Thai Chinese (also known as Chinese Thais, Sino-Thais), Thais of Chinese origin (Thai: ชาวไทยเชื้อสายจีน; exonym and also domestically)[a] are Chinese descendants in Thailand. Thai Chinese are the largest minority group in the country and the largest overseas Chinese community in the world with a population of approximately 10–14 million people, accounting for 15–20 percent of the total population of the country as of 2012.[4][5][6] It is also the oldest and most prominently integrated overseas Chinese community, with a history dating back to the 1100s. Slightly more than half of the ethnic Chinese population in Thailand trace their ancestry to Chaoshan. This is evidenced by the prevalence of the Teochew dialect among the Chinese community in Thailand as well as other Chinese languages.[7]: 93  The term as commonly understood signifies those whose ancestors immigrated to Thailand before 1949.

Thai Chinese
华裔泰国人 or 華裔泰國人
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, a Chinese Buddhist temple in Thailand
Total population
c. 7–10 million[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Thailand Thailand
9.5 million (2013)[3]
Throughout the country
Significant diaspora in:
 United States
Central Thai (native)
Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainanese, Cantonese, Southwestern Mandarin & Hokchew
Theravada Buddhism
Agnostic, Chinese folk religion, Mahayana Buddhism, Christianity, Chinese Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese
Han Chinese
Thai Chinese
Traditional Chinese華裔泰國人
Simplified Chinese华裔泰国人

The Thai Chinese have been deeply ingrained into all elements of Thai society over the past 200 years. The present Thai royal family, the Chakri dynasty, was founded by King Rama I who himself was partly Chinese.[8] His predecessor, King Taksin of the Thonburi Kingdom, was the son of a Chinese father from Chaoshan.[9] With the successful integration of historic Chinese immigrant communities in Thailand, a significant number of Thai Chinese are the descendants of intermarriages between ethnic Chinese and native Thais. Many of these descendants have assimilated into Thai society and self-identify solely as Thai.[10][11][12]

The Thai Chinese are well-established in the middle class and upper classes of Thai society and are well represented at all levels of Thai society.[13][14][15]: 3, 43 [16][17] They play a leading role in Thailand's business sector and dominate the Thai economy today.[18]: 22 [15]: 179 [19][20] In addition, Thai Chinese elites of Thailand have a strong presence in Thailand's political scene with most of Thailand's former Prime Ministers and the majority of parliament having at least some Chinese ancestry.[21][22][18]: 58 [23] Thai Chinese elites of Thailand are well represented among Thailand's rulers and other sectors.[24][25]

Demographics edit

Thailand has the largest overseas Chinese community in the world outside Greater China.[26] 11 to 14 percent of Thailand's population are considered ethnic Chinese. The Thai linguist Theraphan Luangthongkum claims the share of those having at least partial Chinese ancestry allegedly at about 40 percent of the Thai population without any proof.[5]

A 2013 study of the Thai population genetic structure found the presence of a distinctive Chinese ancestry concentrated in Central Thailand, but it also found that this Chinese ancestry did not constitute a majority of the Central Thai gene pool. Thus somewhat refuting Theraphan Luangthongkum's over-estimated claims on the frequency of Chinese ancestry throughout the general Thai population.[27]

Identity edit

For assimilated second and third generation descendants of Chinese immigrants, it is principally a personal choice whether or not to identify themselves as ethnic Chinese.[28] Nonetheless, nearly all Thai Chinese solely self-identify as Thai, due to their close integration and successful assimilation into Thai society.[29][30] G. William Skinner observed that the level of assimilation of the descendants of Chinese immigrants in Thailand disproved the "myth about the 'unchanging Chinese'", noting that "assimilation is considered complete when the immigrant's descendant identifies himself in almost all social situations as a Thai, speaks Thai language habitually and with native fluency, and interacts by choice with Thai more often than with Chinese."[31]: 237  Skinner believed that the assimilation success of the Thai Chinese was a result of the wise policy of the Thai rulers who, since the 17th century, allowed able Chinese tradesmen to advance their ranks into the kingdom's nobility.[31]: 240–241  The rapid and successful assimilation of the Thai Chinese has been celebrated by the Chinese descendants themselves, as evident in contemporary literature such as the novel Letters from Thailand (Thai: จดหมายจากเมืองไทย) by Botan.[32]

Today, the Thai Chinese constitute a significant part of the royalist/nationalist movements. When the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Thai Chinese, was ousted from power in 2006, it was Sondhi Limthongkul, another prominent Thai Chinese businessman, who formed and led People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement to protest the successive governments run by Thaksin's allies.[33][34] Mr. Sondhi accused Mr. Thaksin of corruption based on improper business ties between Thaksin's corporate empire and the Singapore-based Temasek Holdings Group.[35] The Thai Chinese in and around Bangkok were also the main participants of the months-long political campaign against the government of Ms. Yingluck (Mr. Thaksin's sister), between November 2013 and May 2014, the event which culminated in the military takeover in May 2014.[36]

