Connect with us


Culture update: The slow death of the Phuket dialect

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Culture update: The slow death of the Phuket dialect | The Thaiger
  • follow us in feedly

PHUKET: Developed over generations in isolation from the mainland, Phuket’s unique version of the southern Thai dialect is dying out, diluted by the huge influx of migrant workers, the tourism boom, mass media and a slew of other factors.

The Phuket dialect is unique. Compared with other versions of southern Thai, it tends to be slower and more flowing than the rapid-fire varieties found in other parts of the region. It might be considered “cute” or even somewhat effeminate by other southerners.

“I was teased a lot by my other southern friends when I said words with “Y” and “W” sounds and for dropping “G” sounds. My friends tried to mimic the unique sound of the Phuket accent, but couldn’t,” one Phuket native told the Gazette.

At 93 years of age, Cherng Talay native Chote Jumpada has witnessed enormous changes in his lifetime.

“It is difficult to watch Phuket’s unique language and customs disappear, but nothing can stay the same forever,” he said with a sigh.

Thinking the Phuket dialect will perhaps have completely disappeared in a few decades’ time, Mr Chote uses it exclusively with his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren as a way of passing it on and preserving it as long as possible.

But it’s an uphill battle. “When I want them to put ice in the glass I say ao sueng sai jog, but they say ao namkhang sai gaew,” he explained.

Sueng and jog (ice and glass) are among the many words unique to Phuket Thai that have been supplanted by central Thai equivalents, in this case namkhang and gaew.

Many of the disappearing words were imported from Hokkien Chinese, a legacy of the tin mining era.

One such word that has enjoyed a comeback of sorts in recent years is banzaan (wet market). A market of the same name opened in Patong in 2005.

Dilok Vuttipanich, born in Phuket 84 years ago, said the soft tone of the Phuket dialect comes across as polite to people from other parts of the south, even though final “politeness particles” like krab or ka are often dropped.

Dr Prasit Koeysiripong, who heads the Old Phuket Foundation, explained that many young people in Phuket now grow up speaking central Thai.

“Even if they can speak with a Phuket accent, many of them no longer use the Phuket vocabulary,” he said.

“For example, the Thai word for ‘wait’ is khoy in central Thai, but in Phuket it is tah, the same of the word for ‘station’ – because when you go to a station you go there to wait. But not many people here use tah anymore, they say khoy. So even if they use the Phuket dialect, they are now using more central Thai [or ‘Bangkok Thai’] words.”

Such a mixing of regional accents and vocabulary is called thong daeng – literally “copper alloy”.

“So it’s dying in two ways – vocabulary and accent – but we are trying in schools and privately to save it,” Dr Prasit said.

Professor Sommai Pinphutasin, president of the Phuket Historical Interest Group, held Phuket’s modern role as the cause for the demise of the island’s dialect.

“Phuket is growing very fast, creating a lot of job opportunities that attract people here. The island is a melting pot of people from other regions of Thailand, Asians and Europeans. This of course has a big impact on local language and culture,” said Prof Sommai, who is also curator of the Tin Mining Museum in Kathu.

“Natives tend to use the language most easily understood by outsiders, so the local dialect is being used less and less in daily conversation. New generations, whose parents are not Phuket natives, blend the Phuket dialect with their parents’ native tongue.

“The local dialect is not included in [most] school curriculum; students are actually prohibited from using it when talking with teachers. It is now trendy for new parents to speak Bangkok Thai with their children at home, and younger Thais now blend the Bangkok and Phuket dialects. The result is a new hybrid Phuket dialect being created, while the old one fades away,” he said.

Professor Sommai supports the effort by Phuket City Municipality schools to include the local dialect into curricula.

So does local historian Pranee Sakulpipatana. The effort is the complete reverse of what she experienced as a Phuket schoolgirl when Thailand was under the rule of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, she explained.

“During my time, General P wanted to completely unify the country. He didn’t want us to be like a salad, with green peppers and red peppers, but like khao tom – everything needed to be mixed and boiled together to make one [homogeneous] nation,” she said.

