Campaign Promise: Curing Thais of Five Character Flaws

Campaign Promise: Curing Thais of Five Character Flaws

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Five things to change about the Thai character…

In Thailand, if you don’t read or speak Thai, or know someone who does, you miss out on all sorts of goodies. For instance, several weeks ago a Thai friend arrived all excited about a radio talk show. During the show a Thai politician expressed an interest in curing Thai people of their (supposedly) five bad character flaws: Laziness, jealousy, lying, cheating, and boasting.

Laziness: ขี้เกียจ /kêe-gìat/
Jealousy: ขี้อิจฉา /kêe-ìt-chăa/
Lying: ขี้โกหก /kêe-goh-hòk/
Cheating: ขี้โกง /kêe-gohng/
Boasting: ขี้อวด /kêe-ùat/

Pssst: Did you notice all those ขี้อ/kêe/ words? Hugh covers them here: A Sticky Problem.

Apparently a Frenchman spent some time researching the Thai character and pared it down to those five flaws. And btw: If you have information on his research, do tell!

The politician went on to promise that if the Frenchman’s research proved to be true, then he (the politician), would tackle the problem.


If this is a campaign promise, then what a platform for any politician to run on.

Anyway, thanks to Thai politics you now have five new words to add to your Thai language vocabulary: ขี้เกียจ, ขี้อิจฉา, ขี้โกหก, ขี้โกง, ขี้อวด.

Other Thai political campaign posts:
Thai Politician Chuwit Kamolvisit: A Man. His Dog. Their Park.
Chuvit’s Angry Man Campaign Posters Translated
Vote NO! Animal Campaign: Political Posters Translated

21 thoughts on “Campaign Promise: Curing Thais of Five Character Flaws”

  1. Interesting Thai poll just out:

    Poll: Driving counter flow most awful
    Published: 12/02/2012 at 11:20 AMOnline news: Local News

    Most of the people see driving counter the traffic flow and not wearing a clash helmet the most awful behaviour in public of the Thai people, Abac Poll revealed on Sunday.

    The poll was conducted between Feb 1-11 on 1,378 people in Bangkok and nearvy provinces.

    Asked what they thought are 10 most awful acts of the Thai people in public, the replies were as follows:

    1. Driving counter the traffic flow and not wearing a clash helmet (98.9 per cent);
    2. Driving beyond the legal speed limit (85.3 per cent);
    3. Showing no kindness towards children, women, and the elderly on roads or buses (80.7 per cent);
    4. Spraying of walls and signposts (77.9 per cent);
    5. Vandalism (76.8 per cent);
    6. Queue-jumping (64.1 per cent);
    7. Double parking, blocking entrances or exits (61.3 per cent);
    8. Littering (60.9 per cent);
    9. Cheating and taking-advantage of others (58.4 per cent); and
    10. Smoking at public places.

    Asked about 10 most disgusting behaviours of Thai cabinet ministers and their entourage, the replies were as follows:

    1. Being snobblish (92.9 per cent);
    2. Being dishonest and corrupt (90.1 per cent);
    3. Creating false images (88.7 per cent);
    4. Being arrogant, distancing themselves from people (86.4 per cent);
    5. Using influence to interfere in transfers of officials and admittance of students (81.5 per cent);
    6. Abusing power (74.3 per cent);
    7. Being discriminatory (72.8 per cent);
    8. Being aggressive and wielding threats (63.5 per cent);
    9. Misrepresenting mandate from the people (57.2 per cent); and
    10. Using harsh language, not being a good model of being Thai (57.2 per cent).

  2. Another word for jealousy — ขี้หึง — was also mentioned in Hugh’s “A Sticky Problem” post. I believe it means to be an overly jealous lover, whereas ขี้อิจฉา is to be overly envious of other things.

  3. Patrick, I’m not sure what his aim was really. It was my friend who heard the talk show, not me. But either way, it was a curious choice of subject!

    Kevin, I wasn’t around Thais until the 90’s, when I got to know Thai students studying overseas. The Thai science students especially were amazing in their drive for to do well on the course.

    Most had to upgrade their English to an academic level at the same time they were studying for a western-style MSc = no slacking off + a tough grading system. Some arrived with very poor English skills but left greatly improved.

    The lab at the university didn’t have enough computers so when the time came to finish writing their thesis they had to get creative. Staying in the computer lab around the clock, those who were waiting slept, each being awakened when it came time for their turn.

    It was impressive and I seriously doubt western students would have made the same efforts.

