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Buddhism and Ethnicity: Social Organization of a Buddhist Temple in Kelantan
1983, Mohamed Yusoff Ismail

Kelantan, now a part of the State of Malaysia, had been an independent Muslim state under the suzerainty of Siam until it was conceded to Britain in 1909. Although the ethnic Malay dominates its population, there still exist certain villages where ethnic Siamese prevail, still cherishing their ancestral language and Theravada Buddhism to maintain their ethnic identity.

The Kelantan Sangha has an organizational structure resembling to the one in Thailand. Although Buddhist temples receive no governmental revenue in Kelantan, the Muslim sultan plays somewhat similar role to that of the Thai monarch in giving royal patronage. The sultan is responsible for confirmation of appointments to important positions within the hierarchy of the sangha.

The Kelantan Sangha maintains spiritual instruction to the Thai Sangha, as well as personnel exchange, although the separation by national border has brought about some local uniqueness. Unlike in Thailand, monks in Kelantan do not go out in the morning for a round of alms. Instead, villagers take turns to cook food and bring it to the temple. Or, whereas Thai temples have assumed the solar calendar for their religious days, the Kelantan Sangha still observes the lunar calendar.

There is a group of Chinese in Kelantan, who belong to the older wave of migration and who have been settled for many centuries. Unlike the new settlers from China during the past century, these old Chinese have well assimilated in the Malay society. Their affinity to the Siamese rather than the Malays, in respect of religion, has largely turned them into co-habitants in Siamese villages, assuming important roles in supporting Theravada Buddhism.

Whose Place is This?: Malay Rubber Producers and Thai Government Officials in Yala good
1997, Andrew Cornish

Yala is the southern-most province in Thailand. It was part of the Muslim state of Patani which was later divided into four provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala after the 1909 treaty between Siam and Britain. The majority of its inhabitants are ethnic Malays whose ancestors were trapped inside Thailand.

Thais and Malays have confronting versions of history for the region. While Thais perceive former Patani as having been under Siamese suzerainty for many centuries, Malays see that Patani had been an independent state, seeking to establish ties with both Siamese kingdoms to the north and Malay sultanates to the south.

Thai nationalism under the Phibun government forced Malays to abandon their ethnic identity and assimilate in the Thai nation state. Geographical names in Malay were replaced with unrelated Thai names. Publication of magazines and newspapers in Malay was forbidden. Malays were pressured, and sometimes tricked by hospital doctors, to give Thai names to their children. Although the change of policy during the Prem government in 1980's somewhat softened the harshness, the south Thailand is still a source of cultural conflicts, as well as a home for radical Malay separationists. Malay villagers still cherishes Muslim religion and Malay customs, while few of them speak Thai.

The Department of Agricultural Extension was set up in 1967 with the role of passing on new technology and practices to farmers, thereby increasing the agricultural export and national wealth. As the south Thailand was prosperous with rubber cultivation, the DOAE office in the region concentrated its efforts to raise its production. It tried to establish a co-operative management rather than on the individual basis, as well as promoting high-yielding hybrids which required certain investment on the part of the farmers.

The government programs weren't quite successful, as few Malay villagers showed interest in participation. The officers blamed laziness of Malay farmers and denounced their stupidity for not seeing the economic benefit of joining government schemes.

The author points out that the failure was largely due to the poor planning in Bangkok which had little understanding of the local economy in the village, and the ineffective structure of bureaucracy which brought about poor management in carrying out their programs. The villagers, as the author claims, had their own economic rationality for their unwillingness to cope with government programs.

Czarevitch Nicolas of Russia in Siam and Saigon
1891, Prince Esper Esperovitch Uchtomskij

The Russian crown prince Czarevitch, future Nicolas II, started on an intercontinental voyage in 1890. The party numbered 1,500 on three frigates and the whole journey lasted for nine and a half months.. The itinerary included a visit to the Kingdom of Siam from March 20 to March 25, 1891. The author, as the official historiographer of the royal journey, wrote up a substantial report in 1,500 pages. This book is its partial translation in English, concerning sections of Siam and Saigon.

Russia at that time was on very friendly terms with France. In contrast, it was skeptical toward England, which, Russians conceived, was ready at any time to snatch Siam away from Indochina and incorporate it under the British administration of the India Office. King Chulalongkorn, by giving the future emperor of Russia fervid welcome, no doubt expected Russia to act as an intermediary between Siam and France in due course.

Although their stay in Siam was short and their experience limited to royal reception, the author's observation is curious, showing somewhat Russian view of international politics surrounding Siam.

The British Acquisition of Siamese Malaya (1896 - 1909) good
1997, Tom Marks

The year 1896 marked the formation of the Federation of Malay States under the British Empire. The southern most boundary of Siam's political influence, if not strictly under her sovereignty, was outlined by suzerain states of Tringanu, Kelantan, Pattani and Kedah. Although the Anglo-French Agreement of that year guaranteed Siam's independence and territorial integrity, it was soon assumed that ill-administered and underdeveloped areas were still considered open for colonial acquisition.

In his urge to strengthen his rule in the quasi-independent states near the border, thereby securing Siamese territory from further colonial encroachment, King Chulalongkorn sent commissioners to those southern most states to work with local sultans and rajahs. But due to difficulties in communication and transportation, the commissioners were hardly kept under the surveillance of the central government in Bangkok. They often exploited local residents with greed and violence. Their imposition of Buddhism caused hatred and unrest among local Muslims. It wasn't long before the sultans and rajahs started to request to be put under British protection. They preferred to join the Federation of Malay States than to stay as an integral part of Siam for further exploitation and oppression.

After a lot of intricate diplomacy and strategic negotiations, the treaty between Britain and Siam was signed in 1909, as to the effect that Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah, Perlis and the adjacent islands were to be transferred to Britain, while the extraterritoriality of the British nationals in Siam was to be ceased. Although sultans in Pattani expressed their hope that Pattani, too, would be included in the transfer, it was left out to stay as the southern most part of Siam.

Bangkok in 1892
1894, Lucien Fournereau

The author, a French, stayed in Bangkok in 1891 - 1892. His account of the journey was published in 1894. Although the Siamese-French conflict during those days made his writing rather critical and sarcastic of Siam and its monarch, his observation of local inhabitants and their customs is quite intriguing.

Siam's Struggle for Survival: The 1893 Gunboat Incident at Paknam good
1996, Walter E.J. Tips

This is an in-depth analysis of the 1893 crisis and its aftermath, based on the diary of Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, the General Advisor for King Chulalongkorn.

Having served as the Minister of Interior of Belgium for six years, Rolin-Jaequemyns had considerable international experience. He also was an expert in international law with powerful connections throughout the world. He came to Thailand in 1892 and served King Chulalongkorn in the midst of rising crisis of European colonialism.

On July 13, 1893, two French gunboats intruded the mouth of Chao Phraya River. The newly-built fort at Paknam fired canons to the gunboats which, in turn, fired back. The casualties on the French side were 3 killed and 2 wounded, whereas, on the Siamese side, 8 killed and 41 wounded.

Siam in Crisis
1980, Sulak Sivaraksa

This is a collection of his essays, from 1960's to 1980's. His uninhibited social criticism poses political, historical and religious controversies, which few authors dare to put in print.

