The Isan Saga:
The Life and Times of the People and Region of Northeast Thailand:
A Neglected People Dwelling In A Forgotten Land.

Scroll Down For Link To Master's Degree Thesis
A Thesis In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for a
Post-Graduate Master of Arts Degree in Asian Studies,
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Isan MusicianRiding Water Buffalo

Rice Planting Scene Isan Family in Ox Cart

This is the saga of the Isan people of Northeast Thailand.  Peace-loving village dwellers residing in
Thailand's nineteen neglected northeastern provinces, this paper tracks their quest for personal
identity, equality, and mutual acceptance by their class-conscious Central Thai cousins.

San Diego State University

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   Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS)   
San Diego State University’s Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS) is an interdisciplinary instructional unit of the
College of Arts and Letters. It promotes the study of the Asia Pacific region among its students, faculty and community
members, and is dedicated to fostering an understanding of the diversity of Asian culture and society. Established in
the 1960s, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies is an integral part of SDSU’s international studies curriculum.

Asian Studies Post-Graduate Degree Thesis:
A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts in Asian Studies

Copyrighted Property of Ron Myers
Use by Written Permission Only, Please
(Any unauthorized use or alteration of this thesis, in whole or in part,
constitutes a violation of the author's intellectual property rights.)



        The village-dwelling Isan people of rural northeast Thailand are in an ongoing struggle for personal identity, prosperity, and equality, as well as a desire for respect and acceptance by their fellow countrymen. 

        Presently over twenty-one million in population (as of 2004), the Isan people have taken the initiative over the last several decades to seize various opportunities and are currently emerging from their poverty-stricken agrarian roots and lowly social position to becoming the formally-recognized labor class of Thailand.

        This ongoing process is occurring despite long-standing economic exploitation and neglect, as well as hindrances placed in their way by their more urbane, class and status-conscious Central Thai cousins, who have customarily dismissed the Isan dwellers as being simpleminded and ignorant.  Notwithstanding, their progress is now clearly evidenced by an increasing acceptance by the Thai, together with enjoying a greater significance on a national scale in socio-cultural, economic and political terms.


        In this paper, the author attempts to track the progression of this qualitative transformation throughout its course, from beginning through to realization, along with addressing the various issues encountered during the transition period, followed by projected future challenges.

Table of Contents

   Chapter I: Introduction to the Isan People and Region of Northeast Thailand
     Who are they and what is their significance?

   Chapter II: Origins and Historical Roots of the Isan Region and Its Inhabitants
     The Need for Change is Defined

   Chapter III: Exploring Catalysts for Socio-Economic Change
     The Impetus for Change is Conceived (1960s)

   Chapter IV: Development Programs and Foreign Aid
     The Desire for Change Is Stimulated (1970s)

   Chapter V: Migratory Employment--Isan Becomes Proactive
     The Spark of Change Ignites (1980s)

   Chapter VI: Thailand's 1997 Economic Meltdown
     The Impediments to Change Addressed (1990s)

   Chapter VII: Isan--The New Millennium and Beyond
     The Destiny of Change Envisioned (2000s)

   Tables and Maps
   Bibliography/Works Cited

"The amiable Isan people of rural Northeastern Thailand have for centuries eked out a subsistence-level existence in less-than-favorable conditions from a austere land with acidic soil that alternately suffers from either floods or droughts.  As a result of learning to make do with what they have, they have developed a tough-skinned resiliency and light-hearted love of life that repudiates their indigent predicament." R.M.

If you have comments or to obtain written permission to use this thesis, email me at:
RonMyers - IsanSaga Query