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Labor Day in Thailand

When: May 1st
Where: Nationwide / National Holiday

Labor day in thailand - three ladiesA Clear Message

Labor Day in Thailand celebrates the achievements of laborers from Thailand (sort of) and falls on the same day as its international cousin, International Labor Day. Unfortunately, Labor Day in Thailand doesn’t carry much weight as of yet and that’s understandable since only 2% of Thailand’s 40 million workforce belong to labor unions. And as labor issues grow, e.g., instances of child labor, migrant worker, low-wage long-hour abuse and unsafe working conditions; hopefully so will awareness for the need to protect workers rights. How fast awareness grows among Thai laborers is hard to know and this may be attributed to a cultural class structure that could inhibit laborers from speaking out and organizing and strengthening current labor laws. It’s also important to know that I’m only a casual observer, and I do not claim to have a deep understanding of the current labor issues or Thai culture for that matter. But when your theme for the day’s festivities is “Don’t Do Drugs,” which in it’s own right is commendable, but misses the point of what Labor Day is all about, the celebration of workers and their efforts in overcoming unacceptable working conditions and achieving a fair pay for a fair day’s work.

The Parade

Labor Day in Thailand - Man in hatThat said, Labor Day in Thailand was a well-organized event with a lot of local businesses and workers in attendance. A marching band lead the procession while various other percussion groups were scattered along the parade line. And as usual the banner guards were three beautiful women dressed in traditional Thai fashion, they followed just behind the Marching Band. The parade had energy and enthusiasm that was easily felt throughout the celebration, and let me tell you the sun was intense, yet not so intense to stop the drumbeat for singing and dancing. Thankfully, water was free, abundant and was liberally distributed to anyone who needed it. This particular parade was held in Chiang Mai. It began at Three Kings Monument, made its way down Ratvithi Rd and turned right on Chaiyapoom Rd, ending at Tha Phae Gate (parade route map).

At The Gate

labor day in Thailand - receiving giftAt Tha Phae Gate a ceremony was led by the Provincial Governor of Chiang Mai. On stage the Governor was accompanied by a number of VIP government officials and they were attended to by two young women. These women offered cold refreshments to the to the officials, all while on their knees, as a sign of respect. No matter how many times I see this (typically during government or royal ceremonies), it’s hard to comprehend. I digress, once all the of the paraders made their way to Tha Phae Gate, they took their places in front of the stage where the ceremony commenced. Speeches were made, awards were handed out and raffles were drawn. It reached a point where everyone really wanted it to end, the sun was brutal that day and though most had umbrellas for protection, we were all burnt out.

Cooking Competition

labor day in thailand - contestAs the Sun began to set the ceremony ended and people were finally free to move about and that’s when the real and unexpected fun began. Three separate Thai cooking competitions were held, beginning with Som Tom Thai (Papaya Salad), next was Pad Thai and ending with a raw pork dish called Lap, finely chopped with lots of seasoning. Each competition had a frenzy of activity that surrounded the preparation of each dish with drums, dancing and singing. Judges were up and down the line watching, checking the time and taking notes. After the judges sampled each competitors dish, all guests were free to enjoy samples from the beautifully decorated platers. I was intrigued by the raw pork dish (Lap) and against my better judgment I gave it a try. Holy smokes was that good! I wanted more but thought better of it. There were so many smiling faces and truly happy people. Thai people love their fun and love for people from outside to join in. It was such an unexpected pleasure to be a part of this day’s activities. I’m not sure it’s that way all over Thailand for Labor Day, but that’s how we roll in Chiang Mai baby.

National Public Holiday

Labor Day in Thailand is a National Holiday and most government and office workers do get the day off. But if you find yourself in Thailand on Labor Day, don’t overlook it as possible good time and a good example of Thai culture. At least in Chiang Mai, it was great fun and I recommend that you don’t miss it. If parades aren’t your thing, pack a lunch or find a nice place to eat outdoors by a river, a waterfall, a lake or the ocean, because this is what Thai life is really all about. Enjoy!

Links:
Department of Labor Protection and Welfare
Labor Protection Act of 1998
Labor Conditions
Burmese Migrant Workers

labor day in thailandFor more images on Flickr, click here.

Thai Labor Day is a National Public Holiday

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