“Later, people in the south came to think that speaking central Thai properly was a sign of high status. That’s why the students didn’t speak southern Thai…But now we are encouraging schools to promote the southern dialect. Most of the tessaban (Phuket City) schools have done this. They have one course that focuses on local Phuket culture, including language,” said Ajarn Pranee.

Yet the dialect still suffers at university level, she said.

“Many Phuket students study in Bangkok or some other provinces, and there is a big influx of students from other provinces in the south,” she explained.

Southern Thai has many regional variations. There is one main variety along the Gulf coast and another along the Andaman Coast. But Phuket was isolated for so long it developed its own very particular dialect, she added.

“For example, if I want to ask ‘How are you?’, in Phuket we we say bpen pheuy, but in Ranong they say bpen phreu or even bpen pheu-reu [three syllables with a trill on the final one]. In Phuket Thai we often drop the final sound compared to, say Surat Thani, where they say it very clearly,” the associate professor explained.

She concurred with Dr Prasit’s explanation that many younger Thais in Phuket are blending Bangkok Thai with the Phuket dialect.

“Some of the new generation still use southern pronunciation, but with central Thai words. So some words have been forgotten.”

However, she added, “If you ask me whether I think the Phuket dialect is dying, I would say, ‘No.’ But it is just that it is not the real, proper Phuket language.”

Phuket Town is where people are most likely to hear old-school Phuket Thai being spoken, Ajarn Pranee said.

“A lot of people in Phuket Town still speak the local dialect and I try to keep the language going myself. If I am in public I always speak using Phuket dialect first.

“If I am in town with foreigners, I ask if it is okay to switch over to English… and they are shocked. They feel like ‘Hey! That lady speaks proper Phuket Southern Thai and she speaks good English too. The point I want to get across is that it is isn’t cheuy [outdated] to use Southern Thai,” she said with a laugh.

— Sim Scudder & Stephen Fein

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers

Jack Burton



Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

Officials have raided 2 Phuket casinos resulting in 87 people being arrested for allegedly gambling after the island’s provincial police received complaints of gambling dens operating around the clock – a violation of the current Emergency Decree which bans crowds.

The first raid took place at about 3:30 pm and was at a casino in tambon Talat Nua of Muang district. The premises provided parking spaces for motorcycles and up to 30 cars, and was fenced on all sides with metal sheets. Officials arrested 45 gamblers-30 men and 15 women. They also seized 62,420 baht that was placed as wagers and a gold necklace that was 15 grams in weight.

Around the same time, a second team raided another casino tambon Sisunthon of Thalang district in Phuket’s north. It was also fenced with metal sheets and featured an ample amount of parking space. 42 people- 22 men and 20 women- were rounded up with police seizing 64,260 baht in placed wagers.

All have been charged with illegal betting and violating the Emergency Decree which was recently extended through July.

Officials raid 2 Phuket casinos, arresting 87 illegal gamblers | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Continue Reading


Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today

Jack Burton



Phuket’s (in)famous “Soi Bangla” district reopens today | The Thaiger

Today is the official reopening of Phuket’s famous (or infamous) “Soi Bangla” nightlife district, but only about 20% of venues say they’re reopening during this early stage. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announced yesterday that all night entertainment venues may reopen but must strictly adhere to health guidelines set out to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the CCSA, says night entertainment venues, including pubs, bars, karaoke venues and beer gardens will be allowed to open, but only until midnight. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced, and customers must use the Thai Chana app to check in and out.

The Patong Entertainment Business Association president says only about 20% of the 324 registered members are expected to reopen initially, but he expects more to reopen soon. Among the 22 rules announced last week- to be presented to the CCSA for approval- were that all staff must wear face masks and face shields, but performers may wear face shields only. No bottles are to be served, and all drinks are to be served in glasses. No pool table games (including snooker and billiards) and no dart games are to be allowed.

The number of guests in each venue is to be restricted to cater for social distancing, with at least 2 metres between tables, or partitions must be installed to ensure patrons are seated at least one metre away from each other.

Undercutting the main reason people visit popular venues, the draft rules also call for groups to be limited to 5 people, and for guests to be prohibited from dancing and singing, gathering, shouting, or “wandering around the premises”.