History edit

Traders from China began arriving in Ayutthaya by at least the 12th century. In the 1420s, Chinese merchants were involved in the construction of the major Ayutthaya temple Wat Ratchaburana and left several Chinese inscriptions and cultural objects within the temple's crypt, including the inscribing of several Chinese family names.[37] According to the Chronicles of Ayutthaya, Ekathotsarot (r. 1605–1610) had been "concerned solely with ways of enriching his treasury," and was "greatly inclined toward strangers and foreign nations".

Following the Qing revocation of the private trade ban in 1684, Chinese immigration to Siam steadily increased, particularly following the massive Southern Chinese famines of the early 18th century. Approximately 20,000 Chinese lived in Siam in the 1730s[b] and were prominent in the city of Ayutthaya and were a prominent faction within the Siamese court by 1767.[38]

When King Taksin, himself the son of a Chinese immigrant, ruled Thailand, King Taksin actively encouraged Chinese immigration and trade. Chinese settlers came to Siam in large numbers.[39] Immigration continued over the following years, and the Chinese population in Thailand jumped from 230,000 in 1825 to 792,000 by 1910. By 1932, approximately 12.2 percent of the population of Thailand was Chinese.[40]

The early Chinese immigration consisted almost entirely of men who did not bring women. Therefore, it became common for male Chinese immigrants to marry local Thai women. The children of such relationships were called Sino-Thai[41] or luk-jin (ลูกจีน) in Thai.[42] These Chinese-Thai intermarriages declined somewhat in the early 20th century, when significant numbers of Chinese women also began immigrating to Thailand.

Economic recession and unemployment forced many men to leave China for Thailand in search of work to seek wealth. If successful, they sent money back to their families in China. Many Chinese immigrants prospered under the "tax farming" system, whereby private individuals were sold the right to collect taxes at a price below the value of the tax revenues.

The local Chinese community had long dominated domestic commerce and had served as agents for royal trade monopolies. With the rise of European economic influence, however, many Chinese shifted to opium trafficking and tax collecting, both of which were despised occupations.

From 1882 to 1917, nearly 13,000 to 34,000 Chinese legally entered Thailand per year, mostly settling in Bangkok and along the coast of the Gulf of Siam. They predominated in occupations requiring arduous labor, skills, or entrepreneurship. They worked as blacksmiths, railroad labourers and rickshaw pullers. While most Thais were engaged in rice production, the Chinese brought new farming ideas and new methods to supply labor on its rubber plantations, both domestically and internationally.[43] However, republican ideas brought by the Chinese were considered seditious by the Thai government. For example, a translation of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People was banned under the Communism Act of 1933. The government had regulated Chinese schools even before compulsory education was established in the country, starting with the Private Schools Act of 1918. This act required all foreign teachers to pass a Thai language test and for principals of all schools to implement standards set by the Thai Ministry of Education.[44]

Legislation by King Rama VI (1910–1925) that required the adoption of Thai surnames was largely directed at the Chinese community as a number of ethnic Chinese families left Burma between 1930 and 1950 and settled in the Ratchaburi and Kanchanaburi Provinces of western Thailand. A few of the ethnic Chinese families in that area had already emigrated from Burma in the 19th century.

The Chinese in Thailand also suffered discrimination between the 1930s and 1950s under the military dictatorship of Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram (in spite of having part-Chinese ancestry himself),[45] which allied itself with the Empire of Japan. The Primary Education Act of 1932 made the Thai language the compulsory medium of education, but as a result of protests from Thai Chinese, by 1939, students were allowed two hours per week of Mandarin instruction.[44] State corporations took over commodities such as rice, tobacco, and petroleum and Chinese businesses found themselves subject to a range of new taxes and controls. By 1970, more than 90 percent of the Chinese born in Thailand never have Chinese or Taiwanese citizenship with Thai only citizenship instead. In 1975, diplomatic relations were established with China.[46]

Culture edit

Intermarriage with Thais has resulted in many people who claim Thai ethnicity with Chinese ancestry.[47] People of Chinese descent are concentrated in the coastal areas of Thailand, principally Bangkok.[48] Considerable segments of Thailand's academic, business, and political elites are of Chinese descent.[5]

