Brain gain; brain drain; brain dead

The opposing sides of Thailand’s political divide have found a common cause: Do not let foreigners buy homes and lands.

The sentiment is pushed by news headlines that bold the word “ขายชาติ” (to sell the country; traitorous, betraying one’s nation).

We imagine 1972’s “Fist of Fury,” in which Bruce Lee encounters the “No Dogs And No Chinese Allowed” sign in Shanghai during the 1930s.

We hallucinate a Bangkok restaurant with a sign, “No Dogs And No Thais Allowed.”

We prefer the sign, “Free entry for Thais, XXX Bath for foreigners.”

We argue, Thais already don’t own homes and lands, now we would have to rent from foreigners.

Last week, the cabinet approved measures to attract “wealthy” foreigners to Thailand with a 10-year visa, giving them many rights, including land and real estate ownership.

We have flashbacks of early Rattanakosin-era, where foreign courts had jurisdiction on Thai soils—a time when Thai peasants had to crawl for foreigners. We prefer Thai peasants to crawl for homegrown “social superiors.”

In a nutshell, we are still stuck in the past.

The problem with the law isn’t Thais losing out to foreigners. As many have argued, “We don’t even own homes and lands now.” Exactly, and this has nothing to do with foreigners but the economic inequality in Thailand.

The real problem with this law is granting exclusive privileges to the rich. The essence of the global problem isn’t one nationality versus another, but the “have” versus the “have not.”

Case in point: We have all been taught in school that Myanmar is the enemy. The reality, however, is, Myanmar and Thai generals are the best of friends. At the same time, ordinary Myanmar and Thais find common ground in fighting against unjust power.

Clouded by xenophobia, we can’t even recognize that every baht and satang a foreigner spends here goes into the Thai economy.

In global competition, competitive advantage comes with “brain gain,” regardless of race, creed, or breed. Not “brain drain,” because we value race, creed, and breed over human excellence.

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