“I have no idea what the rules will be, but we will open anyway. If the full list of 22 rules for pubs, bars and entertainment venues is to be applied, we won’t be able to enforce all the rules, because enforcing all these rules is impossible. But we can follow some of the rules, such as social distancing, wearing masks and checking temperatures.”

Even Patong’s mayor told The Phuket News that she is yet to receive a copy of all the rules to be enforced.

“The next thing to do is follow up with the CCSA about the rules. This is very important for the entertainment industry in Patong. I will help and consider being flexible with the rules for entertainment businesses in Patong, because the rules announced by CCSA are the general rules for many places. But some of these rules are not appropriate for businesses here. We have to apply the right rules and optimise them for businesses in Patong.”

The PEBA president dismissed a few entertainment zones being singled out in other countries as “hotbeds for starting a second wave” of Covid-19 infections.

“I do not care what some people claim is the risk of being in a bar. If the government is genuinely concerned about the risk of Covid-19 spreading, then it is not just about bars, pubs and entertainment venues. The risk of Covid-19 spreading applies anywhere where people are around, not only at bars and pubs.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Continue Reading


Thailand’s hotel industry pushing ahead with recovery

The Thaiger



Thailand’s hotel industry pushing ahead with recovery | The Thaiger

Optimism is building in some corners of the hospitality industry as Thailand pushes ahead with it Covid-19 recovery phases. Occupancy rates in at least Bangkok and Phuket are likely to bottom out soon with the lifting of travel restrictions, according to JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

Thailand’s hotel industry is now entering a recovery phase following the country’s decision to issue a partial easing of lockdown measures, including inter-provincial travel restrictions. There is an expected surge in domestic travel and tourism with the reintroduction of domestic flights, and the slow opening of international borders in the coming months.

The country’s tourism and hotels sector has been significantly impacted since the first reported case of Covid-19 in Thailand on January 13, 2020.

“With the country introducing a government-directed lockdown and placing strict limitations on domestic and international mobility, revenue per available room trended downward during the first four months of 2020, led by declines in occupancy.”

However, optimism of a gradual recovery remains high for both markets, given strong domestic and global brand recognition and a mature hospitality sector well-prepared to align with stringent health and safety guidelines introduced by The Tourism Authority of Thailand ‘s “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration program.

“In 2019, Bangkok was named, for the fourth consecutive year, as the most popular travel destination in Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index, while Phuket was rated the #2 Most Popular Asia Destination by TripAdvisor.”

Chakkrit Chakrabandhu Na Ayudhya, Executive VP, Investment Sales, Asia Pacific, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group says that Thailand’s hotel industry is a bellwether market in global and regional hospitality circles.

“Its Covid-19 recovery will be closely observed by operators and investors. With both government and bank support, we’re optimistic a market like Bangkok, with its well-balanced offering to business and leisure demand, will be amongst the first hotel sectors regionally to display meaningful recovery, whilst Phuket will take relatively longer as it relies more on international and leisure demand.”

The maturity of Thailand’s hotel space, as well as bank and government support so far, have helped the industry alleviate the full impact of Covid-19, despite wide-spread issues with cash flows and fixed operational overheads. JLL expects fewer distressed asset sales in Bangkok compared to other markets in Thailand due to robust balance sheets held by many owners. Investors have been looking for opportunities in Thailand, with greater interest expected initially from developers and private equity firms who tend to be less risk-averse as the recovery gains momentum.

According to JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality, operators and investors in Thailand’s hotel industry should also consider several factors to optimise their recovery strategies:

  • Critically evaluate hotel positioning and segmentation mix in light of extensive current supply and future pipeline.
  • Calculate breakeven occupancy and factor in gradual demand ramp up, taking into consideration potential travel bubbles being considered by the Thai government.
  • Focus on brand, operating and distribution partners when setting out a differentiating strategy to the local market, whilst following the opening of borders carefully.
  • Take advantage of the government’s domestic tourism promotion to help restart operations and build local customer loyalty; launch staycation packages to take advantage of pent up domestic demand
  • Look for every opportunity to get guests ready for post-Covid-19 travel, embrace the restrictions and set up health and safety protocols for the reopening.


Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Continue Reading