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  1. #1
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    sabang's Avatar
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    Is the key to happiness a daughter in Europe?

    Finally, a decent article on this subject- one that doesn't patronise the wimmin, or paint them as victims, or trafficked, or whatever other nonsense we read on a regular basis.


    Is the key to happiness a daughter in Europe?

    While Europe worries about trafficking and the so-called refugee crisis, Thai villagers are still building their hopes on women’s migration and labor abroad.


    The day Dak left her small village in Isaan, she picked up her in-laws’ radio and got on a bus to Nakhon Ratchasima.

    Dak was 33-years-old; her husband was a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia but drank the money away and stopped sending any back for her. Dak made a living as a day laborer in the tapioca fields around her village in Isaan and supported her four children, parents in-law, her own parents and her terminally ill sister.

    The pawnbroker in Nakhon Ratchasima took the radio, and Dak spent the money on a bus ticket onwards to Pattaya. She planned to work at a beer bar and find a foreigner to marry, so she would be able to go abroad and work. In Pattaya, she eventually met a Danish man.

    In Denmark, Dak initially worked in three different day jobs as a cleaning assistant – cleaning the summerhouses of Danish families and doing night shifts on board a ferry sailing between Denmark and Norway. At first she had to send a lot of money home, but after several family members passed away she only needed one job at a metal factory. Every month, Dak now sends $150 (5300 baht) to her family in Thailand.


    Isaan-natives Sommai, Basit, Kae and Mong are married to Danish men and are all living in Denmark where they work as cleaners, in the fishing industry or other labor intensive sectors. Photo credit: Henrik Bohn Ipsen / still photo from the documentary “Love on Delivery” by Janus Metz and Sine Plambech


    In recent years, many Thai women have moved to and now live in the region of Denmark where Dak settled. Mon is one of them. I meet her as she sits on her bed in the basement of the brothel where she works, in a Danish provincial town. She coughs, she’s sick today. Around her are Buddha figures, a makeup desk, a hot tub, flashing string lights and a soccer match on TV. The establishment is open all hours, but today Mon is too tired to see customers, so she keeps the door locked. Behind the entrance door are two sticks in case she needs to defend herself against hostile customers. Mon divorced her Danish husband and turned to sex work to make a living. She wants to quit the job at the brothel, but she has many expenses back in Thailand and finds factory work to be tough and poorly paid. Mon tells her family that she is working as a cleaning assistant in Denmark. Every month she sends them $450 (15800 baht).

    Mon and Dak are not victims of trafficking, as Thai women are often portrayed in a European and Danish context. They are marriage and labor migrants and they are proud of that. They work and remit money to their families in Isaan. In Denmark and in Europe, women from Thailand are often wrongly and prejudicially described as sex slaves, victims of trafficking, or as women who are passively “bought” and exploited by their foreign husband, and it is presumed that they see their marriage only as a shortcut to wealth. Rarely are they understood as women who marry out of love or who migrate to Europe in a deliberate decision to support their families.

    The equation looks like this: One working day in a tapioca field pays $8 (300 baht). One working day at a multinational chicken factory pays $11 (400 baht). One working day at a metal factory in Denmark pays $91 (3200 baht), and one busy working day at a Danish brothel pays $450 (15800 baht).

    A daily salary of $8 provides a Thai family with food on the table almost every day, but little else. Serious illness, accidents, and unemployment are frequent disasters that $8 a day won’t cover. Dak’s village – situated in Nakhon Ratchasima Province – is a poor community that has benefitted economically from female villagers’ migration to Europe and their monthly remittances. Out of the 600 people in the village, 17 women have gone to Europe – nine of them live in Denmark. That means that most families in the village are affected by the women’s migration, as they miss their mothers, sisters, and daughters abroad, but also because the remittances they receive, the money some of them borrow, and the houses they live in are everyday reminders of their family members’ absence.


    A scene from the 2008 documentary “Love on Delivery” by Janus Metz and Sine Plambech. The documentary portrays the lives of Isaan women who migrated to Denmark. Photo credit: Henrik Bohn Ipsen
    As Bangkok Post recently reported, research by the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) at Mahidol University documents how Isaan for decades has seen its families split by migration. The consequence, the researchers argue, is that Thai children living with their grandparents but without their parents are prone to being poorly nourished, and suffer from developmental and behavioral issues. Such research results have to be carefully disseminated, as it might lend to judging families already in difficult situations rather than pointing to the responsibility of the Thai State in providing social welfare programs and assistance for its citizens. While this study primarily focuses on parents who left for Bangkok, some children in Dak’s village certainly suffer from the absence of their mothers and miss them in Europe. But the money these mothers send gives their children the opportunity to go to private childcare and eat healthier food, and the grandparents do their best to take care of their grandchildren.

