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Englishman - I could only have met my Thai woman in Isaan

Sunday 9th September 2012 9:35pm

Isaan woman and racial divides in Thailand

It has emerged that many Thai women seeking foreign husbands or marriage partners are from Isaan, a region in the North East of Thailand.

Many young Isaan women feel excluded from society in their own country due to discrimination on a geographical basis. Many Isaan women marry western men because they feel the financial security will enable them to attain a standing in the Thai community. Others marry for love, even though their initial motivation may have been due to discrimination in their own country.

Men from round the world find Thai women alluring and beautiful, and naturally those that marry Thai women talk very positively about their wives and their merits. This is only to be expected, and many will say that men the world over will speak favorably of their wives, no matter their country of origin.

However, there appears to be something special about the women of Northeast Thailand, particularly those from the Isaan region, which prompts their western husbands to make particular mention of their devotion and efforts to please. It is particularly something about the Isaan women that American, British and European men seem to appreciate.

Women from all parts of Thailand try to please their husbands of course, because it is the Thai way. However, most people cannot understand why women from this region of Thailand should be particularly anxious to prove themselves perfect wives and mothers, and also, in most cases, ideal financial managers.

Isaan Women: The Rural-Urban divide

There is an explanation for this that those not originating from this part of Thailand probably do not understand. It is an explanation that originates from a form of discrimination against Isaan and its inhabitants. It is likely not just Isaan, but there is a significant rural-urban divide in Thailand, whereby country people are regarded as an underclass.

It is ingrained, and people from Isaan try very hard to please so that they can participate in the society that generally rejects them. It is a racial divide, sure, but also an economic one. It is exacerbated by the fact that the people of Isaan have darker skin than those in the larger cities of Bangkok and Phuket. Skin color is often the cause of discrimination in education and employment (ring a bell?), and often the only way for a young Isaan woman to have a decent future is to meet a western man.

Geoff and Amy's story

The situation is at the point where any dark skinned Thai woman is referred to as a 'bar girl', and any farang seen with a dark skinned Isaan woman is looked down upon. Geoff is an American married to Amy, a young woman from Si Sa Ket region in the province of Isaan. According to Geoff:

'The common western perception of Thai women in the west is that they're 'just' hookers and being victimized by western male tourists. In fact, Isaan women are much more victimized by the culture of their own country. . . '

When Thais learned from Geoff's blog that Amy was from Isaan, he received posts from Thais such as:

'Mr.Geoff, Seem like your wife come from Isaan region, I am sure she sent money to her home country every month (lol), good for you (he, he)'

'I think people who read this book almost has Isaan girl, tell me who don't marry with Isaan girl?'

And simply: 'Isaan Girl?'

These comments tell their own story. According to Geoff, Thai city people talk about the Isaan people as the American southerners would have talked about the blacks back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. When Thai women from this part of the country try to please their husbands they are trying to prove their worth. As a country, Thailand is becoming more advanced in many respects, but in many others it has yet to enter the 21st century.

The Negative influence of TV in Thailand

The city population, which is largely whiter than the darker Isaan people, displays a degree of discrimination that would not be acceptable in Western societies. They never feature in TV adverts for example, and anybody seen associating with them are shunned, or at least ignored and looked down upon.

Englishman Mike says: 'Many foreigners never hear about any of this as Thais will keep these things to themselves. I never heard any of this till my wife told me. I know there are many bar girls from Isaan but the woman I met could not be found in a big city like Bangkok.'

However, there are two sides to each story, and an important factor in the urban/rural divide is the effect of TV. Most of the wealth in Thailand is in the central regions of the country, centering on Bangkok, and TV programs tend to show wealthy families living typically comfortable lifestyles. The poor people of Thailand, including those of Isaan, tend to look upon this representation as being the norm, and themselves as being the underclass.

They see money as being the difference between themselves and the rich TV families, and so many will do anything they must in order to get it. This often involves illegal or sexual activities, which in turn leads to these young women getting a bad name - all because they only wanted to be normal young Thais like their TV role models!

It is a sad situation, and one that governments should be trying to resolve. However, meantime, young women from Isaan will do all they can to impress their western husbands, keep them happy and try to maintain this good new life they have found. Who can blame them!

They believe that the genuine citizens of Thailand are those they see on TV and traveling in big cars in the cities. They want to be like these people, and believe that the difference is money. By marrying a rich farang they might be able to enter that world, although most know in their hearts that this will never be possible. Nevertheless, they do what they can to achieve their dream.

Education and Discrimination

When Amy was 18 years old, she went to Bangkok to work in a restaurant and perhaps find her dream. Because of her Si Sa Ket accent, she was 'openly laughed at' according to Geoff. Customers would mock her, so she decided to change her accent so she was less obviously from Isaan. Amy succeeded, and she states that while she can still speak the Isaan/Lao dialect, she no longer does so with the Si Sa Ket accent.

Geoff believes that the main reason for many young Thai women from Isaan getting into trouble is because they feel that they are so worthless that they may as well steal and sell their bodies to make money. Why try to be worthwhile and starve doing so if they can make a living by acting as most Thais expect Isaan girls to act?

Much of this problem is connected with the Thai educational system. Young girls and boys speak their own language in Isaan, a mix of Thai and Lao (the language of the border country, Laos), until they attend school. Then they are informed that this language is not acceptable because it does not conform to that used in central Thailand. That gives these children learning difficulties in a different dialect.

They also experience problems understanding their position in their own country, where they are looked down upon and where their dialect is unacceptable to their schools. While requiring a single language to be used in schools is not unreasonable (as in most other countries), it does create problems when this comes with other forms of racial discrimination. Apparently, there are Thais and 'Thais.'

Why Isaan women marry Western men

It is this feeling of inadequacy and rejection by their own country that prompts many Isaan women to seek marriage with western men. Whether they believe that they will be whisked out of Thailand to live in their husband's own country, or that they will achieve a higher social standing in Thailand by marrying a rich farang, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that many Thai women, particularly from the north-eastern provinces such as Isaan, are being forced to avoid marrying their own countrymen by what appears to be a form of racial discrimination.

Many Thai women marry western men for their own reasons - often through genuine love, sometimes for financial reasons, but also because they are being discriminated against and looked down on in their own country. This is something of which all western men seeking Thai brides should be aware.

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Discrimination towards women from Northeast Thailand or Isaan is common place.
An Isaan woman in Thailand often faces discrimination in the bigger cities particulalry Bangkok. Many seek Western men as husbands or life partners.
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