Trova il tuo prossimo libro preferito

Abbonati oggi e leggi gratis per 30 giorni
Siamese Arabesques: Tales of the Islamic World with Thai Twists

Siamese Arabesques: Tales of the Islamic World with Thai Twists

Leggi anteprima

Siamese Arabesques: Tales of the Islamic World with Thai Twists

240 pagine
3 ore
Apr 21, 2011


Mix classical Middle Eastern culture with Thai ways and what do you get? Something very intriguing – and utterly exotic.
Some Arabs and Middle Easterners come to Bangkok for business and shopping. Others come for unrestrained sensuality, or medical tourism. Still others open restaurants, providing a welcome culinary service in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and beyond. And then there are those who need jobs while they await elusive UN approval for asylum.
Proud of their own culture, one thing they don’t come for is Thai culture. Rarely do Arabs ever step foot inside “infidel” Thai Buddhist temples.
For centuries, and especially in the last few decades, Middle-Eastern traders and travellers, restaurateurs and refugees have left their mark on Thailand, bestowing their cultural, Islamic, architectural, culinary and musical heritage.
Digging deep, Carleton Cole writes about Middle Easterners who have called Thailand a home away from home.

Apr 21, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Having been born in Switzerland, raised in the USA and having gone on to live in Thailand and visit another thirty countries, Carleton Cole truly sees himself as a citizen of the world. Happily settled down in the homeland of his Thai wife, Cole has spent 12 years in the Land of Smiles, eight of which as a copyeditor at The Nation newspaper. He holds a master’s degree in print journalism, and now works on the dreamy Thai island of Phuket as a senior travel writer for a website that arranges hotel reservations in countries around the world. By way of diversions, Cole has tried his hand at drawing and graphic design, embroidery, playing squash and swimming, while many of his free hours are nowadays devoted to travelling to different beaches and restaurants, cities and countries. Carleton and his wife Sutamon regularly travel back to the US state of Maryland to visit his mother Barret, sister Amy, brother-in-law Greg and nieces Laura and Charlotte, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins elsewhere in the eastern US. In their mid-30s, Carleton and Sutamon look forward to sharing long lives together, and to travelling and sharing their trips with others, whether through word of mouth, sharing photographs or through more books like this one.

Correlato a Siamese Arabesques

Libri correlati
Articoli correlati

Anteprima del libro

Siamese Arabesques - Carleton Cole


Siamese Arabesques

Tales Of The Islamic World With Thai Twists

2nd edition 2016, Smashwords edition

Text by Carleton Cole

eISBN 978-616-245-031-0

Print ISBN: 978-1-63323-940-1

Published by booksmango


Text & Cover Copyright© Carleton Cole

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, copied, stored or transmitted in any form without prior written permission from the publisher.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


With its evocative music and muezzins’ cries, to its curvaceous, dazzling architectural detail, hearty fare, world-leading scientific advances and proud tradition of hospitality born out of the harshness of the desert, in which if you don’t offer food to guests, they might not live, the Middle East has fascinated outsiders through the millennia.

After two decades of immersion in the East—East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia—the author’s attention naturally flowed into the Middle East, a region of a mysterious Pagan past, dramatically expansive early Islamic era, brilliant golden age of discovery, decline, lingering romanticism the and modern era marked by a return to Islamic roots—and in the early 2010s, loud calls for democracy.

Meanwhile, many Muslims who call Thailand their home, concentrated in the Deep South, have struggled to maintain their unique religious, ethnic Malay heritage and culture amidst an onslaught of assimilatory Thaiisationschemes through the decades, especially after the Siamese conquest of the Pattani Sultanate in 1904. A century later, the latest uprising began afflicting the war-weary region all the more. But there is always room for hope.

This book is written in the spirit that a clash of civilisations is hardly inevitable, and what’s more that there can be greater reconciliation between all religions and races.

At a talk in early 2011 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand called Small Acts of Resistance: Popular Movements and Democratic Change, Steve Crawshaw, former British journalist, and co-author of Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World, which was published before the uprisings in the Middle East, said of the region, "No one can tell what will happen next. Tiny acts add up to big changes. It’s true that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane.

