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Thai Press Association - Thai Community on the Verge

NCM Profile

NCM, Pueng Vongs Posted: Mar 27, 2003

Whether it’s a raging debate or a mass protest, it’s unlikely you’ll see Anunson Asvakovith or Phisak Chak, co-founders of the Thai Press Association in San Francisco, at the forefront of controversy. “It’s not Thai style,” says Asvakovith, who goes by Andy. Yet the two work tirelessly behind the scenes with the Thai media, government offices, restaurant owners and others advancing the community’s agenda.

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Anunson Asvakovith and Phisak Chak, co-founders of the Thai Press Association

At its core, the Thai Press Association is a membership group of seven Thai newspapers and news bureaus in California. While the community remains an enigma to many outside of it, sitting down with the two leaders yields fruitful insights.

Shortly after the U.S. led war on Iraq began, says Chak — also known as “Chuck” — Thai small business owners became more concerned over the economy and worried that the war would only slow business. While the United States goes to war, Andy says, Thai newspapers have been tracking their own country’s internal drug war — expanding to an extent never before seen there. “Ya ba,” or crazy drug, an amphetamine, has spread so deep and fast in the nation that the government has proposed executing drug traffickers. The problem is quickly becoming one for U.S. drug officials as use of the drug multiplies on American shores.

Chuck, a former journalist in Thailand, came to San Francisco in 1971 to earn an MBA at the University of San Francisco. After graduating, he worked in Los Angeles for what was then the only Thai newspaper in the United States. He later met Andy, also a former Thai journalist who came to San Francisco in 1979 on his honeymoon and joked that he never wanted to go back. They founded the press association in 1983.

They liken the association to a Thai version of New California Media, bent on leveraging the power of the Thai press and community in the United States. They approximate that there are 20,000 Thais in Northern California, a satellite community to the 200,000 centered in Los Angeles, home to the country’s only “Thai Town.” In all they estimate that there are 300,000 Thais in
the United States.

The Thai Press Association has a strong community component, organizing events and fundraisers for everyone from the Thai consulate to local politicians. A newsletter entitled “Reach Out” and a web site keep members abreast of the array of events and activities. Most recently, the association has been aiding efforts to secure a Thai community center for Northern California. They are galvanized by news that the local Filipino community will soon open a large community center in San Francisco by the end of 2003. They know the importance of building coalitions with the larger, more established Asian communities including Chinese, Filipino, Korean and Japanese.

Andy and Chuck recognize that their low key approach will not hold forever and it won’t be long before the community gains greater recognition despite its modesty. The first Thai recently ran for political office, a local post on the Los Angeles City Council. Andy proudly asserts that the new generation of Thai Americans is already craving more than the business successes of their parents’ generation. He says they are heading to places like Washington to take the community’s political empowerment to a new level.

Thai Press Association
Box 513
Millbrae, CA 94030
www.thaipress.com



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