Language edit

Today, nearly all ethnic Chinese in Thailand speak Central Thai exclusively (even in Isan, Northern Thailand and Southern Thailand as well).[c] Only elderly Chinese immigrants still speak their native varieties of Chinese. The rapid and successful assimilation of Thai Chinese has been celebrated in contemporary literature such as "Letters from Thailand" (Thai: จดหมายจากเมืองไทย) by a Thai Chinese author Botan.[49] In the modern Thai language there are many signs of Chinese influence.[50] In the 2000 census, 231,350 people identified themselves as speakers of a variant of Chinese (Teochew, Hokkien, Hainanese, Cantonese, or Hakka).[5] The Teochew dialect has served as the language of Bangkok's influential Chinese merchants' circles since the foundation of the city in the 18th century. Although Chinese language schools were closed during the nationalist period before and during the Second World War, the Thai government never tried to suppress Chinese cultural expression. Today, businesses in Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road in Bangkok's Samphanthawong District which constitute the city's "Chinatown" still feature bilingual signs in Chinese and Thai.[51] A number of Chinese words have found their way into the Thai language, especially the names of dishes and foodstuffs, as well as basic numbers (such as those from "three" to "ten") and terms related to gambling.[5] In Southern Thailand, the difference between Thai Chinese and Peranakans is that Thai Chinese speak Central Thai and Peranakans speak Southern Thai, they both grown in diglossia environment. Yunnanese speak Mandarin.

The rise of China's prominence on the global economic stage has prompted many Thai Chinese business families to see Mandarin as a beneficial asset in partaking in economic links and conducting business between Thailand and Mainland China, with some families encouraging their children to learn Mandarin in order to reap the benefits of their ethnic Chinese identity and the increasing role of Mandarin as a prominent language of Overseas Chinese business communities.[15]: 184–185 [18]: 59 [15]: 179 [52]: 55  However, equally there are many Thais, regardless of their ethnic background who study Chinese in order to boost their business and career opportunities, rather than due to reasons of ethnic identity, with some sending their children to newly established Mandarin language schools.[15]: 184–185 

Trade and industry edit

The Stock Exchange of Thailand is now pullulated with a myriad of prospering Thai Chinese-owned businesses. Thai investors of Chinese ancestry dominate the Stock Exchange of Thailand as they are estimated to control more than four-fifths of the publicly listed companies by market capitalization.[53][54]

The Thai Chinese community has played a major role in the development of Thailand's economy and national private sector.[55] The early-21st century saw Thais of Chinese ancestry dominate Thai commerce at every level of society.[56][57][58][59][60][15]: 127, 179  Their economic clout plays a critical role in maintaining the country's economic vitality and prosperity.[52]: 47–48  The economic power of the Thai Chinese is far greater than their proportion of the population would suggest.[15]: 179 [61]: 277  With their powerful economic presence, the Chinese continue to remain a major impetus underpinning the Thailand's commercial undertakings and economic activities and virtually make up the country's entire wealthy elite.[15]: 179 [62] Thailand's lack of an indigenous Thai commercial culture led to the private sector being dominated entirely by Thais of Chinese ancestry themselves.[63][64] Development policies imposed by the Thai government provided business opportunities for the Chinese community, where a distinct Thai Chinese business community has emerged as country's the dominant economic group, controlling the entirety of the country's major industry sectors across the Thai economy.[55][65]: 72  The Chinese community has remained active in every sector of Thailand's economy such as agriculture (sugar, maize, vegetables, rubber), industrial manufacturing, financial services, real estate, and the retail and whole trading sector.[55] The contemporary Thai business sector is highly dependent on Han Chinese entrepreneurs and investors who control virtually all the country's banks and large corporate conglomerates all the way to the smaller retail hawking outlets at the humbler end of the business spectrum with their support and patronage being augmented by the presence of lawmakers and political operatives, where the vast majority of whom are of pure or partial Chinese ancestry themselves.[66][21][67][15]: 179  Thais of Chinese ancestry, a disproportionate wealthy, market-dominant minority not only form a distinct ethnic community, they also form, by and large, an economically advantaged social class: the commercial middle and upper class in contrast to the poorer indigenous Thai majority working and underclass counterparts around them.[15]: 179–183 [21][68][69][70][61]: 261  Highly publicized profiles of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs and investors attracted great public interest and were used to illustrate the community's strong economic clout.[71] More than 80 percent of the top 40 richest people in Thailand are of pure or partial Chinese ancestry.[72] Of the five billionaires in Thailand in the late-20th century, all of them were of full or at least had partial Han Chinese ancestry.[73][74][75] On March 17, 2012, Chaleo Yoovidhya, of humble Chinese origin, passed away while listed on Forbes list of billionaires as 205th in the world and 3rd in the nation, with an estimated net worth of US$5 billion.[76]