東南アジア紀行 good
1964, 梅棹忠夫






Thai Culture in Transition
1997, William J. Klausner

The author first came to Thailand in 1955 for a year-long field work in a northeastern village. He then served as an advisor to the Ministry of Interior assisting in the planning of a national community development program. Today he gives lectures in law and anthropology at Thammasat University, Chulalongkorn University and Mahachulalongkorn University. His long-time experience in Thailand as an academic, coupled with his educational background in law, gives him a unique position to describe the traditional and transitional Thai culture at large.

最後のパトロール [fiction] awesome
1979, ワシット・デートクンチョン





Women, Gender Relations and Development in Thai Society
1997, ed. Virada Somswasdi, Sally Theobald

This is a collection of twenty-two presentations at the Sixth International Conference on Thai Studies held in Chiangmai in 1996.

1998, Pasuk Phongpaichit & Chris Baker

This is sort of a sequel to THAILAND: Economy and Politics by the same authors. It depicts and analyzes the political and economic turmoil up to Chavalit's resignation as Prime Minister in 1997. The authors' description is concrete and straightforward, and their analysis sharp and convincing.

History Education at Secondary School Level: In Thai Socio-Political Context
1996, Shiori Sato

In each country, school curriculum somewhat represents the relationship between the government and citizens. History education is especially symbolic in that, with a mixture of fact and fiction, or arbitrary selection and interpretation, it can either legitimize or condemn the present government or the society at large.

Public education in Thailand started during the reign of King Rama V in his effort to conquer the internal border of Siam, after the formation of the external border agreed upon by neighboring countries and European imperialism. King Rama V set out to integrate and unify the numerous internal communities with diverse local languages, cultures and histories. Enforcement of the Bangkok Thai language and propagation of the nationalistic Thai history were two major features of public education. History education, incorporated in broader subject "Knowledge of Thailand," was aimed at nurturing a sense of love for the nation and to motivate students to help develop their country.

Although Thailand has gone through various political and economic changes during the present century, the nationalistic theme of school education still persists today. That is, to be proud of being Thai, to pledge loyalty to the nation, religion and the King, to understand and respect the administration based on democracy having the King as the head of the state, and to unite efforts in maintaining the safety and stability of the nation. In comparison, Japanese school curriculum takes up these themes less frequently; little stress is put on factors like "nation" or "unity of the people" due to the stigma of pre-war education which led Japan to totalitarianism.

The author dedicates humble eight pages to exemplify the discrepancy between common understanding of historical topics and description in school textbooks. One history book for general readers describes the massacre of October 6, 1976, which put an end to the short-lived democratic era in Thailand, as follows:
The conservative side executed the most violent and cruel an action ever taken in Thai history, including burning at the stake and hanging. Students and people who lost their lives in this massacre numbered in not less than three hundred and those arrested were between three and four hundred. The conservative sect of the military overthrew the government of Seni Pramoj which had been formed as a result of a general election, and seized the people's power."

In a textbook "Thai History for Teachers" at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, the description of the incident is as follows:
On October 6, 1976, students at the campus of Thammasat University were assaulted and massacred. There were 37 killed, many injured and 3094 arrested. The reform party headed by Admiral Sagat Chalawyu seized administrative power, proclaimed the dissolution of parliament, repealed the constitution and organized a cabinet with Thanin Kraivichien as the 14th prime minister in Thailand on October 8, 1976.

As to history education in secondary school, following are excerpts from four versions of school textbooks based on the 1990 curriculum.

Example 1: The return of Thanom and Praphas from exile resulted in the large-scale protest rally during October 6-7, 1976, which led to the coup d'etat by Admiral Sagat Chalawyu and the formation of the cabinet topped by Prime Minister Thanin Kraivichien.

Example 2: The meaning of democracy is restricted in the framework of "democracy in Thai style." Although Thailand had a period of democratic administration after the incident of October 14, 1973, it had suffered a setback by dictatorship in parallel with the Thanin's regime which was ended by the coup d'etat of October 20, 1976.

Example 3: The incident of October 6, 1976 is regarded as a stain on Thai history, as it was a violent and cruel event. Thai people had to kill each other, and there was both material and spiritual loss to a great extent."

Example 4: Movement toward democracy after the incident of October 14, 1973 was opposed by many groups who esteemed that it was supported by the Communist Party in Thailand. Such opposition led to the action to suppress students and people on October 6, 1976, and to the coup initiated by Admiral Sagat Chalawyu repealing the constitution. The arrest of activists made a large number of students and people escape into the forest to cooperate with the Communist Party in Thailand, particularly under the dictatorship of Thanin's civilian government.

The author provides one more example of school textbook issued in 1977, one year after the October 6 incident.

Example 5: After World War II, infiltration of Communism into Thailand was on the rise and threatened the institution and foundation that Thai people adhere to, namely the nation, religion and the king. Especially after October 14, 1973, the country was in turbulence and unrest. Therefore, the reformers' committee led by Admiral Sagat Chalawyu seized state power on October 6, 1976 in order to lay the foundation for administration based on real democracy in Thailand. The people have to cooperate with each other for democratic administration which has the king as the head of the state, so that real democracy can be realized in Thailand, which will, from now on, bring about peace, rest, prosperity and steadiness to the nation and Thai people as a whole.

1991, 石井米雄








Thailand started off the 1980's with severe economic strains. Crude oil prices jumped from $12 to $30 per barrel, overseas interest rates hit a record high of over 20 per cent, and Thailand's export commodities met the fall in the international demand. As a result, Thailand suffered vast trade deficits, its balance of payments was worsened, and its exchange reserve was depleted.

The author divides the decade into the following four phases and examines in each the political environment, the international factors, and the government's economic policies.

  1. (1981-84): period of fiscal and current account deficits
  2. (1985-86): period of fiscal adjustments
  3. (1987): period of fiscal consolidation
  4. (1988-90) period of fiscal surplus with a double digit growth

Despite the internal pressure for expansionary fiscal policies, Prem government stuck to the austerity measures, thereby managing to rebuild sound economy by 1988, while a lot of other developing countries failed.

It was on this successful economic restructuring that Chatichai set out with more expansionary policy to win popular supports; namely, increasing government expenditure, raising minimum wages, cutting personal income tax, boosting salaries and wages for government servants and state enterprise employees, suppressing interest rate increases, promoting big project investment, and reintroducing high rice price support programs.

Forest Recollections: Wandering Monks in Twentieth-century Thailand excellent
1997, Kamala Tiyavanich

This is a tale of legendary Ajan Man (1871-1949) and his disciples, or so-called wandering monks. For one way or another, the pursuit of dharma urged these monks to abandon the relatively comfortable monastic lives and stay in the forest for meditation. The author divides the present century into three periods; namely,

  1. Forest-Community Period ( - 1957)
  2. Forest-Invasion Period (1957 - 1988)
  3. Forest-Closure Period (1988 - )

and looks into the life and fate of wandering monks in the changing environment and political transition of the sangha.

Man was first ordained in the Lao tradition in 1893. He later converted to the Thammayut sect, following his teacher Sao. The Thammayut sect forbade its monks from engaging in village festivals and discouraged them from laboring for construction and maintenance of monasteries. Rather, the sect wanted monks to spend time studying Bangkok's texts. Instead, however, Man took up the freed time for meditation. Having practiced with Sao for several years, Man went wandering on his own.

