2001, Steve Van Beek
In 1988, the author set out on his journey down the Ping River and, then, Chao Phraya River on a paddle boat. It took him two months to cover the entire 1150km.
In this travelogue, the author reveals his anthropological observations of people, villages and cities along the river which used to be the main means of transportation before the development of roads.
Thai Tourism: Hill Tribes, Islands and Open-ended Prostitution good
1995, Erik Cohen
This is a collection of theses by the author on three independent topics on tourism in Thailand; namely, hill-tribe trekking, island vacation and prostitution. Publication of the theses varies, as early as 1979 to supplements in 1995 upon publishing this book, giving a touch of historical tracing.
1. Thai Tourism: Trends and Transformations (1995)
The availability of sexual services to tourists was never officially acknowledged--prostitution was outlawed in 1960--but neither have the authorities undertaken decisive steps to suppress them. Rather, the authorities strove to improve the touristic image of the country without attempting to suppress tourist-oriented prostitution
The themes of exoticism and eroticism, through contrasting ones, are also mutually complementary; their combination appears to enhance the attractiveness of Thailand for some tourists: exoticism without eroticism, but also eroticism without exoticism, would have reduced Thailand's uniqueness as a destination.
While the primary effort of the government authorities was to increase the flow of foreign tourists and to enhance the level of tourist services, they also sought to amplify the diversity of attractions and amenities Thailand had to offer, and thus to ameliorate its dual touristic image.
However, concomitantly with the growth of mass tourism and the rapid economic development of the country, a growing gap emerged between the touristic image of Thailand, as promoted by TAT and the travel companies, and the realities of the country.
The significance of the rapid and continuous growth of tourism in Thailand was not merely quantitative. It brought in its wake the gradual depersonalization of the relationships between the locals and the visitors. The unforced friendliness and hospitality extended to strangers has declined, as attitudes to tourists changed and as visitors were increasingly seen as a source of gain, profit or income, rather than an occasion for meaningful and satisfying socializing. The distance between professionalized hosting and service personnel and their guests increased; the famous "Thai smile" became part of the professional role performance. Tourists were ever more isolated in tourist enclaves, without significant contact with the locals, whom they either merely observed on their excursions or encountered as subservient but distant service personnel.
For both national and economic reasons, the Thai authorities strove to modify the dual touristic image which the country acquired during the GI period, and present the world with a more complex image of a country blessed with a wide variety of attractions and amenities, which may appeal to diverse interests of potential visitors. One aim of the authorities was to reduce the relative number of single male tourists and to attract family visits, thereby reducing the scale of sex tourism.
The various tourist attractions, and accompanying kinds of tourism, can be classified into five major categories: natural attractions, historical attractions, ethnic attractions, cultural attractions, and vacationing attractions.
2. "Primitive and Remote": Hill Tribe Trekking in Thailand (1989)
3. Hill Tribe Tourism (1983)
4. Jungle Guides in Northern Thailand: The Dynamics of a Marginal Occupational Role (1982)
5. The Impact of Tourism on The Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand (1979)
6. The Growing Gap: Hill Tribe Image and Reality (1992)
7. "Unspoilt and Enchanting": Island Tourism in Southern Thailand (1995)
8. Marginal Paradises: Bungalow Tourism on the Islands of Southern Thailand (1982)
9. Insiders and Outsiders: The Dynamics of Development of Bungalow Tourism on the Islands of Southern Thailand (1983)
10. "Marginal Paradises" Revisited: Tourism and Environment on Thai Islands (1995)
11. Thai Girls and Farang Men: The Edge of Ambiguity (1982)
12. Open-ended Prostitution as a Skillful Game of Luck: Opportunity, Risk, and Security Among Tourist-Oriented Prostitutes in a Bangkok Soi (1993)
13. Sensuality and Venality in Bangkok: The Dynamics of Cross-Cultural Mapping of Prostitution (1987)
14. Lovelorn Farangs: The Correspondence Between Foreign Men and Thai Girls (1986)
15. Tourism and AIDS in Thailand (1988)
1995, ポール アディレックス
Cross-border Migration and HIV/AIDS Vulnerability at the Thai-Cambodia Border Aranyaprathet and Khlong Yai
2000, Supang Chantavanich et al.
This is a research paper on migrants and locals in two Thai-Cambodian border towns concerning HIV infection.
In early 1990s, the prevalence of HIV infection in Thailand spread to neighboring countries. In late 1990s, however, when the prevalence was somewhat subdued in Thailand, border towns started to act as new routes of HIV infection with the influx of migrant workers and prostitutes.
Aside from its main objectives, this paper reveals curious socio-demographic situations at the border towns.
There is one official immigration check pint, situated in the Klong Leuk Village area at Rong Kluer market. This was established as an official check point under the Ministry of the Interior, in April 1998, replacing the existing check point which was administered by provincial authorities.
Young children and sex workers crossing from Cambodia, usually through the main check-point, are technically illegal; however, children are often ignored and so may sex workers be, although agents may pay for their passage. Many people cross at various points despite surveillance by the military. It is easy to cross the canal as it is dry most of the year, and even within sight of the main check point people pass illegally. It is not surprising then that some Cambodians stay in Thailand overnight or longer. While this is not common in Aranyaprathet, at least in the township and local environs, it does occur within farming areas to the north of the district where 500 to 1000 Cambodians are employed seasonally in groups of 40 to 100 persons. The head of such groups is known to, and trusted by, the employer and take responsibility for recruitment.
Along the border there are designated check points, to the north and south of Khlong Luek, where daily commuters cross to seek employment on farms and in construction. There are 500 to 2,000 such crossings daily. The numbers of crossings fluctuate as well as the numbers actually employed each day. The check-points are controlled by border officials, or by soldiers who guard the entire length of the border, and authorize border crossings at designated areas. Employers arrive in the early morning to select men and women for a day's work, returning them by 5PM. There is no issuance of border passes, employers simply sign for how many workers they take.
Sex workers in Poipet move across the border at night, often they are bicycled across to the many guest houses and small hotels, or major hotels in Aranyaprathet. They serve Thai officials and tourists and foreign tourists, but also officials or businessmen from Cambodia. They return to Poipet the following morning. In addition, Thais cross into Poipet to visit the Khmer and Vietnamese sex workers during the day. Most Thais may be able to afford the more expensive Vietnamese workers who are reportedly noted for their cleanliness and beauty compared to the Khmer workers. The women sent across the border are generally from brothels in Poipet but it is possible to get women from local villages as well.
Uniformed men are often in a position to take favours from women sex workers and key informants could cite examples of them abusing their position of power in such a way. A range of different clients order women from Poipet at a price of B300. However, if the clients are uniformed men the women may have to service an unknown number. One former sex worker, who is now forced by border officials to act as an occasional agent, related a story of a sex worker having to service 20 such men [for the price of one]. In such situations the sex workers do not bring sufficient condoms and some men may not care as they are usually drunk.
Informants also related how border officials provide girls from Poipet for visiting high officials for overnight stays in hotels in Aranyaprathet, and this appears to happen for officials or others staying in Sakaew municipality. Passing three check-points along the way to Sakaew does not appear to present any problems. Some military and/or police are not only implicated in facilitating the free passage of sex workers, but have been implicated in the trafficking of women, at least on the Cambodian side, and high ranking personnel may own and operate brothels.
Friendly Siam: Thailand in the 1920s
1928, Ebbe Kornerup
Originally published in Danish. The author traveled around Siam, presumably in the early 1920s. In this travelogue, the author expresses his anthropological and geographical observations in the north, northeast, central and south Siam.
From Siam to Thailand: Backdrop to the Land of Smiles
1982, Jorges Orgibet
The author is a long-time resident in Thailand since 1945, a contemporary and mutual friend of Alex MacDonald and Jim Thompson. He first served the USIS, then joined the NBC as a cameraman-commentator. He later opened the AP bureau in Bangkok and co-founded the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
In this book, the author shares his curious experience in Thai society and politics in the early post-war years.
During that Wednesday and Thursday it was difficult to convince jittery tourists gathered in hotel lobbies that business was going on as usual. Which it was. Shoppers filled the stores, traffic was as hectic as ever, and most offices were operating pretty much as usual. Except this time everyone had his ear glued to transistor radios listening to the war of words between Bangkok and Khorat...
There have been coups in the past that were met with almost complete indifference as far as the general public was concerned. There have been others where people took sides. There's no question but that this last one had the least support of any. That was the result of just one statement made by the rebels shortly after the coup was launched. They declared their intention of establishing a democracy with a President, without the Monarchy. And although they changed that stance later, from that moment on their cause was doomed.
The shore part of the turnover ceremony concluded, the assembled dignitaries proceeded on board the dredge, which was tied up at the Royal Landing, to witness the vessel being blessed by Brahmin priests. The eyes of those still ashore were turned toward the vessel when armed naval ratings moved up behind and politely advised those ashore to go home as "... the programme is over."
Following the religious ceremony on the dredge's bow, the official party was returning along the narrow deck toward the gangway. Tony Bisgood was walking slightly ahead of the Prime Minister. I had run along the port side and through a deckhouse passageway to help clear the way in front of the advancing party. I stepped out on the deck directly behind a naval officer waving an automatic weapon at the oncoming dignitaries. Marshal Phibun tapped Bisgood on the shoulder, told him to step aside, then strode ahead to meet the gun-wielding officer. The Prime Minister was advised (in Thai, of course), that he was under arrest.
Phibul, then about eight feet in front of me, acknowledged this information with a slight nod. He glanced at the foot of the gangway where four armed naval ratings stood at the ready. Gun-waved ashore, Phibul sauntered down the gangway. About midway, he turned and smilingly waved at the shocked dignitaries still on board the dredge. The naval party herded Phibul to the south end of the Royal compound. He still refused to be hurried and walked slowly to the landing where he was escorted aboard a navy LCI. As the LCI moved up-river past the dredge, Phibul stood alongside the wheelhouse and waved again at the dignitaries. The Prime Minister's captors brandished their weapons at the people on the dredge and virtually the entire diplomatic coups and their ladies hit the deck in their formal garb.
[An Old Custom]
In up-country Siam in the old days an honored guest in a home was offered the best that house had to offer, be it farmer's shack or Governor's mansion. So that an honored guest's every comfort was provided, you should not have to sleep alone. Therefore, the best the house had to offer was yours. The best may be a sister, No. 2 wife, aunt, niece even a daughter, but never the No. 1 wife.
It can present some interesting problems.
As a bachelor, it sounds like heaven, except that sometimes the "best" is a 12 year old child. So what to do? You cannot refuse as this would bring the girl disgrace in her own home for being unwanted or unsuitable. I got around that by a sneaky ruse.
Most up-country Siamese houses have living quarters in the middle with sleeping quarters each side and bathing facilities -- the hong nam -- in the rear. Kitchens were outside or under the house.