Amounting to roughly 15 percent of Thailand's population, the Thai Chinese own approximately 85 percent of the nation's entire economy.[77] Thai investors of Chinese ancestry control more than 80 percent of public companies listed on the Thai stock exchange.[53][54] With 80% of Thailand's market capital under Chinese hands, many Thai entrepreneurs and investors of Chinese ancestry were at the forefront of the establishing the country's most prominent wholesale trading cooperatives owned by traders, merchants, and brokers flush with private equity and venture capital bearing connections to some of Thailand's wealthiest business families.[78][54] 10 Thai business families of Chinese ancestry control half of the all corporate assets in the country.[79] 50 Thai business families of Chinese ancestry control the country's entire corporate sectors equivalent to 81–90 percent of the overall market capitalization of the entire Thai economy.[80][81][82][55][83][84][85][11]: 10 [86][87][88]

British East India Company agent John Crawfurd used detailed company records kept on Prince of Wales's Island (present-day Penang) from 1815 to 1824 to report specifically on the economic aptitude of the 8,595 Chinese there as compared to others. He used the data to estimate the Chinese — about five-sixths of whom were unmarried men in the prime of life — "as equivalent to an ordinary population of above 37,000, a numerical Malay population of more than 80,000!".[89]: p.30  He surmised this and other differences noted as providing, "a very just estimate of the comparative state of civilization among nations, or, which is the same thing, of the respective merits of their different social institutions."[89]: p.34  In 1879, the Chinese controlled all of the steam-powered rice mills, most of which were sold by the British. Most of the leading businessmen in Thailand at this point in time were of Chinese ancestry and accounted for a significant portion of the Thai upper class.[90] In 1890, despite British shipping domination in Bangkok, Thais of Chinese ancestry conducted 62 percent of the Thai shipping sector, operating as agents for Western shipping lines as well as their own.[90] The Chinese also dominated the rubber industry, market gardening, sugar production, and fish export sectors. In Bangkok, Thais of Chinese ancestry dominate the entertainment and media industries, being the pioneers of Thailand's early publishing houses, newspapers, and film studios.[91] Thai Chinese moneylenders also wielded considerable economic power over the poorer indigenous Thai peasants, prompting accusations of Chinese bribery of government officials, wars between the Chinese secret societies, and the use of violent tactics to collect taxes. Chinese success served to foster Thai resentment against the Chinese at a time when their community was expanding rapidly. Waves of Han Chinese immigration swept into Siam in the 19th and early-20th centuries, peaking in the 1920s. Whereas Chinese bankers were accused of plunging the Thai peasant into poverty by charging high-interest rates, the reality was that the Thai banking business was highly competitive. Chinese millers and rice traders were blamed for the economic recession that gripped Siam for nearly a decade after 1905.[43] The Chinese then moved into extractive industries such as tin mining, logging and sawmilling, rice milling, as well as the construction of ports and railways that would usher in Thailand's modern transportation industry.[52]: 48  Though the Chinese were acknowledged for their industriousness, they were nonetheless scorned by many. In the late 19th century, a British official in Siam said that "the Chinese are the Jews of Siam ... by judicious use of their business faculties and their powers of combination, they hold the Siamese in the palm of their hand."[92] In addition, Chinese millers and rice traders were blamed for an economic recession that gripped Siam for nearly a decade after 1905.[90] Large waves of Han Chinese immigration occurred in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century, peaking in the 1920s from southern China who was eager to make money and return to their families. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Chinese would lose their control of foreign trade to the European colonial powers and began to act as compradors for Western trading cooperatives. Thais of Chinese ancestry also entered extraction intensive industries such as tin mining, teak-cutting, saw milling, rice-milling, as well as fostered the modernization of the Thai transportation sector through the construction of ports and railways.[93]

Bangkok continues to serve as Thailand's major financial district and central business networking nucleus for Thai businessmen and investors of Chinese ancestry.

By the early 20th century, the resident Chinese community in Bangkok was sizable, amounting to a third of the capital's population.[94] Anti-Chinese sentiment was rife.[15]: 179–183  In 1914, the Thai nationalist King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), published a pamphlet in Thai and English—The Jews of the East— employing a pseudonym. In it, he lambasted the Chinese.[95][96][97] He described them as "avaricious barbarians who were 'entirely devoid of morals and mercy'."[92] He depicted successful Chinese businessmen as reaping their commercial success at the expense of indigenous Thais, prompting some Thai politicians to blame Thai Chinese businessmen for Thailand's economic hardships.[69] King Vajiravudh's views were influential among elite Thais and were quickly adopted by ordinary Thais, fueling their suspicion of and hostility against the Chinese minority.[15]: 181–183  The glaring wealth disparity and the abject poverty of the indigenous Thais resulted in them blaming their socioeconomic ills on the Chinese, especially Chinese moneylenders. Beginning in the late-1930s and recommencing in the 1950s, the Thai government dealt with wealth disparities by pursuing a campaign of forced assimilation achieved through property confiscation, forced expropriation, coercive social policies, and anti-Chinese cultural suppression, seeking to eradicate Han consciousness and identity.[15]: 183 [18]: 58  Thai Chinese became the targets of state discrimination while indigenous Thais were granted economic privileges.[98] The Siamese revolution of 1932 only coagulated the grip of Thai nationalism, culminating in World War II when Thailand's Japanese ally was at war with China.[94]

