Recent research conducted by universities in America including Tulane show a new wave of American men seeking to marry Thai women through Thai Personals on Thai dating sites.
Figures released by the US Citizenship and Immigration services show that the Thai population currently in the US may be well over 210,000. It is estimated that a third of these live in LA, which has become a magnet for contemporary Thai immigration into the US. The new research shows that many of the new arrivals are Thai women who marry American men. In the 1960's and 70's a wave of Thai immigration occurred driven by Thai wives who married US military personnel and the new research shows an even bigger wave driven by Thai personal profiles on increasingly popular Thai dating and social networking sites.
The Thai American population in the US has also increased in recent years evidenced by an increase in Thai media and websites and the election of the first Thai American citizens to public office. In 2006 a US citizen of Thai decent was elected to LA Palma City Council in California becoming the first US Mayor of Thai descent in 2007. The growing confidence of the Thai American community was seen in 2006 when protests occurred outside the Thai consulate in LA prior to the coup deposing ex PM Thaksin Shinawatra. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 nearly elevated Thai American and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth from Illinois to the US sensate as his replacement although the position eventually went to Roland Burris. Tammy currently serves as an Assistant Secretary of State at the US Department of Veteran affairs.
Although it is estimated that 66% of all Thai Americans live in the LA area, there are notable Thai American communities in Chicago, San Francisco, Fort Worth, Texas, Providence Rhode Island and Philadelphia. There is also a strong Thai American community in South Nevada which featured strongly in recent research.
Notably, as in other countries worldwide, there has also been a massive growth in interest in Thai culture particularly driven by the spread of Thai restaurants and the growing popularity of Muay Thai kick boxing among the younger population in the US.
The profile of the Thai American population has also been raised by a string of music and sports stars of Thai descent including the world's No. 1 golfer, Tiger Woods. It should also be noted that the current King of Thailand and the World's longest serving Head of State was, in fact, born in America near Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The latest wave of Thai immigration and Thai wives has also coincided with a negative backlash from the media and women's groups in the US targeted at American men who seek foreign wives including American men who marry women from Thailand. This has been exacerbated by a parallel growth in the trafficking of Thai women into the sex trade in America. These exploited Thai women regularly make headlines as increasingly vigilant US authorities clamp down on sex trade operators and the US courts hand down stiff sentences. The resultant media attention has a negative impact on the perception of Thai immigration to America lead by Thai women who marry US men. This effect is similar to that in the UK where Thai women report this as a key factor causing negative discrimination. In America, this attention is enhanced by vociferous commentary from women rights activists in the media, although in America, the focus can also verge on American men who marry Thai women.
A striking example of this debate and commentary was seen in 2008 when a 60 year old American man, a retired businessman, visited Thailand in order to meet and possibly marry a Thai woman. This provoked a storm of protest and support on the internet after his son wrote a blog piece exploring the orthodoxy of American men dating Thai women in Thailand.
It started when Paul Maxton wrote to his son David, in America, some travel notes about his trip to Thailand where he was introduced to selected Thai women in a travel tour designed to help foreign men including Americans find a Thai bride. David Maxton, slightly troubled at his father's trip to Thailand, wrote a piece on an internet site. His father although a respected and successful businessman, who had previously had a number of relationships in America, seemed very impressed by his trip to Thailand and had reported to his son on some of the Thai women he had met.
'I called my dad a few hours before he left Thailand to see what was compelling him to do what, in my mind, looked like a modern twist on the mail order bride,' wrote David Maxton. Over the course of his extended holiday his father's reports on near engagements and personal dating experiences in Thailand increasingly caused his son to question what exactly was going on. 'Finally it dawned on me,' my father tells me over the phone. 'Well, what in hell is the alternative? An abysmal life leading to death or you just keep trying with very little success sometimes.'
The reaction to David Maxton's thought provoking article on the internet tells a lot about the modern phenomenon of international dating and Thai dating for foreigners as well as attitudes in America today ranging from opinions on personal relationships to international Thai dating to the role of women, Thai and American included.
There was the predictable barrage of criticism from some American women and also men. Kelly Grumowski from Rhode Island described David Maxton's article as full of lots of 'weird power stuff' and concluded that both Mr. Maxton and his son had 'serious mommy issues'. Another internet opinion former from Salyersville, Kentucky said: 'His choice of Thailand as a destination seems to have nothing to do with his interest in Thai culture and everything to do with the economic desperation of women who lack opportunity and financial security.
Nor was the vitriolic backlash limited to America. A certain Many G wrote from Phnom Penh in Cambodia expressing her own personal opinion that no one can look at the idea of marrying a Thai woman without looking at the history of colonialism in South East Asia and described a relationship between an American man and a Thai woman as one of 'unequal power dynamics.'