On retiring you would whisper to the child -- and pantomime if she didn't understand you -- that you sleep there and I'll sleep here, and at 2 a.m. we'd get up and individually go to the hong nam to noisily splash out of the shanghai jar the cold water supplied for bathing.
It worked. We were happy. The family was happy that their honored guest was happy, and when you departed it was as a truly honored guest by all parties concerned.
I should hasten to add that they were not all 12-year-olds, and many nights those trips to the hong nam were quite legitimate.
As you can see, being an honored guest in an up-country house presented certain problems for the uninitiated. With that background we'll get to another police chief in another upcountry town. It's best he shall be nameless and the location unidentifiable.
I was the guest of the Governor. His house, however, was being painted so no guest room was available. Instead, he had prepared a "suite" in the local officer's club. Now most provincial centers in Thailand have these clubs for civil servants, usually an open air pavilion, offices at one end making a short L with one big room upstairs. It was in this upstairs room that they had installed a bed, wardrobe, and night stand with a group of chairs around a low teak table separated from the sleeping quarters with a four-panel rattan screen. My suite.
At dinner at the Governor's house that evening he inquired if everything was satisfactory in my guest room. I replied that it was immensely satisfactory, in fact so spacious I felt embarrassed.
"You mean you get lonesome up there?" the Governor asked.
"Certainly," was my reply, said with a bachelor's smile.
"Well," replied the Governor, "we'll have the police chief do something about that."
Shortly after I had returned to my "guest house" the police chief drove up in a 1932 Chrysler touring car with two young ladies, one a rather tall Laos girl and the other an attractive Siamese. As they got out of the car the chief, grinning, asked, "You like?" -- in the process using about third of his entire English vocabulary.
The two girls stood there giggling, so I took the Siamese girl by the hand and led her into my guest house. The chief put the Laos girl in the car and drove away.
Any way you look at it, it was a thoroughly delightful night.
The next morning over at the Governor's house for breakfast, he asked, "Everything all right last night, Mr. Jorges?"
My reply was that it was perfect.
"Well," said the Governor, "I think you made a slight mistake."
"You took the police chief's wife," he announced.
And with that I nearly dropped through the floor, only to be reassured by the Governor that it was all right.
"The Chief hadn't tried the Laos girl before, and the Chief said it was ...." and he gestured with a thumbs-up clenched first, grinning all the while.
I know this will shock the hell out of a lot of people, but one must understand old Siamese customs. The chief had not announced that this was his wife and I, being an honored guest, could not be corrected. That would be ungracious, especially to a guest of his superior. That's the Siamese custom part of the story. Actually, I think the only reason his wife went with me in the first place was that he'd been playing around too much and this was one chance to get even without being reprimanded.
Chasing the Dragon's Tail: The Struggle to Save Thailand's Wild Cats good
1991, Alan Rabinowitz
The author, as a zoologist, spent two years researching the wildlife in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. Although he was on invitation by the Thai government, he was soon to be disillusioned at the government's sincerity to preserve the fast diminishing Thailand's wild nature.
This is a curious book that reveals the mechanism of Thailand's wildlife, as well as author's frustration with corrupt government officials, armed poachers and hypocritical Buddhist practices.
During my first visit here, I had been surprised to learn that many of the annual fires were started by forest guards. Although this was against the government's official policy, local sanctuary workers often saw fires as beneficial. Fires produce new grass and edible young shoots for the deer and wild cattle, keep paths clear, and help control pests and diseases. Poachers within the sanctuary often started fires for the same reasons. Outside the sanctuary, fires that were started to clear land, fertilize soil, and remove stubble from old rice harvests often spread into the forest. But I wondered what these fires were doing to the forest over the long term. Lung Galong had said that in the past the forest had been so thick that the canopy nearly blotted out the light from the sky. Now there were many open, dry areas.
"The problem is with you," Noparat said to me, not unkindly. "The monks are men, but you expect more."
"I thought they're supposed to be special," I said, flashing on scenes of incense-filled temples and golden Buddhas.
"They are not special, they are different. They are men who have given up normal life to live simply and reflect on Buddha's teachings."
I was confused. If Buddhism meant devotion to a simple way of life, then why all the ceremony surrounding special holidays, the obeisance involved in the giving of food by the laity, the large ornate temples?
Even Buddhist practices in Thailand have been severely corrupted. I was especially offended by the Thai tradition of buying little containers or cages containing birds, fish, and turtles, then setting them free during special occasions such as festivals or birthdays. Through this beneficent act the buyer gains "merit" for his next life. Yet it is obvious that the sale of such animals, captured for just this purpose, is a thriving business in death and torture which contradicts the most fundamental Buddhist beliefs. Most of these animals soon die or are quickly recaptured after their release. One vendor told me that she addicted her birds to opium so they'd return to her. Now, she bemoaned, opium was too expensive.
I stopped counting the gibbons and macaques I saw chained by the neck at Buddhist temples. Monks accepted such gifts freely from the people, sometimes believing they were doing the animal a service by caring for it. Often, however, the monks knew the value of such animals to their temple. Sometimes the abbot of a temple requested certain species of animals because they brought in tourists and increased the temple's donations. Many temples had little zoos. One temple compound in Uthai Thani kept a leopard cat, a civet, a Javan mongoose, and numerous forest birds in pitifully cramped little cages to attract the townspeople. The monks fed them what little remained from their own meals. The water dishes in most of the cages were bone dry.
Then there were the buckets of frogs in the marketplace. I watched as women skinned them alive, then severed the legs from their bodies to sell. With eyes bulging, the still living naked torso was thrown into a separate pail to be discarded.
"Why don't you kill the frogs before you dismember them?" I asked repeatedly.
"It is not right for Buddhists to kill," I was told.
"I'm angry about everything," I said, sitting on the edge of my bed. Outside the window I could see Beng fixing dinner. "I'm angry because things aren't the way they should be. I'm angry at the poachers, who are just trying to survive. I'm angry at the forest workers who would as soon sell a skin as protect the forest. I'm angry at the government officials who brag about how many new protected areas they have on paper but don't give a damn about what's really happening out here. I'm angry at the monks who chain and cage animals at their temples for their own pleasure. It's all bullshit! And I'm angry at myself for continuing this charade when I wonder who I'm really doing it for -- the animals or me."
I decided to extend my stay in Bangkok and call the newspapers. After I related the details of the ambush as I knew them, I was told they'd get back to me after checking it out. The next day there was a knock on my door. Someone from the Forestry Department had come to pay me a visit for the first time since I'd been in Thailand.
"The newspapers called the department yesterday," he said after ten minutes of small talk. "You called them about the shooting. They spoke to the chief of the Wildlife Conservation Division. I was asked to come see you."
"By the chief of the division?" I asked.
"No, higher," he said. "There are things you do not understand. But anyway, they are of no concern to you. You are here for research. It's what you have a visa and a permit for."
"You're right, I don't understand," I said. "Why shouldn't you want the newspapers to print this? Your men were shot because they were trying to protect the forest. People should hear about it."
"We are not sure of the details of what happened," he said.
I was quiet, unable to absorb all that was going on.
"Are there higher officials involved somehow?" I asked. "Is that why you're here?"
"Everyone says you work very hard. Don't be concerned with other things. Is your work finished yet?" he asked.
I smiled tightly. He was as subtle as a sledgehammer.
"I have heard you spend a lot of time at the monk huts," he continued. "Farangs are always interested in our Buddhism here. Have you learned anything about it yet?"
"No," I said sarcastically, "nothing. It is too difficult for me to understand how Buddhism says one thing and Thais do another."
"Yes, it's hard for you to understand," he answered, oblivious to the sarcasm. "Buddhism is the Thai way of life. We study it as children."
The Thai Plywood Company, a state-owned enterprise, was given permission by the Forestry Department to reactivate old logging concessions in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This was the result of a new government ruling which stated that old timber concession agreements must prevail, even in wildlife sanctuaries, until they are legally revoked. This ruling made a mockery of the 1960 Wildlife Act, which states that the government may declare any area to be a wildlife sanctuary by Royal Decree when it is deemed appropriate, and that no person can destroy the wildlife or the forest within that area. In Uthai Thani, there was a public outcry. Although the Forestry Department had the power to simply revoke the concession and end the controversy, they wouldn't do.
Some of the facts uncovered were never widely publicized. On the board of directors of the Thai Plywood Company sat a majority consisting of the permanent secretary and a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, two deputy permanent secretaries of the same ministry, and the director general and a deputy director general of the Royal Thai Forestry Department. More than one of these men had supported my research in Huai Kha Khaeng in order to "help save it for the future."
The next afternoon I returned from several hours of following small-cat tracks and was met by a sight that made me think I had stumbled into the wrong camp. Stretched out between two trees was a fifteen-foot reticulated python, half skinned, and still alive. It was held to one tree with a vine around its neck and its head was bleeding from a shotgun wound. I could still hear its ragged gasping. Muuk and Daworn pulled at the live snake's skin as if engaged in a tug-of-war. I watched the snake's muscles quiver and undulate as the skin was ripped from its body.
"What the hell is going on here?" I asked.
"It was too close to camp," Muuk grunted. "I had to shoot it. Help us. This is hard." He ripped a few more inches of skin off.
"This is not our camp," I said. "This is the forest and that's a protected species. And it's still alive," I hollered. "Kill it!"
"They're easier to skin alive," Riap grunted, nonplussed by my anger. Now the three of them were tugging at the skin.
I pulled out my knife and cut through the top of the spinal cord where it joined with the skull.
"If you killed it for the skin, then say so. Don't bullshit me with this crap about it hurting us, and don't pretend to care about the wildlife just because it pays your salary," I ranted in English, not even thinking about what I was saying. Then I stomped out of camp... What enraged me the most, however, was their complete insensitivity to an animal's pain and suffering. I had seen this kind of behavior too often in Thailand: frogs skinned alive in the market, monkeys chained in the temples. The list went on and on.
A History of the Kingdom of Siam up to 1770
1771, Francois-Henri Turpin
Originally published in French, four years after the fall of Ayutthaya. The author compiled this Siamese history based on earlier accounts and contemporary reports from French missionaries in Siam.
His description is vivid and detailed, providing significance to otherwise enumarative chronological events. Special emphases are placed on the reign of King Narai and the downfall of Ayutthaya in 1767.
This Prince, too enlightened to give himself up to superstitious idolatry, soared above popular prejudice. The [Buddhist] priests feared that they would fall in public estimation and that the people, following the example of so popular a ruler, would forsake the altars of their gods. They thought that they might prevent their loss of prestige by the murder of the King. The zeal for the interests of heaven urged them to the crime of attempting his life and, misled by sanctimonious piety, they chose for their fell deed a feast day on which the King entered the temple, more as a censor, than a partaker in their vulgar rites. The success of this sacrilegious plot seemed assured, owing to the fact that the royal body-guard was not allowed to enter the temple precincts. A fortunate chance averted the danger. Two officials, sent to examine the preparations for the ceremony, perceived that the temple was filled with a mob of priests, all of whom were armed with swords and daggers concealed under their robes. These warlike preparations were considered suspicious. On hearing the news, the King surrounded the temple with soldiers, who cut down the guilty priests without mercy. This just punishment was regarded as an act of sacrilege by the populace, who are apt to confound the cause of God with the crimes of His ministers. The priests, to whose interest it was to decry him, proclaimed him to be a bloodstained Ruler who cared naught for God and man. Such was the cause of the hatred that this King felt for the priests.
