VALUES OF THAI SOCIETY




NOTE: The following list of values of Thai society was copied and translated from several studies on Thai society including:

  1. Thai Society and Culture
    Achan Soopatra Soupap
    Department of Sociology and Anthropology
    Chulalongkorn University
    March 1975
     
  2. Values in Thai Sayings
    Achan Phenkae Wachana Soontawn
    Srinakarin Wiloat University, Bangsaen
    April 1979
     
  3. Thai Society, Culture and Tradition
    Achan Anorn Apapirom
    Department of Sociology
    Kasaetsart University
    June 1976
     


The following is merely a summary. An expanded description of the values listed below can be found in the volumes listed above. The list presented here is not complete but is an attempt to note some basic values of Thai society as a reference for the Christian communicator.


1. RESPECT BUDDHISM

Thai people respect or hold to Buddhism, but it is worthy of note that in the cities of Thailand people very rarely go to the temple or make merit by tak bat. On special days temple attendance and merit making increase. The respect Thai people have for Buddhism is more one of words (NOMINAL) than one of actions (PRACTICE).
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 3)


2. LIFT UP MONEY AS SUPREMELY IMPORTANT

Money is the most important item and is the, desire of all Thai people. Honor and honesty used to be more important than money but today money and the resulting materialism are emphasized much more.

Money brings POWER, POSITION, STATUS (EYES AND FACE), LOVE, RESPECT, ETC.

Money is seen as honor and those who possess it are lifted up and praised. The value of a person is not measured by personal attributes or goodness but by his money.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 4-5)

"If you have money they call you younger brother; if you have gold they call you older brother."
"The poor have neither money nor friends (brothers)."
"Money is God."
(Values in Thai Sayings)


3. LIFT UP POWER

Thai society 1ifts up those with power. No one is concerned about those who have no power. As a result, power becomes the goal of not a few people who want power over others.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 5)


4. LIFT UP THOSE WITH STATUS

Status is generally connected with government positions Thai people would rather work as a government employee than as businessman as it is easier to become a man with status (chao nai) this way. Becoming a "Chao Nai" is the popular pursuit of all Thai people as it is easy work, brings honor, gives power, and elevates one to a position where others give respect and homage. Parents encourage children to join government service in hopes they will get status.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 6)


5. RESPECT THOSE WITH SENIORITY

Those with seniority refers to those with a high position who generally are older as well. They can also be those who have compiled much experience in which case they would tend to be older. Such people are always, catered to. One who is a lesser person should know his place and not disagree with the senior or even express an opinion in his presence. Certainly one should not argue ever with a superior!
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 6)


6. LIFT UP EDUCATED

Thai people believe educated people (those who have degrees) are those who know all things and are worthy of belief. Those who are educated have jobs which bring honor and have good status. Education is a mean to lift oneself up and out of lower positions.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 8)


7. DONíT LIKE TO DISAGREE WITH ANYONE

Thai people do not like to disagree because they "Krengchai" (are afraid of offending). As a result Thai people respond to requests by agreeing, but they agree many times only to relieve themselves of the immediate problem of responding in honesty. Whether they will actually do what they have agreed to is another matter.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 9)


8. DO NOT LIKE TO RISK AND LACK PATIENCE

Thai people are not inclined to taking risks. For example Thai people like stable jobs (government jobs) and do not like business jobs which demand risk. They do not like risking anything that does not give immediate results. This way of thinking comes from teaching given by parents who counsel children to became government workers. As a result most businessmen in Thailand are foreigners (Chinese and Japanese) because they have been taught to strive and be aggressive and not give up patience, whereas Thai people have not.
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 10)


9. LIKE TO GAMBLE (RISK LUCK)

Thai people want to be rich but do not want to work and so gamble in order to make it rich with the 1east possible effort.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 11)


10. LIKE FUN

Thai people not only like to have fun during free time but also during work. As one saying goes: "Make work play and play work." This desire results in an attitude toward work which does not give work much importance. It also results in playing at work and not really working hard (aow ching aow chung). Thai people like to put money or effort in work that is fun rather than in work that may not be fun but is basic.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 11)
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 23)


11. LIKE TO BE EXTRAVAGANT WHEN COMPETING IN SOCIETY

Even the lowest Thai person feels he is as good as the next person. Thus everyone must prove he is as good as the next person by doing big things or by dressing up to fashion. Much money is spent on clothing to show one is as good as the next. The fear is that someone may look down on (doo took) them and this is not acceptable to the average Thai.
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 46)


12. LIKE IT EASY

Thai people do not like organization or planning. They like an easy life, not one which takes effort or real doing.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 12)

The approach to life in general is do what is easiest and most convenient for oneself. Queuing up for anything is out as this would be inconvenient for oneself.
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 25)