Wandering from place to place was an exercise in ascetic living, training the mind not to be attached to places or to comforts. Wandering monks would practice under a tree, on a rocky promontory, or in a cave. They believed that many monks in the past had attained enlightenment while meditation in such places. Man told his disciples that "caves or rock shelters provide suitable conditions under which the mind can attain one-pointedness without much difficulty. Once the mind is focused, it can see many mysterious things that an ordinary mind cannot." Nature was their best teacher. They learned the dhamma from the trees, grass, rivers, streams, caves, rocks, birds and animals. Dangerous encounters with tigers and elephants enhanced their mindfulness to the extremity.

The 1902 Sangha Act was passed in the political context of integrating the diverse local cultures and languages. At the turn of the century, there were well over eighty languages spoken within Siam's boundaries. The religious practices varied from one village to another. The Sangha Act was aimed at enforcing the Bangkok Buddhism throughout the nation, ignoring local traditions and customs, and bringing the whole monks and monasteries under a unified sangha hierarchy. Under the act, local abbots were deprived of authority to perform ordinations and put under local sangha administrators sent from Bangkok.

The sangha's view on wandering monks was hostile. It insisted on text-learning at monasteries and passing exams set by Bangkok. It did not recognize the necessity or significance of meditation. It regarded wandering monks as lazy and unwilling to study Bangkok texts, and thus an obstacle to the integration of Buddhism. As the popularity of wandering monks increased among villagers, the sangha felt uneasy. Occasionally, it harassed wandering monks by ordering villagers with punishment not to give food to them, although villagers quite often ignored this order.

Wandering monks, on their part, were critical of sangha's imposition of Bangkok's teaching. Adherence to rules and regulations laid down by Bangkok was seen by them as commitment to the lowest level of morality-- a level that requires no meditation at all--since it needed only "rules and somebody to swing the stick." They believed that if one is mindful at all times, which requires meditation, then one will not violate the rules of moral conduct. Awareness will transform one's whole being to the extent that observing the precepts will become natural to one's character instead of a mechanical adherence to rules. Man told a disciple, "It's not so much that we must know every single training rule, if we know how to train our own minds. You should try to bring the teachings of the Buddha into your mind."

The 1932 coup brought down the sovereign and dignity of the monarchy. Along with the degradation of the royal prestige, the pro-monarchist Thammayut sect lost its authority. The government support for the Thammayut sect plunged, while the head of the sangha was replaced with a Mahanikai. In its effort to survive, the Thammayut sect was compelled to reverse its policy toward wandering monks. It started to regard them as an important affiliate of the Thammayut sect, and sought their help in establishing monasteries in the northeast region so as to expand its influence.

The Sarit regime was a dark era for monks as well. The government renewed state authority over the sangha. Under the martial law, any nonconformist monk was at risk of being labeled a communist and imprisoned without trial, or simply assassinated. Along with the rapid growth of paved roads throughout the country, the forest diminished rapidly. It became difficult and politically unsafe for wandering monks to continue their meditation in the forest. Thailand was now entering into the Forest-Invasion period.

The Medical Profession Act B.E. 2525 (1982)
1983, The Medical Council

This 50-page booklet consists of The Medical Profession Act (1982) and The Rule of the Medical Council on the Observance on Medical Ethics (1983, 1990). It somewhat reveals the legal and organizational structure of the medical system in Thailand.

The Medical Council is an autonomous body of all medical doctors in Thailand, having the status of a juristic person. Graduates of medical schools are eligible for application to be a member of the Medical Council, after which they can apply for a license of medical practice. The Medical Council carries out the examination, the registration, and the issuance of license of medical practice. The dismissal as a member of the Medical Council automatically cancels his medical license.

Section 11.
Members of the Medical Council shall have the following qualifications.
(1) not being less than twenty years of age;
(2) having knowledge in the medical profession by having obtained a degree or certificate in medicine recognized by the Medical Council;
(3) not being a person of bad conducts which, in the opinion of the Committee, will bring dishonor to the profession;
(4) not having been sentenced by the final judgement or the lawful order to imprisonment for the offences which in the opinion of the Committee, will bring dishonor to the profession;
(5) not being a person having mental disorder or the diseases prescribed in the Rule of the Medical Council.

The Committee of the Medical Council is the legislative/executive/judicial board within the Medical Council. It sets rules, enforce them and judges the mal-practices of medical doctors. Its members consist of the following:
Permanent Secretary for Public Health
Director General of the Department of Medical Services
Director General of the Department of Health
Surgeon General of the Army's Medical Department
Surgeon General of the Navy's Medical Department
Surgeon General of the Air Force's Medical Department
Surgeon General of the Police Department
Deans of the Faculties of Medicine in the Universities
Director of the College of Medicine
An equal number of councillors elected by the members of the Medical Council
Secretary General

The councillors of the Committee elect the President of the Medical Council. The Minister of Public Health is the Honorary President of the Medical Council, who may attend the committee meeting and/or present his opinion on any matters to the Medical Council. The Honorary President has veto on certain issues as the issuance of Rules, the determination of the budget of the Medical Council, and the termination of membership of the Medical Council.

タイ現代政治史: 国王を元首とする民主主義 good
1995, 加藤和英


THAILAND: Economy and Politics awesome
1995, Pasuk Phongpaichit & Chris Baker

This is a most comprehensive history of key features of Thai society; namely, the village, city, monarchy, military, bureaucrat, capitalist, agriculture, industry, peasant, laborer, nationalism, buddhism, revolt, civil society, etc.

As the author claims, the study of Thailand is something of a frontier activity. It has long remained uncultivated, obscure and incomplete for inaccessibility of historical documents and lack of ardent historians. It is only recently that vast amount of historical documents was made available for excavation and interpretation for academics. As the Thai society evolves forwards, its history also evolves backwards. Around two-thirds of the source material for this book has been mined from works published since 1988. It is so full of new facts, surprises and reversals of old interpretations that it almost tempts one to claim not to discuss Thailand without reading it.

There is a certain mystique tone, or rhythm, that permeates the book. It begins with a prologue about an old Thai folk-tale Khun Chang Khun Phaen. It ends with an epilogue about the death of a famed luk thung singer Phumphuang Duangjan. The former reveals the contrast between the exploitative governing power and the wrath of the exploited commoners. The latter is a profound annotation of the collision between the village and the city. Its awe-inspiring narration of human struggle almost gives it a touch of literature.

メクロンの永久橋: 実録 戦場にかける橋 good
1982, 塚本和也


The Monastic Life: Pathway of the Buddhist Monk
1992, Gerald Roscoe

The author is an American, a Harvard graduate. He has been living in Thailand since 1985, writing and following the path of Buddhism. In this volume, he describes the specifics of monastic life--the monastery, the ritual of ordination, the rules and regulations of the Sangha, the daily life of a monk, rites and ceremonies, monastic chanting, monastic meditations, and the monk in relationship to the lay community.

THAILAND IN CRISIS: A Study of the Political Turmoil of May 1992 good
1997, Khien Theeravit

This is an alternative view of the 1992 crisis, challenging the popular myth that depicts Suchinda as an atrocious tyrant and protesting citizens as heroes. In his analysis of the crisis, the author argues about the responsibility on the part of the rally leaders and the inflammatory newspaper reporters. He also looks into the immaturity of democracy in Thailand, both in the parliamentary institution and in people's consciousness.