It was under these favourable circumstances that three French bishops came to Siam to plant the standard of their faith. Their enlightened character contrasted strongly with that of the idolatrous priests, sunk in the depths of ignorance and in the mire of debauchery.
In order to slight the priests, the King made as though to favour Christianity. The prelates established a Seminary on a piece of land given to them by the King. The aim of this institution was to educate the young, and to enable them to learn the languages of their neighbours all of whom had establishments in the capital known as 'camps', that of the French being known as the camp of St Joseph. The King built them a church at his own expense. This generosity seemed to indicate his leanings towards Christianity, but in reality he was indifferent to all religions and above all took delight in showing his contempt for the idolatrous priests whom he loved to humiliate. The Mahomedans shared his favours with the Christians and if he had been obliged to make choice of a religion, it is most probably that he would have declared for the Koran. A Prince surrounded by concubines would naturally vote for a religion which authorises his predilections.
My Country Thailand: Its History, Geography and Civilisation good
1942, Phra Sarasas
The author was a member of the People's Party. He was briefly appointed as Minister of Economic Affairs in 1937. This book was originally published in Japan in 1942 where he had stayed for three years.
The author freely criticizes evils of absolute monarchy, reflecting the sentiment of the People's Party in those days. Curiously, he's also critical of the dictatorial Phibun regime and deplores the failed attempt by the People's Party to bring about democracy in its real sense.
This general had been described and characterised by some writers as a Chinese, but this is a grotesque supposition. Tak's father was a Thai, his mother a Thai, which shows clearly, definitely and beyond question that he was a Thai. The only excuse for the extravagant assertion that Tak was a Chinese lies in the fact that when a boy he was living in the midst of the Chinese colony at Rayong where his father carried on trade. Deliberately falsifying the facts, this accusation was used in a political controversy in favour of Rama I (A King after Taksin), maintaining that Tak had to be branded as a foreigner (Chinese) in order to justify Rama's enthronement.
In the Thai annals the King was vehemently accused of insanity. Many proofs were offered to establish this pretended accusation, but it is now agreed by the majority of historians, Europeans and Thai alike, that those alleged proofs were pure fabrication produced to justify Chowphya Chakri who seemed afterwards to have turned against his royal patron. For popular consumption Chakri was passed off as a redeemer and saviour of Thailand, having saved the country from the criminal vagaries of an insane man. But the clear upshot of it all is that King Taksin was no more nor less than the pitiful victim of a diabolical plot. This question had never been carried to any great lengths of investigation until 1932.
Tonburi, the city of riches, founded by King Taksin, kept conjuring up before the memory of the new King the scintillating glory of the deceased Taksin. It was too galling. Unable to endure it, Rama I decided to vacate the house of his predecessor. So Tonburi was given up, and the capital was removed to Bangkok, just on the opposite side of Chowphya river. Sentimentally Bangkok might be a suitable capital, but economically Tonburi was more blessed, being the city of Kuvera (god of wealth), within reach of the kitchen of Thailand, and fed by numerous waterways which provided better facilities for cheap transport.
[King Rama V]
Although well aware that his country was backward and behind the times in various respects, the King was sceptical as to the wisdom of a new order. The lure of absolute rule made him find all sorts of excuses to delay the change, even when that change was beating at the bars of circumstances. All things had their turn, and wholesale renovation had to wait until the throne itself was well propped up. The King was guilty of the assumption that he could hold back the tide of reformers. It was a pity that democracy had no meaning to him at all, although in Europe it had reached its apogee. The King tried to evade it by a benevolent rule.
In order to understand and be able to cope with all these technical works installed by the Western magicians, the King sent all his sons (who were numerous), even at an early age, to different parts of the Western world, England, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands to be educated, expecting that when they came back, they would be able to keep up all those works at full performance. But it was one of the King's erroneous notions to rely too much on these youngsters, hoping that they would bring back the magic he desired. Many of them failed to bring anything at all except European snobbishness. The successful ones, however performed excellent services to the State. They worked hard with arduous efforts and most of them died under the yoke. But the successful ones were few and far between.
Although many sons of the nobility and also of commoners were dispatched to Europe with all charges paid by the government, to acquire knowledge and technic, yet their number (about ten a year all told) was like a drop in the ocean, and it must be acknowledged that there were a large number of failures.
It never occurred to the King to send men of ripe experience to the West as Emperor Meiji did, so Thailand lost much priceless time waiting for these young men to come back with Western knowledge. And when they actually came back, most of them seemed to have left their souls behind. Further, they brought home with them the whole of the country, good, bad and indifferent, to which they had gone to be cultivated. Naturally these men had little ability to do the work for which they had studied, and even less opportunity of doing it. Lack of knowledge of their own country, and ignorance of its conditions, marred their achievements. Having been sent abroad at a very young age they came back quite out of touch with their native life, and strived with fervid ambition to accomplish a great deal according to the recognised formula of the West. But the physical and moral conditions of the country turned their high built hopes to ashes. One by one they sank from the height of their ideals and determination, not all at once, but by slow degrees, with heart still hail and brain simmering, and the realistic Thailand whirling around them, allowing a slow outgrowth of their errors in the form of national deterioration. This slow deterioration brought about far-reaching consequences and made necessary a still longer time for the adjustment of wrongs. The material and spiritual objects with which these men were fortified, and the food on which they thrived, were both of and suited to the country in which they had studied, but not of and suited to Thailand. All in all Thailand did not profit much from such men in spite of the time and money expended on them. On the other hand she could not avoid reaping the results of these errors.
Such successful innovations as were introduced into the country were largely the work of European technicians, followed up and kept on by the Thai who had never been out of the country at all, but had acquired their knowledge and experience at the expense of time and industry.
During this reign the trouble with Burma and Cambodia ended for good, because both these countries had definitely closed their career, being absorbed by the British and the French. Indirectly and in a way Thailand was indebted for this to England and France, because except for them both Cambodia and Burma would have continued to be a thorn in the thigh of Thailand.
The internal trouble with the vassal rulers and other powerful men within the kingdom was also terminated forever by the most ingenious means employed by Rama V. He hit upon the exquisite idea of giving each of the whales a balloon to play with. That is to say, he secured for his life companions the daughters of these men, seemingly indifferent to looks or talents: and made them his willing consorts, while promising their fathers accomplished grand-sons, each with royal, blue blood in his veins -- a sort of eternal triangle. Each maiden served both as hostage and ambassadress of peace. Poor girls, many of them missed the sun and also missed the stars. That was not the King's fault because they would have calmed St. Anthony at the worst moment of temptation. Only those gifted with good looks and flamboyant ways -- some of them might easily have stepped out from Hans Andersen -- were able to fulfil their fathers' aspiration. The King, overflowing with his own youth, tried his best to satisfy as many as possible, acting less from the passion of love than from the feelings of friendship. This prodigious performance accounted for the King's multitudinous offsprings.
Intellectually the Thai can be divided into two distinct classes, the upper class and the masses. The first are cunning without being intelligent, quick of apprehension, keen, acute and bright, sharp witted and shrewd, frivolous, mendacious, inconsistent, wily and indolent. These characteristics are not natural to the Thai, but acquired through generations under despotic rule. As this class was molded by absolute monarchy, it suffered distortion. The masses still retain their original character, being clever, intelligent, industrious and progressive, with a strong sense of gratitude.
Thailand is a polygamous country with an ambition to become monogamous. Marriage has not yet lost its natural aim and purpose. Needless conventions of the West, and Western attempts to turn marriage to the profit of priestcraft find no counterpart in Thailand. The Thai still exercise a fundamental right in their matrimony. The form of marriage is simple and natural. If a couple openly live together as husband and wife, they are considered so in the eye of the law. Although the law provides for marriage registration at the townhall, no civil procedure is compulsory, hence only a religious ceremony to bless the bride and bridegroom is generally resorted to, and that is all. The usual age of marriage is 16 for the girl and 20 for the man.
Since ancient times concubinage has been universal. This custom aims at fulfilling nature's purpose, and avoiding hypocrisy, maladies and social complications. But this custom has been somewhat upset by the West, which appears to prefer the prevailing ills in order to give the wife an illusion of power and monopoly. Thailand may soon go the way of Japan, becoming a victim of the false pretenses of the West. Concubinage is bad enough in the East, but the substitute for it in the West is worse.
Most of the laws of Thailand are arbitrary, punitive and vindictive, especially the Criminal Code. "The proper end of punishment is to end punishing," is an axiom still missing in Thailand; wherefore punishment is cruel and primitive. Although the mode of execution has been changed from swords to guns, yet prisoners are still fettered. Before the new regime (1932) the condemned was conducted to the place of his crime, eyes blind folded, ears plugged with earth, and made to squat on the ground. Three official executioners armed with swords approached the prisoner from behind, right and left. The first one tried to slice off the head of the condemned. The second and third gave him coup de grace. Now the prisoner is dispatched by a firing squad within the precincts of the prison, beyond the prying eyes of outsiders. An improvement, yes.
Modern legislation was actually introduced as far back as the reign of Rama I, and the most noteworthy enactments were those during the reigns of Rama V and Rama VI. The new regime completed the Civil Codes but chose not to touch essential parts of the Criminal Law; which is still a relic of the despotic past. The new press law promulgated by the new government is still more oppressive than the old one during the arrogant absolutism. The liberty of the Thai press is well-nigh snuffed out. Criticism can be indulged in when it induces government's popularity, not otherwise.
The guardians of the law are invested with wide power, quasi independent of the court of justice, consequently the tribunals are forced into the background. Certainly the mere division of powers into executive, legislative and judiciary does not sanctify Thailand. Both legislative and judiciary power accept the blessing of the executive. The judge guarantees the justice, but the government guarantees the living of the judge, hence judge and justice emerge from the head of the government, in the government's image and likeness. The fact that jury trials have not been adopted reveals that justice is in the hands of the strongest.