13. LIKE CEREMONIES

Ceremonies are needed for honor. They give position and help lift their organizers up so others can see them and give them recognition. The pursuit of "face and eyes" (mee na mee taa) is the reason for most ceremonies. If one does not have enough money one borrows to throw a ceremony.
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 24)
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 12)


14. BELIEVE IN SPIRITS AND LUCK

Shows lack of faith in selves because they place trust in spirits, thevadas, magical items, etc. Uncertainty and fear produce the need to find help elsewhere against bad luck and evil forces.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 12)


15. LACK ORDER AND DISCIPLINE

Thai people do not like doing things for the group but rather do things for self and the satisfaction of self. There is no concept of disciplining oneself for the sake of the majority. This can be seen in the way they drive cars - whatever is most convenient for oneself is OK, or in the conduct at parties or ceremonies - "give me everything and who cares about the others."
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 12, 13)


16. DONíT CARE FOR CORPORATE THINGS

Thai people like to do things that satisfy self and have little or no concern for group or corporate items. If something belongs to a group it is ill-treated because "it really does not belong to me."
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 20)


17. TO EACH HIS OWN

The majority are concerned with doing their own thing. As a popular saying goes, "The best thing is to look out for oneself." Oneself is the most important consideration. Let the others fend for themselves. This attitude has developed in recent times as a response to the rigors of modern society and the competition this has brought to Thai society.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 13)
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 25)


18. INDIVIDUALISTIC

Thai people like the freedom of being "oneís own man!" The ability to be on oneís own is important and goes along with the desire not to be under anyone. As a result there is no desire to work as a group or a team. Such efforts as cooperatives or team sports have very little success in Thailand.
(Thai Society, Culture and Tradition, pg. 23, 24)


19. DONíT LIKE TO SEE OTHERS AS GOOD (OR BETTER)

As a saying goes, "Two tigers cannot live in the same cave." So in Thai society no one likes to admit anyone is as good or better. Criticism or fault finding is engaged upon by the people in an attempt to weaken others and do them in. This often leads to irrational attempts to discredit the threatening person.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 14, 20.)


20. LOVE "FACE AND EYES" IN SOCIETY

This is an important part of Thai society. The Thai person will not allow anyone to look down on him. He would rather die (run away or quit) than to suffer loss of face in society. What others think is more important than anything else and one would willingly go into debt to "keep face."
(Values in Thai Sayings, pg. 39)


21. LOVE GROUPS TO WHICH ONE BELONGS

Oneís love of the groups to which one belongs is shown clearly when the group or any one of its members receives an external threat of any kind. The entire group mobilizes to confront the threatening outsider(s) and deal with them. This can be seen in schools raiding other schools after one of their members receives a threat from the other school. It can be seen in family groups when they are arguing. If anyone dares to intervene the family members unite and deal with him. There is a sense of loyalty to group members which causes all members to help any member in the face of an external threat whether he is right or wrong.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 7)


22. LIKE TO PUT THINGS OFF

Anything that can be done tomorrow, next week or next month will never be done today. Favorite sayings are, "Leave it for now, we can do it later," or "It doesnít matter, do it tomorrow, there is no need to hurry today."
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 10)


23. GRATITUDE AS A RESPONSE TO SUPPORTERS OR PATRONS

Every person in every age should possess this value if he is to be truly Thai. For example, every Thai should feel and express gratitude to mother and father, teachers, and those who have supported or patronized him in any way. Society provides ways (ceremonies) for expressing gratitude. For example, the ceremony for showing respect to teachers (wai khruu) is an opportunity to express gratitude to teachers for their help. Another example is the ordination of men into the priesthood. This act is in payment to mother and father for raising the son ("Pay debt of motherís milk"). The parents receive merit from the act of their son entering the priesthood (vicariously) and the son is considered a good person because he has responded to their goodness.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 7)


24. CURIOUS (NOSY) ABOUT THE AFFAIRS OF OTHERS

Thai people are naturally curious about the affairs of others. This is seen in questions asked when meeting other people, "Where are you going?", "Where have you been?". "How much did you pay for it?", etc. This interest is coupled with the activity of gossiping about the affairs of others all the time. Stories about anotherís failure or misfortune are of most interest although any story about othersí affairs is of interest.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 13)


25. FORGIVE EACH OTHER EASILY

This value is taught by Thai Buddhism, "Have a heart of mercy toward each other." It is taught from childhood up and accounts for the "mai pen rai" responses to situations involving conflicts. For example, when two cars crash the person in the wrong apologizes and the offended person responds, "mai pen rai." "Mai pen rai" (it does not matter) as a result has become a byword for Thai people.
(Thai Society and Culture, pg. 10)