Published on April 22, 2008
The Cambodian Government recently suspended marriages between local women and foreigners after hearing from the International Organisation for Migration about the plight of women who migrate to their spouses' countries. But in Thailand, a migration of foreign or "farang" husbands to live in their Thai wives' rural villages in the northeastern provinces (Isaan region) has revealed other sides of cross-cultural marriages.
Most foreign husbands today know well that they are not married only to a Thai wife but also to her large family, senior anthropologist Suriya Smutkupt said. Suriya had talked to farang sons-in-law in Isaan province.
"I would like to hear the views of farang husbands as many studies already reflect Thai wives' perspectives of marrying foreigners," he said.
From 2005 to 2007, Suriya travelled intensively from his hometown in Chiang Mai province in the north to talk to farang husbands in villages in the northeastern provinces of Khon Kaen, Nakhon Rachasima (also known as Khorat) and Udon Thani.
"They told me their wives' large families gave them warmth that they could never find in their own countries," Suriya said.
Also, foreign sons-in-law of Isaan find all the conveniences of their home countries here and can stay connected to their friends and relatives via the Internet, he said.
Suriya spoke to 34 men from Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Switzer-land, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States.
The farangs were seasoned travellers to Asian countries. Most had previous marriages with farang women, Suriya said.
Their Isaan wives are of rural, low-income and low-education families and many couples met in tourist destinations such as Pattaya, he said.
Some husbands said they did not want to marry virgins or young women. They said they understood that Thai women become sex workers because their families are poor.
A farang husband asked his Thai wife to forget the past and begin a new life with him. However, some confessed that their perspective on Thai wives and their ex-wives was different, Suriya said.
"It's interesting that these farang husbands encouraged their wives to speak English in order to be a bridge between other women in their communities and their husbands' friends and relatives," he said.
David is from England and now lives in Chiang Mai province, which is his Thai wife's home.
"I am a 'farang' who married a honest, respectable village woman from a poor family. She has survived the hardships of being rejected by a Thai man, left to bring up a young daughter alone, and being seen as someone to be avoided in case she wants to borrow money," he said.
"We help local women in similar circumstances have a chance at a better life by finding them a good farang man," he said.
Last year, David and his wife offered translation and English classes to help women in their community communicate with foreign men.
The family has also started a website to introduce them to westerners looking for the kind of family life that respectable Thai ladies are renowned for.