Thailand at a Glance
Moving to Thailand
Moving to Thailand may conjure up very specific images for many expatriates. It means starting expat life in a country of beautiful beaches and lush rainforests, which attract countless divers and hikers.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Thailand
Thailand, with its sumptuous temples and vibrant nightlife, is incredibly popular among globetrotting backpackers and adventurers. The country’s famous hospitality also makes it an ideal destination for European pensioners who dream of spending their golden years in the sun.
However, an expat moving to Thailand might also consider the negative aspects that relocation can entail. In certain neighborhoods of cities like Bangkok or Pattaya, it is hard to ignore the sordid side of the party circuit. The red-light districts, for instance, with their strip bars, sex workers, and drug users, attract less than savory visitors.
However, all expats should be aware that both these images – the dream of a foreign paradise as opposed to its darker parts – are two sides of the same coin. Exaggerated exoticism often leads visitors moving to Thailand from abroad to either romanticize or demonize the country.
Thailand: A Short Political History
When moving to Thailand, you ought to remember that the Thai people themselves are fiercely proud of their nation’s heritage. After all, the country is the only state in Southeast Asia which was never under colonial rule. Moving to Thailand means settling in a country whose culture dates back over a thousand years.
The present monarch is a member of the Chakri dynasty, which has been in power since the late 1700s. Its forerunners, the Kingdoms of Lanna, Aytthaya, and Sukhothai, left their marks on the country’s patrimony, with vestiges of Lanna culture in Chiang Mai or the historical sites of Sukhothai. Today, these still attract many tourists on their annual vacation.
The King and Queen
Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since a military coup in 1932, with democratization replacing military rule from the late 1970s onwards. When you move to Thailand, it is essential for you to understand the importance of the reigning sovereign, King Rama IX (Bhumibol Adulyadej), and his wife Queen Sikrit.
King Rama IX, who ascended to the throne in 1950, is by no means an uncontroversial figure in academic and political circles outside the country. However, you should nonetheless respect the immense popularity that the royal couple enjoys. This is particularly due to the King’s patronage of many development projects.
Moreover, for a foreigner moving to Thailand, it is useful to know that lèse majesté – insulting the royal family or even the king’s image – is a criminal offense, even for foreign nationals.
Safety Advice for Thailand
You should definitely keep several things in mind when it comes to your personal safety. As mentioned above, you should take care never to insult or criticize the sovereign unless you want to get into trouble with Thai authorities. But the recent political unrest, which was plaguing the country from 2006 to 2011, might be a more pressing concern for you.
Clashes between “red shirts” (oppositional supporters of the former populist PM Thaksin) and the pro-government royalist “yellow shirts” used to occur on a regular basis. However, since the summer of 2011, when the opposition party – led by Thaksin’s younger sister – triumphed in the general election, the protests seem to have died down.
Still, as an expat, you should stay far away from all political demonstrations and even government institutions. The latter may become the target of terrorist attacks.
Due to the Internal State Security Act in 2010, police searches have apparently increased in number. Although the political climate is now far less tense (in early 2013), foreigners moving to Thailand should carry their passport and immigration papers with them all the time.
Furthermore, diplomatic missions advise their nationals not to move to Thailand’s border areas near Cambodia, Myanmar, and Malaysia. Furthermore, Thailand’s south remains under martial law, owing to soldiers fighting radical Muslim groups in that region.