If the 1991 coup by the NPKC initiated the forthcoming bloody crisis, the appointment of Suchinda as a new Prime Minister in 1992 promoted it. Suchinda had earlier declared that he had no intention of becoming neither a politician nor the next Prime Minister. People felt cheated when Suchinda defended himself that he had broken his promise for the sake of the nation. The author makes a curious point here that although people called Suchinda a liar, they didn't apply this dishonorable name when Chamlong ended his fast in just five days in spite of his declaration that he would fast to death unless Suchinda stepped down. Chamlong had sworn, "I will not yield to the request of any institution--my Party, the Nation, the Religion, or the King--to end the fast."

People often fail to remember that Suchinda encouraged a fairer distribution of income and the raising of the living standards of the rural farmers during his short premiership. He appointed Mr. Kosit as the Secretary General to the Prime Minister, who was a famous political economist and a champion for the well-being of farmers. Suchinda formed an Advisory Committee on Rural Development consisting of 11 persons, among whom were five national model farmers and two NGO leaders. It was the first time that the model farmers had the opportunity to closely discuss important matters with high-ranking bureaucrats and to have direct access to the Prime Minister. Suchinda also visited several rural areas ravaged by drought. When hundreds of thousands of Bangkokians held a protest rally, Suchinda had to abruptly return from an inspection tour in Nan, and thereafter, his programs to alleviate the plight of the rural poor came to a halt in order to solve the problems of Bangkokians who were relatively well-off. (The author somehow doesn't mention the Kho Jo Ko project. Suchinda had been instrumental in launching this notorious project, aiming to forcefully relocate well over five million farmers to infertile lands to pave way for reforestation that would benefit both the State and big conglomerates.)

The author describes eight groups of people who were opposed to Suchinda Government.

  1. The opposition Palang Dharma and the New Aspiration Parties. Although both of their leaders were high-ranking military figures, they had conflict in interest against the NPKC.
  2. Those who supported the group 1, to whom the Suchinda Government was a moral crisis rather than a political one.
  3. Those who loved justice and those who considered the distorted news and news blackout of the state radio and TV stations repellent. They aimed to achieve solidarity with and boost the morale of the demonstrators. Some brought their children along to increase the size of the crowd.
  4. Those who had lost political power in the coup of 1991. Some had suffered a loss of income due to the economic slow-down brought about by the coup. They disliked the NPKC and were anti-military. Their feelings against the NPKC, the military and General Suchinda were essentially vengeful and thus were quite irrational.
  5. Those who had expected to gain power and benefits but were disappointed when not appointed to a ministerial post in the Suchinda Cabinet; namely members of the opposition parties. Having made a heavy investment in vote buying, they wished to be part of the government in order to reap the benefits.
  6. Those who were not satisfied with the composition of the Suchinda Cabinet. They bitterly witnessed the appointment of corrupt politicians and their political foes as ministers and deputy ministers.
  7. Those who wanted the Prime Minister to be a Member of Parliament. They believed that a Prime Minister who is also an MP would be more responsive to the interests of the people than a one who came from the armed forces.
  8. Those who strongly emphasized on political legitimacy. They also loathed the appointment of senators on the basis of nepotism.

Reporters formed another important group. For various reasons, they were not satisfied with the NPKC. The more vigorously they slandered the military and the five devil parties, the more copies of newspapers they could sell. They felt a sense of honor in attacking the Suchinda Government even if they sometimes carried distorted stories.

In general, academics, students, and manual laborers were not involved in the anti-Suchinda movement to the extent that they had done against Thanom in 1973. The movement to demand the resignation of General Suchinda and to amend the constitution was led by politicians whose self-interests were perhaps involved. As to the issue of appointing Prime Minister from the Parliament, it was not strong enough to harness the support of the students and academics, as they had witnessed that Prem Government was a good government, although Prem was not an elected MP,;while Chatichai Government was corrupt and wicked, although he was an elected MP.

Chamlong was a spiritual leader of the people of Bangkok; they had supported him in his elections as Governor of Bangkok in 1985 and 1990. When he resigned from his post as Governor of Bangkok to run for the parliamentary election in March 1992, causing the Interior Ministry to hold a new election for the new governor at the cost of 25,786,569 baht, he was the most popular choice among Bangkok citizens as the next Prime Minister. His Palang Dharma Party won landslide 32 out of 35 seats in Bangkok, but it only won extra 9 seats outside Bangkok, making it the fifth largest party.

Chamlong certainly was well aware of the effect of his fast. He wore a traditional Thai moh hom shirt. He took with him a large number of protesters and gathered in front of Parliament, where they built a shelter to stage a non-violent protest. Some more celebrities joined him in the fast, including Mrs. Prateep.

On the night of May 17, Chamlong directed the crowd to clash with the police at Phanfa Bridge. The crowd broke through the barbed wire which the protesters called the Berlin Wall. Though he was arrested, Chamlong was aware that the civilian casualties and his arrest would bring about an end to the Suchinda Government. There was a widespread belief among the rally leaders that the use of weapons by the government would bring the people close to victory. A risk was involved, but some liked to gamble: without an outbreak of violence, they could never be on the winning side.

Unusual Wealth [fiction]
1998, Gregory Bracken

Alex has been working in Bangkok as an aspiring architect for Siam Property. Back in Ireland where he was born, family background counts for a successful career. Here in Bangkok all that matters is talent and genius.

Somchai, the vice president of the architectural department, is dead. Emma, the number two in the department, disappears. Nong, the Chairman of the Board, suggests that Alex should be the next vice president of the architectural department. The prospect of this promotion overwhelms Alex. Still, there's something fishy about it all.

Kicking Dogs [fiction]
1991, Collin Piprell

The name is Jack Shackway, and he is a kind of freelance journalist. He has fled America where a lot of writers are starving out of work. Although, here in Bangkok, he can earn less, the cost of living is even less.

Mu is his girlfriend. He lives in her flat, together with her sister Bia, her cousins Sombat, Rhot, Lek, Maem, Dok, Noi, and her maybe-cousins-or-not Jit and Keeow, not to mention her grandma. That's Thai way.

So one day in the traffic jam, someone on a motorcycle stops by the car he's hiring, raps on the windowpane, calls "You! You!" and starts shooting at him. He barely escapes the bullets, but his typewriter isn't so fortunate.

Living in Bangkok may be a dangerous experience for a farang like him. Especially, as a journalist, he may provoke a big guy or two every once in a while. Now he has a choice; either go back to America to starve or stay in Bangkok to decease. But just who the hell is after him? And what wrong did he do to deserve it?

1995, Health Systems Research Institute, Thailand

This is a well-composed booklet for smokers, non-smokers and anti-smokers. It carries texts of Tobacco Products Control Act and Non-Smokers' Health Protection Act. Its FORWARD is a concise history of legislative struggle against tenacious lobbying by transnational tobacco conglomerates.

1995, Chai Podhisita, Umaporn Pattaravanich

This publication is an analysis of The Family And Youth Survey, conducted in 1994 by the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University. The target population is young males and females, 15 - 24 years of age, from both urban and rural areas. The sample size is 2,180.

The questionnaire covers topics such as family relations, education, work, income and expenses, self image, values and attitudes, leisure, friends, health, sexual experience, etc.

Although the intention of the project was well aimed, the survey was poorly designed, the statistical analysis unorthodox, and the interpretation less than convincing.

Challenging social exclusion: Rights and livelihood in Thailand good
1996, Pasuk Phongpaichit et al.