From the era of Monarchy we have seen dynasty come and dynasty go, but not the people, because the existence of the people has never been recognised. There were in truth many benevolent despots in the times of Ayudhya and Bangkok, who showed genuine enthusiasm for improvement of the kingdom, but not of the people. The people are the brick and mortar which the king architect uses to build up his empire. The corrupted religion and the underfed, misdirected education reflected the mentality of the rulers who cared more for the kingdom than the subjects. False knowledge was inculcated in the minds of the masses from the day of their birth; consequently the bulky catalogue of vice authorised by the ancient rulers was as passively and completely accepted as if it were part of the order of nature. Selfish and sluggish rulers were then calmly accepted as a matter of course, and all atrocities and injustices were patiently borne. Hence the nation went into a decadence which carried the national character towards vice and decay. The people became accustomed to the evils of their condition. The inaction, the negligence and the shortcomings of a great number assumed the nature of a natural law, and the repeated failure to eradicate them was taken as attempts at the impossible.
Before 1932 the country drifted into a state of chaos like that of Prussia in the 18th century, or Japan before the Restoration.
To understand the national decay of Thailand before 1932, which even now is not all removed, one must recall the Codes of Despotism of that date. This significant convention calls for learned scrutiny, to be able to form a correct understanding of the injured characters of the men who succumbed to its dismal performance.
- The ruling class control the power of intellect as well as that of the purse by monopolising advanced education and important governmental posts. By this policy the milk and honey of the masses will submit to being dominated in order to obtain and to hold lucrative jobs. Once the members of the intelligentzia are attracted to the government service, little by little they will lose touch with private enterprise, and not long will clamour for governmental posts, with the result that they will be incapable of doing anything else but playing into the hands of the ruling class.
- Officials shall be disciplined into a trained bureaucracy, submitting themselves blindly to officialdom. These individuals for their own benefit will keep down the masses and will be ready to bear all the blame due legitimately to the monarch. The people will wriggle themselves out of the clutch of these bureaucrats, and thereby will have to seek shelter under the cloak of the king.
- Executive, legislative and judiciary power, as well as the power of the purse, shall be concentrated in the hands of the king.
- The people shall be kept in watertight compartments so as to make it practically impossible for them to unite. The development of roads and other means of communication shall not be undertaken except under the compulsion of absolute necessity and only for strategic purpose.
- An effective hierarchy shall be established to differentiate the classes and the masses. Titles and decorations will serve this purpose and both will sow the seeds of jealousy and hatred.
- Religion shall conform to the will of the king. Religion and States shall be all in one; religion shall be patronised by the monarch, whereas the priests shall be bribed into abandonment of their spiritual freedom.
- Education shall be spoonfed because knowledge is dangerous.
- The country shall always remain sparsely populated. Immigration shall not be encouraged. Sanitation and hygiene shall be kept at a low ebb of development.
- The masses shall be steam-rollered from time to time so as to remind them of their servitude and of the annihilation which awaits them if they should dare to raise themselves.
- Legal slavery shall be abolished because it constitutes a danger, precipitates revolution, and facilitates feudalism. But actually there shall be servility to keep the masses down.
- The titles shall not be hereditary, because they constitute feudalism which might rival the authority of the Crown.
- Industrialism shall not be hurried, because it transfer the power of the purse into the hands of the middle-class, and might give rise to labour unrest.
- The laws of the country shall be such that they shall not prevent the ruling class from crushing the governed, and there shall always be prerogatives for the monarch so that he may exercise a free hand in dominating the political and economic life of the country.
And so on, and so on.
It is not surprising that this policy failed completely even though the rulers exercised their prerogatives with care and moderation. It failed to find social happiness simply because it did not keep in mind the complicated nature of man, the instrument to operate with, and the matter to be operated upon.
The Monarchy was not overthrown in 1932, it crumbled away. And even today a little court in miniature lingers on in a corner of Parliament. None of the Thai can tell for certain whether the present regime has come to stay, or is merely a stop gap, an expedient to tide over difficult times, in view of the fact that freedom and liberty are still a dream.
Buddhism as preached in Thailand does not follow all true tenets of the Lord; it is somewhat distorted to accord sanction to absolutism. The despotic king, being patron of the religion, is also the recipient of the tiara of spiritual power. Therefore, what Buddhism contains which conflicts with the absolute kingship needed to be weeded out. Integrally Buddhism is the very religion of freemen, hence utterly against absolute monarchy, whereas Brahminism lends itself admirably to one man rule. Its teachings have therefore, been tacked on to Buddhism despite their incongruity. The King went so far as to patronize the Brahmin temple, and employed the Brahmin priests to conduct Brahminic rites, side by side with the Buddhist monks. So religious rites in Thailand stand for a combination of Buddhist and Brahminic concepts. Even those ceremonies, called Buddhist, are tarnished with Brahminic ideas, though performed by Buddhist monks.
During the old regime, in order to have the Divine Power on their side, the despot king cunningly made himself patron of the Buddhist faith, by means of which he could command the winds and waves of spiritual power. An ecclesiastic hierarchy was created to correspond to the secular rank and file, and the Buddhist priests were cheated out of their spiritual autonomy by being induced to accept the glory of court titles.
In the light of the fact that Buddhism despises all kinds of servility, being a faith which unfetters men from the banes of Brahminism, it is clear that Buddhism finds no necessity to ask for favour; therefore the royal patronage, so gracious of the king, profanes its purity and freedom. In spite of this, the system is still maintained by the new government.
Money and Power in Provincial Thailand
2000, Ruth McVey, ed.
This is a collection of theses on emerging economic/political influence in provincial Thailand. The massive rural development since the 1960s made possible for provincial Sino-Thai merchants to accumulative considerable wealth, while the stability of parliamentary politics since the 1980s enabled them to directly participate in national politics.
Of Greed and Violence, and Other Signs of Progress
The election of Chatichai Choonhavan as prime minister in 1988 marked the triumph of the tycoon-turned-politician, and needless to say, it was greeted with some hesitation by Bangkok interests. Their unease grew as state resources underwent a massive transfer to politically connected provincial businessmen, and in early 1991 they backed a military coup as the lesser evil. As LoGerfo recounts below, they soon regretted this decision, but the return to democracy a year later saw a revival of provincially based 'money politics' with all its problems.
What the Thai state declares to be illegal is often understood locally as officialdom laying claim to another source of monopoly. The person wishing to exploit such a resource will gain the complicity of the appropriate officials, and the business goes ahead to mutual profit. For those playing the power game, whether bureaucrats or entrepreneurs, the state's rules do not set boundaries as much as they set the price.
The idea of a civically recognized moral boundary between legal and illegal activity is a middle-class urban notion which still has little meaning in provincial Thailand.
One effect of this [money politics] has been virtually to wipe out parliamentary participation by the older sources of provincial leadership and allegiance. The older politicians tended to be ethnic Thai, the newer ones usually Sino-Thai from market backgrounds. The current generation of Sino-Thai provincials is quite assimilated in language and behaviour to the urban Thai model (which, especially in Bangkok, has itself been influenced by overseas Chinese culture), so this has not meant a pronounced cultural shift, but it is a further move away from Thai rurality. Nor has the new power of provincial politicians meant a more equitable distribution of wealth between the capital and the provinces. On the contrary, in the late 1990s the already great disparity was still increasing, and the poorest regions were falling even further behind.
Chao Sua, Chao Pho, Chao Thi: Lords of Thailand's Transition
Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker
Chavalit started his bid for the premiership with the claim he would be an agent of 'harmony' between different classes -- a rehash of an old military ideal. But as he ascended to the premiership with the backing of the chao pho politicians, he repositioned himself as leader of the poor and the peasants. When he came under pressure from urban demonstrations, he trucked in villagers to cheer his speeches claiming leadership of the oppressed. Eventually the gap between theater and reality engulfed him. His pro-poor, anti-urban rhetoric flirted with the ethnic division between rural Thai and urban Chinese: 'Thai people own this country and allow others to share the land. But ... this second group of people ... want to destroy this land. I want to see my people rise up to protect this country.' His chao pho lieutenants were virtually all Thai-Chinese. Chavalit's government crumbled two months later.
Business remained fundamentally ambivalent about rural society, and tended to waver between two attitudes. On the one hand, it accepted the need to make rural society a more prosperous ally, or at least an acquiescent partner in its own project to develop the urban economy. Thus it supported schemes such as the tambon plan, the National Economic and Social Development Board's poverty plan, and attempts to put more funds behind rural infrastructure and development. On the other hand, it felt that the rural sector acted increasingly as a drag on economic growth, and a complication in politics -- the unsophisticated rural electorate provided the vote base for the chao pho politicians, who had a tendency to ally with the military residuum and plunder the state. As a result, Bangkok businessmen occasionally wished that the rural sector would simply disappear. During the aggressively self-confident years of spectacular urban growth from 1986-1990, one businessman argued that 'Bangkok is Thailand and Thailand is Bangkok.' Some urban pundits openly speculated that Thailand could grow even faster if it could lose its rural dead weight, rather as Singapore had flourished by shucking off its connection to Malaysia. Perhaps more realistically, other representatives of capital argued for accelerating the commercialization of agriculture and absorbing it within the overall urban transition -- in short, developing it out of existence.
Local Godfathers in Thai Politics
The Rise of Local Power in Thailand: Provincial Crime, Elections and the Bureaucracy
A villager in Chiang Rai reported that in the 1986 election, candidates worked through hua khanaen and 'gangsters' to distribute money. 'The village chief gave the money to his assistants and the gangsters who subsequently gave us the money and demanded we vote for certain candidates otherwise we would not get any help.' One former candidate from Phitsanulok claims 'Anyone who breaks this rule [voting as local influential persons demand] will soon find that either their buffaloes or farm machines are stolen. Policemen dare not interfere because they themselves also depend a lot on the influential people.'
During the Chatichai administration (1988-1991), a powerful provincial businessman-cum-politician, Banharn Silpa-archa, became minister of the interior. This put him in charge of local government, giving him responsibility for the promotion and transfer of all local officials. Such control of government ministries by politicians has helped to ensure the reversal of the relationship between the bureaucracy and local power. From July 1995 to November 1996 Banharn was himself prime minister, and kept the all-important Ministry of the Interior in his own hands. Three other provincial politicians in Banharn's party coveted the position, and the ensuing conflict over control of the Ministry of the Interior contributed to the break-up of the coalition government.
In a censure debate in parliament, one MP claimed that for a policeman to be appointed inspector, he must pay 3 million baht; for superintendent, 5 million baht; for commander, 7 million baht; and for police director-general, 50 million baht. As a journalist pointed out in an interview, this kind of spending on positions in the police department could only be maintained if criminals were supplying the capital.
This was the era in which recently arrived Teochiu Chinese displaced the Hokkien, Cantonese, and Hakka who had previously occupied this neighbourhood. The majority of these Teochiu were China-born, part of the great wave of immigration to Siam in the decade and a half following the First World War. As they spread out across provincial Siam they decisively altered the character of the talat, or marketplaces, in which they settled. The presence of women among them enabled the establishment of Chinese-speaking households and slowed the pace of assimilation that had characterized earlier waves of immigrants.
