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The Relevance of Isaan
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  1. #1
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    The Relevance of Isaan

    This is an opinion and should be read as such:

    Historically Issan has been a part of Thailand that was just sitting there in the North and Northeast. Isaan has often been the butt of jokes about being a place for "hillbillies" (ban nork) to live. The weather was often too dry to grow rice well and and game for hunting was scarce. There just was not much to do except survive in Isaan.

    If there had to be a single point to why Isaan has had a turn of luck in the last generation is should go directly towards His Royal Majesty Rama IX. The care and support HRM brought to Isaan came with one aspect that had to have a King to make it grow: Hope.
    From irrigation projects to new industries, HRM started the giant wheel of Agriculture and Industry in Isaan to turn.

    There is another resource in Isaan that has come to relevance in recent years: People.
    In a democracy the more people you have the more influence you have. It is safe enough to say that the last three General Elections for Prime Minister have been chosen by the collective will of Isaan.
    With greater representation in the Central Government there has been and will continue to be more capital investment heading towards Issan from the government. This has created an environment where parents are making enough money to allow their children to stay in school longer. The higher education affords more opportunity to the children; opportunities that are mostly still outside of Isaan. The children are now able to send capital investment back to their parents and the wheel that HRM started begins to turn a little stronger.

    In the most rural parts of Issan there is yet another fate-of-fortune that is making a change (for better and sometimes worse): Farang. It is so easy to see the young women if Isaan leaving their families in Isaan by the thousands to live lives in foreign countries; most believing it is their only opportunity for a good life. As this wheel turns those same women are sending money back to their parents in amounts that can pale the efforts of siblings still in Thailand. Many Farang husbands are choosing to retire in Isaan vs. BKK/Pattaya and all of those assets are now being shifted to Isaan. The children of these couples are gaining higher education in Western Countries than are currently available in Isaan and will achieve levels of success much faster than Thai relatives. These same children are being taught the Thai language by their mothers and can visit their Thai Grandparents and relatives from time to time.

    As Farang involved in the Thai culture it is important to understand how much of an influence we are privileged to share with so many people. One Farang moving to Isaan to teach English can change the destiny of so many families. One Farang that supports his Thai wife in supporting her parents can change the make-up of a small village. One Bad-apple can teach distrust and animosity to people that want to interact with Farang.

    The wheel has already started turning in Isaan and I do not believe it can be stopped. I do believe, however, that the direction of the wheel is still a mystery. We should all strive to make sure that the influence we make in Issan is one of honesty, prosperity, and caring.
    The Heart determines what is Possible by the Mind

  2. #2
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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Isaan has often been the butt of jokes about being a place for "hillbillies" (ban nork) to live.
    Thais from Bkk often call people Lao if they are from Isaan. I find this odd as the people who say this are usually Sino-Thais whose great-grandparents came from China at a time when Isaan was already part of Thailand.

    Aren't they all Thais today?
    Last edited by Sparky; 19-01-08 at 11:49 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Lao is really a strong and offensive word (along the lines of quai) and I was looking for a softer word. You are right.

    It is also true that the goal should be One Thailand and One People. There are so many cultural rifts that will need to be overcome to achieve that. I think just a country that does not resent other areas outright will be a good start.
    The Heart determines what is Possible by the Mind

  4. #4
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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky View Post
    Aren't they all Thais today?
    If they want to be. My wife is from southern part of Isaan and was born and grew up there but she will speak of 'being in Thailand' and describes herself as Khymae (Cambodia).

    David
    My new travel blog: https://www.weekender.blog/

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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Quote Originally Posted by David_Loves_Ubonwan View Post
    If they want to be. My wife is from southern part of Isaan and was born and grew up there but she will speak of 'being in Thailand' and describes herself as Khymae (Cambodia).

    David
    My wife's village in Korat has two temples; one where those who speak the Lao dialect go and the other for those who speak the Khmer dialect.

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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Did you know you can tell the difference by looking at the roofs? Khymae (Cambodian) Temples have roofs at a much steeper angle, or so I was once told by a tour guide from Bangkok.

    David
    My new travel blog: https://www.weekender.blog/

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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    This I did not know! Thank you David.

  8. #8
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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    In the 1960s and 70s there was quite a strong international "foreign aid" presence in Pak Isaan which also significantly helped to kick-start things. The UN Columbo Plan funded several agricultural projects around Khon Kaen, USAID was doing its thing, there was a Danish Government dairy farm at Muak Lek and a German-funded dairy farm at Pak Chong. The NZ government funded the agricultural faculty at KKU (I was privileged to attend its opening by HM King Bhumibol in 1968) and an irrigation project at Nam Phong. The NZ army was also building roads around Roi Et. The Aussies were doing something (not sure what - maybe they built the Ubolratana Hydro Dam?). Everyone was getting into the act and it was the catalyst for what came afterwards. HM the King recognised way back then that Pak Isaan needed help and he fostered and facilitated all of these foreign aid projects. In those days I think the focus on Isaan was more related to national security than a conscious attempt to win votes, although it must have served both purposes for the Government of the day.
    Ӽ

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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    The students at KKU made a big Kiwi in the grounds of KKU to acknowledge
    NZ's contribution to the agricultural faculty. Here is a picture of it (sorry, its a bit dark).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Ӽ

  10. #10
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    Re: The Relevance of Isaan

    Not wishing to be left out..........
    British were involved too, (where is my flag!)
    Built an airstrip at Leong Nok Tha, twice, then, when that was completed, started working the road to meet up with the Kiwis coming the other way.
    We had, along with the British Army contingent, Australians, Kiwi's and, in the later years, a few Americans.
    There was also a unit of the Thai Army on security duty.
    Some of the lads still meet up there occasionally, and more than a few came away with Isaan brides.
    To be happy with where you are, first be happy with who you are.

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