It’s a universal truth that we can achieve more than we think.

Several of these chapters were published in The Nation newspaper in Bangkok in the first decade of the 21st century. One each appeared in the Palestine Times and the Hellenic Chronicle.


For my mother Barret,

my first teacher and

a companion in

cultural exploration.

Introduction to the Second Edition

While the initial optimism of the Arab Spring that appeared around the same time this e-book was first published in 2011 has transitioned into the starker realities of the phenomenon of Daesh (aka ISIS), and conflicts continue from Libya to the Levant and beyond, one constant is the need for greater understanding and contextualization of the varied lives of Muslims and Middle Easterners. Although farther away from these scenes of more direct conflict, in Thailand there are underappreciated stories – including the three new chapters at the end of this edition – touching on these narratives, reflecting universal struggles, and full of subtle indicators that respect for cultural diversity and common humanity can one day prove greater than our differences.

Part 1: Siamese Arabesques

Thai-Middle-Eastern links are varied and fascinating. Down through the centuries there has been cultural overlapping in politics, business, culture and cuisine, to name a few fields.

The allure of the exotic Far East continues to fascinate Arabs and Middle Easterners today. What’s more, while admiring Thai society, they have also contributed to it, leaving an indelible mark in selling products of all kinds, from Arabic perfume to Cambodian and Thai silk to Afghan jewellery.

They continue to prepare delicious mezze dishes and kebabs and other dishes of their homelands, which are eagerly devoured by guests in Little Arabia on Bangkok’s lower Sukhumvit Road.

And today Thailand deserves a good reputation for providing Middle-Eastern refugees and economic migrants with a second start, helping them along in terms of granting work opportunities and a shot at UN recognition as refugee that can help them find resettlement in the West.

Furthermore, despite the ongoing uprising in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, there are signs indicating where Buddhist Thais and Thai and Malay Muslims in the region can get along, make a living and live together peaceably.

1. In Search Of Refuge

Ali is a refugee in every imaginable way. Having endured a forced tour of duty in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), survived three years of imprisonment in his native Iraq, and ultimately escaping his country, he found himself adrift in Bangkok with nowhere to go. His legal status is precarious and his future bleak.

Still, Ali dreams of living a normal life and enjoying the basic rights of a permanent home, a job, and dignity.

Granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok in 1999, he has spent many years since then trying to reconstruct a life that was shattered in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It has never been easy, but these days getting a chance at resettlement abroad is harder than ever for migrants like Ali.

A wave of anti-immigration policies is sweeping traditional resettlement destinations in Europe, North America, and Australia, triggered by concerns about letting in potential terrorists and taking jobs away from locals. Attracting particular scrutiny are young, single Middle-Eastern men. Having survived a dangerous year of military service in 1987 toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War, laying mines and taking part in commando raids along the frontlines, Ali was exasperated to find Saddam Hussein mobilizing his army again in 1990. Determined to avoid more perilous soldiering, he deserted the army, he says, Just before Saddam went into Kuwait.

Following the Allied victory in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and with Iraqi forces on the run, Ali and other Shi’ite Muslims from southern Iraq rose up against Saddam Hussein. They were hopeful that with Allied support they could create conditions for a better Iraq, and improve the lot of the Shi’ites, who comprise a bare majority in the country but had no political power.

But after liberating Kuwait, and unwilling to risk losing support in the Arab world by going so far as to overthrow the Iraqi dictator, the US-led coalition offered the Shi’ites no meaningful support. The short-lived rebellion was crushed by Iraq’s weakened but still potent forces.

Eight days before his August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein met with April Glaspie, then the United States’ ambassador to Iraq. It was the last high-level contact between the two countries before Iraq went to war.

From a translation of Iraq’s transcript of the meeting, released that September, press and pundits concluded that Glaspie had in effect given Saddam a green light to invade.

We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait, the transcript reports Glaspie as saying. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction . . . that Kuwait is not associated with America.

