In the discussion about within-country inequality in Thailand, the importance of ethnic groups is rarely discussed. Even though Thailand is broken down into regions, and there has been some focus on inter-regional inequalities, these inequalities are normally explained through geographical differences, and questions of whether some ethnic groups might experience more favourable conditions, while others experience an ethnic penalty have attracted little attention.
The research in this article provides an empirical investigation as to whether such ethnic penalties do exist in Thailand.
We did indeed find that there were major inter-ethnic group inequalities within Thailand, which are not fully exposed if one only examines geographical inequalities between the regions as a whole. Bangkok for example, as the country’s capital and home of the largest ethnic group, receives far more from the provinces containing other ethnic groups than it gives back to these provinces, on a yearly basis. These inequalities call for greater decentralisation and plans to develop the communities of ethnic minorities.
While conducting the quantitative research, it was important for us to use data that would be respected by the Thai state. All the data that we used thus originated from a UN office, or it was data collected by the National Statistical Office of Thailand. For our ethnic map of Thailand, we used a printed version from a royally patronised research centre at the Mahidol University, one of Thailand’s big five state universities. For indicating the differences in socioeconomic outcomes between the ethnic groups, we used indicators of human development specified by the UN.
The qualitative research part consisted of a theoretical discussion based via document analysis on Thailand’s colonial history and struggles for independence. Half a dozen Thai public officials on different levels of government were also interviewed.
However, its important to state in this research, we were not able to analyse inequalities for ethnic groups with populations below 100,000 members, and the research was thus limited to the assessment of ethnic inequalities for around a dozen of Thailand’s major ethnic groups.
Draper, J., & Selway, J. S. (2019). A New Dataset on Horizontal Structural Ethnic Inequalities in Thailand in Order to Address Sustainable Development Goal 10. Social Indicators Research, 141(1), 275–297. 10.1007/s11205-019-02065-4