Northwest expats in Thailand cheer Obama victory with locals

Jess Mack, a Seattle native working in Bangkok, was excited to don Americana colors to watch the election returns. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

BANGKOK, Thailand–As the elections unfolded yesterday in the US, a small huddle of Americans glued their eyes to the CNN report, broadcasting the returns in a mostly empty bar here in Bangkok.

The American-owned Roadhouse BBQ was one of only two bars in the city advertising an election watch. Yet in a city packed full of expats, only a dozen trickled in around 10am.

Among them was Jess Mack, a Seattle native working on a campaign with the UN to end violence against women in the region.

“It’s been interesting being here and talking to people from around the world and in Bangkok,” Mack said. “People really care about what’s happening in the US because our foreign policy has an impact on everyone in some way.”

Mack was ecstatic when the news came via her twitter feed that same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana had been approved in Washington State.

The Roadhouse BBQ, an American-owned bar in Bangkok, Thailand, streamed the elections starting at 9am local time for a handful of expats and travelers eager to see the results come in. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

And, through some form of Northwest kismet, one couple from Portland, Cora Crary and Craig Griffen, also drifted in the bar looking for like-minded pro-Obama company.

Griffen, who is originally from Yakima, was also closely following Referendum 74.

“That issue pretty much splits the state in half,” Griffen said. “I come from the eastern side which is all voting against it.”

Crary said that the experience being abroad during election season has been somewhat surreal.

Craig Griffen and Cora Crary, on vacation from Portland, OR, were excited to find other pro-Obama supporters at the bar. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

“I would say that everyone we met has been very pro-Obama,” she said.

“Many people didn’t even know who Romney is or what he’s about.”

The sentiments were quite clear from the Thai employees at the bar, who often shouted the loudest, “Obama! Obama! Obama!” when a new state was called.

If there were any pro-Romney fans in the bar, they kept themselves well hidden.

Pimachanok Potisri was one of the waitresses talking up the Americans and giving out high-fives as President Obama was called the clear winner.

“I’m so happy for Obama because myself and my husband are both Obama fans,” Potisri said. “We have to give him a chance for four more years because no one can make things better in just two or four years.”

Pimchanok Potisri, a waitress at Roadhouse BBQ, cheered along with the American customers as Obama was declared the winner. (Photo by Sara Stogner)

Potisri said that his re-election is like the world re-affirming their trust in him and giving him time to do more than what he has done in his first term.

Watching the election from a far, in a country with subtle political unrest and occasional civil rights infractions, seemed to provide a sense of global identity and bonding with everyone in the room.

It certainly meant something tangible for Potisri during Obama’s acceptance speech when he said, “We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter.”

Donald Trump made a stir on twitter as the results came in saying, “Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”

But at least in this corner of the globe, the world was cheering.


Sara Stogner and Dacia Saenz are currently reporting from Thailand for “The Cost of Gender,” a documentary exploring transgender health care discrimination in the US and why Americans are traveling abroad for better options.