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Tea Leaves

A wake-up call to Asia, tackle your own 'Asian hate'

Bangkok cab ride shows that COVID-19 tensions are bringing discrimination into the open

A migrant worker from Myanmar is seen at a construction site in Bangkok after the Thai government eased some protective measures following a COVID-19 outbreak in June 2020.   © Reuters

For expatriates like me, an unexpected upside to life in Bangkok during the COVID-19 outbreak is that it has become significantly easier to hail a taxi. Before the pandemic, drivers would often ignore me or try to rip me off, thinking I was among the millions of foreign tourists who used to visit the Thai capital every year. With no tourists in sight, those stressful days seemed to be over.

That changed one recent afternoon when I caught a taxi in my neighborhood. I was wearing a face mask and the driver turned on the meter. Everything seemed fine. But as soon as I used my clumsy Thai to ask for my destination, the driver made a face and said "Khon Yiipun (Japanese people) ... COVID, COVID!"

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