Transnationalism and Diaspora of Thai Migrant Workers in Taiwan —— A research on Isan Performing Arts in Taiwan

The Isan people make up about 75% of the Thai migrant workers in Taiwan. The Isan culture, based in Northeast Thailand and inextricably linked to the culture of Laos, has distinctive characteristics, while the unique Isan performing arts have been brought to Taiwan along with the transnational movement, forming a specific community and identity through music and dance. This project is a collaboration between Thai cultural researcher Hsu Yao-Rong and Padung Jumpan, an Isan dancer from Thailand. Using the Thai Buddhist temples in Taiwan, which regularly hold Isan performing arts events, as the core sites, they observed the similarities and differences between communities and the changes that occur after transnational movement.


The project conducted intensive online and on-site interviews at two Thai Buddhist temples: Buddhabaramee in Yongkang, Tainan and Buddharangsi in Yingge, New Taipei City; a Thai restaurant in Changhua, which also serves as the base for the Thai band Star Music that performs in conjunction with the Thai Buddhist temple; the multicultural market held by new Thai immigrants in Kaohsiung; and the Taoyuan Train Station Park, where the Thai migrant dance groups hold their rehearsals.


The team also held a live and online panel discussion with Warong Boonaree, an expert in Isan music, Asoke Srichantr, a journalist and media worker who has been organizing large-scale Thai events in Taiwan for many years, and Chiu Chih-Hua, an artist who has had in-depth exchanges with Thai cultural researchers in recent years. They were invited to share their observations and perform exchanges on the project’s milestones.

Hsu Yao-Rong

A freelance researcher in Thai culture. Hsu Yao-Rong received her Bachelor of Music degree from National University of Tainan, her MA in Ethnomusicology degree from Tainan National University of the Arts, and her Intensive Thai Program certificate from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand in 2011. Her research area is the musical culture of Thailand and she specializes in Thai music and culture and music education. She is frequently invited as a lecturer and writer on related topics.

Padung Jumpan

He has been a full-time dancer with the Pichet Klunchun Dance Company since 2010. He is one of the company’s principal dancers and the productions he has performed in include: Chui Cha, Nijinsky Siam, Black and White, Tam Kai, Nay Nai, Dancing with Death, and Birds. To date, he has been touring with the company in Europe, America and Asia.