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Giving birth to an uncomfortable truth

May 20. 2019
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By The Nation

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Those outraged that a high-ranking Thai official sought US citizenship for her baby should first ask why she took that decision  

A Thai woman has sparked uproar by travelling to the United States to give birth so that her child would receive American citizenship.

There were even suggestions that former deputy police spokeswoman, Pol Lt-Colonel Dr Anchulee Phetcharat, should be investigated by both the police and the Medical Council for posting a Facebook message advertising the “legal loophole” in US citizenship law.

The director of Police General Hospital where Dr Anchulee works said officials were checking to see whether there are grounds for a full disciplinary probe. Medical Council secretary-general Itthiporn Khanacharoen said his agency was also checking whether Anchulee’s “personal post” had breached medical ethics.

Anchulee gave birth to a son earlier this month. She drew criticism after posting a photo of herself pregnant on May 14 with a message inscribed on her belly in Thai. The caption invited interested mothers-to-be to give birth in the US to secure a better future for their child. 

But this is not really what the fuss is all about.

She swiftly deleted the post, but the debate it triggered was already exploding as Thai netizens reacted with upset and dismay.

The US constitution deems anyone born in the country an American citizen. But Thais interested in the case are not debating American law. The red-hot topic is whether it is appropriate for a government civil servant to send such a message.

Many believe she offended Thai people’s honour by making such a suggestion. After all, what’s wrong with being born in Thailand?

In an ideal world, Dr Anchulee should be able to choose whatever location she wants for the  birth of her child. But we don’t live in a perfect world. The notion of the nation-state demands that we take up a national label as part of our personal identity. A nation-state is administered by bureaucrats. These state workers are often display extreme patriotic loyalty  – partly because they depend on the bureaucracy for personal status and professional advancement. 

 As such, when somebody like Anchulee reminds us that the country is less than perfect, Thais and Thai bureaucracy tend to react as if they have been stung.

Anchulee may have violated 

snobbish bureaucratic culture by 

highlighting the not-so-promising side of the Thai state and society, but did 

she violate protocol?

After all, she was not speaking as a police spokesperson but posting as an individual who, like any parent, wants the best for their children.

Thai nationalism, like nationalism elsewhere, has long been exploited by public figures and political leaders for their own gains.

Too often we take such tribal feelings too far, like when we beat each other up over simple things such as a football match.

Instead of going after Anchulee and threatening her with disciplinary action, perhaps we would do better to reflect on our own shortcomings. We could start with a simple question: What’s the problem with giving birth in Thailand.

Is it the medical facilities or is it the lack of opportunities for children to grow and develop.

After all, if a mid-ranking police officer with a medical degree and a promising career still feels reluctant about raising a child in Thailand, perhaps we need to ask what’s wrong here.

Are we doing enough to level the playing field and instil a sense of justice in society? Or are we and our leaders just wrapping ourselves proudly in the Thai flag so we don’t have to address these uncomfortable questions.

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