    Dak was the first woman from the village to travel to Europe, and since then the village has changed. Dak’s cousin, who is still living in the village, says:

    Eight years ago there was only one car in the village, but now there are at least ten cars and some of them are brand new four-wheel drive pickups. I remember that there was only a single two-story wooden house with blue tiled floors; the house was neat and well maintained. […] Now there are at least 15 brand new concrete houses with glass windows, tiled floors, refrigerators and colored roofs – some of them look like palaces. It’s unbelievable how fast things have happened.

    The only families in the village who can afford such fancy houses are those with a woman in Europe and a few rich landowners. This village is not unique. In the last few decades, several villages in Isaan have witnessed this transformation.

    The migrant women’s money is not only spent on consumption. Most of it goes to parents’ hospital stays when they are sick and their siblings’ education. The women’s migrant income effectively works as long-distance retirement savings and unemployment insurance. That is, through their migration the women are doing what somewhat could be expected from the Thai State. The paradox lies in the fact that in Denmark these Thai women are occupying jobs that few Danish people want. Meanwhile, the women contribute – either by working in labor-intensive sectors, as cleaning assistants, or in the sex industry – to the development of their families and to Thailand as a whole, in particular Isaan. While there is no precise data on Thai women’s remittances specifically, data from the World Bank shows that remittance payments to Thailand have increased significantly in the past ten years, and in most countries in Europe the gender ratio among Thai immigrants is about 85 percent women and 15 percent men. In short, Thailand receives a lot of benefits from these women without giving much back.

    Seen from the perspective of the villages in Isaan, the migrant women are thus kinds of heroines. That does not mean, however, that the women’s lives as migrants in Denmark are uncomplicated. While most of the women I meet are in well functioning marriages, sex work, tough factory work, and domestic violence is a reality for others. But the economic success of migrant women continues to inspire some women in Thai villages to travel abroad.

    The focus on trafficking and sex work continuously overshadows the European and Danish debate on Thai women and severely lacks the perspective of the migrant women themselves and that of their relatives in the villages of Isaan. Instead, what is needed in the debate is to keep the moral panic at a distance and deal with the global reality that makes Thai women travel to Denmark and other places.

    Some do it out of love and others to find work – some at brothels – because they don’t make enough money in Thailand. As is often the case for female Thai migrants, Dak and Mon’s decision to emigrate was shaped by inequality, strict European visa policies, and a booming culture of migration in Thailand. A more nuanced understanding acknowledges how Thai women abroad are, of course, not merely “sex slaves.” Rather, they often bear the burden of the Thai state’s weak social welfare system and its uneven support for rural communities.
    Is the key to happiness a daughter in Europe? ? The Isaan Record

    Kudos to the author-

    Sine Plambech is a Social Anthropologist (PhD) and filmmaker. Plambech has been doing fieldwork among Thai women living in Denmark and their families in Isaan for 13 years. She is a former Research Fellow at Columbia University in New York and currently a Postdoc Research Fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Her documentary films, produced in collaboration with director Janus Metz, include the award-winning Love on Delivery and Ticket to Paradise, both on the dynamics of Thai women's relationships with Danish men and their migration between Thailand and Europe.
    probes Aliens

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat Pragmatic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    The migrant women’s money is not only spent on consumption. Most of it goes to parents’ hospital stays when they are sick
    I thought Thais get free medical treatment?

  3. #3
    I am in Jail
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    ^They have to pay for the medicines.

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat Pragmatic's Avatar
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    ^ No, adults pay the government fixed fee of 30 Baht. Medicines included, unless one uses a government hospital that they are not legally registered to. Children do not pay the 30 Baht fee.

