Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Thai – Hua runraeng

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Terrorism; terrorist, Thai


Hua runraeng

Relates to fundamentalist, extremist, militant

The expression hua runraeng is a complex compound: hua: literally means ‘head, front, beginning, bulb, tuber’  (Haas, 1964: 579); runraeng means ‘violent, severe, fierce, and strong’ (Haas, 1964:  459), itself a tight compounding of run ‘push’ and raeng ‘force’. The word hua forms many compounds (Juntanamalaga 1992: 168ff): one type referring to someone in a derogatory manner by highlighting their ideas, thoughts, talents or ideology. There is a prevailing nervousness about the risks inherent to over-intellectualising or analysing society and its structures.  This formulation interacts with that strain in the Thai psyche. In Thai hua runraeng has been used especially to refer negatively to those with revolutionary or radical leftist socio-political and positions.  In the 1960s and 1970s it was one of the words used to describe the Communist Party of Thailand. Different degrees of runraeng can be distinguished.

Recently, the Thai press in Bangkok has extended hua runraeng to be applied in senses similar to how the English press uses “fundamentalist”, “extremist” and “militant” when referring to the “violent Muslim” people in other countries, as well as in Thailand.  Its connection to violence, and especially political violence, is strong. It is, as such, used to describe radical Muslim organisations which advocate the use of violence.

As for Thai people in general, the use of runraeng in these expressions implies an expectation of violent actions and reactions regardless of possible different degrees or levels of violence.  The impact of this expression creates fear and insecurity in relation to life and property, and affects peace and harmony in the country.



Juntanamalaga, Preecha. 1992. On the semantics of Thai compounds in hua ‘head’. Pp. 168-178 in: Papers in Tai Languages, Linguistics and Literatures in Honor of William J. Gedney, edited by C.J. Compton and J.F. Hartmann. Northern Illinois University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies.



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