After 1947 coup d'état, Thailand was an agrarian economy hobbled by state-owned enterprises.[99] Thais of Chinese ancestry provided the impetus for Thailand's industrialization, transforming the Thai economy into an export-oriented, trade-based economy with a global reach.[61]: 261  Over the next several decades, internationalization and capitalist market-oriented policies led to the dramatic emergence of a massive export-oriented, large-scale manufacturing sector, which in turn catapulted Thailand into joining the Tiger Cub Economies.[100] Virtually all the industrial manufacturing and import-export shipping firms establishments including the auto manufacturing behemoth Siam Motors are Chinese controlled.[100][91] In the years between World War I and World War II, Thailand's major exports, rice, tin, rubber, and timber were under Chinese hands.[101] Despite their small numbers as compared to the indigenous Thai population, the Chinese controlled virtually every line of business, ranging from small retail trade to large industries. Comprising merely ten percent of the population, the Chinese dominated over four-fifths of the country's vital rice, tin, rubber, and timber exports, and virtually controlled the country's entire wholesale and retail trade.[102] By 1924, Thais of Chinese ancestry controlled one-third of all the sawmills in Bangkok. Market gardening, sugar production (The Chinese introduced the sugar industry to Thailand), and fish exporting was also dominated by the Chinese.[103][104] Virtually all of the newly minted manufacturing establishments were Chinese controlled. Despite failed Thai affirmative action-based policies in the 1930s to economically empower the impoverished indigenous Thai majority, 70 percent of retailing outlets and 80 to 90 percent of rice mills remained Chinese-controlled.[105] A survey of Thailand's roughly seventy most powerful business groups found that all but three were owned by Thai Chinese.[106][107] Although Bangkok has its own Chinatown, Chinese economic influence is much more pervasive and subtle throughout the city. With Bangkok's Thai Chinese clan associations are prominent throughout the city as the family clans are major property holders and retain ownership of all the non-profit Chinese-operated schools.[55] With Bangkok being the testament that reflected the extent of Chinese influence on Thailand's economic life, virtually all of Bangkok's most successful business elites are of pure Han Chinese or at least of partial Han Chinese ancestry.[108] Thai entrepreneurs and investors of Chinese ancestry who control much of Thai industry, are seen as a wellspring of upfront private equity and venture capital that serve as chief financial backers behind Thailand's latest investment developments including funding Thailand's newest construction projects in addition to financing the country's state-of-the-art telecommunications sector,[108] as Thai entrepreneurs of Chinese ancestry are the key power players behind Thailand's telecommunications industry, being at the forefront of several well-known Thai telecom operators such as the Shinawatra telecommunications group, True Corporation, Jasmine, Ucom, and Samar.[109] Kukrit Pramoj, the aristocratic former prime minister and distant relative of the Thai royal family, once said that most Thais had a Chinese relative "hanging somewhere on their family tree."[110][111] By the 1930s, the Thai Chinese minority dominated construction, industrial manufacturing, publishing, shipping, finance, commerce, and every industry in the country, minor, and major.[91] Among the minor industries that they presided were food vending, salt, tobacco, port, and bird's nest concessions.[112][113] Among the major lucrative industries, the Chinese involved in shipping, rice milling, rubber and tin manufacturing, teak logging, and petroleum drilling.[112]