No single event marked so starkly the important role officially granted to organized business in the Thai political order as Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's visit to the People's Republic of China in August 1993. Chuan travelled with a delegation of more than 100 Thai businessmen whose inclusion on the trip reflected both official and business interest in the enhancement of commercial links between Thailand and the People's Republic.
Market Society and the Origins of the New Thai Politics
Michael J. Montesano
The Local Dynamics of the 'New Political Economy': A District Business Association and Its Role in Electoral Politics
In the first half of the 1990s, demand for bricks from the construction industry continued to increase and was met by an ever-increasing number of new brickyards. However, buoyant demand did not automatically translate into greater profits, because sustained national economic growth made labour shortages even more severe than they were at the beginning of the decade. Most brick producers experienced persistent worker shortfalls and consequent rising wages reduced their profit margins. In 1995 more than three-quarters of the operational enterprises where I had first conducted interviews in 1990 were producing at half of their capacity solely as a result of their inability to find workers. In this same period, wages had almost doubled while brick prices had risen by no more than 25-30 per cent... In an attempt to solve members' labour shortages, it petitioned the provincial government in early 1996 to permit the district's mechanized brickmaking industry to employ about 500 illegal Burmese immigrants. Many other business groups throughout the country had also lobbied provincial and national administrations to secure the employment of such immigrants, and shortly afterwards it was legalized.
The Entrepreneurs of Khorat
Khorat -- and the Northeast generally -- has not shared in the manufacturing growth which has accounted for much of the country's increased wealth and, in spite of strong agricultural performance, its already modest share in that wealth is slipping.
In Khorat's case, Chinese migrants from the capital in the 1930s engaged in commerce and not in manufacturing. Moreover, they were soon forced to leave. In September 1941, a royal decree named the Amphoe Muang Nakhon Ratchasima, together with two other amphoe, as a prohibited area. The ban, which lasted until 1945, meant that people who did not possess Thai nationality could not live there. As a result, the non-naturalized Chinese population departed for Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and other parts of the country. They had to sell or lost nearly all they had, and the disruption to economic activity was such that the Khorat area suffered 'economic paralysis and acute food shortages.' Very few of those who were forced to flee returned after the war, and the result is that only a small number of ethnic Chinese families have been in Khorat for more than one generation.
Thai electoral law stipulates that if a candidate is of Thai nationality but his father was an alien, he/she must have completed higher secondary education or its equivalent, or must have studied at a tertiary educational institution in Thailand and obtained the equivalent of a bachelor's degree... Thus second-generation Chinese businessmen of humble origins may be prevented from playing a direct role in electoral politics.
Developing Provincial Capitalism: A Profile of the Economic and Political Roles of a New Generation in Khon Kaen, Thailand
Kevin Hewison and Maniemai Thongyou
Beyong Bangkok: The Provincial Middle Class in the 1992 Protests
James P. Logerfo
The urban middle class whose participation was crucial to the success of October 1973 would three years later welcome the return of dictatorship under Prime Minister Thanin Kraiwichian. Workers and small farmers, supported by increasingly radicalized student activists, took advantage of the more open political environment that prevailed after the fall of Thanom and Praphat to agitate for higher wages and commodity prices, protective legislation, and land reform. The right responded with a campaign of intimidation, violence, and assassination. Even as the middle class was more and more disturbed by growing domestic instability, revolutionary victories in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in 1975, together with the US withdrawal from the region, intensified Thai fears of invasion from abroad and communist insurgency from within. Meanwhile, the democratic regime produced a raid succession of weak coalition governments unable to mollify the lower classes or rein in the reactionary right. In October 1976 the middle class embraced the restoration of authoritarian rule as an answer to the looming threats from the lower classes and the Indochinese communist armies.
Chiang Mai University administrators were in contact with the lieutenant-general commanding the Third Army Region, headquartered in Chiang Mai; he was not a member of the NPC faction and told them that the protest campaign [in 1992] could continue without fear of army repression. Chiang Mai movement leaders also had a good relationship with the local police, who promised to inform them in advance if an order to suppress the demonstrations came in.
The Communist Party of Thailand had been active in Patthalung as far back as 1959, and by the 1970s it had a strong presence there. In 1972, government forces developed a notorious method of eliminating suspected 'communists'. Soldiers would beat detainees, usually to unconsciousness, then put them in an oil drum, pour in gasoline, and set them alight. The 'Red Barrel' killings, as they were called, left tremendous bitterness among Patthalung residents towards the military.
One measure of Banharn's ability to bring home the bacon is the six schools, the clock tower, the park, the temple, and the numerous other sites in the province named after him and his wife. He was also responsible for the construction of the many paved roads that criss-cross Suphanburi, which are among the best in the country.
Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja: Thailand's Illegal Economy and Public Policy excellent
1998, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, Nualnoi Treerat
This is a sequel to Corruption and Democracy in Thailand published in 1994. The authors examine illegal economic activities and try to estimate the overall size of underground economy as well as its political and social effects.
The Estimated Size of the Illegal Economy in Thailand, 1993 - 5 (billion baht/year)
|Prostitution in Thailand||100
|Drug trafficking|| 28-33
|Trading in contraband arms||6-31
|Diesel oil smuggling||9
|Trafficking in people ||5-7
The authors propose decriminalization of gambling and adult prostitution to reduce economic distortion and political corruption, but foresee strong resistance from the police who cultivate profits by unofficially licensing illegal activities.
By studying six major illegal economic activities we found that each does not exist independently. All are linked in a complex network of relationships. Some of the drug traders are linked to dealers in contraband arms. Some of the traffickers in women to Japan are connected to high military officers who provide protection to organized crime syndicates involved in gambling and other activities. Some of the smugglers in diesel oil are linked to traffickers of labour to foreign countries. And so on.
By studying six major illegal economic activities we also uncovered a regular pattern of linkages to powerful figures in the bureaucracy, military, police, and politics who provide protection to businessmen engaged across the whole range of the illegal economy. These linkages throw light on the dark side of the present Thai political system. They help to explain how local influential people have been able to rise to the heights of Thai politics over the past two decades. The results of the study help answer many perplexing questions. Why has vote-buying become more intense in recent years? Why is Thai politics riddled with corruption? Why does the policy-making process lack transparency? Why does the present political system threaten the stability of the economy? Why have economic policy-making institutions (Bank of Thailand, Ministry of Finance) become so politicized in recent years that management of the economy has become less efficient?
Thailand has often supported the minority resistance in order to weaken the Burmese central government and to create a buffer between the two power centres. A police general described Thailand's strategy for its western border as follows:
The Thai government recognized the dictatorial regime in Burma but did not want it to have unity and peace. Thus the Thai government supported minority groups and provided them with arms. However the Thai government did not trust the minorities either. Thailand did not want the minorities to win for fear that the conflicts among themselves would have a negative impact on Thailand. In other words, the Thai government did not want any party to win the war. SLORC could be the government but there should not be complete peace in Burma. In this way Thailand would achieve security and freedom from the Burmese threat.
Reform of the police is difficult. Politicians are reluctant to challenge the power of the police. Often they are themselves involved in the same networks, or at least in the same culture of influence. Reform of the police will also be expensive as the illegal economy currently acts as a subsidy for state support of the police. Several attempts to reform the police have failed.
Yet this is a critical issue and one that must be addressed if Thai society and politics are to progress beyond their current state. "The Interior Ministry", noted a prominent legal academic, "should have the courage to reform the Police Department to create a new police force which truly belongs to the people... Its performance must be monitored by the public."
Wishes and Lies
1996, Pravit Rojanaphruk
This is a collection of twenty-five feature stories by the author, which appeared in the Nation between 1992 and 1995. The author boldly takes up social issues.
|A Bridge Too Far ||Eviction of farmers under Phra Pinklao Bridge.
|In the Cold of the Night||Eviction of shanty community near Daokanong Bridge.
|Falling Prices, Failing Farms||Fate of Bangkok farmers.
|All Roads Lead to Bangkok||Farmers' protest.
|Old and Unwanted||Struggle of a labor union leader at the Thai Durable Textile Company.
|"Mad" Doctor||Occupational health doctor at the Ministry of Public Health faces threats from her boss.
|Down and Out in Samut Prakarn||Inferior working conditions of janitors at the NAP Service and Training.
|Slum Angel Fuming after Blast||Chemical explosion at the Klong Toey Port.
|Where's My Dad?||Collapse of the illegally constructed Royal Plaza Hotel in Nakorn Ratchasima.
|When School's Over||Elementary school principal tries to assist poor pupils pursue their education in Si Sa Ket.
|To Live and Die for School||Violent fight between students of Bangkok Technical College and Kanok Institute of Technology.
|Life and Death Choices||Student activist feels isolated in Chulalongkorn University.
|The Trappings of Success||A marketing officer at Thanapol Finance and Securities looks back her life when she was working for an NGO.
|Touching Lives, Changing Minds||A Bangkok-born activist helping Pak Mool Dam villagers.
|Silent Suffering||Chinese girls being smuggled and enslaved as prostitutes in Thailand.
|A Walk on the Wild Side||Japanese women visiting Thailand to buy male prostitutes.
|Sex, Lies and Denial in Pattaya||Prostitution and police in Pattaya.
|The Last of the Mokens||The sea gypsies on Koh Surin Nua becoming increasingly dependent on tourism.
|Moving Mountains||Disintegrating society of the Akha in north Thailand.
|A Looming Despotism||Former M.P. Chalad Vorachat recalls his hunger strike during the 1992 uprising.
|A Record of Reactions||Various comments left on the log book of Chalad during his hunger strike.
|The Making of a Revolutionary||Klaew Poomnual recalls how he joined the Communist Party of Thailand after his father was killed by the Thai police.
|Symbol of Undying Reverence||Case of a poor merchant who managed to make a direct appeal to King Bhumibol and won his words to do justice. He was later arrested and his shop was dismantled by the police.
|From Exile to Expulsion||East Timor activist Ramos-Horta enters Thailand to speak in a conference, only to find out that the Thai government is trying to track him down and expel him.
|Waiting for the Real Bloom||Former rector of Kasetsart University Rapee Sagarik spent his life promoting Thai orchid for spiritual uplift, but he's disappointed to see that people produce orchid just to make money.
Seeking Shelter: Cambodians in Thailand
1987, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
This is a human rights report on Cambodian refugees in Thailand in the late 1980s conducted by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in the U.S.
In December 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, expelled Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh and installed a puppet government. The fall of the Khmer Rouge created the first opportunity for Cambodians to escape their perilous country. Massive flow to the Thai border followed. Each sub-group of refugees had its own reason to flee the country:
1. Farmers perceived likelihood of famine after devastating fights between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese troops.
