another publication by IMAGE asia

Converting external internationalism into positive inclusion and diversity practices in Phuket

  Bangkok / Phuket Boat Lagoon

The divisions in the world are saturated with hypocrisies and are recently evidenced by social arguments over wars. This issue could be resolved by an evolution from superficial external so-called ‘internationalism’ into a more pluralistic, sincere set of actions to embrace internationalism, eliminate inconsistencies, apply fair and rational thought to commentary and exchanges and to revise internal beliefs to be less prejudiced and judgmental.

The current ‘debate wars’ comprise:

(i) The pandemic information and action wars: anti-vaxxers, vaxxers, COVID-sceptics, COVID severity flip-floppers touting lockdowns and stay-at-home one minute and citing post-vaccination liberalism, notwithstanding the incontrovertible fact that viruses mutate, and...

(ii) The Ukraine invasion, or from Putin and his supporters’ perspective, the protection of the sovereignty of Russia’s citizens through pre-emptive action, with a social response ranging from social media condemnation, brave Ukrainians who have never fought before taking up arms, innocent Russians simply born Russian being persecuted for a system they didn’t create or endorse, or overall ignorant sweeping statements seeking to polarize and divide our world, and...

(iii) International Women’s Day, which is interpreted, quite rightly, in a completely different way by women across the world, as they see fit – witnessing some groups of women trying to impose on other women and men, their ideals regarding the meaning of International Womens’ Day, ironically forgetting that in relation to beliefs, values and principles, freedom of thought and critical reasoning are imperative aspects of an evolving society.

There are many other hot topics with similar patterns of disagreement, mis-information and opinionated self-righteousnes.

Given the small geographical boundaries and limited permanent and semi-permanent populations, the international nature of the persons and its history, Phuket provides a ripe opportunity to use internationalism for an enlightened approach to societal development.

Children are being educated either in international schools, or in local schools but with an international dimension or international context. Many government officials are not Phuketians, and are importing their own experiences into the mix of policies and implementations. Residents include Phuketians – Thai, Thai with parents of mixed nationalities, Thais from other provinces and tourists who may visit for just a few weeks, or months per year, year after year. All from different backgrounds with diverse experiences.

There are not many places in the world with the same scope of international features as Phuket. Yes, there are many diverse international cities, but these are huge by comparison to Phuket, and it is easy to be lost in such places, with any ‘voice’ on principles, values and beliefs being lost in the pollution and hubris of the big smoke.

International cars, international boats, international or multiple linguistical abilities, mixed nationality families, education in multiple-jurisdictions, cross-ASEAN and global businesses, remote working across multiple platforms and systems, mixed international and heritage-based architecture, diverse international, domestic and fusion cuisines. All of this is ‘international’.

However, what about our opinions? Are Phuketians, Phuket-residents and visitors ‘truly international’ in their approach? Can they avoid the pandemic of ‘trending bandwagon jumping’ on popular topics which become clichéd, predictable shallow opinions regurgitated from snippets of social media ads, biased news articles and beach club bar talk? 

There is some way to go before we progress to being truly international. Supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians, without persecuting Russians. Celebrating International Women’s Day, allowing women to each choose how they note the date or use the day to identify issues which remain unresolved. Understanding that many people are affected differently by ‘pandemic’ wars – nurses, doctors, officials, children, parents, single people with or without mental health issues, landlords and tenants, Chinese people and Hong Kongers, and so on.

It must be said that there are many in Phuket doing great things for communities. Social projects, charitable works and simply and quietly helping others with small and large acts of kindness. Meeting such people can restore a sense of belief in altruism, the existence of which is still debated by cynics as perhaps a long-term method of extraction and repayment in kind.

The understanding of multi-faceted perspectives is critical to enlightened attitudes, which does not have to mean suppressing debate or discussion of issues. We can discuss our beliefs on history, sovereignty, and the new world order, without turning to accusations and belittlement. We can peacefully determine our own health and that of our family without outwardly coughing our germs in the face of others or carelessly reducing their chosen social distance. We can also try to understand our version of an event isn’t the determinant factor for life or our world.

From philosophical high-level observation and criticism to pragmatic solutions, how can we turn the weaknesses in ‘pure diverse internationalism’ into a better society?

(i) Change the media narrative by not indulging in chains of racism, prejudice, hatred and shallow indulgence of polarized ill-thought out attacks on groups or individuals. Keep the social media forums clean or just don’t join them, and what remains will clearly be the leftovers. Be aware of the clickbait economics of the owners of news ‘portals’ and that ‘any engagement is good engagement’ so far as their metrics are concerned. That article about rape hasn’t necessarily been written by someone who wishes to preserve the feelings of the victim, that is why they have attached horrific thumbnails to the article link…

(ii) Avoid the ‘aspirational class’ trap of forever trying to improve perception of worth through superficial distinctions. “Where are you from?...” (await to see if answer satisfies inherent socio-economic judgmental bias) “What do you do….[pregnant pause]” (await to see if respondent still needs to work to support self and family and if so dismiss them from social stratosphere because they won’t be able to keep up with the trust fund lifestyle). Reject judgmentalism in all its forms, avoid it and try to let this virus of society mutate and weaken because it won’t have a ‘host’.

(iii) Don’t attribute people to their gvernments. The average British person today didn’t colonise half the world with his or her naval force. The average German today is pro-peace and favours safeguards to prevent persecution. The average Russian is not going to violently attack you. The average American has worked hard and understands other cultures. The average Chinese person is interested in taking care of the family and living an honest life. If you don’t believe in averages, then it will be difficult for you to adopt such a position. I admittedly struggle with this issue myself, because in day-to-day life I meet a large number of people behaving unfairly and irrationally. However, I have to work hard to remind myself of the ‘average’, the fact the world does continue to progress despite its inhabitants’ propensity to destroy their own environment over time.

If we are to represent Phuket as an ‘international destination’, for ‘international people’, then internationalism, inclusion and diversity will require some bolstering. Elitism, bourgeoisie exclusionism and inherent bias and prejudice will only pollute the social environment and cause friction, discontent, uprisings and hatred.

The next time we project ourselves as ‘international’, we could consider how deep the meaning of this word truly is. Everyone is entitled to a different opinion on its meaning. This article attempts to encompass inclusion and diversity as a fundamental aspect. Whatever the real meaning, our behaviour and treatments of others will reflect back quickly in social media forums, social meeting places, emotions and reactions of others and ultimately, our happiness levels.


 Contact info:

Hughes Krupica Consulting

Hughes Krupica Consulting Co. Ltd
23/123-5 Moo 2 Kohkaew Plaza
The Phuket Boat Lagoon
T. Kohkaew Amphoe Muang
Phuket 83000 Thailand
Tel: (0) 76 608 468

Hughes Krupica Consulting (Bangkok) Co. Ltd
29/41 Soi Ladprao 22
Ladprao Road
Chankasem, Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900 Thailand
Tel: (0) 20 771 518

[email protected]