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Thai women marrying western men

Heartbound Directors
Regissør: Janus Metz Sine Plambech
(Danmark )

THAI WOMEN / Finding a spouse from the West does not necessarily mean the end of all life's problems.


In the early 90's married
Thai Sommai with a Danish man and then moved to the north
part of Denmark. At the time, she was the only Thai woman in the area.
But in the course of 25 years, she has not only created a new life there, she has also
made himself known as a kind of Kirsten Giftekniv, who has helped hundreds of
other Thai women finding Danish partners.

For a long time, directors Janus Metz and Sine Plambech have made a significant effort to understand not only who these women are, where they come from and what issues they face, but also the reason why many of them dream of a Western spouse. Heart Bound (2018) is the very crown of this work – the film gathers threads between each of the stories, which is revealed over more than a decade. For Heart Bound the directors have also directed Love on Delivery (2007) – a film about Thai women who married Danish men in the countryside, a phenomenon that had already become a trend – while Ticket to Paradise followed in 2008. The latter gives an insight into the causes of many Thai women's dream of marrying someone from the West.

Love or pragmatic arrangement?

Marriages between a Thai woman and a Western man of the type who are not exactly Western women associate with a "Prince Charming" are often looked down upon here in the West, and most Western women will hardly understand this as any dream situation. For the Thai women, however, the choice of spouse has nothing to do with love. Instead, it all appears as a pragmatic arrangement. This is, of course, because they do not necessarily share the established Western narratives of the pursuit of great love and what love is. But why should finding stability, support, and camaraderie be considered less important dreams?

Sommai met her husband while working in Pattaya, one of Thailand's prostitution centers.

Today, the "ideal marriage" of the West is a mixture of romance, community and, on many levels, equality between the partners. Although these criteria are relatively new, and marriage has traditionally been a pragmatic economic arrangement also in the Western world, the current understanding of marriage is tantamount to the very definition of "true love". For Sommai and Kae and all the other women in the film, financial security and marriage go hand in hand and are a prerequisite for a happy life.

Heart Bound
Directors Janus Metz and Sine Plambech

Poverty here is so pervasive that
many women end up taking jobs as sex workers in the biggest cities in
Thailand. Brought up and instructed to put family before everything else
their only assets – their youth and their beauty – as an expression of
love for his family, who in turn never really ask where the money is
comes from. When the choice is between poverty and selling sex, it is easy to
understand that a man who can provide for them and rescue them from the situation appears
like a kind of prince in a Cinderella story.

From hares in Thailand to Danish rural life

Sommai met her husband while working in Pattaya, one of Thailand's prostitution centers. She is not ashamed of her past, and it is with the strength of a woman who knows exactly how such a choice is experienced that she encourages Saeng, a young single child who, between the attempts to find a western husband, works in a sex bar.

Heart Bound
Directors Janus Metz and Sine Plambech

In Denmark, women learn the language and take simple but decent paid jobs. Living in a rural community in Northern Denmark is far from anything but heavenly, but the life framework is safe and worthy. Had it not been for the new husbands, the Thai women would have been sentenced to a stagnant existence in poverty. The film provides an empathetic glimpse into the complicated web of causes and choices in their lives and allows these women to become heroes in their stories – rather than victims of their circumstances.

The women in the film all come from the Isan region, one of the poorest
the areas of northern Thailand.

However, it is
obviously, finding a western husband is not a cure-all. Oh
living in another country means living between different worlds, and that is something Heartbreak presents very well. These women
lives in the middle layer of what is and what is not: a life close to its own
family and friends in Thailand – some have even left their children.

But i
in the eyes of family and friends, they are nevertheless successful, and Sommai's story is
for everyone the ultimate success story. She was the first Thai woman from her
area that settled in northern Denmark, and as she becomes
older, she dreams of returning to her homeland. It is hardly obvious
choice for a Danish husband who has never lived there and who himself is about to
grow old. The realization that life goes on, that people can be there or not
not be there when you return, and that you have lived your life from
each other, is the toughest lesson these women face. That's it
high the price they all pay, the price that turns the balance of the battles they have
emerged victorious from, and the battles they have lost in life.

avatar photos
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Nita is a freelance journalist and critic for Ny Tid.

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