New wave of Chinese coming to live in Thailand

New wave of Chinese coming to live in Thailand

New Chinatowns in Bangkok surprise the passerby with a sea of signs in Chinese and many Chinese restaurants, some serving local cuisine from Yunnan.
New Chinatowns in Bangkok surprise the passerby with a sea of signs in Chinese and many Chinese restaurants, some serving local cuisine from Yunnan.

New wave of Chinese migrants moving to Thailand to retire, study, make money or as waypoint for further adventures are making their mark on Bangkok.


New wave of Chinese coming to live in Thailand

A fourth wave of migrants is coming into Thailand to retire, study, make money or as a waypoint for further adventures
Paritta Wangkiat, Spectrum

Many new Chinatowns have been forming across Bangkok in recent years, including Huai Khwang where the Chinese Embassy is located.

New Chinatowns have become a favourite point of gossip and discussion among Bangkok people.

The proliferation of Chinese nationals everywhere, signs in Chinese, Yunnan cuisine restaurants, southern Chinese style confectionery, Chinese beauty salons and retail stores are becoming hard not to notice.

Some critics say they are taking business opportunities away from Thais and living in isolated clusters, while others argue that the new wave of Chinese migrants is bringing both business initiative and opportunity to Thailand.

Chinese restaurants with exotic Chinese dishes with only Chinese language descriptions are common sight in the new Chinatowns of Bangkok.


It's estimated that Southeast Asia as a whole now has over two million "new" Chinese migrants.

The new Chinese migrants are different from previous generations. Their place of origin is more diverse, they have higher education levels and women make up a greater percentage of the migrant population. They migrate for various reasons including job opportunities, study and investment.

This wave of Chinese moving to Thailand left China seeking "economic opportunity" rather than mere "economic survival" as previous generations had, according to Sakkarin Niyomsilpa, a researcher at Mahidol University's Institute for Population and Social Research, he wrote in his study "The Fourth Wave: Southeast Asia and New Chinese Migrants."

The Department of Employment reported that 18,812 Chinese obtained work permits last year, almost double the figure of 9,618 Chinese in 2011. The Immigration Department puts the total number of Chinese nationals residing in Thailand last year at 91,272, however, academic studies have put the figure as high as 350,000-400,000 in the past decade.

As the expatriate Chinese community grows, real estate investment is also on the rise as Chinese look for second homes in Thailand. The Suttangrak Group is developing housing projects worth five billion baht to sell as time-shares to Chinese buyers. Thailand as a base for business in Southeast Asia is becoming more common. Also, Thailand as a place to stay and work as a second home is also more common.

Chinese signs are a common sight in Bangkok's new Chinatowns.


Thai policymakers have to adjust their thinking, says Yos Santasombat from Chiang Mai University's department of sociology and anthropology. 

"No one can stop the influx of new Chinese migrants," he said at the Thailand Research Expo last month.

"We will have to create an atmosphere that makes Chinese migrants feel like they are a part of, but not assimilated into the countries where they reside."

"It's important for Thailand to better understand the process, outcome and impact of the flow of migrants so we can adapt skilfully and peacefully to the influx."


And of course, what about all the migrants from western countries such as the EU, US and Australia who have chosen to invest and work in Thailand just as Chinese have done?

Should they be given equal treatment despite their non-Asian race?

Westerners who are skilled computer and engineering professionals might even be important for Thailand's future economic advancement as a previous article argues (see here).

But now back to main subject of this article, Chinese migrants.


A survey by the Institute of Asian Studies' Asian Research Centre for Migration at Chulalongkorn University found many new Chinese migrants bring significant funds to invest in start-ups in Bangkok.

The survey of 119 Chinese migrants living in Huai Khwang for over a year found that 68.9% had a bachelor's degree. For 97.5% it was the first time they had migrated outside China.

About 74.8% came for employment such as white collar jobs, Chinese-language teachers and tour guides, while 21% came for study and 4.2% to accompany their family. Some intend to return to China once they have made their fortune or succeeded in their endeavours.

Lack of job opportunities may have something to do with the recent wave of immigrants. The unemployment rate in China has hovered around 4% for the last five years. But other reports say the jobless rate has tripled to 12.9% from 2012.

Many choose Thailand for its affordable cost of living, friendly people and low competition, according to the Asian Research Centre for Migration study.

As far as the growth of Chinese business in Huai Khwang is concerned, in shipping and logistics, there were 30 Chinese operators, while there were 14 restaurants and 18-20 beauty product shops. Some pass themselves off as a Chinese-Thai joint venture but local officials suspected some businesses are 100% Chinese owned and operated.


Despite China's booming economy, many younger Chinese have found they can't reap the benefits and head overseas.

Aaron Li, 28, is one of those. His father is a wealthy businessman in southwestern Yunnan province which borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Mr Li was sent to study in Bangkok 10 years ago against his will. Earning very low scores in China's national examination shut him out of Chinese universities and the opportunity to study business.

But at Bangkok's Assumption University, he has become a good student. He learned three languages -- Thai, Japanese and English -- and expanded his business connections.

