‘Stupid’ memo highlights plight of rural Isaan

Teacher's Notes

Originally published in The Nation on 6th April 2018

The outcry surrounding the Khon Kaen deputy governor’s letter last month to launch a programme to “stop citizens from being stupid” has largely been placated, following public apologies.

However, the incident highlighted the deeply entrenched bias in Thailand’s rural-urban divide, the dire underdevelopment of education and social services in the rural Northeast, and the tragedy of very real cognitive deficiencies in Thailand’s children.

Labelling Northeastern villagers “stupid” is a common expression of prejudice and propagates the misconception that the rural population is naturally less intelligent than urbanites. These prejudices fail to recognise the circumstances which have held back the development of children, especially in the rural Northeast, where education, healthcare, social services, investment and infrastructure are among the most poorly supported in the entire country.

The Northeast’s plight is historical, with the majority of the population being ethnically Lao and speaking…

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