Thai-isation: Removal of Chinese traces in Thailand

Anonymous student post

Although it is stepping back a few weeks, I would like to look at the assimilation of ethnic Chinese in Thailand. I think it is an important case to consider as it generally accepted that Thailand has successfully overcome the difficulties of incorporating the Chinese into the Thai national identity. Balasegaram (2001) writes of how “integration … of the community has been the greatest in Thailand and Philippines”.

To begin, we have covered the theoretical approaches to assimilation and segmented assimilation, which have been generally centred around Milton Gordon‘s “Seven Stages of Assimilation” as a linear process, in one way or another. For example, Alba and Nee (1997)

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

presented highly influential work concerning the “causal mechanisms” that generate assimilation, but this all still lays on the foundations that Gordon laid out. Some have called for a fresh direction of assimilation, not by completely rejecting Gordon’s initial work, but argue that it is outdated in current circumstances, at least in the United States that is. Moon-Kie Jung (2010) offers that we should move away from “assimilation” and instead give greater attention to the “politics of national belonging”.

We have additionally looked at the effects of the assimilated or semi-assimilated, both first and second generation, such as their progression in the educational institutions, the workplace and society’s acceptance at large, including self-identity. From this, I became curious in how assimilation, or attempted assimilation, takes place at the policy-making level. Prof. Moorehead’s link regarding Amy Chua‘s most recent work, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2014), reminded me of a particularly outstanding chapter in her 2003 book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, which is titled “Mixing Blood: Assimilation, Globalization, and the Case of Thailand”.

Chua notes that Thailand’s population of ethnic Chinese stands at 10% of the Thai population, but the Chinese are practically invisible following years of assimilation. A closer look however reveals that the “ethnic Chinese” in Thailand account for a “wildly disproportionately wealthy, market dominant … minority” (Chua 2004:179). According to Chua, they dominate the largest banks and conglomerates and “all of Thailand’s billionaires are ethnic Chinese”. Yet, there is a distinct lack of resentment. Intermarriage is much higher compared to surrounding countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. So how did this come to be?

Chua answers this question quite simply; “through decades of coerced assimilation” (p. 180). Following immigration from China to Thailand in the 19th century, Thailand began to take a nationalist stance against the Chinese, and it was in fact King Rama VI of Thailand that coined the term “Jews of the East” due to their economic dominance. The Thai government‘s solution to this issue took the form of what we can call “Thai-isation”, through a “systematic and ruthless campaign” (p. 183). Chinese schools in Thailand initially faced severe restrictions, and then were closed down. Chinese books were banned, as were newspapers and social organisations. Thai dress was enforced, Chinese industries were nationalised, remittance of money to China was criminalised and harassment ensued for anyone still showing signs of “Chineseness”. Those with a Chinese surname began changing their names to be more “Thai”, but as one of Chua’s students notes: “You can tell who the Chinese are because they’re the ones with the longest last names. That’s because they felt that had to “out-Thai” the Thai and because the Chinese weren’t allowed to take on a Thai surnames that already existed” (p. 184).

These events clearly show a more extreme angle of assimilation from a state-level. The repression of the Chinese in attempt to erase a minority’s dominance has only really made the issue cloudy and obscures a great deal. I wonder now to what level other national governments have gone to in order to try and create a more “harmonious” society. Japan? Britain? Australia? Have they followed routes like Thailand in the past, and do they today present a more politics of belonging approach?


Alba, R. and Nee, V. (1997). Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration, International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 826-874.

Balasegaram, M. (2001). ‘Analysis: South-East Asia’s Chinese’, BBC News, 29 August 2001. Retrieved from on 22 June 2014.

Chua, A. (2004). World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. London: Arrow Books.

Jung, M, K. (2009). The Racial Unconscious of Assimilation Theory, Du Bois Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 375-395.

Undocumented Immigrants in Hiding

by Maki Yoshikawa

In our class, we have studied about undocumented immigrants through video, and reading articles on real-life  undocumented immigrants.

I think it is very difficult to make it clear that undocumented immigrants in Japan should be accepted in this society or not. There are a lot of undocumented immigrants who want to stay in Japan. My opinion is that Japan should accept undocumented immigrants. Indeed, it is true that some Japanese people might lose their job because of increasing number of workers. However I suppose that undocumented immigrants are needed in Japan. Japanese society will not be able to survive on its own without help of foreigners. Some Japanese businesses still need workers to work, for example, farming, caring for aged people, fishing, and so on. In these kind of jobs, most Japanese are not willing to take these jobs.

On the other hand, these jobs are socially needed because the aging society is growing year by year, and the workers in the rice fields are also getting older. As everyone knows, rice is necessary in Japanese food. Who knows how to raise rice according to the changing seasons?  Who will take over the technique? After all, there are many kind of jobs which will definitely need people to succeed to. In addition, from my view, foreigners or immigrants can be engaged in these jobs. This will lead the problems which Japanese society having to be known worldwide and recruit people from all over the world. This will be more effective. However, there is a wall of documents and language when recruiting people from around the world.

It is very complex issue when it comes to children like Noriko Calderon. We have laws to follow, and human rights to protect. It is difficult to put weight on both. When we try to follow the laws, human rights tend to be violated as a term of undocumented immigrants. I insist parents are responsible for undocumented children like Noriko even if they had no choice. Children have no reason to be blamed and be restricted their rights. Therefore, as following the law, parents are supposed to leave the country. There is no way to avoid separation between parents and children. On the other hand, this situation must be changed. As a student like Noriko, I would not want more undocumented children in Japan and other countries to feel like her because they are not guilty, they were just born and raised without knowing they are undocumented.