  4. All the Thais I know work very hard. They get up at 4:00 am and work …ok they take a LOT of breaks during the day!

  5. Thanks to those 5 new Thai words. But I don’t think that Thai politician is up to something about being serious in tackling the problem on those five bad character flaws: Laziness, jealousy, lying, cheating, and boasting. He was probably merely passing on the information of Thai people’s bad habits. If this is his platform, good luck to him. No political platform can change a person’s bad habits.

  6. … I’ve also heard the opinion from Chinese-Thais I know (as well as Chinese from the mainland). And ditto for Thais opinion of the Chinese-Thais. But when I mention how hardworking and clever the Chinese-Thais are, a quick admission of them having a Chinese grandfather/grandmother is brought into the conversation (note: this is obviously from my miniscule, personal experience).

  7. I googled and found a possible origin of the lazy mindset at least. It’s in a review of “Letters from Thailand” (which I have read so can vouch for).

    … the book details the old Thai-Chinese mentality that Thai people are lazy, drink too much and spend all their money in a couple of days when they get their salaries.

    Then it also covers the Thai mentality that the Thai-Chinese are slaves for money, too serious about life and love only sons.

  8. Martyn, I haven’t seen the research so I’m not sure what he’s pinning any one of the five on. Some people get confused about the sanuk aspect of Thais so at a stretch it could be that but until I see the research I just don’t know.

    As for the Irish being thick I absolutely know that is not true! Not a single one of my Irish friends come close. They are sharp cookies. Much sharper than I am for sure.

    I’m not sure what’s up with your google but I drove by the Glastonbury Festival yesterday. I’ve never been but always wanted to attend. Not that it’s my thing on too much discomfort levels – too many people and way too much mud and not enough toilets.

    Snap, “Wherever there is a vacant space or opportunity…” add creative to that one. Thai workers in Brunei didn’t have anything so had to make do with whatever was handy. They amazed everyone with their ingenuity.

    Anyway, if someone could please locate the research then a part of the mystery would be solved.

  9. I’d like to second Martyn’s comment on Thais not being lazy. They are a very hard working, resourceful people from where I stand. When my Mum visited, one of her comments was ‘You certainly couldn’t call them lazy’. Wherever there is a vacant space or opportunity, there is a business or trade of some kind, and it’s usually open for many hours, often 7 days per week.

  10. Catherine – First a rant.

    I’ve just put my heart and bloody soul into a serious (well kind of) review about Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep Temple and Google AdSense dish up these adverts under the post title.

    Looking For Marriage
    Pretty Peruvian Ladies
    Pretty Women From Russia
    Meet Sexy Ukraine Women

    I don’t bloody believe it. Not one mention of Thais…..or Thai culture.

    Okay rant over.

    The five Thai word traits you mention are all bar one new to me. Laziness, ขี้เกียจ /kêe-gìat/ is the exception although I’ve always understood chăa-rot to mean jealousy.

    I personally think Thais are served a very unjust smack on the old barnet when labelled as lazy. Surely you have to take into consideration the intensity of the country’s heat and therefore the need to work slowly and take an afternoon break when possible.

    Wilai is a phenomenal worker in her garden but every afternoon its som tum time and forty winks. Believe me a couple of hours later when the sun has cooled a bit the young one is knee deep in flowers again and toiling hard. Thais being labelled lazy is like the myth of the Irish being thick.

    I’ve just spent a couple of hours in the pub watching the Glastonbury Festival on TV. That’s something which Thailand can never replicate.

    Great post and best wishes from England.

  11. Snap, those flaws are absolutely human nature… every one. Just guessing here… the politician could be bringing up the subject because it is being batted around on Thai forums (not always in a complimentary tone). And they are not just talking about the Frenchman’s research – I have links but I haven’t had the time to get to the bottom of it…

  12. Flaws, perhaps, but aren’t they just aspects of human nature, worldwide? And, what’s the cure?????

    I cringe to think how something similar would have been received back home…I wouldn’t like to be that politian trying to leave the radio station 😉

  13. Talen, my Thai friend was honestly interested in discussing the subject so we talked on it a fair bit and ended up comparing westerners to Thais.

    And really, there’s a bit of those 5 characteristics in each of us – it’s only a matter of degree. I’m guessing the Frenchman was mainly concerned about degree but I won’t know for sure until I track him down.

    Your mention of politicians handing out viagra made me smile. In order to avoid being cheesy I won’t say anything further 😀

  14. Cat, leave it to a Thai politician to sink his own campaign…I can’t imagine his little cure all that came as the inspiration from a Frenchman will go over well with Thai’s much less his supporters.

    Unless he goes to the countryside handing out money, liquor and or viagra his campaign is doomed.

  15. Wouldn’t a politician be guilty of all 5 – or at the very least the bottom 3? Interesting how a politician won’t focus on the economy or putting out solutions that divide the country’s citizens. They’re the same the world over…


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