Diversity Ambassadors: Karen Diplomat Reflects on Ethnic Identity, Early Experiences

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Diplomats are often thought to hail from influential families, enjoy privileged upbringings, and lead comfortable lives of leisure, interspersed with moments of glamorous drama, à la Thai soap opera. Today, we spoke to a diplomat who challenges this narrative with his passion for international affairs and devotion to his community.

Aeyaya Chorot has served as a practicing diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA) and since this article has assumed a new post at the Office of the Minister. He also hails from the Huay Phak riverside community, a community native to Ratchaburi province, which lies adjacent to the Thai-Myanmar border in the Tenasserim Mountain Range.

A portrait of Aeyaya Chorot, a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

“As a child, I wanted to be a hunter.”

Aeyaya said that life in the Huay Phak community is closely tied to nature, and he had no knowledge of the diplomatic profession. As a child, he dreamt of becoming the greatest hunter in the Tenasserim mountains (known in Thai as the Tanao Si Mountain Range) or the best sugarcane cutter in the province.

His first steps toward becoming a diplomat began when he first relocated to Bangkok and found work as a security guard, a common first job for many young men from outside the city. This allowed him to interact with many different people, sparking his interest in diversity. 

In his free time, Aeyaya began learning English on his own and pursued non-formal education courses. Eventually, he was selected to continue his studies at Saint Teresa International College, where he chose to major in business administration. One day, while watching a televised international conference, he became interested in the role of diplomats and aspired to become one.

From diverse experiences, a broader perspective

Aeyaya and his colleagues

Currently, Aeyaya has served as a diplomat at TICA, where for the past year, he has focused on international social development projects. When asked how growing up in the Karen ethnic community has influenced his role as a diplomat, Aeyaya explained that his distinct cultural background and work experiences in blue-collar jobs have given him varied insights. He further added that connecting with diverse people — whether from urban or rural communities — is crucial for diplomats in this era of globalization.

“Did you know? There are currently over nine million Karen ethnic people worldwide, with more than one million residing in Thailand,” he noted.

At TICA, Aeyaya’s responsibilities include overseeing social development projects in various countries and collaborating closely with the Ministry of Public Health as part of “Team Thailand.”

Helping others is a way of helping oneself

Aeyaya with children in Ratchaburi province

Thailand, renowned for its robust universal healthcare system, has actively collaborated with neighboring countries to support their public health systems. Why?

“Helping others is a way of helping oneself,” Aeyaya said. Assisting in developing public health systems in nearby countries, especially those sharing borders with Thailand, can alleviate the workload of medical personnel on the Thai side of the border and help prevent the spread of diseases via border travel. By training medical personnel or providing medical equipment, Thailand aims to enhance the public health capacity of neighboring countries and contribute to building public health collaboration in the region.

Apart from his diplomatic duties, Aeyaya devotes his free time to volunteering activities to assist his hometown community. This includes teaching English to children, supporting youths from the community to study in Bangkok, and fundraising to build sports facilities for the community through The Asia Children Charity in Thailand (ACC Thailand).

ACC Thailand, with chapters in several Asian countries including South Korea, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and the Philippines, is part of the Pay Back group co-founded by Aeyaya. He asserted that volunteer activities, particularly for education, are a way of repaying one’s country to the best of one’s ability.

Today, the environment in the Huay Phak community has undergone significant changes. Unlike in the past, when children were unsure of their aspirations, the responses from today’s youth vary widely. They aspire to become doctors, teachers, esports athletes, YouTubers, and even diplomats.

What’s in a name?

Aeyaya wearing Karen Hill Tribe-style shirt

Some people may be wondering, “What does Aeyaya mean?” The practicing diplomat takes great pride in his name, which represents his roots in the Karen community. In the Karen language, his name means, “Love me” or “Love me a lot.” It’s a name that brings him great joy every time he hears it — a unique blessing he’s afforded anywhere he goes, whether he’s attending an international conference or visiting his home in Huay Phak.

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