The Japanese government must do something. However, for government, as a policy it is not appropriate to accept all immigrants without limit. For the first step, the Japanese government needs to promote awareness and interest of undocumented immigrants because a friend sitting next to us who looks completely Japanese might be undocumented immigrant who lives hiding his/her problem.

Black and White in Brazil? – It’s hard to identify race

by Aya Murakami

flagWhile the US has been importing a racial system from Latin America, Brazil is going in an opposite direction. It has imported the traditional US way of classifying race. The system called ‘Black movement’, and it divides people into two categories: black and white. Even though there are another two classification systems, this idea has been rapidly spreading over Brazil and having huge impact on people’s idea of race.

Traditionally, Brazil had been identifying itself as “racial democratic” country. Brazil is one of the most racially mixed societies. It counts 2nd largest black population and the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. There was no legislation to divide people into racial groups and people could claim their own racial categories. As a consequence of these reasons, racial groups in Brazil were very ambiguous and elusive.

However, even in Brazil, the racial democratic country, statistic revealed that discrimination toward darker skin people exists. Although afro-Brazilians occupy at least 50% of total population, there were less than 5% of blacks in the government. Also, nearly two third of poverty was made up by Blacks. The average income gap between white and black was huge, black only gained 40% of which white did in 1980. Moreover, blacks were unlikely to be able to get higher education.

These are some of my Brazilian friends.

These are some of my Brazilian friends.

Since 2001, some of the state and federal universities have provided a certain percentage of seats to blacks. As a result, the number of black students in the university has been bigger and bigger. It has certainly given chance to blacks and in the long run, people are expecting it to reduce the gap between black and white.

However, it is true that these actions are providing equal opportunities for blacks? Or rather, it is increasing the gap between white and black? There remain some questions. Since most of the people are mixed race hence it is very difficult to draw a line between two categories. In fact, it is still ambiguous who is black and who is white. Sometimes family members, such as siblings are categorized in different racial groups.

Also, the system made people to think whether they are black or white whereas most of people have never thought about it. Thinking about it and assigned in a racial group increased awareness of race. As people started to have sense of belonging to either black or white racial groups, some white people felt that the black were taking benefit from the system. Actually, there were some violence attacks toward African students from white students.

Therefore, it can be said that it is difficult to define racial categories especially a country like Brazil where most of people are racially mixed. In my opinion, without clear classification I think it would be very difficult that the system work efficiently. Although the quota system might bring brighter future for blacks, there are still some controversial questions to be answered.

See Also:


Black in Latin America E02, Brazil: A Racial Paradise

WIDE ANGLE | Brazil in Black and White | PBS


Guardian. (2011, November 17). Brazil census shows African-Brazilian in the majority for the first time. Retrieved from

The Economist. (2012, January 28). Race in Brazil: Affirming a divide. Retrieved from

Identity of Hafu and Japanese

by Kanami Hirokawa

One in 30 children is born as a hafu today in Japan. Hafu have parents who have different nationality and looks. Therefore, hafu tend to have different looks with Japanese and they may catch people’s eye easily. In such a situation in Japan, how do hafu people build their own identity? Do they have only one identity or hybrid identity? Why do many Japanese think hafu is cool and beautiful?

First of all, it is necessary to think about identity of hafu. When I watched a video about hafu in class, many of hafu said that they have a hybrid identity, but they said that they can not become complete and true Japanese. Many of hafu in this video grow up in Japan and know the Japanese culture. Moreover, some of them can speak Japanese fluently. However, why can’t they become ‘true’ Japanese? In order to have the consciousness of belonging, to have same value and culture is needed. For example, if they live in Japan, they try to speak Japanese. In addition to this, it is also important that hafu are appropriated by Japanese, regarded as a member of Japan and they can join Japanese society.

Next, Japanese often regard hafu as a ‘stranger’ even if they know Japanese culture and can speak Japanese. Hafu often attract people’s eye and they are regarded not as Japanese but as a special people. Today, in Japan hafu and foreigners are minority and many Japanese still have the fixed idea that Japan is a homogeneous nation. This is why hafu and foreigners are regarded as a ‘stranger’ in Japan. Such a fixed idea should be broken because Japan has been a multicultural country since the old days. For example, Ainu people lived in Hokkaido as native people and in the 20th century many foreigners like Koreans and Brazilians came to Japan. I suggest that Japanese must change their fixed idea and appropriate hafu.

Japanese tend to ask hafu questions like “where are you from?” even if they grow up in Japan and have Japanese values and Japanese culture. Japanese must know that people who have different looks with Japanese live in Japan as Japanese. Moreover, Japanese should accept hafu as a member of Japan and should not make borders between Japanese and hafu because they grow up in Japan and have same identity with Japanese. In order that hafu become Japanese completely, not only Japanese accept hafu as a member of Japanese in Japanese society but also Japanese government should begin the approach to make Japan a ‘true’ multicultural country. Japan is based on the idea of jus sanguinis and conservative to foreigners. Today, in the world, globalization is developing now and Japan should review their principle.

In conclusion, hafu are often regarded as special people in today’s Japanese society. In order that hafu become true Japanese, Japanese should break their fixed ideas and Japanese government should change their policy. Furthermore, in the future Japan may have to accept more foreigners because of the declining birth rate and the lack of workers. If such a situation comes, foreigners will come to work in Japan and have more opportunities to get on with foreigners. The number of hafu will be increasing from now on. Therefore, Japanese need to appropriate hafu and foreigners.


Hafuwokangaeyou [Let’s think about hafu].(2010). Sandra, H. Retrieved May 8, 2013, from

Natalie, M. W, and Marcia, Y. L. (2010). The Hafu Project. The Hafu Project.

Seichisyugi [Jus Sanguinis]. (n.d.). Murato Lawyer Office. Retrieved May 8, 2013, from