishing boats with Burmese immigrants.

      • Avatar

        Jeff

        Friday, December 25, 2020 at 8:53 pm

        I have no problem with LEGAL migrant workers and LEGAL immigration. Those who are illegal should not be welcomed into any country and removed when found. Their employees should face severe sanctions,including criminal charges. Where was The Thaiger when Farangs (legally in the country) were being denied entry to restaurants and being denied bus tickets?

  2. Avatar

    Alte Ledertasche

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 10:01 am

    “Wherever you see Myanmar people, shoot them down.” ?

    Soso. Maybe its better to shoot all Thai people instead ?

    • Avatar

      Mister Stretch

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 11:50 am

      Conversely, Alte, you seem to be the poster boy for targets.

      Smile.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Sadly there are unpleasant racist bigots in every country, as is amply demonstrated all too often here.

    • Avatar

      albert zweistein

      Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 5:17 am

      Not the females Alte Lederhose.

  3. Avatar

    sebastian

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Funny how the Tachiliek case is also in the news but ended up blaming the burmese immigrants.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      The numbers make that inevitable, but if you think the Thais returning from G1G weren’t “blamed” and pilloried, quite rightly, in social and news media you must have had your eyes closed.

      • Avatar

        sebastian

        Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:27 pm

        With the living condition that the burmese immigrants in, yea the spreading speed is high. Ironic how the government does not test yet claiming the “0 case in country is quite funny.
        Didn’t even see any update news about what happened to those Tachiliek G1G cases after they got positive.

  4. Avatar

    gosport

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    Blaming wont help. Appreciate the contribution of any Farang. Positive contribution. Triblism is not working

  5. Avatar

    Peter

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    The UK has, after Denmark, the best genome sequencing in the world. They have identified and found 2 new highly contagious strains of the virus.
    The UK inform WHO and tell the world. Many other countries don’t test, so don’t find.
    The UK’s punishment for being a global guardian?
    Treated like a global pariah by countries that are highly likely to have the new viruses already and even possibly spread it to the UK.
    The cat is out of the bag in Thailand, 31 provinces have cases.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      I have to agree 100% with you there, Peter, at least until your last line.

      Wales did more sequencing just LAST WEEK in Covid tests than France has done in NINE MONTHS, but France still led others in imposing a strict travel ban although it’s now clear the strains are already present across Europe.

      Ironic, then, that France has lifted the ban subject to lateral flow tests only a week after the UK’s medical experts have all said the tests are worse than useless as they miss more than half the positives!

      It simply highlights how governments across the world are just paying lip-service to the science, to be “seen” to be doing something even when they’re not.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      As for “the cat is out of the bag in Thailand, 31 provinces have cases”, agreed, although it’s probably more than 31 as for the first time social media is reporting cases in other “green” provinces that aren’t being reported officially but are evidenced.

      All I disagree with is the suggestion by many here that Thailand has previously hidden the extent of the spread of Covid, which is clearly contradicted by all the readily and easily available evidence.

      It was only a matter of time until there was an outbreak here as it would have been impossible to prevent it without lockdowns that would never have been unacceptable under the circumstances.

      What’s yet to be seen is how effectively Thailand handles the outbreak, and we won’t really know that for a few weeks.

  6. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    personally I think it is smart to be a racist, and this does not mean racism is wrong.
    For instance if I wanted a garage building I would pick an Irishman. The Irish are good builders.
    If I was in court accused of a crime I would pick a Jew to defend me. Jews are good lawyers.
    There that is racism and what is wrong with that?

    • Avatar

      Peter

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:03 pm

      If you think they are examples of racism you have no clue what racism is.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Don’t do yourself down, Toby – there’s no shortage of people here who’ll do that for you 🙂

      What you’re referring to there isn’t “racism” but discrimination – not the same thing, and not even two sides of the same coin.

      Similarly, what many are referring to as “racism” with Thais vs Burmese isn’t racism at all but simply being ethnocentric (nationalist, in old money).

      But with some commenting here on monkeys and lizards, it’s just racism plain and simple, so if the cap fits …

      • Avatar

        Toby Andrews

        Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm

        No it is racism. Look up the word. It is the same as discrimination.
        I’m racist because I do not want a Jew to build a garage for me.
        I’m racist because I do not want an Irishman to defend me in court: ( Dis mon culdn’t ah dun it. He wuz in der pub gettin drunk wid me.)

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:01 pm

          Yes, Toby, that’s racism – but it isn’t what you said before.

          Racism and discrimination aren’t synonymous, and racism isn’t “the same” as discrimination however much you may think they it is.

        • Avatar

          Jeff

          Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:09 pm

          You’ll believe anything that liberal put in writing…lol. Jewish isn’t a race nor is Irish…understand?

          • Avatar

            Toby Andrews

            Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 10:19 am

            No but racism is also prejudiced against an ethnic group, which are what the Irish and Jews are.

    • Avatar

      Pedro

      Sunday, December 27, 2020 at 2:11 am

      Toby, what you describe here is Racialism as opposed to Racism. Racialism is defined as the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. Racism on the other hand is as you say, similar to discrimination, (or prejudice or antagonism) against a person or people, but it is based on their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group as opposed to other factors, like their ability to do a particular job. Over to you…….

  7. Avatar

    indisPC

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I blame *you*, the media. You’re the phony professionals who whipped up this irrational fear and hysteria and then censored everyone who disagreed with you. And why did you do it? Because fear sells. Full stop. Disgrace. Shame. Disgrace. Shame.

  8. Avatar

    Ray

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    indisPC, thank you for spelling out who the enemy really is.

    Yes, it’s the media (there are some exceptions and you will know the one’s who’re telling the truth because they’re sent paid commentators/whores to post derogatory messages in places such as forums, message boards, etc.) which whips most people into a way of thinking all the way up to a manic frenzy.