By the late-1950s, Thais of Chinese ancestry comprised 70 percent of Bangkok's business owners and senior business managers, and 90 percent of the shares in Thai corporations were said to be held by Thai investors of Chinese ancestry.[114][115] Ninety percent of Thailand's industrial and commercial capital are also held by the Chinese.[116][65]: 73  90 percent of all investments in the industrial and commercial sector and at least 50 percent of all investments in the banking and financial sectors are controlled by the Chinese.[117][116][118][119]: 33 [65][118] Economic advantages would also persist as Thai rice merchants of Chinese ancestry controlled 80–90 percent of Thailand's rice mills, the largest merchant food enterprises in the nation.[43] Of the 25 leading entrepreneurs in the Thai business sector, 23 are of Han Chinese or at least of partial Han Chinese ancestry. Thais of Chinese ancestry also comprise 96 percent of Thailand's 70 most powerful business groups.[120][15]: 35 [121] Family firms are extremely common in the Thai business sector as they are passed down from one generation to the next.[122] 90 percent of Thailand's industrial manufacturing sector and 50 percent of Thailand's service sector are controlled by the Chinese.[123][124][125][126][127] According to a Financial Statistics of the 500 Largest Public Companies in Asia Controlled by Overseas Chinese in 1994 chart released by Singaporean geographer Dr. Henry Yeung of the National University of Singapore, 39 companies were concentrated in Thailand with a market capitalization of US$35 billion and total assets of US$95 billion.[128][124] Thais of Chinese ancestry control Thailand's largest private banks: Bangkok Bank (the largest and most profitable in Southeast Asia), Thai Farmers Bank, and the Bank of Ayudhya.[129][124][130][126][115]: 193 [18]: 22 [67][131][55] Of the 20 Thai banks that were founded in the years between 1930 and 1950, the Thai Chinese were behind the establishment of 14 of them while the remaining 6 banks were established by the Thai Crown Property Bureau.[132] Thai businessmen and investors of Chinese ancestry are influential in the country's real estate, agriculture, banking, and finance, and the wholesale trading industries.[55] In Central Siam, Thai businessmen and investors of Chinese ancestry control the entirety of the area's residential and commercial real estate and raw land.[112] The Thai Chinese (mainly of Yunnanese origin) also cornered Chiangmai's lucrative gem industry and ended up owning much of the city's fruit orchards, restaurants, and retail shops while profiting handsomely off of the city's land boom that occurred throughout the late 1980s.[133] During the 1980s, Thai-Chinese business groups controlled 37 out of the 100 largest companies in the nation; with much of the wealth merely concentrated in the hands of five Teochew families.[77] In the 1990s, among the top ten Thai businesses in terms of sales, nine of them were Chinese-owned with only Siam Cement being the sole firm that was not Chinese-owned.[103][134] Following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, structural reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Indonesia and Thailand led to the loss of many monopolistic positions long held by the Thai Chinese business elite.[135] In spite of the financial and economic downturn, Thais of Chinese ancestry were still estimated to own 65 percent of the total banking assets, 60 percent of the national trade, 90 percent of all local investments in the commercial sector, 90 percent of all local investments in the manufacturing sector, and 50 percent of all local investments in the banking and financial services sector.[118][136][137]

With the rise of China as a global economic power, Thai businesses under Chinese hands are now at the forefront of opening up the country's economy for foreign direct investment from Mainland China and Thai businesses that are Chinese-owned are now the largest sources of investors in Mainland China among all overseas Chinese communities worldwide.[138][139] The influx of Thai Chinese investment capital into Mainland China has led to a resurgence of Chinese cultural pride among the Thai Chinese community while concurrently pursuing new business and investment opportunities while bringing their influx of foreign capital to create new jobs and economic niches on the Mainland. Many Thais of Chinese ancestry have begun to rekindle with their long-lost Han ancestral roots, have sent their children to newly established Chinese language schools, visited China in record numbers, invested money in the Mainland Chinese economy, and assumed Chinese surnames alongside their Thai names.[140] The Charoen Pokphand (CP Group), a prominent Chinese-owned Thai conglomerate claiming $9 billion in assets with US$25 billion in annual sales founded by the Chearavanonts, a prominent Thai business family of Chinese ancestry which is one of the most powerful conglomerate companies investing in Mainland China today.[141] The conglomerate company is currently the single largest foreign investor in China with over US$1 billion invested with hundreds of businesses across a multivarieted range of industries traversing from agricultural food products, aquaculture, retail, hospitality, and industrial manufacturing while employing more than 150,000 people in Mainland China.[103][134][142][139][141] The company is known in China under well-known household names such as the "Chia Tai Group" and "Zheng Da Ji Tuan". The CP Group also owns and operates Tesco Lotus, one of the largest foreign hypermarket operators with 74 stores and seven distribution centers throughout 30 cities across the Mainland. One of CP Group's flagship businesses in China is a US$400 million Super Brand Mall, the largest mall in Shanghai's exclusive Pudong business district. Reignwood Pine Valley, CP also controls Telecom Asia, a prominent telecommunications and mobile phone manufacturing company in a joint venture with British Telecom since making its foray into the Thai telecommunications industry.[142] Mainland China's most exclusive golf and country clubs, were established and owned by a Thai business tycoon of Chinese ancestry, Chanchai Rouyrungruen (operator of Red Bull drink business in China). It is cited as the most popular golf course in Asia. In 2008, Chanchai became the first owner of a business jet in Mainland China.[143] Anand's Saha-Union, Thailand's leading industrial group, have so far invested over US$1.5 billion in China, and is operating more than 11 power plants in three of China's provinces. With over other 30 businesses in China, the company employs approximately 7000 Chinese workers.[139] Central Group, Thailand's largest operator of shopping centers (and owner of Italy's leading high-end department store, La Rinascente) with US$3.5 billion in annual sales was established by the Chirathivats, a Thai business family of Chinese ancestry, have created three new large scale department store branches in China.[139]

