ALSO BY

By Kelly Stone

Satu bangsa satu negara?

I visited Bangkok and Pattaya in the middle of July. It is true as in the Chinese phrase saying ‘You gain more knowledge when you get out and walk one thousand steps, instead of you staying home and reading one thousand books.’

Our tour guide was a Thai and he was very proud of Thailand. From every word from his mouth he is truly a Thai. But he could speak Mandarin, so we were curious.

He told us his grandparents were from China, so he is actually a Chinese and both his wife and him could speak Mandarin. But in Thailand, there is no bumiputera or non-bumiputera, no official documents with a column for you to write down whether you are a Chinese, Malay, Thai or Indian.

Everybody is just the same, once you are born in Thailand; you are a Thai, that is all.

Before this, I totally agreed with those Malays that fought for ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ even if I did not like it. Because I thought if I were Malay, I will fight for it as well.

So I never believed those Malay leaders that promised to eliminate the bumi and non-bumi distinction or ‘Ketuanan Melayu’.

But after my visit to Thailand and the conversation with my tour guide, I now understand.

In Thai schools, besides English, every student must at least take up another foreign language.

My tour guide told us that he knows he is actually a Chinese, because he lived with his grandparents before. But this awareness lasts for his generation only; his children do not care about this any more.

They cannot see the difference, they never met their great-grandparents. They can speak Mandarin, they learn it in the school and they take it as an advantage to them. Nowadays, they think they are Thai. This is what we call Satu bangsa satu negara.

This made me think of our government’s efforts towards unity. Once we are born, we are categorised as bumi or non-bumi with your race being specified on all official documents. You can never forget no matter how many generations.

So it is actually a conflict when you want unity but you create separation. The barriers to unity are actually put up by the government.

Once the barriers are taken out, the next generations may be at first a bit confused who they actually are but by the third generation, they no longer care; subsequently they forget.

Until everybody can forget their own nenek-moyang and asal-usul then only can he describe his country as satu bangsa satu negara.

Thailand has made it.