The term social exclusion, coined in France in the mid-1970s to describe the situation of the long-term unemployment, has grown into a strategic concept to deal with socially disadvantaged groups. The concept was officially introduced in Thailand in mid-1990s, translated as "dropping out of the social mechanism" (kan lut jak konkai thang sankhom).

The International Institute for Labour Studies describes four types of social and political structure, each providing basis for distinct pattern of social exclusion. Among these models, Thailand seems to represent the monopoly model: "The monopoly model views society as hierarchical, with different groups controlling resources. Insiders protect their domains against outsiders, constructing barriers and restricting access - to occupations, to cultural resources, to goods and services. At the same time they promote solidarity within the group. Membership of society is therefore necessarily unequal, with a hierarchy of inclusions and exclusions rather than a simple dualism as in the solidarity model. The rules determining access to the more privileged group also determine vulnerability, and so decide who is excluded. Exclusion is a central aspect of this model, a mechanism which underpins the existing structure of society. In a sense, under the solidarity model, the fight against exclusion is designed to preserve the existing order, under the monopoly model, it is to change it."

This book takes up three case studies; namely, peasants' land rights, slum dwellers' housing rights, and workers' employment rights. The author attempts to describe these cases in terms of social exclusion, and seeks their solutions.

The author's description of the plight of peasants is especially vivid and substantial, generously assigning 38 pages of the total 117 pages. Over the past century, rural farmers were encouraged by the government to cut open forests to make farmland, to add to the Thai economic growth. From the 1960s onward, the military encouraged farmers to further clear woodlands as a strategy to contain the communist insurgents in the forest.

Then, in the 1970s, the forestry department started to see the decline of forests as a threat to the natural environment. Together with the request of big conglomerates who saw profits in forestry business, the department set out reforestation schemes which regarded farmers as obstacles to be removed. Then, even the military turned its back on farmers. It collaborated with the forestry department to evict farmers with force and violence under the notorious Kho Jo Ko program.

The author's depiction of the plight and struggle of farmers reminds me of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, with Phra Prajak bearing a curious resemblance to Martin Luther King Jr.

NORTHEAST THAILAND: from Prehistoric to Modern Times
1996, Peter Rogers

The northeast Thailand, commonly known as Isan and topographically named as the Korat plateau, is geographically isolated from the rest of Thailand by its western flank - the Petchabun Mountains. Although the railway forced open a passage at the southern end of these mountains in 1900, until thirty or forty years ago, there were virtually no roads at all. Until comparatively recently, Isan was largely clad in impenetrable jungle so that travel was quite difficult and usually impossible during the rainy season.

Its inaccessibility and infertility restrained Ayudhya kings to extend its direct rule beyond Korat. It wasn't until the French takeover of the west side of the Mekong River that King Chulalongkorn became aware of the necessity to assimilate this long-deserted area replete with Lao and Khmer inhabitants by trying to directly rule these areas and imposing on them Thai language education and national identity as Thai, but then, the local resistance was fierce.

The author browses through the history of this forlorn region, from the recently discovered Ban Chiang pre-historic era to the present times. This book is more of a digest history of the Ban Chiang era, the Khmer Empire, the Sukhothai, the Ayudhya and the Ratanakosin years, as little has been known to write about Isan history itself.

The Natural and Political History of the Kingdom of Siam
1688, Nicolas Gervaise

The author was a Catholic missionary from France, who was sent to Ayutthaya in 1683. He stayed in the Kingdom of Siam for four years, which coincided with the reign of King Narai. He learned Thai language, observed Thai nature, politics and culture. He published his observations in 1688 as Histoire Naturelle et Politique du Royaume de Siam in Paris, which was later translated in English.

The Siamese called their country Meuang Thai or Meuang-Crong-Thep Maanacone, which, at that time, was a sparsely populated kingdom with marshes and jungles and deserts. It was abundant with natural hazards such as wild elephants, rhinoceros, poisonous snakes and scorpions, venomous centipedes and tokays.

The author's descriptions of Siamese people are:
"The spirit of servility with which they are born and in which care is taken that they should be brought up, damps their courage and makes them so timid that they tremble at the sight of the smallest danger they encounter."
"They consider anger and drunkenness to be vices unworthy of a well-bred person."
"Although they do not have a sufficient lively imagination to enable them to invent, they have enough dexterity to imitate the most difficult workmanship so exactly and faithfully that is hard to distinguish the original from the copy."

As to the royal crowns, the author describes that:
"They have always preferred the advantage of being feared by their subjects to the pleasure of being loved by them, and, if it is their predilection to appear only rarely in public, this is perhaps because they fear lest their subjects come to realise that the majority of kings are made, often enough, like other men and have imperfections and weaknesses as they do."
"The freedom which everyone in Europe enjoys to discuss the ruler and his conduct is viewed in Siam as a crime against the state. For this reason the king's name is never revealed to the people during his lifetime, for fear, it is said, that it may be profaned by the indiscreet language of some impious subject."

The author's profession as a missionary sees polygamy as:
"One of the greatest obstacles to the establishment of the Christian religion."
"The Siamese have no law, either divine or human, forbidding polygamy and it is practised throughout this heathen kingdom, sanctioned by immemorial custom, which has made it into a necessity."
"Although there is no law permitting divorce, there is no law forbidding it either, and convenience often prevails over propriety."

As to the numerous Buddhist monks, the author points out that exemption of taxes and public duties for the monks results in their large number.
"The idleness which reigns in their monasteries is potent attraction for this nation, which recognizes scarcely any pleasure greater than that of living without doing anything and at somebody else's expense."
"When travelling they will not give way to anybody, whoever it may be, and they prefer to turn aside or step into the mud up to their knees than to walk behind anyone."
"If one is discovered having an affair with a woman, the law condemns him to be roasted alive over a slow fire. While I was in Siam this harsh sentence was carried out on two wretches who had been convicted of this crime."
"As parents put their children in the monasteries at a very young age, it is very rare for them to remain there for the rest of their lives. At twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, when they have found a good match and have accumulated a certain amount of money, they leave the monkhood."
"The strongest motive for not leaving the pagoda is either the hope of soon obtaining some important office or the impossibility of finding anywhere else to live with as much dignity and convenience."
"The monks now are very lax and have, so it is said, greatly degenerated from the high moral standards of their predecessors. However, they are shrewd enough to maintain a suitable exterior and to keep up appearances so as to preserve their credit among the people at whose expense they enrich themselves."
"Respectable folk complain loudly about them and ceaselessly lament that things are no longer as they were in past ages, when the innocence and holiness of the monks made it difficult to tell whether they were men or angels."

1997, Daniel Fineman

This is a truly amazing account of the U.S. intervention in Thai politics, from the ouster of Pridi in 1947 to the establishment of authoritarianism by Sarit in 1958.

1996, David Streckfuss

On August 22, 1991, six months after the military coup by NPKC, Sulak Sivaraksa made a public speech entitled "Suppression of democracy after the February coup" at Thammasat University, harshly criticizing and boldly challenging the military junta NPKC. Suchinda became angry and ordered the police to investigate the case. The Public Prosecutor, whose chief had been appointed by the NPKC, indicted him on charges of Lese Majeste and defaming Suchinda. The trial at the Criminal Court in Bangkok started on March 8, 1993. If found guilty, he would face imprisonment for three to fifteen years.

