Opinion: Why Do Some Thais Support China Over Hong Kong Protests?

Among Thais who recently accuse Hong Kong protesters of harboring hatred towards their own nation was senior Democrat Party member Warong Dechvigrom.

With images of some protesters waving union jack or the star and stripes flags with placards containing messages like “Please Liberate Hong Kong” spread around the globe, Warong said on Facebook last Friday that some Hong Kong protesters have forsaken their Chinese roots and hate their own nation.

“The longer it goes on, the image is that of [people who] hate their own nation, causing havoc and who forget their own national roots,” Warong wrote on Facebook.

What needs to be reminded time and again is that as much as there is no single way to be Thai, there is also no single way to be Chinese.

Hong Kongers want freedom and democracy and they can be Chinese as well as Taiwan, which has proven to be a successful model of a Chinese democratic society.

What is so Chinese about being a pseudo communist state and a real dictatorship as Communist China is today? Are Chinese who support dictatorial China more Chinese than say those who subscribe to Chinese philosophy of Taoism which advocates a more anarchistic and detached way of life?

There is basically no single way to be Chinese or Thai. We would be fooling ourselves to not acknowledge that there’s always multiple ways to be Thai or Chinese and often people compete to define what is Thai or Chinese at the expense of other competing models.

The irony is that some Thais who profess to love and revere the monarchy and Buddhism are now supporting a communist dictatorship state to crack down on its own people for merely calling for liberty and basic democracy. That Warong himself identified with a political party called “Democrat” party makes it doubly ironic.

That some protesters are calling for help from the US and its former colonial master the UK didn’t help, however.

It strikes a chord with Thais who believe that the West have always been interfering in Thai domestic politics, during the Cold War, which was true, and beyond, which is debatable, as their influence is waning.

To them, they now prefer or at least feel more comfortable with Chinese dictatorship since it’s less of a blatantly interventionist superpower or at least she knows how to save Thai face or not offend it.

The Chinese are not forcing their ideologies into your mouth. They are not zealous preachers, because they don’t care what political system you have because it’s only money that counts.

These days, you can even pick up copies of China Daily at some of the local Starbucks in Bangkok for free.

“China helping world to create shared future,” reads a propaganda front-page headline of Tuesday August 20 edition of the global edition of China Daily at my local Starbucks. It adds that President Xi’s thoughts on diplomacy has opened new vistas and achieved new progress.

Another reason why some Thais can’t wait to see China cracking down on Hong Kong protesters is because these Thais have become conservative, and they value “national security” and stability above all. They see what’s happening in Hong Kong as being a threat against such mindset.

National security, peace, and order at any price – this has become a dominant ideology among many conservative Thais.

In this case they see the Chinese model as model to emulate or at least accept. It is an unfortunate state of affairs as Thailand move closer and closer under Chinese orbit of influence and at risk of becoming a satellite state of China while Thais are still struggling for genuine democracy and greater liberty.

We need a more democratic neighbor not less. Rooting for Hong Kong to become less democratic won’t be helpful.


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