2. Merchants worried about controls on trade by the Vietnamese occupation.
3. Urban inhabitants feared the prospect of another forced relocation to the countryside.
4. Ethnic Chinese suffered discrimination at the hands of the Vietnamese.
The Thai government didn't recognize these Cambodians as refugees as prescribed in the UN convention, but treated them as "displaced persons" with substandard shelters.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees directly supervised the Khao I Dang Camp, which accounted for 10% of all Cambodian refugees sheltered in several camps along the Thai-Cambodian border, but the remaining 90% stayed in camps controlled by three anti-Vietnamese rebel forces, namely;
1. DK, led by the Khmer Rouge
2. KPNLF, led by Son Sann
3. FUNCINPEC, titularly led by Sihanouk
The Thai government supported these three factions to fight against the Vietnamese occupation in hope of re-establishing Cambodia as a buffer state. Among these factions, the DK and KPNLF were known to treat refugees brutally, but the Thai government only started to take matters seriously after international humanitarian organizations publicly demanded the intervention by the Thai government.
The Task Force 80 was created in 1980 as a Thai military unit to supervise and provide security for Cambodian refugees. The actual supervision was entrusted in the hands of rangers--paramilitary troops largely made up of Thai villagers. The rangers turned out to be another threat for the security of Cambodian refugees.
The abuses we describe seemed a virtually forbidden topic in Thailand. Even personnel with humanitarian organizations discussed the abuses in hushed tones, fearing their possible expulsion from Thailand if they raised the issues before appropriate authorities. The local press was all but silent on the subject. And the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok did little to break the silence, appearing all but indifferent to the abuses.
Displaced Cambodians have been especially vulnerable to attack by other Cambodians before they reach Thailand, as they make their way to the border. Cambodians--as well as Vietnamese--fleeing their homelands have often been raped and robbed by guerrilla troops shortly before they reach the Thai border. Many of those who have been intercepted by these troops have been taken to sites on the border that are largely beyond the reach of international relief organizations. They have been detained there until relatives abroad send ransoms for their release.
Despite their strong animosities toward the Khmer Rouge, the two non-communist groupings, responding to foreign pressure, joined their former enemy in the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in 1982. While the coalition parties jointly oppose the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, each maintains control over distinct civilian populations. Today, virtually every Cambodian living along the Thai border is in a settlement administered by one of the three guerrilla forces.
The Thai government had a special interest in supporting the Cambodians streaming to the border in the wake of Vietnam's invasion. With the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, Thailand had lost the buffer that had previously stood between it and Vietnam. Encouraged by China and with U.S. acquiescence, Thailand adopted the policy of encouraging the growth of guerrilla groups opposed to the Vietnamese-backed government in Phnom Penh along the border it shares with Cambodia.
Alarmed by the overwhelming scale of new refugees from Indochina, Thai officials resorted to severe measures to stem the flood of aliens. A series of forced and violent repatriations of Cambodians culminated on June 8, 1979, when some 43,000 were bussed from camps in eastern Thailand to Preah Vihear on the northern border with Cambodia, and were forced at gunpoint to stumble down a mine-strewn mountainside. Thousands were maimed or killed.
Ranger units perform a variety of functions in Thailand, many wholly unrelated to the camps. They originally were formed as village-based defense forces to suppress the communist insurgency that was most active in the country's border areas in the 1970's. Despite the possible connotations of their name, the rangers are by no means an elite force. They are not even regular soldiers of the Royal Thai Army. Their pay, training and discipline are, in fact, inferior to that of regular RTA troops... Some relief workers suspect that many ranger units include juvenile delinquents and paroled convicts.
Violent actions by rangers against Cambodian camp dwellers typically occur when the latter violate rules established by Task Force 80... A 15-year-old girl named Hem Saroun committed such a violation in late September 1985. Her "punishment" was rape. She had gone outside the perimeter of Site Two to get water, apparently because the water tanks in her residential area were temporarily empty. A Thai ranger brandishing an M-16 rifle forced her, another girl, a boy in his mid-teens and a man in his 20's to move farther away from the fence. When the four did not comply with the ranger's demand that they perform sexual acts, he raped Hem after forcing the other three to lie in a shallow, muddy pond. Before allowing the four to leave, the rangers struck the boy and the man a few times each with a long stick.
In essence, the Thai government takes the position that the KPNLF's status at Site Two is that of a "government in exile," and that the Front therefore should assume primary responsibility for maintaining law and order there.
The King of Thailand in World Focus good
1988, The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
This is a collection of selected articles that appeared in various newspapers and magazines.
Gun Kills Siam's Young King
1946, Associated Press
In Berne, Switzerland, Paul Rey, director of the school where the king studied, said the monarch's retinue had been worried before Ananda's departure from Switzerland over the possibility of assassination.
Ananda's recently expressed desire to return to Switzerland was opposed by the elder members of the royal family and powerful politicians. They wished to bring in tutors for him, arguing that his presence in the country heightened morale.
Ananda's personal life in Siam was passed largely within the palace walls. None of the informal social expeditions that popularized monarchs in the Western world were permitted to him. His mother was said to have exerted a strong influence on the young ruler of 18,000,000 subjects.
The king died at a time that may be critical in his country's history. The country has applied for membership in the United Nations, and recently charged the French had invaded Siam from Indochina in areas ceded by the Vichy Government to Siam during the war. The Siamese hoped to present this case to the United Nations Security Council.
Was Siam's Boy Slain Lest He Upset the Apple Cart?
1950, Associated Press
Prince Sumonchart Sawattikul, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, testified Ananda told him of a desire to become premier after reading plays by George Bernard Shaw. Among these, he said, was Apple Cart.
Prince Kukrit Pramoj, now a priest, testified Ananda asked him how to conduct a political campaign.
Siam's King Phumiphon
Phumiphon himself prefers the Sanskrit transliteration, and recently gave orders that his own name be spelled Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Ananda, Siamese remember, was a strange young king. Full of Western ideas, he refused to talk to visitors who sat on the floor below him Siamese-fashion, insisting that they sit on chairs level with himself.
Now that Phibun has recognized Indochina's Bao Dai, some say Pridhi will make a deal with Indochina's communist Ho Chi Minh. Others say Pridhi will come back as Phibun's foreign minister. But all these matters are in the laps of the astrologers.
Siam Bids Farewell to Its King
1950, Neue Zuricher Zeitung
On the morning of June 9, 1946, news spread through the city that the king had been found in his bedroom with a bullet wound in his head. Was it an accident, was it suicide or an assassination? There were arguments for the three possibilities. There were people who maintained Ananda Mahidol had been apprehensive about the great responsibilities and colossal tasks awaiting him. Others saw an act of revenge by a pretender to the throne. Finally, the suspicion was directed against a group of ambitious politicians whose supposed aim was the abolition of the monarchy. Over the past four years, nobody has been able to provide a satisfactory explanation of the crime. Although the investigation continues, there is little hope in solving the mystery. The secret of this tragic death will most probably never be revealed, unless those circles within the court which undoubtedly know the facts break the silence that has been kept to this day.
Occupation - "Ruler of the Country"
1950, Associated Press
The king is marrying Princess Sirikit next month, and like other Siamese he must sign the register. Some government officials wanted his occupation listed as "King"; others objected. They wanted him listed simply as "Government Official." After long debate, it was decided to describe the monarch as "Ruler of the Country."
The King Signs Another Constitution
1952, Associated Press
King Phumiphon Aduldet today signed a new Thai Constitution backed by members of the military junta which overthrew the government in a bloodless coup d'etat nearly four months ago.
The king was on hand for elaborate presentation ceremonies promptly at 11 a.m.--the time deemed most auspicious by astrologers. Only yesterday Radio Bangkok announced officially that the ceremony had been postponed, but leaders of the military junta reportedly persuaded the king to change his mind.
The King and Marshal Sarit
1957, Associated Press
Shortly after the coup, Sarit proclaimed himself governor of Bangkok, rather than of Thailand. He met with his lawyers to decide whether to dissolve Thailand's National Assembly, where Pibulsonggram was considered to have strong support.
Sarit and 58 followers went to Pubulsonggram Monday to demand his resignation. The premier rejected the demand and went immediately to the king.
Sarit disclosed that at 11 p.m. Monday, Gen. Thanom Kittikachorn, deputy army commander, met with the king. Asked what the king said about the army's seizure of power, Sarit replied:
"What should the king say--everything was already finished."
The king issued a formal statement this morning calling on government officials to obey Sarit's orders.
When Phao boarded the plane for Switzerland, he told a newsman:
"Everything is fine. There will be no trouble because Marshal Sarit is my friend."
But Sarit said he had asked Phao to leave the country or enter the Buddhist priesthood.
Phao said the sweep of power by the army was no surprise to him. "I had smelled it before," he said, "but nobody can fight the military and the king."
The Observer Profile: The King of Siam
1960, The Observer
Phumiphon and the princess mother were in the palace when Ananda died, and the wildest rumours circulated.
Pridi fled eventually to China; his family believes that the palace is hiding a secret about the death of King Ananda, which is still the most extraordinary unsolved crime story in the Far East.
During the maladministration of Pibulsonggram, the king was largely ignored by government leaders.
After the war, when Thailand received American aid, committed herself to the Western bloc, and finally became the headquarters of SEATO, the leaders, whose anti-communism was merely opportunistic, earned for it a cachet of respectability by proclaiming a spurious devotion to the throne, and so menaced it in another way.
Military leaders like weak monarchs, and the more King Phumiphon emerges as a personality with whom, even within constitutional limits, one must reckon, the better guarantee there will be that Thailand's internal equilibrium will be maintained.
The King Who Was Born in America
1960, Reader's Digest
Shortly after his brother's death, the new king returned to Switzerland to complete his studies. Up to that time, science had been his major interest as, next to music, it still is. But Thailand's new prime minister, Pibulsonggram, sensibly suggested that he prepare himself for his responsibilities by studying law, and the king followed his advice.
Having returned from Switzerland armed with a thorough juridical grasp of his obligations and prerogatives, the king quite often found serious flaws in legislation sent up by his prime minister for signing. Pibul was naturally miffed to get it back for redrafting.
To outsiders, such pomp and ceremony may well seem obsolete. But it is precisely the king's superiority to the rough-and-tumble of politics, symbolized by such ritual, that gives the monarchy its unique prestige and makes it the ultimate asset without which no Thai politician can hope to attain acceptance. What it boils down to is that the king gets credit for everything good that happens, while blame for everything bad attaches to the politicians.
A Monarchy Fights for Freedom
When the World Court awarded a frontier temple to Thailand's traditional enemy, Cambodia, Sarit was ready to refuse to hand it over. Bhumibol said the court's order would be obeyed, and it was.
Whether it be the dedication of a new dam or highway, the ancient ceremony of the first spring plowing, or the certification of a newly-found royal white elephant (an auspicious omen in Thai mythology), Bhumibol uses each event to emphasize the rich heritage and unity of his nation. (One discontinued tradition: feeding white elephants from the bare breasts of young women.) Nearly every Thai household boasts a picture of the king. American information officials in Bangkok long ago concluded that USIS funds could not be better employed than in spreading the likeness of His Majesty.
