3: Sino-Thai Muslim Diasporas in the Cold War Nexus
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 303A
University of Gottingen, United States
In the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War, dozens of Muslim military personnel and scholar-politicians in Yunnan Province who had been affiliated with the KMT, as well as merchants with little political identification, utilized the historic trade routes sprawling over the borderlands between the present-day Yunnan, Burma, and Thailand as paths of escape. They joined existing traffic of Chinese Muslim merchants who had come to have a substantial presence in northern Thailand, testified by the Banho Mosque in Chiangmai that had been established in the early twentieth century. Based on textual and oral data gathered in Chiangmai and Maesai in the summer of 2018, this paper explores the contours of Chinese Islamic diasporas in northern Thailand and questions the impact that geopolitical divisions and concurrent Islamic connections during the Cold War had in transforming their social status and mobility. While strained PRC-Thai relations and the lack of physical access to Maoist China severely deprived Sino-Thai Muslims of a sense of multiple belongings and channels of transnational trade, informal connections with Saudi Arabia through the pilgrimage and visits of businessmen served as an important source of funding for communal operations. Such ties, for instance, enabled the building of the Attaqwa mosque in Chiangmai in the 1970s. The paper thereby charts out the rekindling of Sino-Islamic networks outside the territories of Maoist China in the context of barriers of the Cold War.