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Phuket Opinion: The accidental racists

Phuket Opinion: The accidental racists

PHUKET: Much-welcomed news is that the organisers of the Bangkok Midnight Marathon (BMM) 2020 have apologised for their initial decision to ban all foreigners from taking part in the event and will open the race to expat runners.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 9 August 2020, 09:00AM

The official web page for Sirinath National Park in Phuket with the different entry prices for Thais and foreigners highlighted. Image: Screenshot

The official web page for Sirinath National Park in Phuket with the different entry prices for Thais and foreigners highlighted. Image: Screenshot

The move followed a storm of criticism for a policy perceived as openly racist, much like the backlash temple administrators at Wat Pho suffered after their similar decision in June to ban all foreigners from entering the temple.

Anyone who bothered to read beyond the headlines in both cases would quickly realise that the decisions were not racist in intent – they were based on pure fear of becoming a focal point for the spread of COVID-19. If the administrators in both cases had focussed their attention on that – and publicised that point clearly – then neither would have found themselves amid a maelstrom of criticism online, criticism quickly reached far and wide in this age of modern communications.

What is plainly racist is the government policy under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) to charge foreigners much higher prices than Thai citizens to enter their national parks and natural reserves.

As simple as it gets, Section 27 of the current Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand – the English version provided by the Office of the Council of State “for translation purposes only” (the last nine versions of the Constitution promulgated in the past 13 years can be seen here) – clearly states:

Section 27. All persons are equal before the law, and shall have rights and liberties and be protected equally under the law.

Men and women shall enjoy equal rights.

Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, gender, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic and social standing, religious belief, education, or political view which is not contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or on any other grounds, shall not be permitted.

The argument stops there: “Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin”. The DNP’s dual pricing policy is in clear contradiction to the Constitution of Thailand. The policy in itself is illegal, and still supported by the current government. Period.

Property in Phuket

However, unlike as with the organisers of the Bangkok Midnight Marathon, the DNP faces a much more complex dilemma with its dual pricing.

The policy of charging Thai nationals token entry fees to national parks and reserves has one clear intent: to give Thai nationals open access to enjoy the beauty of their own country, without punishing the poor. That is a tough one to argue against.

Yet the dual pricing policy as it stands today presents itself as targetting only one segment of presumed richer customers, and the discrimination is based on a person’s origin, not on their capacity to pay.

If the DNP wants to discriminate according to capacity to pay, then it should do so. The current policy is an anachronism of an era that deserves to be left behind.

The same goes for the multi-tiered maximum prices for health services at public hospitals made legal last year.

Common practice in other countries for government services is to set standard prices and offer discounts to presumed low-income earners such as students, the unemployed and the elderly.

Such pricing structures come with their own problems, such as rich people pay the same price as the poor, but the equity and principle of not discriminating along racial lines is avoided, and such pricing structures have already long been tried, tested and accepted as the norm elsewhere around the world, not just in the so-called Western countries. Thailand should feel free to join the rest of the world in implementing such policies.

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JohnC | 10 August 2020 - 09:12:18

Not always double pricing. When I used to have a work permit many times visiting national parks I would only be charged the same as my Thai wife because I was paying taxes and had a social security card. The national park officers rarely had a problem with that once I explained my position. 

Kurt | 10 August 2020 - 04:57:14

@ Galong, I not want to dim your optimism, but great chance the ticket boot man just has very elementary education and never heard of such thing as a Constitution. It is not what the rich ruling class see as important for them to know. Anyway, the ticket boot man does as ordered. If boss orders 10-15-20 times higher ticker price for foreigners, No one will change his mind. Trained obeying.

Galong | 09 August 2020 - 16:21:16

So, all we've got to do is carry a copy of the Thai Constitution (in Thai with Section 27 highlighted) to get into national parks at the 'standard' rate? 

CaptainJack69 | 09 August 2020 - 13:19:08

"Not racist in intent"? If they wanted to avoid becoming centres of infection then they should just cancel the events, problem solved, and without the obvious and blatant racism. It all exposes the more incipient underlying reason for Thai people thinking this kind of discrimination is perfectly acceptable. That is to say pure pure unabashed bigotry.

CaptainJack69 | 09 August 2020 - 13:14:22

Exactly, why should my Thai wife and children pay a tiny fraction of what I'm charged for exactly the same thing? We are at exactly the same economic level. "Accidental" racism? No, it's just ignorant, and there's no excuse for it in this information age that we live in.

Christy Sweet | 09 August 2020 - 11:31:30

Even Thailand has the  ERA, something that in USA in still one state ratification  away from being enshrined into The US Constitution. 

Kurt | 09 August 2020 - 10:13:14

And yes, in 'my' country the unemployed, retirees get discounts on cultural ( theater/cinema/musea/concerts) , free public transport for retirees. Students have a lot of discount in public transportation ( outside the peak hours). House rent subsidised for low income groups. In a way according section 27 of the Thai Constitution.   :-)

LALALA | 09 August 2020 - 10:08:51

Why calling it accidentally ? Its on purpose. It is well known that you get ripped off in LOS as foreigner, be it at the hospital or at the night-market etc. etc. . It goes trough the whole society. To avoid it you have to skip this country or at least buy, rent from foreigners etc., not visit venues with double pricing. This despite the fact that LOS is overpriced at all.

JSombra | 09 August 2020 - 09:55:36

"they were based on pure fear of becoming a focal point for the spread of COVID-19"
What utter nonsense,were the checking Thais travel history to see if they were any of the 50000+ returnees? No.So yes it was 100% xenophobia/racism.Next you will be trying to claim people trying to prevent black people from moving into their neibourhoods are not racist because they talk about crime rates...

Kurt | 09 August 2020 - 09:53:40

Great piece of Opinion.
Note: The bulk of matters/policies about which Thailand should feel free to implement and join the rest of the world is getting bigger and bigger.


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