Relationship breakdown driving Western men to seek love and marriage with Thai Women
It is now estimated that Western men immigrating to Thailand are supporting over one million jobs in the Thai economy with over one hundred thousand foreign husbands in Thailand's North Eastern provinces alone.
UK man Martin Wheeler 47 came to Thailand over 17 years ago and married his Thai bride Rojan from Khon Khaen in Isaan reputed to be one of Thailand's poorest areas. A graduate of London University, Wheeler began his new life in Thailand's north east working as a laborer before progressing to working in a rural development project which promotes agricultural self sufficiency in Thailand.
'My wife warned me about Isaan being one of the poorest places in Thailand, but I thought 'if this is poor, I'll have some of it.' Wheeler says that if people can accept a lack of education and the prospect of earning a lot of money then Thailand's provincial countryside has a lot of appeal as a way of life. While Martin Wheeler is like many UK men who are opting to settle in Thailand,there has been an explosive growth in the number of Thai Brides in the UK in the last two years.
Wheeler acknowledges the attraction of Western men to Thai women and the corresponding appeal to a Thai woman living in Thailand's poor countryside of marriage to a western man. 'It's a win win situation, but it's not a love story,' Wheeler says. 'It's finance, and it's sex. It's a mirror of what is wrong with the West, not what's wrong with Thailand.'
Although Wheeler lives in Thailand with his Thai bride, Australian Graham Chappel and his bride have settled in Australia and he may disagree that his marriage is not a love story.
Graham from Brisbane met his Thai Bride Yosita on ThaiLoveLines in July 2008 and the couple has lived in Australia together for the last eighteen months. He describes himself as 'utterly surprised' everyday that he has a Thai born wife but also experiences a 'sense of wonder' at how happy they are together.
The self employed businessman, in an article written for the ThaiLoveLines News Centre calls for a debate on 'where western society' is going. 'I am so thankful for my Thai wife that I almost feel I have a duty to tell other people about it and try to figure out what is wrong. I'm a decent bloke, I've loved women in Australia, in fact, I love women in general, the women here Australia are living a nightmare too. I know it's the same in very western country, 'society has gone nuts.'
'I know there are many men like me and younger men too, they're almost afraid these days to marry,' he says. 'I believe the cause of it is the feminist movement and the kind of government policies that we've all had to put up with since the sixties.'
Mr Chappels statement comes days after divorce lawyers in the United States confirmed that social networking sites like Facebook and My Space are now used as evidence in 20% of divorces as, increasingly; online behaviour is being used as grounds for divorce. In the United States 71% of all divorces are instigated by women. In his book 'Fatherless America' the author David Blankenhorn describes the crisis as the 'most destructive trend in our generation'. Studies conducted by US universities have found that children of relationships that break down are four times more likely to divorce themselves.
'It has definitely become more common (Thai women marrying Western men) but it is wrong to think that Thai women are not feminists or weaker then women in western societies,' says a female lawyer in Bangkok who has become an expert on Thailand's growing number of interracial marriages. 'In Thailand the feminist movement is also active in promoting women's rights but at a more practical level', she says. Although she affirms the increased incidence of Thai women marrying western men, she also points out to a spike in divorce rates among this group in courts throughout the North east provinces of Thailand. 'Divorce is not just something for western countries; in fact Thailand's divorce codes are quite progressive in many ways.'
Some Thai academics are quick to underline an economic link to the surge in Thai women marrying western men and it may also be said that the breakdown in marriages in western countries may too be linked to increased economic development. Buapan Promhakping, an associate professor of humanities at Khon Khaen University has studied interracial marriages between western men and Thai women in Isaan and concludes that it has created a huge income gap between cross culture couples and villagers in the region. She has concluded that it has fuelled increased materialism and consumerism. 'Nowadays in the villages, parents will say to their daughter: 'If your Thai husband is no good you can divorce him and find a farang (foreign) husband.'
Despite the economic downturn slowing somewhat, the rate of divorce in western countries, in some US states, over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Commentators agree that this is one of the key drivers in the flight of western men seeking Thai women to marry or as relationship partners.
But what is the attraction between Western men and Thai women? Is it literally a marriage of convenience? Or is it a cross cultural phenomenon? Some Thai women say that they are more attracted to Western men because of the increased level of care and attention that western men are perceived to given their wives or girlfriends. It should be noted that only a very small percentage of Thai women are interested in finding western men or husbands. Thailand's society has traditionally been unusually paternalistic in nature with Thai men often exercising their rights to mistresses or second wives in a culture that historically differs from that of western countries.
Some Thai women express the view that they prefer western men because:
- Western men are perceived as more faithful and less promiscuous (jai choo) than Thai men by this group of women
- Western men are seen to be worldlier at a time when Thailand is beginning more and more to look outwards.
- It has to be said that some Thai women, particularly those less well off, see western men as having more financial resources and this is the key factor for some Thai women.
- Although objectionable for most westerners and Thais, there is an opinion out there among some Thai women that expresses a preference for non Asian men with 'white skin'. This deplorable perception may be encouraged by increased globalization and the increasing prevalence and attraction of western culture.
In return Western men see Thai women as:
- More easygoing and easy to get along with. Thai people have a very easy going nature which is linked with Thai culture and Buddhism.
- More traditional and family orientated. Thai culture places great emphasis on the family in particular on respect for the elderly and duties within the family.
- More feminine in their appearance. Many western men feel western feminism has made western women less feminine and certainly less concerned on looking attractive for men. It should also be said that Thai culture underscores a need to be more polite and soft spoken which contributes to the allure of Thai women as being more feminine.
- Some western men simply see Thai women as more exotic and beautiful
It may be true to say that the growth in relationships between Thai women may be representative in a growth throughout the world in interracial marriages. There is also increased evidence that younger western men are following this path. It is insightful to note that the median age of those forming successful relationships online has dropped on ThaiLoveLines surveys from 44 years in 2007 to 39 in 2010.