He's managed to set up a company with a Thai partner to export rubber, silk and other commodities back to China. He's also invested in condominium units, which he says he wouldn't have been able to afford back home.

Mr Li says Thailand has given him an opportunity to be outstanding. "I won't go back to China. I don't like the system of doing business there. But I won't live in Thailand for the rest of my life. If I find opportunity somewhere else, I will  move on."

According to Mr Li, there is too much red tape doing business in China, which involves getting state permission. Launching businesses in Thailand is easier because of the "looser system" and the openness to foreign investors.


Many younger new Chinese migrants move to Thailand to gain an education and then continue their explorations and wanderings in other countries.

There will likely be more young Chinese migrants pouring in soon, including those who were born in the 2000s.

Shanghai-born Dhu Xiu, 22, a fourth-year communications student majoring in advertising, is one of the younger generation hoping to transit through Thailand to a better life in another country.

She plans to apply for a scholarship to study for a master's degree in Australia, and perhaps get a job there. "I was not a top student in China," she said. "Scholarships there are only for the really top students. Here it is much easier and it's cheap."

Office of the Higher Education Commission statistics show the number of Chinese students in Thai tertiary institutions has grown from 4,618 in 2011 to 6,157 in 2015.

Over the same period, the number of Thai students has dropped as a result of the low birth rate. Thai private universities have also begun to sign agreements with Chinese institutions to bring in students. Rajabhat universities, which are easier to gain admission to than public universities, are among the targets for Chinese students.

