The Thai-Chinese community in Thailand has long flourished in terms of business success and financial wealth. Although Thais with Chinese ancestry only make up 14% of the national population, nearly every province in Thailand has a capital city area with numerous Thai-Chinese merchants, whose work ethic is strong and business savvy is keen. However, the Thai-Chinese are not simply focused on business and making money. They also care deeply about family, community welfare, and religion. They therefore will frequently establish a place that serves as a spiritual refuge and religious anchor, and where they can focus attention on philanthropic efforts to serve the entire community in which they live.
The spiritual refuge and charity center of Sakon Nakhon’s Thai-Chinese community is the Metta Tham Foundation (เมตตาธรรมมูลนิธิสกลนคร), which translates to the Merciful Dharma Foundation. It’s located in downtown Sakon Nakhon city. The organization was established in 1972, and is managed from offices in a large courtyard that promotes Chinese culture and religion. Two religious shrines are on the grounds: the Chao Pu-Chao Ya Shrine (ศาลเจ้าปู่-เจ้าย่า) and the Tai Hong Kong Shrine (ศาลเจ้าไต่ฮงกง), both of which are frequently visited by members of the local community who have Chinese heritage.
The Metta Tham Foundation of Sakon Nakhon is involved in a wide variety of charitable efforts, including improving education, health treatments, and social welfare; delivering disaster relief 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for everything from flash floods to car accidents; distributing food, clothing, and medicine to the poor; and promoting local sports, culture, and tourism. They also team up with other charity organizations such as the Thai Red Cross in their efforts, as well as the local police who sometimes coordinate with the foundation to help someone in dire need.
Indeed, the Metta Tham Foundation is always there for the Sakon Nakhon community, whenever and however they are needed. For example, when a boat sank several years ago on Nong Han Lake and 3 people went missing, it was the Metta Tham Foundation who sent divers to search the lake. Similar efforts to serve those in need have been made by Thai-Chinese foundations throughout Thailand — all of which demonstrates the vital role this community plays in maintaining Thailand’s social welfare and fueling its economic prosperity.
Please see below photos from the courtyard of the Metta Tham Foundation of Sakon Nakhon (เมตตาธรรมมูลนิธิสกลนคร), and the Thai-Chinese religious shrines that are located there.