This book is a collection of court documents, published opinions of critics and intellectuals, clippings from newspapers, and messages from around the world. Reading through these materials, the logical inconsistency of Lese Majeste in the framework of democracy and its historical character of political strategy as a tool for the military to suppress its opponents come to be apparent.

In one opinion, subtitled "The Paradox of Lese Majeste as Political Crime in Thailand", David Strekfuss makes a curious point concerning the applicability of Lese Majeste to foreigners in Thailand. He asserts that there is a typical three-stage drama which has characterized Lese Majeste cases for the last three decades.

  1. Confession: I committed the act
  2. Recantation: I did not mean it for I revere the king
  3. Collective reaffirmation: We Thai revere the king.

He then points out that "it would be absolutely disastrous to bring a foreigner to trial on the charges of lese majeste. There is all likelihood that the foreigner would say what no Thai defendant has ever said in court: that they do not respect the king, or they have no reason to respect the king, or they do not care about the monarchy--and this would be preserved for all to read. Just as seriously, they might point out, since Thai are unable to do so, that many Thai oppose the monarchy... As a result of these difficulties, if a farang were so charged, court proceedings would have to be held in secret. Yet at the same time, this action would bring international attention, scrutiny, and protest of the lese majeste law which could prove its undoing. The risk of this happening explains why the state has resorted to less conspicuous methods, such as refusing visas, deportation, etc. when it has had a chance to prosecute a foreigner for lese majeste."

Article 112
Whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

Bangkok in the Balance
1996, Tatsuya Hata

The author is a Japanese national. He graduated from a state university in Atlanta, worked for a private company in Tokyo for one year, then joined the SVA - Sotoshu Volunteer Association - and came to Bangkok as a volunteer in 1984. Soon he found himself deeply involved with the Klong Toey Slum where he met the famed slum activist Prateep Unsongtham, the founder of the One-Baht School.

In this memoir, he recollects his early days in Japan, his student life in the States, his encounter with the Klong Toey Slum, his marriage proposal to Prateep, his parents' opposition to marriage, and so on. His description of the May 1992 bloodshed is vivid as a firsthand account.

This book was originally written in Japanese as バンコクの熱い季節, and later translated in Thai and English. Had I known that, I wouldn't have bothered to read it in English.

1995, Sumalee Bumroongsook

The ancient law of Thailand stated that parents had the authority to marry their daughters to whomever they chose. In 1865, King Mongkut decreed that a peasant woman over age 20 could marry a spouse of her own choice, while a woman from a noble family of sakdina +400 could not marry without her parents' consent. This dual standard tried to protect girls of poor families from being forced to marry for money, while assuring the honor of noble families by preventing their daughters from marrying unsuitable lower men.

The 1935 Code enabled men over 17 and women over 15 to marry without parental consent. But parents continued to believe that it was their duty to choose a proper spouse for their children, and children were expected to be obedient to their parents, according to the Buddhist teaching.

The westernization and modernization of Thai society gradually brought about changes in consciousness toward mate selection. Love as a reason for marriage came to be accepted by society. There emerged more occasions for young men and women to meet and mingle in public places. The co-ed school system became popular due to the influence of new generation of educators graduated from Western countries. More women joined the work force. Young people came to work in cities where they got ready cash, thus making them financially independent from their parents. As a result of these factors, in the latter half of the twentieth century, young people came to choose their mates as they see fit without too much worrying about their parents' opposition.

As to the issue of premarital sex, female virginity prior to marriage has been highly valued whereas male premarital promiscuity has been quietly accepted. The middle class has been imposing stricter manners than the upper class or the lower class. The premarital sexual practices of the upper class have been influenced by Western dating customs, whereas the lower class-peasants and workers-carry on the attitude that premarital sex is something not necessarily good but natural, something to be prevented but tolerated once engaged in, something to be justified by ultimate marriage of the two.

Polygamy has long been practiced in Thailand among the upper class who can financially afford many wives and a large number of children. The practice was first criticized vigorously in Thailand during the 1850s by the American missionaries. Thereafter, elite started to denounce it as an injustice to women, a path to immorality and corruption, and a sign of an uncivilized nation. After the 1920s, the animosity against polygamy grew quite strong. When King Rama VI married his first wife, Princess Lakshmi, he promised her that there would be no other queens, consorts, or concubines. But a year later, he took two concubines. The Princess was heartbroken and, despite her father's persuasion that the king's devotion was hers, that her position was dignified and secure, that she must accept these other relationships, as Chulalongkorn's queens had done before her, she found it impossible to live with it causing her to live separately from the King.

In the 1935 Civil and Commercial Code, the law permitted the man to officially register one marriage only. But the law did not forbid him from entering into unregistered marriages with other women. Polygamy has therefore never been outlawed.

国際スパイ都市バンコク good
1976, 村上吉男


1979, 青木 保


ピブーン excellent
1996, 村嶋英治



1994, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan

Corruption among bureaucrats and politicians has been abundant in Thailand, but it wasn't until the death of military dictator Sarit in 1963 that the issue attracted social attention. Sarit left an astonishing fortune of 2.8 billion baht, most of which was accumulated during the last three years of his life. An investigation revealed that 394 million baht was taken from the Secret Investigation Fund of the Prime Minister's Office, 240 million came from the Lottery Bureau, and 100 million baht from a percentage cut on the sale of lottery tickets. The government seized 604 million baht from Sarit's family, which amounted only 20% of the massive wealth.

Successive dictators and democratically appointed Prime ministers, as well as members of parliament, were just as much corrupt as Sarit. Morell published in 1975 that at least 75% of MPs received commissions from development projects and payments from party leaders in return for their support. Many also were alleged to have involved in extorting money from local businessmen.

A jao pho is an influential local boss in rural cities who can often stands above the law through bribery and violence. He has hired gunmen on one side, and bribed government officials on the other. They are the Thai counterpart of the Italian Mafia or American Godfather. As the constitution in 1975 gave democratic government a long lasting control of the national budget, election became a big business. Over 80% of the parliamentary seats were assigned for outside Bangkok, where the sense of democracy was still quite foreign to local residents. Political parties didn't bother to establish party branch offices outside Bangkok. They, instead, went to jao phos, asking for their cooperation in buying votes. It wasn't long before jao phos themselves decided to enter national politics to have massive corrupt profit. By the early 90's the majority of MPs were under the influence of jao phos. Corrupt parties who had no chance of winning popular votes from democracy-minded citizens in Bangkok could still buy votes outside Bangkok, thus becoming a majority party in the parliament. Narang, an influential jao pho, almost made it to the premiership in 1991, when it was revealed that he had once been denied a visa to enter the United States on grounds that he was suspected of involvement in narcotic business. Narong stepped aside and allowed his military collaborator General Suchinda to take over, who, when confronted with fierce protest of Bangkok citizens, ordered fire to citizens in the 1992 uprising.

The Ministry of Defense has been citing security considerations as the reason for not revealing the details of arms purchases and the use of secret funds, not even to parliament. It is widely believed that top military officers receive commission fees from arms purchases. Senior military officers consider they can legitimately receive commission fees because they use the fees to sustain informal patronage ties which contribute to the strength and culture of the army as an institution. On a typical sale, generals get 2% to 5% up front and as much as an additional 10% if the deal is signed. The attraction of sales commissions has led to redundant or excessive military weapons and supplies. Arms purchase by the Thai military is not related to the need of the country, but is closely linked to how many top officers are about to retire, and need a lump of money for retirement or for other personal purposes.