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  • academic: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
  • accompany: to go with someone - ไปกับ,ไปด้วยกัน,ไปเป็นเพื่อน
  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • adjust: to change something slightly, especially to make it more correct, effective, or suitable - ปรับ
  • advancement (noun): the process of helping something to make progress or succeed; the progress that is made - การพัฒนา, การรุดหน้า, ความเติบโต, ความคืบหน้า
  • adventure: an unusual, exciting and possibly dangerous activity such as a journey or experience, or the excitement produced by such an activity - การผจญภัย
  • afford: to have enough money to be able to pay for something - มีเงิน/ทุนพอ
  • affordable: not expensive - ไม่แพง
  • against his will: he did not want to do it -
  • argue: to give reasons why you think that something is right/wrong, true/not true, etc, especially to persuade people that you are right - ห้เหตุผล, อ้างเหตุผล
  • assimilated: taken in, fit into, or become similar to - กลายเป็นเหมือนหรือคล้ายกัน
  • atmosphere: the mood or feeling that exists in a place - บรรยากาศ
  • bachelor's degree (noun): (noun) bachelors degree – the first degree that you get when you study at a university. Bachelor’s degrees include Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) - ปริญญาตรี
  • beauty salons: places where women go to get their hair styled -
  • booming: suddenly increasing in trade and economic activity - เฟื่องฟู
  • border: the official line separating two areas, regions or countries - เขตแดน อาณาเขต
  • cluster: group of people, animals or things close together - กลุ่ม
  • commodity: a product or a raw material that can be bought and sold - โภคภัณฑ์
  • competition: a situation in which people or organizations compete, i.e., try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you - การแข่งขัน
  • condominium (noun): an apartment building or group of houses in which each flat/apartment/house is owned by the person living in it but the shared areas are owned by everyone together - คอนโดมิเนียม
  • confectionery: candy and other sweets considered collectively. -
  • cost of living (noun): the amount of money that people need to pay for ordinary goods and services such as food, clothing and a place to live - ค่าครองชีพ
  • critic: a person who expresses disapproval of somebody/something and talks about their bad qualities, especially publicly - ผู้วิจารณ์, ผู้จับผิด, ผู้วิเคราะห์
  • cuisine: a style of cooking - ประเภทอาหาร
  • decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ
  • discussion: conversation; talk - การสนทนา, การอภิปราย
  • diverse (adj): including people from many different backgrounds; very different from each other - หลากหลาย
  • double: to become twice as big, twice as much or twice as many - เพิ่มเป็นสองเท่า
  • embassy: a building where a group of officials work who represent their government in a foreign country - สถานทูต
  • employment (noun): when a person has work that earns them money - การจ้างงาน, การงาน
  • endeavour (noun): an effort to do something (that is not easy); trying to do or achieve something - ความพยายาม; ความอุตสาหะ
  • estimated: thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ
  • examination (noun.): inspection, investigation, looking closely at the facts and details in a case in order to make a decision or judgement - การตรวจสอบ, การพิจารณาอย่างละเอียด
  • expatriate (expat): a person living in a country that is not their own - คนที่อาศัยอยู่ต่างประเทศ (เป็นเวลานาน)
  • exploration: when you search and find out about something - การสำรวจ, การค้นหา
  • expo (exposition): an event at which people, businesses, etc. show and sell their goods; a trade fair - การแสดงสินค้า, นิทรรศการ
  • favourite (adj): something/someone you like the best of all similar things - ที่ชอบมากที่สุด, ที่โปรดปราน, ของโปรด
  • figure: a number representing a particular amount, especially one given in official information - ตัวเลข, จำนวนเลข
  • flow: supply of something that continues without stopping - การไหล
  • fortune: a large amount of money - เงินมากมาย
  • funds: money needed or available to spend on something - เงินทุน
  • generation: a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time - รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
  • gossip: conversation or reports about other people's private lives which might be unkind, disapproving or not true - การนินทา, เรื่องซุบซิบ
  • guide (noun): a tourist guide, a person who brings tourists to interesting places to see on a tour - ผู้นำเที่ยว
  • impact (noun): an effect or influence - ผลกระทบ
  • influx: a large number of people or things coming in to a place - การหลั่งไหล การไหลบ่า  (เข้าไปยังที่ใดที่หนึ่ง)
  • initiative: a new action or movement, often intended to solve a problem - ความคิดริเริ่ม
  • intend: to plan to do; to want to happen - ตั้งใจให้เกิดขึ้น, วางแผนไว้
  • invest: to spend money on something in order to make it better or more successful - ลงทุน
  • investment (noun): the act of investing money in something - การลงทุน
  • isolated: a long way from other places - ที่ห่างไกล
  • jobless rate: unemployment rate; the percentage of workers in an economy who do not have a job - อัตราการว่างงาน
  • joint venture: a business activity carried out by two or more companies or groups - การลงทุนร่วม
  • lack of: when there is not enough of something - ขาด
  • located: where something is - ตั้งอยู่
  • logistics: the practical arrangements that are necessary in order to organise something successfully, especially something involving a lot of people or equipment - การส่งกำลังบำรุง
  • migrant: moving from one place to another - อพยพ
  • migrant: someone who travels to another place or country in order to find work (an immigrant is someone who comes to live in a country from another country) - ผู้อพยพ, คนงานต่างถิ่น
  • migrate: to move from one place to another - อพยพ (ตามฤดูกาล)
  • national (adjective): for the whole country - แห่งชาติ, ของชาติ
  • national: a citizen of a particular country - ประชาชน
  • notice: to see or hear somebody/something; to become aware of somebody/something - สังเกต
  • operators (noun): people or companies that run a business - ผู้ดำเนินกิจการทางธุรกิจ, ผู้ประกอบธุรกิจ
  • opportunity (noun): a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส
  • origin: the place where someone/something comes from - ที่มา, ต้นกำเนิด
  • outcome: a result - ผล
  • outstanding: excellent; very good - ยอดเยี่ยม, ดีเด่น
  • point: a reason for something - เหตุผล
  • point: one item among others -
  • population: a particular group of people or animals living in a particular area - กลุ่มที่อาศัยอยู่ในที่เดียวกัน
  • previous: happening or existing before the event or object that you are talking about - แต่ก่อน, เมื่อก่อน
  • process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
  • proliferation (noun): the sudden increase in the number or amount of something; a large number of a particular thing - การเพิ่มจำนวนอย่างรวดเร็ว
  • real estate: property - อสังหาริมทรัพย์
  • reason (noun): why something happened or exists - เหตุผล
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • reside: to live in a particular place - อยู่อาศัย
  • retail store: a store which sells things directly to the public for their own use - ร้านค้าปลีก
  • shipping: tranporting goods by ship, usually across the ocean or sea -
  • significant: large or important enough to have an effect or to be noticed - ซึ่งมีความหมาย
  • start-up (noun): a company that is just beginning to operate - บริษัท เริ่มต้น
  • study: a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย
  • succeed (verb): to achieve the goals you wanted to achieve - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • survey: to ask a large number of people questions to find out their opinions - สำรวจ
  • survival: the fact or state of continuing to live or exist, especially in difficult conditions - การอยู่รอด
  • time-shares: a house or apartment owned by many people, each getting to use it for a period of the year -
  • triple: three times the number or size of something - จำนวนสามเท่า
  • unemployment rate: the percentage of workers in an economy who do not have a job - อัตราการว่างงาน
  • unit: one office or building or group of people - หนึ่งหน่วย
  • various: several different - หลากหลาย, ซึ่งแตกต่างกัน
  • wave: a large number of people moving or arriving somewhere at the same time - คนกลุ่มใหญ่ที่กำลังมุ่งหน้าไปยัง
  • waypoint (noun): the coordinates (two numbers or letters used to fix the position of a point on a map or graph), checked by a computer, of each stage of a flight or journey by sea - พิกัดในแผนที่
  • wealthy: having a large amount of money, land, and other valuable things   - ที่มั่งคั่ง ร่ำรวย
  • Western: countries such as the US, Europe and Australia -
  • westerner: a person from a "western" country such as US, Europe, Canada, Australia or New Zealand - คนตะวันตก, คนเกิดหรืออาศัยอยู่ทางตะวันตกหรือภาคตะวันตกของประเทศ
  • white collar: working in an office (as opposed to a factory "blue collar") -
  • work permit (noun): the official permission for a foreigner to work in a country - ใบอนุญาตทำงาน
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