Asoke Srichantr

Spiritual Mentor to Thai Migrant Workers

2018 / August

Camille Kuo /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Bruce Humes

“As a Thai who is also a citizen of the Republic of China, I spare no effort to do things that benefit both societies. I believe this is my duty,” says ­Asoke Sri­chantr, who enthusiastically hosts Thai-language broadcasts and takes the stage at government events. In private, he is reticent and often contemplative; but when the phone rings, he shoulders the additional role of working for the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei, liaising widely and speaking articulately as a bridge facilitating communications between Thai migrant workers and the Thai and Taiwan governments.


Asoke Sri­chantr came to Taiwan nearly 40 years ago, and today the sound of his voice is omnipresent at events presided over by Thai-language presenters. He has long solved problems for Thai migrant workers, among whom he is recognized as a spiritual mentor. He makes his contribution quietly, oblivious to recognition. For example, in the Chin Poon factory fire in Tao­yuan that shocked society this April, two Thai workers and six firefighters tragically died. Few people know, however, that it was Sri­chantr who undertook the busy task of liaising between local officials and the families of the Thai victims.

To understand how Buddhist compassion and a willingness to selflessly throw himself into such challenges took root in Sri­chantr’s heart, we must look to his ­childhood.

Unbreakable bond with radio

Low-key Sri­chantr rarely speaks of his past, but he reveals that as an overseas Chinese growing up in ­Chiang Mai, Thailand, from his earliest years he was particularly fascinated by the radio. Guided by his father, he developed the habit of listening to international broadcasters such as the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The unbreakable bond between Sri­chantr and radio didn’t end there. At 11 years of age, he was ordained as a novice monk. Whenever he had free time, he took radios apart to observe their structure, and learned on his own how to assemble a battery-free unit containing a crystal radio receiver. After graduation and once again a layman, he went on to major in electrical engineering at a technical college. It was the 1980s, when Taiwan’s electronics industry was just taking off, so Sri­chantr came to the island to put his studies to good use.

Six years after his arrival in Taiwan, the radio once again played a pivotal role in his life. Sri­chantr applied for the position of Thai announcer at the Voice of Asia, then managed by Taiwan’s Broadcasting Corporation of China. Thanks to his many years listening to overseas news broadcasts and his familiarity with international political and economic terminology, he stood out among the 70 applicants.

With this appointment, Sri­chantr’s remarkable career in broadcasting took off. He established excellent relations with many listeners, and attained the pinnacle of success in 2013 when the program he was hosting won a Golden Bell Award.

Monkhood: A Thai custom

Srichantr’s childhood experience of spending a short period as a monk, followed by reversion to lay life, is not typical in Taiwan, where Mahayana Buddhism is widespread, but it is commonplace in Thailand.

The Theravada school of Buddhism is Thailand’s principal religious faith. “A man must serve as a monk once in his life” is an unwritten duty. Be it for three days, months or years, it is an individual choice, and one can return to lay life at any time. Even the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in 2016, did a 15-day stint as a novice monk.

Thais believe that serving as a monk can nurture a healthy set of values. Many parents hope that via monkhood, their sons can learn how to lead a proper life; the boys, for their part, hope to show their gratitude to their parents for raising them. Poverty can also be a motivating factor. “My family wasn’t well off! They couldn’t pay for my education,” says Sri­chantr bashfully, “so when I was young I left home to become a monk and study with a master at the temple.”

Recalling his six years as a monk, spent reciting the Buddhist classics alongside his high-school studies, Sri­chantr comments that “those years were very useful in shaping my outlook on life and my behavior” now that he is an adult.

Spiritual mentor to the Thai migrant community

Buddhism has planted a sense of compassion in Sri­chantr’s heart. Recognizing the needs of his migrant worker audience, he devoted a segment during his show to imparting basic legal knowledge and invited listeners to call in and seek advice. He even invited the director of the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei (TTEO) to explain legal regulations. Beginning with Voice of Asia right down to today’s show on Radio Taiwan International (RTI)—covering three decades—he has been demystifying the law for his listeners.

Before the current 24-hour “1955 Hotline” was put in place for migrant workers to seek advice or lodge complaints, Thai workers would call Srichantr’s show to clarify information and resolve misunderstandings between workers and their employers. Previously, the percentage of Thai workers who abandoned their jobs was the highest among those coming from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines; but after the show began broadcasting, the rate fell sharply to become the lowest among the four nationalities that year.

Regarding his role in facilitating intercultural communication, Sri­chantr recounts an incident that left a strong impression. In 1999, a serious conflict involving Thai and Filipino workers broke out at Formosa Plastics’ Naphtha Cracking Plant #6 in Yun­lin County. Sri­chantr and senior TTEO officials rushed to the scene that night. Seeing that the rioters had clubs in their hands and showed no sign of retreating, Sri­chantr borrowed a megaphone from the police, and explained to the Thai participants that the Thai and Taiwan governments would intervene in order to resolve the issue of the employer’s high-pressure management practices. “I hope that everyone can respect our traditional Thai virtue of moderation. When I count to three, place the things in your hands on the ground and return to your dormitories. Could I have your cooperation, please?” His voice seemed to possess a magical calming quality, and at the count of three, the migrant workers gradually did as requested and returned to their housing, thereby ending the crisis.

In fact, at that instant Sri­chantr himself was worried that the workers—numbering over 1000—might not cooperate. But “since we popularize the basics of the law via our show, and chat with the audience and help them resolve problems, they’re fairly trusting of us!”

Srichantr goes the extra mile, serving as a Taiwan­-based surrogate “parent” for migrant workers on the island, so his gentle admonitions are imprinted in their hearts.

Pioneering switch to new media

Srichantr set a precedent among foreign-language broadcasters in Taiwan by mobilizing Thai presenters at RTI to jointly host a Facebook fan page. Based on the page’s analytics, it is evident that it is highly interactive. One post alone—providing information on a typhoon—has notched up more than 1000 “likes.” 

Srichantr’s initial motivation was that he sympathized with Thai listeners who couldn’t read Chinese, and he simply hoped he could help share information via the web about local or Thai weather reports, currency exchange rates and major political events. But un­expec­tedly, these practical tips attracted more than 30,000 followers, and even Thai media began citing the news on this fan page, updating Thais back in their home country about the status of their fellow citizens in Taiwan.

Transitioning to operating new media like Facebook and YouTube is the trend in radio and television. This calls for launching audio and video programs that more closely match the needs of people, and the way listening and viewing audiences consume them. Cross-­media management is a fresh experience for Sri­chantr, but he is enthusiastic about it as he surfs the waves of this new media tide.                                                                       

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧郭玉平 圖‧林旻萱























佛學在陶雲升心底埋下一份慈憫的情懷,他體察到移工聽友的需求,在廣播節目中開設法律常識單元,開放聽友call in諮詢,甚至邀請泰辦處處長來解說法規。節目從亞洲之聲,一直延續到後來的中央廣播電台(簡稱「央廣」),30年來為眾多聽友解惑。














文・郭玉平 写真・林旻萱 翻訳・山口 雪菜




























X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!