According to Thai historian, Dr. Wasana Wongsurawat, the Thai political elite has remained in power by employing a simple two-part strategy: first, secure the economic base by cultivating the support of the Thai business elites of Chinese ancestry; second, align with the dominant global geopolitical power of the day. As of 2020, increasingly, that power is China.[94] As the Chinese economic might grew, the indigenous Thai hill tribes and aborigines were gradually driven out into poorer land on the hills, on the rural outskirts of major Thai cities or into the mountains. The increased economic clout wielded by Thai Chinese has triggered distrust, resentment, and Anti-Chinese sentiment among the poorer working and underclass indigenous Thai majority, many of whom engage in rural agrarian rice peasantry in stark socioeconomic contrast to their modern, wealthier, and cosmopolitan middle and upper class Chinese counterparts.[144]

Religion edit

A Chinese temple in Bangkok

First-generation Chinese immigrants were followers of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Theravada Buddhism has since become the religion of many ethnic Chinese in Thailand, especially among assimilated Chinese. Many Chinese in Thailand commonly combine certain practices of Chinese folk religion with Theravada Buddhism due to the openness and tolerance of Buddhism.[145] Major Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Qingming are widely celebrated, especially in Bangkok, Phuket, and other parts of Thailand where there are large Chinese populations.[146] There are several prominent Buddhist monks with Chinese ancestry like the well-known Buddhist reformer, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and the former abbot of Wat Saket, Somdet Kiaw.

The Peranakans in Phuket are noted for their nine-day vegetarian festival between September and October. During the festival period, devotees will abstain from meat and the Chinese mediums will perform mortification of the flesh to exhibit the power of the Deities, and the rites and rituals seen are devoted to the veneration of various Deities. Such idiosyncratic traditions were developed during the 19th century in Phuket by the local Chinese with influences from Thai culture.[147]

In the north, there is a small minority of Chinese Muslims known as Chin Ho. They are mainly the descendants of Hui people migrated from Yunnan, China. There are seven Chinese mosques in Chiang Mai.[148] The best known is the Ban Ho Mosque.

Dialect groups edit

The vast majority of Thai Chinese belong to various southern Chinese dialect groups. Of these, 56 percent are Teochew (also commonly spelled as Teochiu), 18 percent Hakka and 11 percent Hainanese. The Cantonese, Fuzhounese, Henghua and Hokkien each constitute eight percent of the Chinese population and three percent belong to other Chinese dialect groups.[149] A large number of Thai Chinese are the descendants of intermarriages between Chinese immigrants and Thais, while there are others who are of predominantly or solely of Chinese descent. People who are of mainly Chinese descent are descendants of immigrants who relocated to Thailand as well as other parts of Nanyang (the Chinese term for Southeast Asia used at the time) in the early to mid-20th century due to famine and civil war in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong (Teochew, Cantonese and Hakka groups), Hainan (Hainanese), Guangxi (Cantonese group) and Fujian (Hokkien, Hockchew and Henghua groups).

Teochew edit

Traditionally, the Teochews comprise a majority population of coastal provinces like Bangkok, Chonburi and Chachoengsao until the 1950s, in which later it was overwhelmed by Central Thai internal immigrants. Many of Thai military commanders as well as politicians come from Teochew backgrounds, while others were involved in trade. During the reign of King Taksin, some influential Teochew traders were granted certain privileges. These prominent traders were called "royal Chinese" (Jin-luang or จีนหลวง in Thai).

Hakka edit

Hakkas are mainly concentrated around Chiang Mai, Nan, Phuket and central western provinces. The Hakka own many private banks in Thailand, notably Kasikorn Bank and Kiatnakin Bank.

Cantonese edit

The Cantonese predominantly came from Taishan as well as Xinhui counties in Jiangmen as well as the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province of China. This group are not very prominent and are mainly concentrated in Bangkok and the central provinces. Although Cantonese from Yulin primarily live in Betong of Yala Province they are more popularly known as Kwongsai in which they are distinguished from the fellow kinsmen from Guangdong province despite sharing the same native dialect (Thai: กวางไส, 廣西; literally: Western Canton).

Hokkien edit

Hokkiens or Hoklos are a dominant group of Chinese particularly in the south of Thailand, mostly can trace their ancestry from Xiamen; aside from Thais, they also traded with Indians and other foreigners in Thailand. Hokkiens primarily live in Bandon in Surat Thani Province. A smaller Hoklo community can also be found in Hatyai in Songkhla Province. Some Hokkiens live in Bangkok traces their ancestry from Zhangzhou, like Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha.

