Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Northern Thai ex-ROC soldiers targeted by Beijing push to boost China’s impact

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The government should respond to Beijing’s efforts to increase its influence among members of northern Thailand’s overseas compatriot communities, or see the nation’s ties with them weakened, the Control Yuan warned in a report issued on Wednesday last week.

Northern Thailand is home to about 100,000 Thai Chinese, many of whom are descendants of Nationalist soldiers stranded in the region after the Chinese Civil War, the Control Yuan said, adding that the group has maintained strong ties with Taiwan.

At the end of the war, soldiers loyal to the Republic of China (ROC) government were forced to flee Yunnan to the borderlands of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, also known as the “Golden Triangle.”

In Thailand, communities formed by the soldiers’ descendants helped the Thais put down a communist insurgency, then settled in the region during the 1980s with the Thai government’s blessing.

A sustained Chinese diplomatic campaign over the past few years has increasingly undermined the long-standing friendship between the group and Taiwan, the Control Yuan said, adding that the government should be “on alert” about Chinese influence in the region.

The Control Yuan in August invited administrators and teachers at regional Thai Chinese schools to talk with officials in Taiwan, and sent a delegation to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand later that month, the report said.

Academics consulted for the report supported its conclusion that China has been expending significant resources and effort to win over the Thai Chinese communities since 2016, it said.

Chinese Consul General in Thailand Ren Yisheng (任義生), who took office in December that year, has introduced a policy of cultivating pro-Beijing sympathies by visiting the local communities, it said, adding that two-thirds of regional Thai Chinese schools have received visits from Chinese officials.

As a directive Chen gave his office to “share the Chinese dream” with the Thai Chinese showed, China’s developmental strategy for northern Thailand and its cultivation of ties with the overseas Chinese community are mutually reinforcing, it said.

Beijing appears interested in using its relationship with the Thai Chinese as a springboard to claim the allegiance of Taiwanese immigrants in Thailand, the Control Yuan said.

Although China has not established any schools in the region among new Chinese immigrants, it is able to influence board members of existing schools through their business dealings in China, an effort facilitated by China’s state-to-state relationship with Thailand, the Control Yuan said.

By offering money, materials and staff, China has gained a foothold in the overseas communities and schools of Chiang Mai, although Chiang Rai-based schools are still aligned with Taiwan for now, it said.

However, as an example, the Ministry of National Defense has not adequately funded the Chinese Martyrs Memorial Museum in Mae Salong, despite its designation as an official museum of the ROC armed forces, the report said, adding that the defense ministry must increase its funding for the museum.

The museum’s curator, a man surnamed Tseng (曾), told officials that he never received the money that the government promised and later built a memorial to honor the ROC’s “lost army” using private donations, the Control Yuan said.

The defense ministry said it acknowledged the recommendations of the Control Yuan and the needs of the local community, and would consider a policy response after deliberations.

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