The rural family in the typical village setting is an extended family with many generations living in one house, or many houses within the same compound. It is here that the Thai child learns codes of behavior that will guide him throughout much of his later life, whether it is spent in the village or beyond.
In the village, home is usually a simple house raised on posted; domestic animals, like buffaloes, chickens, etc. are kept below, and the family lives above, often in a single room. There is little privacy, though this is not as highly regarded as in Western countries, and the communal life style instills a strong sense of social harmony in which tact, compromise, and tolerance are essential. The father is regarded as the leader, but the mother also plays a significant role particularly in the family finances.
Respect for elders in the family is taught very early. This same delineation of roles also applies to the wider world outside the family and will remain deeply ingrained throughout life, thus explaining the reluctance of younger Thais to oppose or confront a senior during their subsequent careers in business or government. A sense of responsibility is also inculcated in early childhood. Each child is assigned certain duties according to age and ability. One of the prime responsibilities is to take care of parents in their old age. It is a prominent feature of the Thai concept of family. There is no feeling of being inconvenienced by this duty of caring for aged parents; on the contrary, their acquired wisdom gives them an honoured place in the household and their counsel is sought in teaching their grandchildren to be responsible adults with the same traditional values.
"Thailand in the 90s" by Thienchai Srivichit.
Paintings by: Primary 6 students at Sriwittayapaknam School.