Before the end of the Gulf War in early 1991, Glaspie was called to testify informally before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

She said she was the victim of deliberate deception on a major scale, and denounced the Iraqi transcript as a fabrication that distorted her position, though it contained a great deal that was accurate.

In November 1992, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, gave Glaspie some vindication. He said she had not given Iraq a green light. She just listened and made general comments, he told USA Today. We knew the United States would have a strong reaction.

"I was involved in the intifada in southern Iraq. The police caught me and I was sentenced to jail for three years," Ali says in the matter-of-fact tone in which he describes all the unhappy details of his life, not letting them crush his spirit.

Ali shared his story at a cafe on Sukhumvit Soi 3/1, in the heart of the compact but bustling Arab enclave in downtown Bangkok, which he visits regularly to socialize with friends and compatriots. It’s a place where he can find some sense of belonging.

Behind a weary face, tired beyond his 33 years, lies a quiet passion; the sort of inner strength necessary to have taken anyone so far. As he recounts the horrors of prison life, his pain is masked by long drags on a chain of cigarettes: a cramped holding cell, often packed with hundreds of detainees; cold winters made harsher by windows deliberately fixed open; scorching summers made more intolerable by the same windows being forced closed; meagre rations of thin rice gruel; psychological and physical torture; and no contact with family or friends. Although Ali was released when his three-year sentence was up, the Iraqi police continuously monitored and harassed him, occasionally arresting him and jailing him for a night or two.

I could not sleep in my home in Iraq. Sometimes, if they could not find me, they would put my mother or father in jail for the night, he says.

Feeling the increasing pressures of police surveillance, and after talking with a friend who had been released from prison in 1998, Ali finally decided that he had no option but to leave Iraq. His friend, while imprisoned, had heard of a government plan to crack down on past troublemakers and those believed to have kept contact with dissidents abroad. You cannot stay here. If you stay here, you’re dead, Ali’s friend told him, warning Ali that he and others were to be framed for the recent bombing of a ruling Ba’ath Party office.

Moving through a series of safe houses, Ali made his way to Baghdad, where he made arrangements with traffickers to take him to Jordan, the starting point for what he hoped would be a new life. After paying several hundred dollars for the privilege of bumping along a notorious smugglers’ route known as Line 12, Ali was dropped off twenty kilometres from the Jordanian border. After hiking this last stretch through the desert, he was out of Iraq, but not out of trouble.

Making it to the Jordanian capital, Amman, which he and other Iraqis in Bangkok describe as being full of Saddam Hussein’s spies, Ali did what many Iraqi asylum seekers do there – he bought a fake Iraqi passport and arranged, through another group of traffickers, a flight to a transit country. The transit country would offer him a chance to apply for refugee status, an important step towards his goal of resettlement and a new life in a Western country – anywhere from Australia to Denmark or Canada.

The route available for Ali was to Yemen. From there he found his way to Thailand.

Living in Bangkok, Ali worries how to stretch his paltry income – a 3,600 baht monthly stipend from the UNHCR, and when he may ever find a place to call home.

Having been rejected by the embassies of the US, the UK, and Sweden, Ali holds out hope that he may secure sponsorship from a charity group in Canada. But the chances are slim, especially for single males like him without a wife and children – assets and responsibilities that might make it easier to win resettlement.

Iraqi people cannot stay or work in Thailand. Without proper identification, nobody can help you, he says.

Ali’s status as a refugee was not enough to prevent one incident when he was arrested by police near Sukhumvit Road and detained for the night. To the police, Ali’s copy of his refugee status identification was no substitute for a passport with a Thai visa they were accustomed to seeing. In a complaint he filed with the UNHCR, Ali claims he was forced to pay several thousand baht to secure release.

Ali spends much of his time checking on the details of his case at the UNHCR and consulting with the Bangkok branch of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), one of the few advocacy organizations offering various forms of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.

He’s a typical example of people who get stuck here, Fabrice Lincoln, a volunteer legal officer at JRS, says about Ali. The resettlement process has completely slowed down.