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    If they can afford it, families will often send their elders to private rather than government hospitals. I'm not talking places the status and expense of Bumungrad, but they do cost money. Typically overcrowded government hospitals (I've seen patients sleeping in corridors) Don't want you in for long term care. They want you out as soon as possible, to make way for the next case. Frankly (at least in Isaan) they'll send you home to die with a few pills & maybe morphine, rather than keep you in and offer palliative care.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Eight years ago there was only one car in the village, but now there are at least ten cars and some of them are brand new four-wheel drive pickups. I remember that there was only a single two-story wooden house with blue tiled floors; the house was neat and well maintained. […] Now there are at least 15 brand new concrete houses with glass windows, tiled floors, refrigerators and colored roofs – some of them look like palaces. It’s unbelievable how fast things have happened.
    You can make the story fit the details, very few girls from my district have farang husbands, but new pickups and concrete block homes [with tiles] are everywhere.


    Sine Plambech is a Social Anthropologist (PhD)[/QUOTE]So not much point in writing about easy credit to rice farmers to buy big cars, TVs etc, or the massive expansion and investment in some provincial cities, it all cames from exploiting Thai girls.

    One step up from a god botherer, with her own agenda.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamescollister
    Sine Plambech is a Social Anthropologist (PhD
    Yes- but she is quoting a Thai lady in your Qquote- she didn't author it.
    Anyway, compared to the usual patronising, proselytising, or just plain incorrect tone of most such articles, I found this one refreshing- and worth reading.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    The only families in the village who can afford such fancy houses are those with a woman in Europe and a few rich landowners. This village is not unique. In the last few decades, several villages in Isaan have witnessed this transformation.
    Come on Sabang, several villages in the last few decades, you will have seen massive change in your area, there wasn't even a real road where I live.

    To equate Thai girls sending money back to the housing boom in Ubon and else where is simply not correct.

    Most Thais married to Australians and living and working there can't afford new cars, never mine buy new homes and cars for their parents.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Frankly (at least in Isaan) they'll send you home to die with a few pills & maybe morphine, rather than keep you in and offer palliative care.
    Hospitals are for the very sick, they are not hotels for the semi able. My experience of Thai health services from village shop, local tessaban clinics nurses, local hospitals to provicial capital hospitals are good. Much more accessible, less well provided for, English - unless from mersyside, spoken etc.

    The fear of dying may not be so great. The desire to soldier on for another decade or two with the use of "support" may not be so great.

    Buddha will take care. Many other faiths have a similar promise. If that is of importance.
    A tray full of GOLD is not worth a moment in time.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by jamescollister
    Sine Plambech is a Social Anthropologist (PhD
    Yes- but she is quoting a Thai lady in your Qquote- she didn't author it.
    Anyway, compared to the usual patronising, proselytising, or just plain incorrect tone of most such articles, I found this one refreshing- and worth reading.
    Perhaps...
    But terribly bias and blindingly from a particular perspective - not refreshing.

    She could have easily extended her research and study from experience and exposure - residing in a few selected regions for a time and mingling. Perhaps a different story would have enveloped, instead of the expected Euro-minded textbook angle that she seems to seek.....regarding those people of the highly invented "Third World".

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamescollister
    To equate Thai girls sending money back to the housing boom in Ubon
    Seriously, I can correlate it with the 'housing boom' around here! No kidding. Sometimes farangs 'sending money back', usually with the intent to retire here, but more often resident farangs. Not the Toyota boom though- it seems to me the locals value a shiny new car more than upgrading their home. I suppose you can't crash a house.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    She could have easily extended her research and study from experience and exposure
    I would quite like her to do just that- bear in mind this article is basically a case study about one tambon in Korat province, and the female experience with Danish pork products. I did not find it patronising at all- or agenda driven, or misleading.

  12. #12
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    Its just another take on all too familiar " indolent isaan peasants sitting on their arses all day whilst the guilt ridden daughter feels her duty is to suck foreign cock to provide the monthly payments for the bugmunchers pick ups, gambling debts, alcohol and i phones"

  13. #13
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    Thank you for that enlightened comment tax.
    Tell me, are you happy in a sanuk kinda way?

  14. #14
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    Tax and James collister are realists sabang.

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    Have you read the article? And incidentally- what makes you think these women aren't Realists too?
    Isn't it the business persons mantra worldwide- maximise your return? If you don't, others will.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by beerlaodrinker View Post
    Tax and James collister are realists sabang.
    Not realists per se, but retain their own standard for what presents as reality.


    One man's ceiling is another one's floor.

  17. #17
    Thailand Expat David48atTD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme View Post

    <snip>

    One man's ceiling is another one's floor.

    I've never heard that expression before. Interesting.

    A thaimeme original?

  18. #18
    disturbance in the Turnip baldrick's Avatar
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    One man's glass ceiling is another gogo dance floor

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