Hainanese edit

Hainanese people is another prominent Thai Chinese group which are mainly concentrated in Bangkok, Samui and some central provinces. Notable Hainanese Thai families include the Chirathivat family of Central Group and the Yoovidhya family of Krating Daeng, while politicians from this dialect group include Boonchu Rojanastien, Pote Sarasin, Banyat Bantadtan, Jurin Laksanawisit and Sondhi Limthongkul.

Fuzhou, Fuqing, and Hockchew dialects edit

This dialect group is the smallest among the ethnic Chinese populace and are found in places such as Chandi located in Nakhon Si Thammarat province as well as in other provinces such as Chumphon (Lamae and Map Ammarit villages) and also Rayong province (in the settlement of Ban Chandi, which was renamed after their main population centre of Chandi in Southern Thailand as a result of internal immigration and resettlement) as well as a lesser extent a pocket of them being internal migrants residing in Bangkok as well as Central Thailand (surrounding provinces of the capital, Bangkok), they trace their ancestries back to Fuzhou and Ningde towns of northern Fujian province, China.

Peranakan edit

Some ethnic Chinese living in the Malay-dominated provinces in the far south use Malay, rather than Thai as a lingua franca, and many have intermarried with local Malays, and are known as Peranakan. They are mostly concentrated in Phuket, Trang and Phang Nga Provinces.[150] In modern sense, Peranakan are not Thai Chinese, because Peranakan speak Southern Thai, while Thai Chinese in Southern Thailand speak Central Thai, known as Leangkaluang (Thai: แหลงข้าหลวง).

Family names edit

Almost all Thai-Chinese or Sino-Thais, especially those who came to Thailand before the 1950s, only use Thai surname in public, while it was required by Rama VI as a condition of Thai citizenship. The few retaining native Chinese surnames are either recent immigrants or resident aliens. For some immigrants who settled in Southern Thailand before the 1950s, it was common to simply prefix Sae- (from Chinese: , 'family name') to a transliteration of their name to form the new family name; Wanlop Saechio's last name thus derived from the Hainanese and Chanin Sae-ear's last name is from Hokkien . Sae is also used by Hmong people in Thailand. In 1950s-1970s Chinese immigrants had that surname in Thailand, although Chinese immigrants to Thailand after the 1970s use their Chinese family names without Sae- therefore these people didn't recognize as Sino-Thais like Thai celebrity, Thassapak Hsu's last name is Mandarin's surname .

Sino-Thai surnames are often distinct from those of the other-Thai population, with generally longer names mimicking those of high officials and upper-class Thais[151] and with elements of these longer names retaining their original Chinese family name in translation or transliteration. For example, former Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-Archa's unusual Archa element is a translation into Thai of his family's former name Ma (trad. 馬, simp. 马, lit. 'horse'). Similarly, the Lim in Sondhi Limthongkul's and Pita Limjaroenrat's name is the pronunciation of the name Lin (林). For an example, see the background of the Vejjajiva Palace name.[152] Note that the latter-day Royal Thai General System of Transcription would transcribe it as Wetchachiwa and that the Sanskrit-derived name refers to 'medical profession'.

Notable figures edit

Royalty edit

King Taksin the Great
King Rama I
Princess Consort Indrasakdi Sachi
  • King Taksin of Thonburi, son of a Teochew Chinese father migrant gambler or trader and a Thai mother[153]
  • King Rama I, son of "a beautiful daughter of a mix of Chinese and Thai family in Ayutthaya"[154]
  • Indrasakdi Sachi, Princess consort of Siam
  • Queen Suthida, Queen consort of Thailand

Prime Ministers edit

Thai Chinese Prime Ministers:

20th century edit

Kon Hutasingha,[155] Phot Phahonyothin,[156][157] Plaek Phibunsongkhram,[158] Seni Pramoj,[159] Pridi Banomyong,[160][161] Thawan Thamrongnawasawat,[162][163] Pote Sarasin,[164] Thanom Kittikachorn,[165] Sarit Thanarat,[166][167][168] Kukrit Pramoj,[159] Thanin Kraivichien,[169] Kriangsak Chamanan,[170] Chatichai Choonhavan,[171][172] Anand Panyarachun,[173][174] Suchinda Kraprayoon,[175][176][177] Chuan Leekpai,[7][178] Banharn Silpa-archa,[179] Chavalit Yongchaiyudh,[180]

21st century edit

Thaksin Shinawatra,[181] Samak Sundaravej,[182] Yingluck Shinawatra,[181] Abhisit Vejjajiva,[183][184] Srettha Thavisin.[185]

Cabinet and governors edit

Business and entrepreneur edit

Others edit

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ It is generally used to differentiate between Central Thai when they each call themselves Thais.[citation needed]
  2. ^ According to a French missionary.
  3. ^ In Southern Thai, ethnic Chinese known as Leangkaluang (Southern Thai: แหลงข้าหลวง lit:Central Thai speakers)

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