Culture 101: mind your own business, be “do nothing Thais”

To date, more than 500 people have been reportedly killed in the crisis in Myanmar. Over 2,000 have fled across the border to Thailand.

According to General Prayut Chan-o-cha, those who fled said the situation wasn’t a “crisis,” and so they “shook hands” with Thai authorities and went back across the border of “their own accord.”

Aside from the alternate reality of fairies, unicorns, and lavender fields that General Prayut skips joyfully in, Thailand’s refusal to utter a single word of criticism against the Myanmar military junta and its brutal action against the people is owed to many reasons. Often discussed is that the generals of the two lands are buddies and business partners.

But also, it’s a matter of culture, which is why no matter how many children are shot and killed, millions of Thais still support the “see no evil, hear no evil” stance of the Thai government.

Mind you, this cultural trait is not specific to Thailand, but since we are Thais and we want better things for Thailand, then we must shine the spotlight on our flaws and discuss how to better ourselves.

In Thai, we have a saying, “เรื่องของชาวบ้าน” (other people’s business).
It is the proper social norm to “อย่าไปยุ่งกับเขาเลย” (don’t get involved in other people’s business).
We would teach our children to “อย่าไปยุ่งกับเขาเลยลูก” (don’t get involved in their business, my child).
More casually, and with a touch of the derogatory, we would say, “อย่าเสือกเรื่องชาวบ้าน” (don’t butt in on other people’s business).

But we would be “ไทยมุง” (Thais who gather around and watch).
And we would be “ไทยเฉย” (Thais who do nothing).

The mentality is that to maintain social harmony we should mind our own business, which is a double-edged sword. It is, of course, considered polite to mind one’s own business.

But should one mind one’s own business in the face of violence and atrocities?

For example, according to The Print, Chief Minister Zoramthanga of India’s Mizoram State has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the Myanmar crisis a “human catastrophe of gigantic proportions.”

India is one of eight nations that sent representatives to join in the celebration of Myanmar’s “Armed Forces Day” on 27 March.

“I understand that there are certain foreign policy issues where India needs to proceed cautiously,” the Chief Minister wrote. “However, we cannot ignore this humanitarian crisis.”

As The Print stated, Mizoram is currently hosting over a thousand refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

That’s an example of someone who’s pursuing the interest of something that should be more valuable than “appropriate diplomacy” and “proper protocol”:

Pure and simple humanity.

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