This resulted in a powerful submission from a Thai American woman, Thitya Conrad who, while explaining the need for David Maxton's father to be careful when searching for a Thai wife, explained her own personal story and offered the perspective of a Thai woman who chooses to marry an American man. Thitya was herself one of the many Thai wives in America who immigrated to the USA to marry an American man. She wrote:
'I am a Thai woman who looked for husband online. My family was poor. My dad left us when I'm in High school. My mom has to raise me and my brother by herself. She had to work two jobs in order to make sure that will be money enough to paid for all the bills. I remember sometime she pretend like she is not hungry in order to make sure that me and my brother have enough to eat. I meet my husband online after I get degree in Mathematics and have been working as match teacher for 3 years. We talked online for a year before we decide to see each other in person. Now we have been happy married for 6 years. I am working as match teacher in Nevada and will be getting my master degree in Mathematic next spring. My mom and brother in Thailand are not poor anymore. My mom spent time travel around the world and my brother going to get his degree in computer engineering. My husband parent love me like their own daughter. All of this not happen if I not marry my dear husband.
'So that why I think David worry about his Dad too much. He will be fine in Thailand. Don't worry about Thai woman going to rip him off. Why I said that? Because if your Dad not going to marry someone who work at bar or night club, he should be ok. So I will say give him some time to find what he really want or let him enjoy his life while he still can. I can say that about 80% of women he seeing in Thailand, they are well educated and even have higher education than master degree. So don't worry, if he decide to marry Thai woman, he will be proud of his wife. Because Thai woman have been learned to love, honest, take good care of their husband. Thai women want to only marry once.'
In addition to this compelling personal story, there was more predictable defence offered by other American men on the subject of Thai dating and the American liberal agenda.
David Roberts from New Mexico wrote: 'I have lived in Thailand for 5 years. I didn't go there with the idea of finding a bride, but if I did want to marry again, I would marry an Asian woman. Western women, in my opinion, have lost their femininity. I will admit that I am very traditional about (personal) relationships. Chris Thomas, from Springfield, Missouri was even harder on American women and described the 'insensitive' comments from US women aimed at Paul Maxton and his father as testimony to the problem. Stephen Johnson from Boston described the conflict as one linked to economics, globalization and the American liberal movement: 'The reason he (or anyone) wants what another country has, is because women (particularly from Liberal Boston) do not want a guy! They grew up with liberalism from the hippie kind of upbringing with liberalism, it's 100% their way or the highway. That's just the way it is with liberals. And like Winston Churchill said: 'generalities are generally true.'
The research conducted by American universities concluded the latest wave of American men setting to marry Thai women is bigger than the 1960's and 1970's and military link between America and Thai women, although still a conditioning factor, has disappeared having being replaced by the internet and Thai personal dating sites.
A key part of the research centred on Clark County in South Nevada where it is estimated there are up to 15,000 Thai people living. This area as well as Las Vegas was the centre of the immigration of Thai women who married US servicemen in the 1960's and 1970s. 14,688 Thai women immigrated to the US from 1966 to 1977. To illustrate the growth of Thai culture alongside the latest wave of Thai immigration it can be shown that in 1975 there was one Thai restaurant in Las Vegas compared to over two dozen in 2007. Although LA and Nevada continued to be a magnet for Thai professionals and family members following the surge in the 1960s and 1970's, this latest wave of Thai immigration has seen the Thai population of Clark County, Nevada, climb from 799 in 1980 to a reputed 15,000 people today.
The research confirms personal dating research conducted by this internet dating site throughout 2009 which saw American men accounted for 22% of all foreign relationship generated. The age group of these men was 45-54 years which contrasted with a younger age grouping for continental Europeans men and even UK men. A large proportion (19%) of these men was from LA or Nevada.
This research and ongoing studies into International Thai dating and personals on the internet have shown.
The emergence of the internet and new social influences such as dating sites and new lifestyle factors has led to a growth of the Thai community throughout Australia uniquely influenced by Thai Women. At the same time, many Australian men have relocated to Thailand and the internet itself has forged a growing set of relationships between the two countries. The western lifestyle of Australia, the distinctive Thai lifestyle and the relative proximity of both countries has brought about an exchange of relationships which has been empowered by the internet and particularly by Thai dating and social networking sites.
- A smaller but growing proportion of US men compared to other nationalities are opting to retire to Thailand. Like other nationalities studied, they are settling in the North and North east of Thailand.
- Many US men and also women have settled in Bangkok in professional positions and now use Thai personal dating websites as well as social networking sites to meet friends. The median age of this group is 42 years and many are from higher socio economic groupings.
- There is evidence that more internet based personal relationships between American men and Thai women result in immigration while America ranks only fourth as the most desired country to relocate to after Switzerland, Canada and Australia.