A Visit with the King and Queen of Thailand
When I asked the king about Chinese communism, he was painfully specific: "It means three things, really. There are the Chinese, there are Chinese communists, and there are communists. The Chinese have always been a threat to Southeast Asia, because they are an expansive people. It depends on the time and the place for them. In Thailand, there are many of them, and it is hard to absorb them."
The Students' Revolt
1973, Associated Press
At first glance, the violent weekend confrontation between students and troops was the climax of months of student demonstrations for a new constitution after two years of absolute military rule. Viewed closely, however, the drama appeared to be the final move in an elaborate, and ultimately bloody, game of political chess between the king of Thailand and the ruling military junta.
Field Marshal Thanom Kikittikachorn, prime minister for 10 years, has sought refuge with his family in the United States.
His deputy, the portly Field Marshal Prapas Charusathien, is in Taipei with 24 members of his family and staff including his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Narong Kittikachorn.
Praphas, Narong, their families and aides boarded a China Airlines jet for Taipei. The next day, Thanom, with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy, made arrangements to fly to the U.S.A.
Thailand's Savage Coup
Thailand's "Monument to Democracy" stands a half mile from the gates of Thammasat University in Bangkok. During the Vietnam war, when the country had already endured more than twenty years of military dictatorship, Thais used to joke that the mausoleum had been given its name "because that's where they've got democracy locked up."
Boys and girls alike were striped to the waist and forced to crawl between rows of policemen who kicked and clubbed them and tore small Buddha images from around their necks "because communists are not Buddhists."
As the police marched away, thousands of spectators cheered. "I don't care how many were killed," said a taxi driver. "They deserved it for insulting the monarchy."
Thailand Celebrates King's Birthday
1977, Los Angeles Times
The king's birthday amnesty will benefit 43,948 prisoners, about two-thirds of the current prison population. Ninety men on death row had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Among those freed were 22 well-known military officers and civil servants jailed after a coup attempt last March 26.
The amnesty order excluded all prisoners held for offenses against the monarchy, known as lese majeste. This includes 18 students held on charges of conspiracy against the government related to the disorders at Thammasat University a year ago when the military returned to power after three years of democratic rule.
Thailand never reveals the total number of prisoners held on charges of lese majeste, but there have been at least a dozen convictions in the last year, including a newspaper editor and a columnist. The maximum penalty is seven years.
The sudden immersion into democracy produced three years of bickering and dissatisfaction, however, and the king almost openly supported the generals when they came back to power a year ago. His known sentiments before and after the return of the military have led to a small but significant erosion in support for the once sacrosanct monarchy.
At the same time, many intellectuals in Bangkok criticize the monarchy in private conversations. They find the unbending court protocol, which makes ordinary citizens prostrate themselves during royal audiences, anachronistic, and they deplore the king's present identification with the far right.
Pomp and Majesty: A Dynasty Celebrates 200 Years of Rule
The Thais abide by the principle that if you can't say anything good about someone, say nothing at all. Thus all biographies of Rama VI concentrate on his undeniable literary genius. But even in his own time, says Chula Chakrabongse, "popularity escaped him." A member of the Chakri family, who asked not to be identified, told Asiaweek that Rama VI's reign was "the worst disaster of the dynasty."
Besides, continues the former prime minister, "the heir is rather productive, so why worry? I hate all these half-way conversations about the crown prince. All these effete people who have Victorian ideas of morality might feel worried, but I have Thai morals, Thai ideals."
The queen, speaking last year in the U.S. (in Dallas) to newsmen, an interview reprinted in the Bangkok Post, was remarkably candid: "My son the crown prince is a little bit of a Don Juan. He is a good student, a good boy, but women find him interesting, and he finds women even more interesting. So his family life is not so smooth."
Their Majesties have three daughters. Their firstborn, Ubol Ratana, was a brilliant student of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston in 1972 when she shocked the kingdom by renouncing all royal titles and privileges to marry fellow student, American Peter Jensen. The marriage greatly upset her parents at the time, and there was a long estrangement, during which she was never mentioned in the Thai press. Following the birth of a daughter early in 1981, there was a reconciliation, and the couple and their child, one of a large number of part-farang descendants of Rama V, has since visited Bangkok.
The third daughter, Princess Chulabhorn, 24, earlier this year married a commoner, Virayuth Disyasarin, son of an Air Force general. This was unprecedented. All 35 of Rama II's daughters, for example, remained unmarried because in a new dynasty there were no royal husbands for them. Princess Chulabhorn, in a break with tradition, was allowed to retain her royal rank, though her husband has no title. As the couple are expecting a child, a new position will have to be created for it.
Thailand's Working Royals
1987, Sawasdee Magazine
The contents of the royal coffers have never been made public but it is generally acknowledged that the vast land holdings alone--most of them acquired by King Bhumibol's predecessors--make the monarch one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom. The government also contributes to the working of the monarchy, providing funds to the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary and the Bureau of the Royal Household. These two agencies, employing about 2,700 people, include lawyers and doctors, pages and cooks. An elite army battalion forms the King's Own Bodyguards.
"When I was young, we had nothing," the king recalled. "The carpets and upholstery in the palace were full of holes. The floor creaked. Everything was so old. Yes, we had a piano, an upright given to us by the Fine Arts Department. But it was out of tune."
A Right Royal Example: King Bhumibol Acts as a Catalyst
1986, Far Eastern Economic Review
In an average year, he spends only five months in the splendour of his Chitralada Palace in Bangkok. The remaining seven months are largely spent, with the queen and other members of his family, in his country residences.
A simple comment to the king that the local officials appeared to a foreign visitor to be able, hardworking and dedicated, elicited no royal response--or a hesitation so long as to invite a change of subject. However, certain senior officials, such as the governor of Sakhon Nakhon province, Bira Boonjing, accept that one of the king's motives in making such trips is to "shame" certain bureaucrats, particularly the unscrupulous bribe-takers.
Since the fall of the monarchy in Laos and the communist takeover of all Indochina in 1975, both the king and the queen appear to have become once again more closely identified with conservative forces within the kingdom and particularly within the armed forces.
King Bhumibol's Day: Jungle Boots, Leeches and Pouring Rain
1980, United Press International
The village is in the center of a 200,000 acre tract along the Malaysian border that was set aside three years ago for the resettlement of 5,000 landless families from the impoverished northeastern provinces.
Bhumibol's stops produce a great number of petitions--one lady asks for a pair of eyeglasses, another for funds to send her son to school in town, a peasant wants fry to start a fish pond and another needs two water buffalo. In all cases, Bhumibol responds with a promise to "take care of the matter."
A team of volunteer doctors--bone specialists, eye doctors, pediatricians and even a neurosurgeon--accompanies the royal party wherever they go. At every stop the doctors pile out of their jeeps to see to the sick. Any who cannot be treated on the spot are sent to hospitals at the king's expense.
Queen Sirikit: An Interview
1979, Associated Press
"Sometimes when I get tired, I think I'd like to go some place like Hawaii for a while. But then my husband tells me: 'Can you really go and leave the people now when there is trouble?' My husband is more dedicated than I am. I wouldn't trust myself if I were alone."
"We have been lucky. Every government has co-operated with the monarchy and they've used us in the right way: to unite the people. They never try to limit our activities."
Thai King Nominated "The Great" by 34 Million Thais
1987, Agence France Presse
King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was declared "The Great" at a ceremony here led by Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.
The Interior Ministry had collected more than 40 million replies from a nationwide poll conducted between 1985-86. A total of 34,594,842 people favoured the title Maharaj, meaning "The Great," while 6,083,013 wanted to refer to the king as Somdej Phra Pattara Maharaj, meaning "The Great Beloved King."
Power and Awe Surround Royal Family
1987, Toledo Blade
Amid a flurry of celebrations this year in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 60th birthday on December 5, charges have been laid against a former cabinet minister for lese majeste--insulting the royal family.
Former Interior Minister Veera Musikapong is one of a handful of people each year to be charged under section 112 of the Thai criminal code which states: "Whoever defames, insults, or threatens the king, heir apparent, or regent shall be punished by imprisonment for from 3 to 15 years."
The former minister faces jail for saying that if he could choose where he would be born, he would choose to be born in the heart of the Grand Palace.
Thongbai Thongpao, a leading human rights attorney who has defended many lese majeste victims, says: "The king is above any criticism--the king is above everything," and to even ask in a survey or a newspaper article if people still want the king is "dangerous."
Revered former Prime Minister M.R. Kukrit Pramoj worried that the lese majeste charges are misused, "It's a good thing to show one's loyalty but we are beginning to make too much use of it," he said. "We cannot say that we are more loyal than someone else. Everyone has benefited from the king and feels loyal to him. Those who were accused (of lese majeste) were not little people, drunkards.... They were people whose behaviour has never been tarnished and who are often in high places in government" Kukrit warned that some use the disloyalty charge to destroy those they oppose.
Thailand's Crisis good
2000, Pasuk Phongpaichit & Chris Baker
This is a well-written analysis of the aftermath of the 1997 economic crisis.
First totally aligned with neoliberal economic policies of the IMF, the Chuan government gradually saw the devastating social effects. The economic crisis, coupled with much devalued baht, encouraged foreign capitalists to buy up Thai assets. Thailand is coming out of the crisis with more control by multinational corporations.
The Democrat Party restructured itself to serve the interest of Bangkok rather than that of the province. Chuan repealed Chavalit's promises to ease rural distress. The New Aspiration Party, in turn, emphasized its rural bias. Chavalit pictured himself as the leader of rural Thais fighting against Bangkok. Taksin's Thai Rak Thai Party sought support from small businessmen and farmers who felt neglected by Chuan's pro-American policies.
While the IMF assumed its presence in Thailand would contribute to stability, the sequence of implementing the package seemed designed to destabilize. The Thai side wanted the IMF to announce the package before it was revealed that the Thai government had committed almost all the foreign reserves in swap contracts, and had lent US$16 billion to collapsed financial institutions through the Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF). However, US treasury secretary Robert Rubin and the IMF insisted these revelations be made prior to the package. The FIDF debt was disclosed on 6 August, the reserve swap on the 14th, and the IMF package on the 24th. The swap revelation induced the hedge funds to call off direct negotiation with the Bank of Thailand about unwinding their confrontation, and instead launch an all-out attack on the currency. The FIDF disclosure ensured that capital flight accelerated immediately.
In protest at the high interest rates imposed under the initial IMF policy, the steel magnate Sawat Horrungruang advised his fellow debtors to adopt the "Three Don'ts": don't pay interest, don't negotiate, don't run away. Even after interest rates fell, this slogan was adopted by debtors as a strategy to minimize their loss. Non-repayment became "a scheme to counter the threat of extinction."
