Thais in the United Kingdom

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Thai immigrants and their descendants in the United Kingdom
Total population
Thai-born residents
44,086 (2011 census)
Regions with significant populations
United Kingdom
In particular London, Manchester, Sussex, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh
British English, Thai
Related ethnic groups
Thai people, East Asians in the United Kingdom

Thais in the United Kingdom (also known as Thai Britons)[1][2] are British citizens who trace their Thai ancestry from migrants who have migrated from Thailand.


The 2011 Census recorded 39,784 Thai-born residents in England, 1,566 residents in Wales,[3] 2,267 in Scotland,[4] and 469 in Northern Ireland.[5] At the time of the 2001 UK Census, 16,257 people born in Thailand were residing in the UK.[6]

Of the Thai-born people in the UK in 2001, 72 per cent were women (although in the British capital, this percentage was slightly lower at 68 per cent) which is considerably larger than the more or less 50/50 breakdown of males and females in the UK. The Home Office states that the overwhelming majority of new Thai immigrants to the UK became naturalised citizens through marriage, with less than one in three cases occurring through residence.[7] Between 2003 and 2006, 64 per cent of all settlement grants to Thai immigrants were given to wives, 3 per cent to husbands and 14 per cent to children. This means that the Thai community in the UK is surprisingly widespread, as marriage migrants are likely to be scattered across the country with their partners, instead of following the trend of migrant groups settling together in large cities. Despite this, due to their large populations already, the cities of London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow are all home to significant numbers of people of Thai origin.[7]



There are many Thai organisations and associations located across the United Kingdom. One of the most notable Thai British associations is Samaggi Samagom, set up in 1901 by King Rama VI of Thailand. Its main aim was to unite and reinforce harmonious relationships amongst Thai people in the United Kingdom by organising various events and activities. Over a century later, Samaggi Samagom represents close to 40,000 Thais in the UK and still arranges events that are seen as extremely important dates in the Thai British calendar.[8]


Dhamma Hall at Aruna Ratanagiri, another place of worship for the Thai British community

There are a large number of Thai temples in the UK with the oldest and most famous being the Wat Buddhapadipa in Wimbledon, London, which is home to monks and nuns, but welcomes visitors of any faith to view the grounds and temple as long as they are respectful. In 2004, Wat Charoenbhavana in Manchester became the first Thai temple to be established in the region. Also Amaravati Buddhist Monastery is a monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition of the Theravada lineage of Buddhism, it can be found in Hemel Hempstead. Other examples of such Thai monasteries in the UK include Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in Chithurst, West Sussex and Aruna Ratanagiri in Northumberland. Despite not being British himself, Chah Subhatto is an important figure for the Thai Buddhist community in the UK.[7]


The Samaggi Games are an annual event for Thai students in the UK, normally attracting around 1,000 participants. Normally held in February or March each year, it is one of the most popular events organised by Samaggi Samagom (the Thai Student Association in the UK). The games have always been held at a university, and include such sports as football, basketball, tennis, badminton, table tennis, squash, chairball and some traditional Thai games such as Thai chess. Notable Britons of Thai origin in general sport include the professional football players Tom Ramasut and Jamie Waite. Former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra is known in the UK for his involvement with Manchester City Football Club, as well as his attempt to gain British citizenship.[8] Leicester City Football Club is currently owned by Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.[9]



Between 2003 and 2006, over half of all Thais to enter the UK (regardless of how long they intended to stay in the country) were students. The UK is a popular destination for Thai expatriate students with the most popular subjects areas being the English language, Master's degree courses and PhD courses.[7] Thais are a well-educated group of immigrants in the UK, and according to the 2001 Census, 39 per cent of Thai-born Londoners had higher level qualifications, compared to the city's 31 per cent average.

According to research by the Runnymede Trust, many Thai immigrants to the UK wish their children to be bilingual in Thai and English, but opportunities to learn Thai are limited. Other than private tutoring, a number of institutions across the country offer Thai language classes, including Wat Buddhapadipa, the Bournemouth Thai School, the Brasshouse Language Centre and the School of Oriental and African Studies. English language classes have proved extremely popular with first-generation Thai immigrants.[7] Besides the nationwide Samaggi Samagom Thai students society, there are also regional Thai Student Associations.


According to the 2001 Census, Thai-born Londoners were most likely to be working in industries such as hotels and restaurants (40.8%, which is much, much higher than the capital's average of 4.6% of the population working in this industry), wholesale and retail (13.0%) as well as real estate and renting (11.8%).[7] There are estimated to be almost 2,000 Thai restaurants in the UK owned primarily by Thai immigrants. Despite their success in many professions, discrimination is seen by many Thais in the UK as a reason for limiting where they are employed. Many Thai women find themselves caught up in human trafficking, with 20 out of the 33 London boroughs reporting numerous female Thai sex workers. The Home Office suggests that Thailand is one of the most likely countries of origin for women trafficked into the UK for sex work. Employment statistics for second and third generation Thai British people are not known, although it is thought they are becoming much more integrated into British society than their immigrant ascendants.[7]

Notable individuals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harrow, Marietta (2008). "Working Effectively with Minority Ethnic Food Businesses: Resource Handbook" (PDF). YFA Consultancy/Food Standards Agency. pp. 50–51. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-04-03. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  2. ^ Bluck, Robert (2006). British Buddhism: Teachings, Practice and Development. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 0-415-39515-1.
  3. ^ "Table QS213EW: 2011 Census: Country of birth (expanded), regions in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Country of birth (detailed)" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Country of Birth - Full Detail: QS206NI". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on 11 May 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Mai Sims, Jessica (2008). "Empowering Individuals & Creating Community – Thai Perspectives on Life in Britain". London: Runnymede Trust. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  8. ^ a b Samaggi Samagom Official Site
  9. ^ "Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha - University of Leicester". University of Leicester. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Profile: Abhisit Vejjajiva". BBC News. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Thai PM admits British nationality". The Guardian. Associated Press. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  12. ^ Duncan Campbell (9 February 2009). "British professor flees Thailand after charge of insulting king". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2011. A leading Bangkok-based professor who has joint British and Thai nationality fled Thailand....

External links[edit]