Transforming Roles and Functions of Women in the Northeast Region of Thailand


Benjapa Kaithong Yothin Sawangdee


     The objective of this research was to study the transformation of roles and functions of women in the northeast region of Thailand since the 1st century up the 21st century. Documentary research was used for this research with content analysis used to analyze the data. The research findings revealed that the Isaan women’s roles and functions had changed constantly which can be described through three main periods. Firstly, during the arrival of states (between 1 and 1800 A.D.) the arrivals of Indianisation – such as Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism and the patrilineal ideology – were the driving forces that transformed the relationship between men and women from a horizontal perspective to vertical. Secondly, during the period of absolute monarchy under the Chakri Dynasty (between 1801 and 1931 A.D.), there was no empirical evidence identifying the changing roles and functions of Isaan women, however, this was the starting point for women’s rights and freedoms along with their empowerment through education. Thirdly, the period of the democracy revolution and the national economic and social development plans (between 1932 and 2016 A.D.) may be regarded as being significant in generating the changing roles and functions of Isaan women in the dimensions of socio-culture, economics, and politics. Interestingly, it was found that democracy was the essential portal that allowed Isaan women to follow up on their opportunities.

Keywords: Northeast Region of Thailand, Transformation, Woman’s Roles and Functions


Akpabio, E. (2012). A Critical Evaluation of Gender Link’s Utilization of New Media for Women Empowerment in Southern Africa. GMJ: Mediterranean Edition, 7(1), 41-48.

Clergyman Institute in the Northeastern Thailand. (1990). Isaan Heritage. Bangkok: Mahachulalongkorn
rajavidyalaya University.

Dahal, S. (2013). Power, Empowerment and Community Radio: Media by and for Women in Nepal. Women’s Studies International Forum, 40, 44-50.

Evans, G. (2015). Women, Space and History: Long Distance Trading in Northwestern Laos. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books.

Fey, W. G., & Bi, H. (2013). The Evolution of Educational Reform in Thailand: The Thai Educational Paradox. Journal of Educational Administration, 51(3), 290-319.

Glover, I., & Bellwood, P. (2005). Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History. London: Routledge Curzon.

Hall, D. G. E. (1994). A History of South-East Asia. Hampshire: Macmillan.

Jackson, A. P., & Cook, M. N. (1999). Gender and Sexualities in Modern Thailand. Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books.

Kishor, S., & Gupta, K. (2004). Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in India. Retrieved from

Kosaiyawat, S. (2003). Monton Burapha and Educational Reform Policy of King Chulalongkorn in 1878-1910: The National Unity Building on Historical and Socio-Cultural Difference. NIDA Development Journal, 44(4), 183-207.

Lapanun, P. (1993). Women and Household Economy: Women Market Traders and Transition in Northeast Thailand. (Unpublished Master’s thesis). Graduate School, The University of Guelph, Canada.

Lapanun, P. (2012). It’s not just about Money: Transnational Marriages of Isan Women. Journal of Mekong Societies, 8(3), 1-28.

Military Thailand. (2017). King Rama IV (1851-1868). Retrieved from world/thailand/monarchy-rama-4.htm

National Commission on Women’s Affairs. (1994). Women Policy and Long-Term Master Plan (1992-2011). Bangkok: Office of Prime Minister.

National Commission on Women’s Affairs. (1997). The Summary of Action Plan for Women Progress in Women Conference 4th in Beijing (4-15 September). Bangkok: Office of Prime Minister.

National Statistic Office Thailand. (2017). Social Survey. Retrieved from

Ngin, P. (2017). Ancient Queens who Shaped an Asia Empire: Indradevi and Jayarajadevi. Retrieved from

Peter, S., & Sanda, S. (2001). The Kingdoms of Laos: Six Hundred Years of History. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.

Promphakping, B., Phobumrumg, A., Promphakping, N., Boonjeau, S., Pyuangkat, S., Klangsang, K., Pankam, P., Sriprom, P., … Srida, K. (2008). Cross-Cultural Marriage of Women in the Northeast of Thailand. Humanities and Social Sciences, 25(1), 1-27.

Rhein, D. (2016). Westernization and the Thai Higher Education System: Past and Present. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 48(3), 261-274.

Romanow, L. (2012). The Women of Thailand. Global Majority E-Journal, 3(1), 44-60. Retrieved from

Sansak, K., Lamduan, S., & Champadaeng, S. (2014). Traditional Isan Literature and its Influence on Everyday Society. Asian Culture and History, 6(2), 87-96.

Saraya, T. (1997). Chenla Kingdom: Ancient Isan History. Bangkok: Matichon.

Smutkupt, S., & Kitiana, P. (2002). Why was a Female Lower Garment Once used as a Wrapper for Plam-Leaf Manuscripts in Northeast Thailand? Nakhon Ratchasima: Thai Studies Anthropological Collection, Institute of Social Technology, Suranaree University of Technology.

Smutkupt, S., Kitiana, P., & Phuttha, N. (1994). Ways of Isan Weavers: The Development of Textile Production and the Changing Roles of Women in Contemporary Isan Villages, Nakhonratchasima, Thailand. Nakhon Ratchasima: Thai Studies Anthropological Collection, Institute of Social Technology, Suranaree University of technology.

Sriruksa, A. (2014). The Role of Women in Isaan Culture Under a Capitalist Society. (Unpublished Doctoral dissertation). Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen.

Suksathikan, K. (1976). A History of Thai Education. Bangkok: Ministry of Education.

Syamananda, R. (1986). A History of Thailand. Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University.

Tambiah, S. J. (1975). Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand. English: Cambridge University Press.

The History of Cambodia from 1st Century to 20th Century. (2017a). Why did Chinese call Nokor Baphnom “Funan”?. Retrieved from /2010/05/4-why-did-chinese-call-nokor-baphnom-e2809cfunane2809d.pdf

The History of Cambodia from 1st Century to 20th Century. (2017b). Why did Chinese call Cambodia “Chenla [s]”? Retrieved from https://sokheounnews.

Thomson, S. (1992). Women Acting for Change: Towards and Equitable Society. Bangkok: Gender and Development Research Institute.

Verick, S. (2017). Female Labor Force Participation in Developing Countries. Retrieved from https://

Wanliphodom, S. (1938). A Northeastern Site of Civilization: New Archeological Evidence to Change the Face of Thai History. Bangkok: Matichon.

Wanlu, S., Chantachon, S., & Rachote, B. (2009). An Application of Isan Local Indigenous Knowledge in Suppression of Social Disputes. The Social Sciences, 4(2), 180-185.

Yapparat, N. (2006). Gender Mainstreaming in the Office of the National Cultural Commission. Bangkok: Thammasat University.

Yothasmutr, S. (2016). The Analysis of National Economic and Social Development Plan on Co-operative Development Strategy in Thailand: National Plan 1 – 10. Retrieved from

Northeast Region of Thailand, Transformation, Woman, Roles, Functions
Research Articles


How to Cite
KAITHONG, Benjapa; SAWANGDEE, Yothin. Transforming Roles and Functions of Women in the Northeast Region of Thailand. Journal of Community Development Research (Humanities and Social Sciences), [S.l.], v. 11, n. 2, p. 27-41, june 2018. ISSN 2539-5521. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 09 apr. 2020.