April 14 each year is observed as Family Day in Thailand. The observance has been part of the Songkran period since 1991. As Songkran Festival brings family members for reunions, the Thai government in 1990 decided to designate April 14 Family Day. The designation is meant to underline the importance of the family institution.
Thai society is well known for its deeply rooted family values and Thailand is among the first countries in the world to celebrate Family Day. Older persons can play a key role in taking care of young people in the family. They have more experience and may constitute the wealth of knowledge and experience from which younger generations can learn and benefit.
To gain in-depth knowledge about Thai society, we need to focus on the basic unit, the village, and therein the family lifestyle, especially in a rural setting, which is the place where most Thais live. Generally, it is the type of extended family, consisting of several generations living in one household, or perhaps under several roofs within the same compound. The house is usually a simple, wooden structures raised on posts. Various species of livestock, such as buffaloes, pigs, dogs, and chickens are kept beneath the house, and the family members live above, often in a single room, though larger structures may consist of a platform in front of two or more rooms. The father is regarded as the leader, and the mother play a significant role in household activities, particularly in the kitchen, and gives instructions to their children.
When children are born, they will be recorded in the household register. The Ministry of Interior will issue them a “smart card” or identity card to attest that they are eligible to be Thai citizens. They become aware of their position in the family hierarchy and learn the Thai lifestyle from their parents and elder relatives. A sense of responsibility is also inculcated in early childhood. Each child is assigned certain duties according to his or her age and ability, while parents are working in the fields.
As children grow older, their responsibilities increase, and they are allowed to join in discussions on family matters. One of the prime responsibilities placed on children is that of taking care of parents and relatives in their old age.
Thailand is faced with many challenges in the present world. For example, a typical Thai family now comprises parents and no more than two children, a “nuclear family,” unlike in the past, when an extended family was the norm. Family ties in the city are not as pervasive as in the village, and young married couples often set up housekeeping on their own.
The family is one of the smallest units in society, but it is a powerful force that can create human beings of good quality. It plays a significant role in instilling ethical conduct, social values, lifestyles, and ways of thinking into young people. In underlining the importance of the family institution, the Government has launched a campaign to turn the family into a sanctuary of love, warmth, and care.