Naka Nami Lamdin Tong Pelu Linchan
If you think I was saying something in Thai, you are not far off. Those are the names of villages and small towns in the northeastern corner of Kedah, that not many Kedahans themselves have been to, and many more do not know of their existence. And they have the highest concentration of Thai-descendants in the whole Kedah, all in the Padang Terap district. After all, the old Kingdom of Kedah stretched all the way up to the Satun province, and Kedah was once known as Monthon (มณฑล) Saiburi until the latter was ceded to the British inn 1907, and Satun was absorbed into the Monthon Phuket until the Monthon system was abolished in 1933.
The first time I ventured into these areas was when I was stationed in the north, and I would spend days in these areas. It is the only place where people speak differently. It is not quite Thai, but more like Pak Tai, the southern Thai dialect, with some Kedah-malay words incorporated; much like how some southern Thai malays would speak Thai – they speak Pak Klarng which is how they speak in Bangkok, but incorporate malay words as well. I’ll give you an example:
นงไปทำไม? อาย oghe kapoeng?
I’m not good with Pak Tai as I cannot comprehend some of the words they use. I had problems trying to converse with the malays in the Satun, Trang and Phatthalung provinces. Especially with the ones who are not that old. The older ones speak malay like the older northern Kedahans would speak, the younger ones can speak Pak Klarng so I have no problems understanding them.
Titi Akar is one of the places I would go to. Heading south from there you would pass Sungai Tiang, Jeneri, where you can take a “shortcut” that is not for the faint-hearted to Sik. If my memory serves me right, the pasar malam (night market) there is on Fridays. I could be wrong, but it was fun to drive through the place from the south and then take a right turn at Kampung China to go pass Kampung Melayu, Kubur Panjang, Pokok Sena, Langgar and back to Alor Setar. The people were simple, and the shops had Thai scripts on their signage, and for a moment it did not feel as if you are in rural Kedah. You would get drenched during Songkhran, and you can witness the Loy of the Krathongs during Wan Loy Krathong.
However, 15 years after leaving Kedah (I was transferred back to KL to form and head a new unit to complement the Air Force’s legal department), I find several blogs written by the Thai-Malaysian community on their plight. It seems that a decade and a half later, the community seem to be at where they were when I was back there. And that is sad. And even after the change of government, they are still treated like 3rd-class citizens there. The current state government approach them with a ten-foot pole. People still bathe and wash clothes in streams that run through rubber estates. The price of rubber has gone down so much that they cannot earn much tapping rubber. They have to compete against migrant workers in the construction industry – and as locals, they lose out because it would be cheaper to employ illegal immigrants. The young migrate to other places; and with little education and opportunity, they end up working in odd places – the young girls often end up in towns like Sungai Petani as “masseuse”.
The Peninsula Malaysian community in general is busy looking after the plight of the Orang Asli and forget that there are other minorities that need help. I just hope that someone up there will be looking into their plight.
For that, I have added a new category in my LINKS section called CHOOM CHOHN CHAAW THAI NAAY MALAYSIA (ชุมชนชาวไทยในมาเลเซีย) so you could read up on them and understand their plight.