The media and many webboards, have been buzzing with the plight of Mong, the Burmese boy and for once the media has come up trump. The pressure proves too much for the Interior Ministry and after a lengthy statement of denial YESTERDAY (even quoting the matter of National Security) , came out and issue Mong a one year temporary passport!
Now why didn’t they do that quietly in the first place!
Right for those who has been in the jungle in the past few weeks, let me update you.
Mong, a 12 year old boy, could not go to Japan to compete in an international competition after his paper plane design won the local contest, giving him this opportunity to represent Thailand, his school, his village, his people and that means the immigrants living in Thailand. Why not? In short because he’s not Thai!
Here are the other reasons first given by the Interior Minister:
- Because he’s not of Thai origin, his parents are Burmese refugees – legally working in Chiangmai.
- Because he could not be granted a passport
- Because he is considered an alien, once he leaves the border, will not be granted permission to return
- Because there is the a matter of national security to consider!
From where I stand:
- There is a 12 year old boy who goes to Thai school
- He speaks Thai, integrates well into Thai culture
- He won a national competition which gives him the opportunity to represent Thailand on an international level
- He is only a boy!
One question haunts my mind throughout this saga:
When do we become Thai? What makes us Thai?
Will the elitist High Society children who attend international school in Bangkok since birth and cannot speak Thai but are born of Thai parents who choose not to bring up their children Thai, be more Thai than Mong?
So what makes anyone living in Thailand, Thai? Will one be more Thai than the other? Will the Khmer Thais living in Surin province be less Thai than the third generation Chinese immigrant Bangkokians? Will farang children born of western parents living and working in Thailand be less Thai than one that has Thai parents?
This issue will be one that we need to address more and more as Thailand is an open country. It is a progressive country. It is an attractive country. Thailand puts tourism as number one industry so attracting many foreign visitors. Some of whom will ultimately want to make a home here. Plus globalisation allows people to freely move between continents.
How will we view these people and more importantly how we treat them will be vital to this country future! They cannot stay “aliens” forever and neither can their children. Perhaps we should take a good look at our modern history, that of the post WWW’s and see what Chinese illegal immigrants have done in ways of contributing to Thailand economic growth.
Lets not make ourselves be internationally famous for bigotry or negative discrimination or even positive discrimination of other non Thai races! Let us be remembered for our compassion and understanding!