Thailand Facts
Area:    514,000 sq. km.
Capital:    Bangkok
Total Population:    60,037,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Chinese in Thailand have none of the factors that increase the likelihood of future protest. Group members are economically advantaged in relation to the majority Thais, and there has been significant assimilation of the Chinese into the majority community. The dominant economic position of the Sino-Thais has not resulted in broad violent opposition largely due to Thailand's ability to weather the 1990s Asian economic crisis coupled with greater economic and diplomatic links between China and Thailand.

Analytic Summary

The Chinese, who primarily reside in urban areas of the country, have significantly assimilated with the majority Thai community. There has been minimal group migration across Thailand since the early 1900s.

The Chinese or Sino-Thais follow some different social customs than the dominant Thais, and while they are of a different racial stock there has been substantial intermixture (RACE = 2). The community utilizes both Chinese dialects and Thai, the language of the country's majority group. In the 1990s, there has been a public resurgence of Chinese cultural practices including celebrations of Chinese New Year and a proliferation of Chinese language schools.

The Chinese mainly immigrated to Thailand in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Group members were subject to systematic discrimination prior to 1975 under nationalistic military regimes and in the early 1980s the military led efforts to impose economic controls that would ensure greater Thai control over the banking system and private businesses.

The 1986 elections marked a turning point for Sino-Thai political participation. Unprecedented financial investments by Chinese-dominated businesses in the electoral campaign resulted in business interests gaining 86 seats in the 347 member House of Representatives. This was seen as a direct challenge to the entrenched position of the Thai military in the legislature. Since 1992, Thailand has witnessed peaceful democratic changes of government that have coincided with the declining political influence of the military.

The Chinese are economically advantaged in relation to the dominant Thai community (ECDIFXX03 = -1; ECDIS03 = 0). Reports indicate that the Sino-Thais control 85-90% of the business interests in the country. There are no formal or societal restrictions against the political participation of the Sino-Thais, and they are reported to have gained significant political power during the 1990s (POLDIS03 = 0).

The 1997-98 financial crisis that swept across Southeast Asia severely restricted Thailand's economic growth. However, unlike in Indonesia, where the economically advantaged Chinese were subject to violent attacks by the dominant community, the significant integration of the Sino-Thais, coupled with the implementation of IMF structural reforms, ensured that there was no similar violence in Thailand.

Group members are solely represented by conventional organizations that seek to promote the community's economic interests along with helping to ensure friendly relations with the majority Thais. Organizations that have been active in the late 1990s include the Thai-Chinese Ancestor Association, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and the Chinese-Thai Friendship Association. There was no intragroup violent conflict between the years 1998 and 2003. In addition, there were no violent hostilities between the Chinese and other groups in Thailand during the same period.

The Chinese first mobilized in the mid-1980s and engaged in low-level protest activities to press for group demands (PROT85X = 2). There have been no protest actions noted since the mid-1990s (PROT94 = 2). Further, the Sino-Thais have not undertaken any rebellion against state authorities.


Far Eastern Economic Review, 1990-93.

Keesings Record of World Events, 1990-93, 2001-2003.

Lim, Linda & Gosling, Peter, "Economic Growth and Ethnic Relations: The Chinese in Southeast Asia", Draft paper, USIP, February 1993.

Lexis-Nexis Library Information, 1990-2003.

Phase I, Minorities at Risk, overview compiled by Monty G. Marshall, 07/89.

Seagrave, Sterling (1995), Lords of the Rim: The Invisible Empire of the Overseas Chinese, New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Thailand. 2001-2003.


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