    Right now (and has been for a very long time) truth is something usually found on the side lines by a minority and is a precious thing. But we live in hope!

    It seems that blaming foreigners is a time tested resort by most perverted so called “leaders”.

    • Avatar

      Ray

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Message to the moderator: I have been commenting under the name Ray. Now I see another person is using the same name. Please remove this comment and don’t allow identical names used by commenters. Otherwise I am out of here………..

  9. Avatar

    Ray 2

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Hello Ray, this is Ray also! To see that a nerve has been touched, I shall put the number 2 after my name, OK?

    And a Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • Avatar

      Ray

      Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 3:36 pm

      Not your mistake Ray 2. We can’t expect everyone knows which names already are taken. There should be a simple filter on the message to avoid the situation. Best Wishes.

  10. Avatar

    Yan

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Just force the lazy Thai to do the job…no need to complain about migrant workers anymore than.

  11. Avatar

    Jeff

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Seafood is already grossly overpriced in Thailand. Someone is making big money but it isn’t the workers.

  12. Avatar

    Reefdiver

    Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Why such hatred for the Burmese and not the country that gave Thailand the first wave and the rest of the world Covid? Maybe because they’re rich? Wouldn’t want to offend them eh?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Maybe because a fair few Thais, particularly in government and the media, are ethnic Chinese while considerably less are ethnic Burmese …..

      • Avatar

        Mike

        Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 11:33 am

        Outbreaks of disease in immigrant communities are proof of inequality in immigrant communities. This is according to WHO.

        In Hong Kong, outbreaks of SARS and Covid-19 have overwhelmingly affected local Chinese communities.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 5:10 pm

          Laughably ill-informed on every level, bordering on unbelievably so for someone claiming to not only work in Hong Kong but to know the situation for foreign / immigrant workers.

          ‘Yes’, the WHO have said that “outbreaks of disease in immigrant communities are proof of inequality in immigrant communities”.

          …but ‘NO’, they have never said or suggested that the reverse is true as you are suggesting.

          It’s akin to saying that all mice are mammals, so all mammals must be mice.

          In Thailand, as in Malaysia, the “immigrant communities” live collectively, as communities, typified by those in Samut Sakhon.

          In Hong Kong they DON’T live in communities, apart from in very few cases such as the Nepalese and the Indians who have been there for decades and aren’t a source of cheap labour and generally aren’t immigrants, even if they don’t have HK / Chinese citizenship as many are officially stateless – some of the stateless Sikhs I knew in the 90’s were fourth generation HK.

          Like the Indians, the Nepalese aren’t actually “immigrants” either, as they are either ex-British Army Gurkhas (relatively few now, 25 years on or longer) or their children who were born in HK.

          The vast majority of the 400,000 immigrant workers are from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Nearly all are classified as “Foreign Domestic helpers (FDH)”, employed under Hong Kong’s “Standard Employment Contract”, which requires them, BY LAW, to live in their employer’s accomodation. THEY’RE NOT ALLOWED TO LIVE IN A “COMMUNITY” – it’s illegal, and the only time they meet as a “community” has always been on their day off, on Sundays. For the 130,000+ Filipinos, that’s traditionally been around the Cultural Centre in TST, which even when I was working there, first briefly in the 70’s, then the 80’s, was “Little Manila” every Sunday.

          Since January 30, Hong Kong has effectively banned FDHs from meeting as a “community” as they had always done, ordering ” FDHs to stay home for rest on their rest day as far as possible, and to stay away from crowds on public transport or at public places.”

          If they’re not allowed to meet as a “community”, which they haven’t been allowed to do since January, you don’t need to be an epidemiologist to understand why there have been no major outbreaks as a “community”.

  13. Avatar

    June

    Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    Myanmar is a vast country, lot of weath, population are thin. But still their ppl r poor. And left their country for work.Why!!
    I think Thailand treat them with humanity.. Not dump in road side at night. Just treat them legally .Look at my country Bangladesh also poor but we receive millions of Rohingyas only for humanitarian ground..

    • Avatar

      June

      Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      Correction lot of wealth *

  14. Avatar

    Mike

    Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    Nope, wrong yet again, bubble dweller. I don’t know where to start.

    The vast majority of humans from countries that you list are actually Hong Kong permanent residents and permanent ID card holders.

    All domestic helpers live with their employer and have to by law as you say. I didn’t say that immigrant communities in Hong Kong have been affected worse. I said Hong Kong Chinese have – as that is the case. Immigrant communities in other countries have been wrose affected – Thailand for example. The latest outbreak which affected all Chinese people at a group of dance venues.

    None of the Indian and Nepalese in Hong Kong are stateless unless they have arrived illegally.

    There are some stateless Chinese people though.

    “Immigrant communities” doesn’t refer to people all living in the same place. Because you’re a racist you probably think of brown people living in ghettos. The communities that are referenced means people that belong to a specific demographic. i.e people from the same country of origin.

    However, in Hong Kong people from certain countries do indeed live amongst their own people due to their economic circumstances. For instance, many Nepalese live in Jordan, Yueng Long, Yau Ma Tei and Sham Shui Po due to those areas having cheap enough accommodation. Virtually none of these people live in Stanley, Mid-levels, Discovery Bay etc. These places are inhabited nearly exclusively by Chinese and white immigrants.

    Nope, the government have not banned domestic helpers from congregating on their days off – I was in Victoria Park today and it was packed with domestic helpers as it is every Sunday – today is a public holiday so they all had a day off. There were some Chinese people walking through the groups of people waiving placards though and asking them to maintain social distancing through a megaphone.

    the mice and mammal waffle – another straw man

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