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Phuket History – Nyonya-Baba link to Phuket and Penang

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket History – Nyonya-Baba link to Phuket and Penang | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The Chinese community in Malaya grew rapidly during the 19th century.

During this period, many Chinese immigrants were arriving in Malaya in hopes of finding jobs in the booming tin-mining industry. Most of the Chinese immigrants were concentrated around large tin centers along the Malay Peninsula, such as Malacca, Penang and Phuket.

Chinese immigrants were usually young unmarried men. Even if they were married, few would have brought their wives with them on such a long and difficult journey into a completely new world. Many were therefore not reluctant to take Malay, Sumatran or Javanese women as their wives or concubines once they had settled down.

Their descendants, who were ethnic mixes of Malay and Chinese, became known as “Nyonya-Baba”. The Nyonya-Baba soon became a separate group within the Chinese community in Malaya. The descendants of first generation Chinese settlers were mostly of Sino-Malay ethnic mixes.

The Sino-Malays who were born in Penang, Malacca and other cities on the peninsula in later years developed their own unique culture. They retained some of the Chinese traditions that had been passed down from their forefathers, but also adopted many aspects of Malay and Western culture.

The term “Baba” is derived from Hindi and is often used in Indian culture to address a respected elder or a wise person. Ethnic Chinese men who were born in the strait settlements during this time were often addressed as Baba, as a sign of respect.

Women on the other hand were addressed as “Nyonya”, a Malay term used to address non-Malay women of high social standing. The term “Nyonya” could be traced back to the Portuguese language, meaning “grandmother”. Whilst Baba men preferred to dress themselves in suits and western attire, the Nyonya ladies dressed in distinctly Malay clothes. Their home-cooked food was an interesting mix of English, Malay, Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine.

Although English was the preferred language of education in the Nyonya-Baba community, the Nyonya-Baba of Penang spoke a strange mixture of Hokkien Chinese, English and Malay. Marriages were kept within the community and between those of equal socioeconomic status. After the marriage, the man would move in to live with his wife’s family.

Because of this it was not uncommon for wealthy families to seek promising young bachelors to marry their daughters, in order to increase the amount of “talent” in the family. The son-in-law would help support his new family by joining and working for the family business.

The earliest Nyonya-Baba community probably started in Malacca. In Malacca and Singapore, they are sometimes referred to as “Peranakan Cina”, or “local-born Chinese”. To be Nyonya-Baba, one had to be born in Malaya, Sumatra, Java or any of the strait settlements. However not every ethnic Chinese born in Malaya was a Nyonya-Baba unless they displayed certain characteristics. They dressed a certain way, spoke their own mix of languages and were typically educated in English.

Because of their inherited wealth and their English-medium education, most Nyonya-Baba families were economically better off than first generation Chinese immigrants.

Their fluency in English allowed them to work in the British civil service or as doctors and lawyers. Together with their family wealth and social connections, the Nyonya-Baba community rose to become the Chinese elite during their heyday.

The community in Penang started much later in the late 18th or early 19th century. The Nyonya-Baba people were coastal traders and businessmen. Many Baba men built their network of business interests in small ports and towns along the Thai-Malay Peninsula, all the way up to Rangoon.

From the 19th century onwards, Nyonya-Baba culture had become evident in Phuket as more and more Baba businessmen ventured into Phuket’s tin-mining industry.

Since the 19th century, Phuket became an important tin-mining center for Chinese businessmen in Penang. Soon many more Nyonya-Baba were settling in Phuket as the tin industry grew and more wealthy families started establishing their business headquarters on the island.

The Nyonya-Baba elite of Phuket strengthened their relationships with the Penang Nyonya-Baba community through marriage alliances. Well-bred Nyonya from Penang were highly sought after as daughters-in-law by wealthy families in Phuket. Marriage was a way of creating more wealth amongst the wealthy, therefore the rich usually married within their ranks.

During this period, although Phuket was part of Siam and Penang was an island within the British Empire, Phuket was more closely tied with Penang than with any other city in the region.

— Anand Singh

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

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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