Often military coups d'etat occurred when the government refused military to access to public money. In 1947 the government of Khuang Aphaiwong was toppled because he refused to give military men the financial support they wanted from the government. In 1957 Sarit toppled Phibun soon after Phibun had refused to let him make use of the proceeds of the public lottery for his private ends. As for the most recent coup in 1991, the military had been denied a subvention for special arms purchases, while businessmen politicians received a very large kickbacks from several major infrastructure projects. Immediately after the coup, the military-led government started investigations designed to freeze and seize politicians' assets, while quickly posting a series of requests for arms purchases which were later described as the biggest arms shopping spree the nation had ever seen.

The Police Department is infamous for being the most corrupt government agency. Compared to the military corruption where the corrupt fund is obtained at the top and shared among lower officers, the corruption in the Police Department moves the other way around. Police officers in lower ranks go out on the street to collect corrupt money from citizens in various ways. Lower rank officers then bribe his superiors for promotion or transfer to a more lucrative district. It is estimated that well over half of the regular policemen working in police stations are involved in syndicated corruption. Their sources of corrupt income are as follows:

  1. Bribes paid by owners of brothels and gambling dens in return for not noticing their illegal businesses.
  2. Welfare money from drivers in return for not issuing a fine ticket.
  3. Motorcycle taxis pay a fee to a gang leader who in turn pays a regular sum to the police in the area.
  4. Underground lotteries operate in cities, towns, villages, and temples. It is alleged that operators of underground lotteries must pay between 100,000 - 5,000,000 baht to the nearby local police unit every two weeks.
  5. Pay-offs for cooperating in the transportation of illegal logs and contraband of various kinds.
  6. Charges on trucks which are loaded above the legal maximum.
  7. Bribes paid by criminal suspects in order to get away from the law, whose amount varies between 20,000 and 1,000,000 baht depending on the severity of the case.
  8. Protection money from factory owners. When an owner refuses it, saying that protection is not necessary, the police proves him wrong by smashing the windows at night, writing a threatening letter, or intimidating him by phone.

Short Stories of Bangkok & Beyond [fiction]

This is a collection of fifteen short stories , each written by an aspiring writer-to-be. Some are mystical, some are soothing, some are profound, and some are poignant. Fit for leisurely reading.

タイの法律入門 good
1998, サクダー・タニットクン










Having been revised by the Ministry of Justice itself, this books explains the judicial system in Thailand in scrupulous detail, with its main emphases on the administration of courts and legal procedure. Some intriguing facts are as follows:

In Bangkok, where the number of cases brought to the court is comparatively high, number of specialized courts have been set up to disperse the high number of judicial cases; namely, the civil court, the criminal court, the juvenile court, the labor court and the tax court. Whereas, in other provinces, there are Provincial Courts for general cases and Provincial Juvenile Courts.

In the southern most provinces where the percentage of Muslims in population is high, Muslim Law Judges are specially assigned to sit aside in court to administer Islamic laws and usages in civil cases in matters involving family or inheritance where all parties concerned are Muslims. Rulings by Muslim Law Judges are final, and cannot be brought to the Court of Appeals.

A criminal suspect can be detained at the police station for inquiry for up to 7 days. Further detention requires leave of the court, which enables the police to detain for maximum of 84 days. That is considerably longer than the situation in Japan where the police can detain a suspect for up to 3 days for arbitrary inquiry, and maximum of 20 days with a leave of the court.

Unlike in Japan, the injured person can file a criminal prosecution to the court. He may also join the public prosecutor as a co-prosecutor.

There is an open competitive examination every year for recruiting judge-trainees. An applicant must be at least 25 years of age with an L.L.B. degree, must be a member of the Thai Bar Association, and must have two years' experience in legal work. He must hold a Thai nationality. Those who have served any term of imprisonment are excluded. This examination is the toughest of all law examinations in Thailand. The passing rate was 61/1713 in 1986 and 50/1849 in 1987. Successful candidates go through training provided by the Ministry of Justice for one year and four months. The training course includes Buddhist precepts. It is expected that the right attitude towards life and general philosophy is equally necessary for the proper discharge of judicial function.

Judges are appointed, promoted, transferred or removed by the Judicial Service Commission according to the Constitution. The Commission is composed of twelve ex-/active judges. This is supposed to assure judicial independence from the State to some extent.

TIME for Thailand good

Here's everything about contemporary Thailand. Its discourse precedes with a breathtaking interview with King Bhumibol himself. Each chapter takes up a distinctive topic in meticulous depth.

Old Bangkok
1986, Michael Smithies

This book is a collection of early Bangkok description, along with notes on historical sites which still remain today in the chaotically developing Bangkok.

The Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice in Thailand good
1997, Ji Ungpakorn

The author's account for the political history of Thailand vividly pictures the Thai version of the axiom "Money makes the world go around." Every historical event is an outcome of financial struggle between opposing classes or powers.

King Chulalongkorn's modernization of Thailand, for example, was to build a powerful centralized government in order to defeat the powers of nobles and local rulers whose accumulated wealth and power were threatening the prosperity of the royal family. Likewise, the establishment of the police and the army was part of the government's struggle to protect the central capitalists, of whom the royal family being the dominant along with its allied Sino-Thai businessmen, against nobles and local rulers.

The revolution in 1932 had no more ideological reasons than financial ones. The 1929 collapse of the Wall Street caused economic recession in Thailand, dropping the prices of rice by 60%. Farmers' incomes fell by 50%, while urban workers suffered a 20% income decrease. The royal government cut the wages of bureaucrats and imposed new series of taxes. The discontent against the absolute monarchy grew among bureaucrats, leading to the successful outcome of the revolution by the People's Party of young elite bureaucrats.

It has been almost a tradition for any coup leaders to justify their authoritarian action in terms of democracy, when their real intention was, of course, to pursue their own financial benefits. Sarit's government, for example, proclaimed,
"This government maintains that it will uphold the principles of democracy and respect for human rights,"
later proving his points by making strikes illegal. When the International Bank Mission criticized Thailand's state enterprises for their evil effects, he readily changed the government policy, allowing private enterprises sign up for various government contracts, among which the most lucrative ones went to companies owned by Sarit himself.

Similarly, Thanom's government announced,
"This government believes that democracy is the most suitable political system for Thailand. Therefore this government shall do everything to promote democracy."
This government later fired bullets on unarmed demonstrators who demanded democracy in 1973. The word democracy has been used in so many catchy situations in Thailand, together with the word communism to justify military's dictatorship.

One notable background for lack of democracy in Thailand was the cooperative relationship between the military and the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie had no interest in promoting democracy as long as it could make money under the military dictatorship. The bourgeoisie offered capital and board positions for military officers. In return, these private companies prospered by having good government connections. Between the periodical changes of political powers of oppressive military dictatorship and bourgeoisie-backed corrupt politicians, the middle classes stayed politically apathetic for decades.

The 1973 uprising of people, however, gave a blow to the military, as well as to the intimate relationship between the military and the bourgeoisie. The military's role in politics diminished, which meant increased democracy. But it was the bourgeoisie who snatched the benefit of this political shift by sending politicians to the parliament to protect the interest of the capitalists. The working class failed to have gain for their lack of organization and political self-confidence.

