SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

A borderless village: binding/bounding spiritual ties among Plong migrants in Greater Bangkok

Indrė Balčaitė seminar
Indrė Balčaitė (CSEAS Small Grant recipient 2012)

Date: 18 November 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 18 November 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


The paper explores the ways by which the Plong Karen migrants, reproducing their spiritual loyalties in Bangkok, Thailand, create an imagined community spanning the Thai-Burmese border. Originating from rural or semi-urban areas of Hpa-an Township, Myanmar, the villagers – turned into residents of the sprawling and congested Thai capital – seek to retain their membership in their home village community. The perceived distance between Bangkok and their home village in the Kayin (Karen) State in Myanmar has recently shrunk as a result of modern technology and more frequent visits, enabling the Plong migrants to continue practicing Buddhism as they know it. Although Buddhism both in Thailand and Myanmar is of the Theravada variety, Burmese migrants do not generally participate in the Thai religious practices and networks. By retaining their spiritual loyalties brought from home, the Plong in Bangkok make an identity statement differentiating them from the Thais. At the same time, this creates a cross-border spiritual community bound by reverence to the moral authority of influential Karen monks.

Speaker Biography

Indrė Balčaitė is a SOAS Politics PhD student specialising in Thailand and Burma/Myanmar. As fieldwork for her doctoral research project, she has spent over one year in South East Asia interviewing Karen migrants from Myanmar. She holds a BA in Political Science from Vilnius University in her native Lithuania and an MA in Political Theory from the University of Nottingham. Before embarking on a PhD, she has worked in the public service, for NGOs, conducted policy analysis for the European Union institutions and translated academic texts.

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