As Thai society becomes increasingly accepting of interracial marriages, this helpful support is welcome. The one-day free course was designed to help Thai women in interracial marriages avoid potential risks of scams or falling victim to human trafficking when moving abroad with or for a foreign husband. For many Thai women, particularly those from poorer provinces in Thailand’s northeast, marrying a foreign man is viewed as a way to better their economic status. However, the fairytale-like aspiration is often in reality very isolating. A study in 2004 found that more than 15,000 women from Isaan Province had married foreign men and had been sending home a total of 122 million Thai baht (US$3.7 million) per month to help support their families.
The course covers legal rights, including how to access help through relevant Thai authorities, and also explores important issues around acclimatisation and culture shock. ‘Our course will teach women how to conduct themselves, about the laws of their destination country, and how to prepare before going,’ said senior ministry official and director of the ministry’s division of gender equality Patcharee Arayakul. Thai culture is different to many Western cultures; traditionally, women take on more subordinate roles, are soft spoken and often have more family responsibilities than their counterparts in the West. These cultural differences can cause tension or lost-in-translation moments for both the foreign husband and the Thai wife.
Bridging cultural gaps is never easy, but this course intends to help Thai women know their rights as well as to learn about and manage cultural differences. One class attendee said: ‘I was more interested in the legal aspects rather than the culture shock.’ Many Thai women are in contact with other Thai women who have married foreigners and have created an unofficial support network; however, this government-funded course offers formal support that has not always been available.