The sovereign of Thailand has been shifted from the absolute monarchy to the military and then to the bourgeoisie. It is yet to be seen that the working-class gets a fair share of the pie. Under the circumstances, parliamentary election is about the only means of participation in politics for the working-class, but as it is institutionalized to serve for the benefits of capitalists and bureaucrats, the pro-democratic struggle outside the parliament is inevitable to achieve more democratic state of the nation. He contends that the solidarity of workers and the tactics of labor unions are the keys to democracy.

The Organization of Thai Society in The Early Bangkok Period 1782-1873
1969, Akin Rabibhadana

The author's depiction and analysis go back to the early period of Ayutthaya. There were two classes of people; namely, the governing nai and the farming phrai. Every phrai belonged to a nai, either the king or a prince or a noble. Those who belonged to the king were called phrai luang and those who belonged to a prince or a noble were called phrai som. As a phrai luang was obligateed to serve extra labor for the king as long as six months a year, there was a tendency for phrai luang to escape from their status to offer themselves as phrai som under a prince or a noble. Because the king did not have direct control over phrai som, and a lot of princes were seeking a chance to overthrow the capital city to take over ruling, the growing number of phrai som was a threat to the stability of the king's ruling, which, in the end, lead to the first fall of Ayutthaya under the Burmese attack in 1569.

During the late Ayutthaya period, princes were no longer sent out to govern their phrai som, but obligated to reside in the capital city near the king in order to make the bond between nai and phrai som somewhat loose for the security of the kingdom. Governors of noble ranks were appointed and sent out to administer princes' towns. As the years went by, however, the number of phrai luang kept decreasing, giving more powers to princes, which lead again to factional disputes and civil wars. When the kingdom experienced a heavy Burmese attack in 1767, the king could not unite his princes against the common enemy, thus leading to the total destruction of the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

The Chakri dynasty took lessons from the Ayutthaya period, and gave its princes far less power, giving, instead, most of its administrative positions to central officials, thus reducing the risk of civil war for the succession of the throne. Gradually, over the years, high officials in the bureaucracy gained wealth and power, as to the extent that even the king's sovereign was not totally independent from advisement and recommendation of powerful bureaucrats.

In this illustrative book, intriguing details are shown such as:
1. Buddhism was the supreme law of the land, even considered above the king. Temples were out of the jurisdiction of the king, so a lot of phrai luang became monks to evade hard labor.
2. While inaccurately translated as a slave, the state of being a that (pronounced tat) was actually easier than that of a phrai luang, so that a lot of phrai luang set themselves indebted to become that.
3. A female that was set free when she bore a child of her master.
4. Aside from the formal relationships of nai and phrai, or phu yai (superior) and phu noi (inferior), informal relationships were abundant in forms of giving gifts and receiving benefits, which, still today, can been seen as a wide-spread custom of bribery and vote-buying.
5. A bulk of Chinese workers immigrated to Thailand. Being out of the social caste, they could freely move and work as wage-laborers to earn money, some of them turning into entrepreneurs to accumulate wealth, whose offspring today dominate major businesses in Thailand.
6. It was a general trend for males of high social classes to have a lot of wives and children, which, presumably, reduced the intimacy of father-child relationship, and lead to hostile disputes among siblings to take over the throne. It is recorded that King Rama I had 42 children of 28 mothers, King Rama II had 73 children of 40 mothers, King Rama III had 51 children of 37 mothers, King Rama IV had 82 children of 35 mothers.

Central Authority and Local Democratization in Thailand
1996, Michael H. Nelson

The author reports the persistent dominance of bureaucratic polity and overwhelming centralization of administrative powers, which prevents the maturity of democracy in Thailand. Detailed descriptions of local administrative units are given; namely, changwats, ampurs, tambons and mubans.

When King Chulalongkorn set out his modernization reforms of the old Siam, one of the tasks was to reorient rural people to face to the central government, instead of their regional masters who had been dominating as local rulers. He dispatched a governor for each monthon (now changwat) to govern in the name of king. Thus was the beginning of the powerful central administration in Thailand.

The coup d'etat in 1932 was planned and carried out by elite bureaucrats, unlike those bloody revolutions in European history, and the fruit of it was shared among bureaucrats, not totally passed on to the mass public. It became the government of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, and for the bureaucrats.

Although, today, local administrative units are set up in changwats and ampurs, they are far from being local governments of/by/for the local residents. Rather, they function as branches of the central government, with staffs and budgets and orders coming from the center, setting aside two exceptional autonomous bodies; namely, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the City of Pattaya.

Bureaucratic officers still see themselves today as superior to citizens. The bureaucrats in Thailand are not civil servants, but paternalistic leaders who have a lot to teach and guide ignorant people.

To the annoyance of the bureaucrats, parliament members are publicly elected politicians who, as prescribed by law, have control over bureaucrats. The bureaucrats see politicians, who do not fit the ordered hierarchy of rank and status of bureaucracy, as unnecessary and undesired, because the bureaucrats can regulate themselves and decide everything by themselves for the benefit of the nation. They maintain that, if the participation of politicians at the central level of government is unavoidable, at least the local administration should be kept free of politicians.

王国への道 [fiction] good
1981, 遠藤周作






1998, クーロン黒沢



1993, J C SHAW

Bua Geow, an innocent teenage girl in a rural village in Chiangmai Province, went to Bangkok together with her friend, in hopes of working as a waitress and earning enough money to buy a sewing machine. What awaited them in the bewildering metropolis, however, was a brothel where they were raped and locked up to take customers. One day, Bua Geow jumped off from the window of a room on the third floor, thus putting an end to her captive life at the high price of being paralyzed of her lower limbs for the rest of her life.

This diary tells us how such a misfortunate girl, once shattered to despair, could regain her strength to face life again with caring and helping hands from people around. It also depicts the poverty-stricken lives of farmers in the rural area, to whom the economic prosperity and the modernization in the cities was but a threatening transition which would drive many farmers out of their traditional life-style and, eventually, make them indebted to lose whatever meager possession they owned.

1995, 下川裕治




Warren Fellows was arrested in a hotel room in Bangkok back in 1978 on charges of trying to smuggle heroin out of Thailand. He was sent to the notorious Bang Kwang men's prison. He somehow managed to survive his term, while a lot of other co-inmates didn't. He was released in 1989 after eleven and a half years. With the brutality of temperamental guards, the scarcity and unspeakable filth of food and water supplies, horrifying tortures of mind and body, the only way to cling to one's sanity was through the use of heroin which, ironically, was abundant in prison cells through bribed prison guards.

The present justice system adopted by most of the civilized countries requires due process on the side of the government in order to secure the human rights of the convicted. It also presupposes that citizens are well-informed of the nature and condition of punishment for each crime. On the contrary, though, what really goes on once inside a prison is hardly discussed openly and hidden from public eyes. I have heard and read some people commenting on this book as exaggerating or dubious. I would rather take the stance that benefit of doubt should be applied conversely when the state fails to accommodate public surveillance on its administration, including the prison.

In this astonishing report of yet another terra incognita of the modern society, Warren writes: I do not tell this story to bring pity on myself. I know that many people hate me for what I did and would believe that I deserved whatever I got. I can only ask those people to keep reading. If, at the end of my story, you still believe that anyone could deserve the horrors that I saw, then you, too, are a criminal. A vengeful and sadistic one.