It’s very much in the Thai culture to idolize Thais, or half-Thais, or anything/anyone remotely Thai, who has “made in” in the world.
When a Thai “go inter,” the entire country rejoices.
It’s national pride, sometimes to the point of obsession, for Thais or the Thai nation to be recognized on the global stage.
For example, Tiger Wood’s a Thai hero, not just because he’s the world’s greatest golfer, but because his mother is Thai, and she raised him as a Buddhist.
Another example is General Prayut Chan-o-cha, gushing with pride and joy, when finally he’s allowed onto the world stage, shaking hands with Donald Trump, Emmanuelle Macron, and Theresa May. It’s proof of his legitimacy as prime minister of Thailand.
It’s a culture of inferiority complex that seeks approval or acceptance of the “inter” community. It’s one of the reasons we pretend to be a democracy, even though we are not.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, the pride of Thailand
Senator Duckworth was born in Thailand to an American father and a Thai mother. Her Thai name is “Ladda.”
She’s an American war hero who lost both her legs on 12 November 2004. A rocket-propelled grenade hit a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she co-piloted during an operation in Iraq.
On November 6, 2012, she became the first woman with a disability elected to the US Congress and the first Congress member born in Thailand.
In 2015, she visited Thailand as a congresswoman.
In 2019, she visited Thailand as a senator at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy’s invitation. She had an audience with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and also met with General Prayut.
Thailand was proud, and so was General Prayut.
Half of Thailand is no longer proud
Thailand’s former model and actress Janjira Jujang called Senator Duckworth a “double handicap person,” insulting her brain and her amputated legs.
Three Thai senators organized a press conference to discredit Senator Duckworth.
Pikulkaew Krairiksh, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the facts had been twisted, causing social division and damaging nearly 200 years of US-Thai friendship.
Seri Suwanpanont, Chairperson of the Political Development Committee, said that Senator Duckworth only presented one side of the story.
Somchai Sawangkarn, Chairperson of Human Rights, Liberties, and Consumer Protection Committee, said that Senator Duckworth shouldn’t listen to only one side of the news.
What did Senator Duckworth do?
Last Thursday, Senator Duckworth, along with two other US senators, Robert Menendez and Dick Durbin, introduced a draft resolution to reaffirm the US’s “commitment to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Thailand.”
The resolution condemned the Thai authorities’ handling of pro-democracy protestors as repressive and violent.
To Thai nationalists and royalists, Senator Duckworth dares to question Thailand; she dares to take the pro-democracy protestors’ side.
Janjira’s despicable insult of Senator’s Duckworth has been met with widespread criticisms if you only read the headlines of the liberal media. If you go through the comments and checkout conservative platforms, you will see that they support Janjira’s stance despite the insult.
Meanwhile, the military junta selected senators are doing what they have always done, pretend that Thailand is a democracy. They urge Senator Duckworth to receive news from the most reliable sources: The Thai Senate. The Thai Foreign Ministry. The Thai consulate.
In other words, news approved by General Prayut.
In the end, the issue is simple. We love Thais who “go inter.” But we don’t like them coming back and speaking about democracy and human rights.