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Islamophobia 'on the rise' in Thailand amid war on Gaza

Palestine supporters warn of increasing anti-Muslim hate in Thailand amid Gaza war
2 min read
01 November, 2023
Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip appears to have sparked a rise in anti-Palestinian rhetoric and incidences of Islamophobia in Thailand.
While pro-Palestinian protests have broken out in Thailand, there has also been increasing support for Israel [Getty]

Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip has caused tensions in Thailand, where a small number of pro-Palestinian protests have broken out but many Thais have also expressed support for Israel in its war on the besieged territory.

The situation appears to have sparked a rise in incidences of Islamophobia in the southeast Asian country, as well as anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

In an op-ed for Nikkei Asia, Daungyewa Utarasint, a Thai-Muslim professor based in Abu Dhabi, noted that Thai migrant workers in Israel were taken hostage by Hamas, and 33 workers were reportedly killed.

She said that the Hamas attack had "significantly heightened awareness" in Thailand about the situation of Thai expatriates in Israel and turned public opinion against Palestinians.

Thailand is mostly Buddhist, but has a Muslim minority comprising about 5 per cent of the population. There have been tensions between the two communities before, with a long-running separatist Muslim insurgency in the south of the country.

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"Experts and scholars, including myself, who have shared comments with Thai media about the Israel-Palestine conflict that do not conform with the now-prevailing view have faced a fierce backlash," Utarasint said. 

She added that her social media accounts have been flooded with anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hate comments for her sympathy towards the Palestinian victims in Gaza.  

Utarasint’s comments come amid increasing anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hostility in Thailand.

Thailand's government has officially adopted a 'neutral' stance in the Gaza conflict and concentrated on the killings and abductions of Thai nationals in Israel during the 7 October Hamas attack.

On Tuesday, Thailand’s foreign minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara met with Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani in Doha to discuss Qatari assistance in rescuing the Thai hostages.

While many Thais have chosen to support Israel, the Thai government has also been criticised on social media for not condemning Israel's indiscriminate attacks on Gaza, which kill hundreds of Palestinians every day.

Some 300 Thai Muslim protesters took to the streets and condemned Israel’s acts against Gaza in a pro-Palestine gathering in southern Thailand last Friday.