Foreigners, especially Western expats, expressing strong political views about Thailand inside Thailand is always controversial.
Some say if you are a foreigner and thus a “guest” in Thailand, then you should just keep your political opinion about Thailand to yourself or do no more than posting comments on Thai-based English-language news websites – and definitely join a Thai political protest or stage a protest yourself.
Others say anyone should have the right to express themselves in public, online, and on the streets, as this is the year 2022 and not a medieval era.
In a recent case, a German, known in Thai as Mr. Fuck Thong (Mr. Pumpkin), said on Friday he was warned by police his visa may not be extended if he continues to protest caretaker PM Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan.
Moritz Pfoh, 35, said he believes 90 percent of Thais do not like either Prawit or Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, both former coup leaders.
Pfoh, 35, has been in Thailand for eight years and has a Thai girlfriend. The Rayong-based German held a photo of Prawit with an X mark symbol taped over Prawit’s face at a major intersection in Rayong days ago.
Mr. Fuck Thong said police told him on Thursday. “My visa may not be extended if I make a political defamation again.”
Some foreigners were quick to point out they this this is a taboo.
“First rule as an expat in Thailand. Be grateful to be permitted to live in paradise and do not meddle into politics or any state affairs whatsoever,” wrote Facebook user Adri Adrien, following the news post about Mr. Fuck Thong on Khaosod English Friday.
“None of his business. Can a Thai go to America and protest against Biden in public?” wrote another, Edrian Ye.
Whether you agree with Pfoh or not, he is not alone. “Been there done that” was French man Yan Marchal who was refused a reentry into Thailand last November after having stayed in the kingdom for 18 years.
Marchal, who now resides in the southeastern outskirt of Paris since he was effectively declared a persona non grata by the Thai authorities for mocking the Thai monarchy on YouTube, could not help, but post his opinion on the comment section following the news about Mr. Fuck Thong on Khaosod English Friday.
“Been there, done that. The good part of being deported and relocating abroad is that you can then speak all your mind while gaining a large following in Thailand since you made the news, and there is nothing the authorities can do about it anymore,” Marchal wrote. “Basically, they deprive themselves from a way to keep you in check. Good luck, Sir!”
Marchal, whom this writer happened to have just met for an interview in Paris on Tuesday along with exiled Thai political dissident Jaran Ditapichai (more of the interviews in the near future) received 49 Likes and four Loves for his comment about men like himself and Mr. Fuck Thong.
Many fellow foreign readers of Khaosod English were not impressed, however, and one told Marchal, “Yan Marchal. Then again, you’ll be stuck eating mediocre Thai food in Paris when you choose to do that. I prefer being in Thailand instead.”
The khao pad kra pao kung (holy basil shrimp stir-fry with rice) I had weeks ago at Paris’s 13th Arrondissement, the so-called Asian district, was not that mediocre, just a little overpriced at 10 euros, however.
Thai gastronomy aside, there is little room to convince those from one side or the other to switch – you either believe a foreigner should simply strictly behave as a guest while in Thailand or you believe in a borderless word and global citizenship.
Blurry line in a global interconnected world means Marchal and Mr. Fuck Thong would not be the last farangs in Thailand to be publicly politicized. Thailand has a long history of welcoming and integrating foreigners into its host society over the centuries – way back to the era of Louis XIV when some Thais suspected French Catholic priests and the Sun King wanted to convert King Narai to Catholicism.
On the other spectrum from Mr. Fuck Thong, after the 2014 coup, one American-born naturalized Thai businessman penned a commentary on a local English-language newspaper defending the coup makers and argued that it is business as usual because military intervention in Thailand is unique.
Truth be told, I found people like Marchal more (explicitly) concerns about the future of human rights, freedom of expression, and democracy in Thailand than many Thais. When he hosted me at his suburban abode for a night, the next morning I was also utterly surprised that he steamed sticky rice and prepared northeastern spicy pork salad (larb moo) for me for breakfast and not a croissant.
Marchal still very active on social media producing popular contents in Thai language critical of the monarchy for his largely Thai audience, particularly on the draconian lese majeste law. It seems although he is physically in France, he is still very much attached to Thailand and social media makes connecting with his Thai friends and audience instantaneous.
Marchal was married to a Thai and his two adolescent kids are half-Thai. He and Mr. Fuck Thong are not alone and would not be the last, whether some may think they are plonkers or not.
You cannot stop people from caring and being outspoken about the state of another country as much as you cannot choose where to be born. You cannot prevent foreigners from feeling more passionate about Thai politics while some Thais have already accepted their lot in life.