Although barely getting by on his modest stipend, occasional l00-baht handouts from Arab friends, and other occasional payments sent from a brother who lives in the United States, Ali is luckier than many other Iraqis in Bangkok who end up at the Immigration Detention Centre at Suan Phlu.

I’m scared, he says. There are many big problems. I am fighting hunger and the Iraqi Embassy and the police here, and for my status at the United Nations. I will go to any country that accepts me. I still have hope and believe in God.

2. Still A World Of Borders

When the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced in June 2002 that the kingdom was experiencing an influx of tourists from Middle East Asia the focus was on those who came to enjoy the shopping, beaches, and mountains. But some Middle-Easterners entering Thailand on tourist visas – after selling belongings or land to pay people-smugglers – come looking for a permanent escape from the persecution they face at home.

According to the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) and the National Catholic Commission on Migration (NCCM), most Middle-Eastern refugees entering Thailand arrive by air. One Iraqi receiving aid from the NCCM says that he paid 700 US dollars to get from Amman to Bangkok, adding that 1,000 was the average.

NCCM social services director David Dickson says most Middle-Easterners that the centre works with had been left stranded in Bangkok by traffickers, who promised that their Bangkok stopover would be brief, and that they would soon be en-route to a resettlement country. Then the agents disappear with their money and passport.

Together, the NCCM and JRS provide aid for hundreds of Middle-Eastern refugees and asylum-seekers in Bangkok. Of the several dozen Iraqis the NCCM works with, Dickson says, We find that we have to spend a lot more effort on taking care of their mental health. They need psychological help and counselling. These people have no hope.

The NCCM also provides shelter for the neediest refugees it works with, almost all of whom are Iraqi. Most Iraqis aided by the NCCM are Kurdish or Shi’ite, from the two major groups persecuted by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The centre also cares for several former Muslims who converted to Christianity, making them subject to abuse in Iraq and Iran.

While gaining resettlement is a long-term goal for most refugees, getting out of danger is the top priority. Hence the attraction of countries like Thailand, where it is possible for people from the Middle East to enter on a tourist visa, unlike most Western countries.

They can’t go back to their home countries, and can’t stay forever in Thailand. That’s why resettlement is so important, says Anne Makome, a former legal officer for JRS Thailand. They’re not radicals. These are the people taking risks to bring change. That’s why they’re here. I think they’re the good guys, and alienating them is the wrong move."

A report released in 2001 by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration said: The Near East region is host to the largest number of the world’s refugees, primarily Afghans, Palestinians and Iraqis.… The majority of the refugees identified for third-country resettlement by UNHCR are Iraqis, Iranians, and Afghans.

There is little legal protection for refugees who make it to Thailand, which is not bound to the 1951 Refugees Convention, which obliges signatory countries to provide assistance for refugees. Yet many continue to come, feeling that the risks of staying at home are greater than an uncertain fate in Thailand and other staging grounds for getting into a resettlement country.

I would appeal to the Thai government to sign the convention, says Cynthia Buiza, an information officer with JRS Thailand. But resettlement is the issue.

She added that wealthy resettlement countries have the real power to improve the situation for the world’s millions of refugees. In 1995, Buiza helped advocate for the creation of a governmental taskforce for refugees in the Philippines, which she and Dickson credit with having improved the welfare of, and legal protection for, refugees there.

UNHCR senior regional liaison officer Indrika Ratwatte says that in 2002, there is increased scrutiny for certain profiles. But he says refugees and asylum-seekers deserved access to solutions, no matter their nationality.

It is going to be increasingly challenging to maintain the sanctity of the right to seek asylum, says Ratwatte, adding that national security priorities are heightened in the post-9/ll environment.

JRS volunteer Fabrice Lincoln says that the situation in Thailand has shown signs of improvement – at least for those with refugee status. He says that those confirmed to have

Hai raggiunto la fine di questa anteprima. Registrati per continuare a leggere!
Pagina 1 di 1


Cosa pensano gli utenti di Siamese Arabesques

0 valutazioni / 0 Recensioni
Cosa ne pensi?
Valutazione: 0 su 5 stelle

Recensioni dei lettori