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INDIAN COMMUNITY IN THAILAND

Ever since around 2500 years ago when Emperor Ashoka sent Bhikkhus to Suvarnabhumi, a large number of Indian priests, traders and common people have found welcome in Thailand through the ages. Brahmins are still to be found conducting religious practices.

The Indian community had also played a significant role in the freedom struggle of India by setting up a unit of Netaji's Indian National Army and contributing volunteers to it. The community also hosted Netaji himself for a short period in Thailand.

The Kanchanaburi Memorial at the War Cemetery maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records the names of 11 Indian soldiers who laboured in the construction of the railway and fell during the World War II. A large number of conscripted Indian labours are also understood to have been made to work on the railway.

Evidence of the presence of sizable number of Indians during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods has been described by a number of western travelers to the Thai courts. Most of the contemporary Indians came to Thailand after 1920, with certain groups tracing their arrival to the first half of the 19 th century. The migration and settlement of Indians in Thailand varied according to the different linguistic groups within them. Punjabis, Sindhis, Parsees, Gujarati Sunnis, Dawoodi Bohras, Tamils, Pathans and Bengalis all have different migrational history. Most Indians came of their own free will and very few came to work in labour-intensive occupations. The great majority engaged in commerce.

The Pahurat district, a large fabric market, is Bangkok's Little India (adjacent to the Chinatown), a centre of the Indian commercial community, mostly Sikh. The Dawoodi Bohra Muslims and Tamil Hindus are examples where inter-ethnic marriages among the early migrants have led to indigenization of their institutions.

Hindu-Thai-Sino syncretism of religion is highly visible in the daily administration of the Mariamman Temple .

Source : Indian communities in Southeast Asia by Kernial Singh Sandhu, A. Mani; Chapter 36

Published by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 1993 edition

Today, the Indian community in Thailand is estimated to be over 100,000 strong. It is an amalgam of members from almost all major States of India and has made significant contributions to activities in various fields in Thailand especially gems and jewellery, textiles and real estate business. There are a large number of Indian professionals working with Thai private companies and with other agencies in Information Technology and other professional fields such as in various international and UN organizations, multinational companies, banks and financial institutions.

There are a number of Indian community organizations run by different groups. Prominent among these are :

Thai Bharat Cultural Lodge(TBCL) : The TBCL, established in 1930, is involved in promoting cultural interaction between India and Thailand. The TBCL runs two schools in northern Thailand for Thai students. The TBCL also runs the Satyananda Puri Memorial Library, which is a reference library on Indian cultural matters with a large collection of Indian books.

India-Thai Chamber of Commerce (ITCC) : The ITCC is amongst the oldest foreign trade chamber in the Kingdom of Thailand. The land on which the Chamber stands today was gifted by Mr. A.E. Nana, founding patron of the Nana family, and the foundation stone laying ceremony in 1960 was presided over by the Indian Ambassador Mr. Naranjan Singh Gill. The Indian Society of Trade became the India Chamber of Trade, which was formally registered in January 1969. In 1974, its name was changed to the India-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Indian Women's Club (IWC) : The IWC is actively associated with promoting cultural programmes from India. It runs an Activity Centre in Bangkok, which runs a wide range of courses in Indian music, dance, languages and arts for members of the India-Thai community.

A list of Indian Associations is at the following Link.

Among prominent members of the Indian community in Thailand is Mr. Shivnath Rai Bajaj who was awarded the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2006 by the President of India.


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