Non-payment snow-balled. Over late 1998, the proportion of NPLs rose from 36 to 47 percent of all loans, with increasing amounts coming through deliberate non-payment, quickly termed "strategic NPLs." In early 1999, a banker fumed "Over the past three months, Thai businessmen suddenly and joyfully have discovered that there are no legal sanctions and they can get away with it". In the old personal system of credit, default was impossible because it prejudiced any chance of future credit. But default now became widespread and socially acceptable. Defaulters "found themselves in the very good company of the ex-high and the ex-mighty." Bankers began to talk in horrified terms of a "non-payment culture."
Business antagonism intensified and became more entwined with formal parliamentary politics. A new party was formed (Thai Rak Thai) with a programme designed to appeal to local businessmen's resentment that their interests were being sacrificed. Outside parliament, this phase of protest saw a renewed series of demonstrations against privatization, and a nationalist campaign against "selling the country." The US campaign to block Supachai Panitchapakdi's bid for the headship of the WTO occasioned an unusually open display of anti-Americanism.
In late 1998, it became clear that the developed countries were unlikely to reach agreement on any restructuring of the international financial system which would reduce the dangers and difficulties for smaller and weaker economies. On the eve of the G7 meeting expected to confirm this failure, Japan announced the US$30 billion Miyazawa Scheme for promoting recovery in crisis-hit Asia. The announcement effectively took the initiative in crisis policy away from the US and the IMF. Apparently surprised by the Japanese announcement, the US gave the scheme an initial grudging acceptance. Then in November, the US revealed its own plan to pump money into the Asian economies by backing Asian governments to issue bonds for funding a stronger stimulus. This plan was interpreted as a US attempt to "hijack" the Miyazawa Scheme and retain US control.
Through the 1980s, the World Bank and IMF were criticized for supporting macroeconomic policies which increased poverty. In particular, the conditions attached to the World Bank's structural adjustment loans in the wake of the oil crises, and to IMF programmes for relieving debt crisis, were criticized for creating economic shocks which were felt most heavily by the poor. These criticisms were voiced first by radical academics, but later also by mainstream thinkers, and by influential lobbies within international organizations.
The largest of these government efforts was the plan to combat the expected wave of unemployment. The plan, adopted in January 1998, included repatriating 300,000 foreign workers (mainly Burmese)... The repatriation of Burmese workers was opposed by both local employers and human rights activists. Many of those who were pushed back over the Burma border quickly returned. The government announced a second wave of repatriations in 1999, but then delayed action several times in the face of employers' resistance. Eventually the attempted repatriation began in the third quarter amidst deteriorating Thai-Burmese diplomatic relations following the Burmese embassy siege in Bangkok. Some 50,000 Burmese workers were pushed across the border, but many quickly returned, and the project was quietly abandoned... Television news showed boatmen assigned to ferry Burmese workers across the Moei river. They drove round the first bend then killed the engine and offered their passengers a free disembarkation on the Burmese bank, or a small fee for the Thai bank.
The 1997 constitution is important not only because of its content, but also because of the groupings which came together to press for constitutional reform, because of the nature of their campaign, and because of their subsequent ambitions.
The demand to release the electronic media from virtual monopoly control by government and military ran into fierce resistance. The promise to license several new TV channels was delayed and whittled back to a single new license.
Political scientists and commentators began to argue that the problem lay in the political system which cultivated politicians who had little interest in legislation and a large interest in making money. "Semi-democracy" had been supplanted by "money politics." They raised the issue whether democracy and capitalism were compatible or, more exactly, whether early democracy and early capitalism were compatible. As long as the capitalist spirit of acquisition was not restrained by a strong civil society, would the freedoms allowed by democracy always be exploited to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few?
Thai cabinets were set up by the rural population which dominated the electoral vote. They were then felled by urban public opinion exercised through the media and personal networks. The result was growing frustration on both sides. The problem arose because democracy was founded on a peasant electorate. The rural voter was a captive of the local patronage system and inevitably gave his vote to a local boss. Hence the rural majority was not directly represented in parliament and its interests were never reflected in the policy agenda. This exclusion fed rural disinterest in politics which in turn confirmed rural exclusion. Provincial politicians were relatively free of any sanctions imposed by the electorate. As long as they funnelled some budget patronage back to their constituency, they could exploit their political status as a commercial asset.
The number of MPs elected by local territorial constituencies was maintained at 400, while another 100 MPs would be elected by the "party list" system--a national vote on parties, with seats divided proportionate to votes among all parties which secured at least 5 percent of the turnout. Under the previous system, Bangkok had accounted for only thirty-seven seats, less than a tenth of the assembly. The addition of the party list was expected to increase the number of MPs who stood for "national" (i.e. Bangkok) interests.
The military chiefs were the first of the official power centres to come out and support the passage of the constitution to avoid public disorder at a time of national crisis. They were followed by Dhanin of CP and other business leaders who endorsed a similar argument. The Democrat Party had supported the draft earlier in May, but not without appending objections to some proposals. The core of the provincial political establishment still held out. The interior minister mobilized village officers and revived the village scouts movement (which had orchestrated rural opposition to communism in the 1970s) to organize counter-demonstrations in favour of rejection. Prime Minister Chavalit was caught between pressure from his old military connections, and pressure from his provincial parliamentary supporters. He flipped and flopped. In his most famous outburst, he announced he was "100 percent" without clarifying whether for or against. As the threat of public disorder rose, he appealed to the army chiefs to declare an emergency. When they refused, he called off the organized rural counter-demonstrations and capitulated. The constitution was passed on 27 September with 518 voting for and only two MPs and sixteen senators voting against.
Constitutional reform has a special place in the modern Thai political tradition... The conservatives interpreted both constitutional reform and good governance as ways to make the state stronger and more effective, and to give "good people" like themselves a greater role. But as the crisis deepened and lengthened, their enthusiasm about forcing the pace of reform was tempered by their fear about the society's capacity to absorb stress and change. The liberals and NGOs were largely interested in the extension of the rights of individual and community at the expense of the over-powerful and over-centralized state descended from absolutism and dictatorship. They needed constitutional reform to catalogue these rights, and to provide a better judicial and political framework for protecting them. But their further reform efforts would be directed towards strengthening civil society organizations rather than reforming bureaucracy and politics.
The urban pressure which passed the constitution and felled Chavalit, also developed scandalization as a technique for controlling politicians and officials in the absence of better legal remedies. This technique has a history in Thai politics going back to the 1930s. But it came into far greater use in the 1990s, after the media had gained a greater degree of freedom and daring in the events of 1991-92. Activists discovered scandals. Newspapers made them public issues. Opposing politicians then embraced them. By the mid-1990s, the parliamentary no-confidence debate had become a traditional annual event, a political songkran during which dirty water was poured over the political leaders, watched by a large and fascinated national audience on live TV.
The eclipse--full or partial--of so many of the major provincial barons reflected a larger shift of political generations. Around a third of the total seats changed hands at the 1996 elections, mostly passing to new first-time MPs. Many of the barons wanted to make their baronies hereditary and were training their children to succeed them in electoral seats. The system of multi-member constituencies facilitated this. Banharn brought in his daughter on a joint ticket, and was planning the same for his son. Many others did the same. However even these hereditary shifts constituted a change in the old chao pho model. The fathers had clawed their way up from humble origins by understanding the laws of primitive capitalism. The sons and daughters started their political careers with US degrees, inherited money, and the personal networks gained through elite educational careers.
Chavalit had agreed to negotiate with farmers' groups and had accepted the principle that some rural issues could only be settled outside the framework of law and procedure because it was biased against the poor. Chuan retreated behind the barricades of law and bureaucracy. He insisted that laws must be upheld and officials must be in charge. When rural protesters arrived outside Government House in early 1998, Chuan's personal secretary called the leaders "parasites" and "opportunists," and claimed, "politics and interest groups are major hindrances to easing their [the poor's] plight." While the Democrats might promote democracy in urban Thailand, they believed the rural area must remain under paternal rule.
Chuan snubbed the Assembly of the Poor's attempts to continue negotiation... From April, the government began systematically reversing the concessions which the previous government had made to the Assembly. It revoked the promised dam compensation through a cabinet resolution denying any compensation for projects already completed. It launched court proceedings claiming fraud in the case of Rasi Salai dam where some compensation had already been paid. It revoked three resolutions allowing farmers to remain in areas of "official" forest, and decreed that farmers would have to prove they had occupied such areas before 1941. Local officials were emboldened to restart dam projects which had been frozen. Associated legislation such as the community forestry bill was shifted onto the back-burner.
Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party was invented to capture the reaction to the Democrats' urban bias and commitment to globalism. It sought support from local businessmen and farmers who felt they had been neglected during the crisis in favour of Thailand's small cadre of globalized firms and urban middle class who profited on the coattails of globalization.
It is widely recognized that the south has a different political culture from the rest of Thailand. Vote buying is much less widespread. Political debate is more prevalent and more passionate, political oratory is more appreciated, and so on. What accounts for this difference is more controversial. Some attribute it to the rubber tree, some to the influence of Islam, some to the (cultural) distance from Bangkok, some to the longer and deeper urban tradition--the south's port towns are very old while most provincial towns in other regions are very young and raw.
One major aspect of the increased politicization of the crisis was an increase in political violence. Murders of village headmen and other fixers who serve as vote brokers became an almost daily item in the news. Two MPs were victims of professional assassination attempts in 1999. Political parties invested in bulletproof vests for their more valuable members. The interior minister launched a campaign to disband the gangs of gunmen kept by politicians. Earlier a TV documentary had described these gangs in some detail, and had hinted that one was kept by this minister.
Thailand's new rulers who set out to develop a Thai nationalism between the 1930s and the 1950s imagined a "Thai people" building a modern nation-state in order to participate in the modern, international world. This period saw the production of monuments, symbols, songs, and myths which dramatized a history in which the monarchy was a part rather than the whole, and a future in which the major themes were democracy and progress. But over the past generation, there has been a strenuous effort to forget this period and its ideas, heroes, and cultural products. This effort has been a joint venture between two very different political agendas. On the one hand, the revival of the monarchy since the 1950s has elevated the monarch as the central symbol of the nation to the exclusion of almost anything else. On the other hand, the democracy movement, reacting against the association of nationalism with military dictatorship, has tended to ignore this earlier phase of democratic development in the 1930s, and to erase any connections between this period and later (post 1973) history.
The IMF's first priority is to maintain the stability of the international financial system, and that means ensuring that the big players are not damaged. Its second is to enforce neoliberal policy reforms. Achieving recovery comes in third place.
The crisis has made clear that the West no longer wants to promote local capitalisms. In the period of the cold war, local capitalisms were seen as bulwarks against communism. Now that the cold war has passed and the communist threat has become history, the poorer countries of the world have become peripheral again. Their role--explicitly stated by people like Larry Summers--is to be a good and secure place for investments of multinational companies.
Buddhism, Legitimation, and Conflict awesome
1989, Peter A. Jackson
This is a truly amazing account of the political history of Thai Buddhism.
Prince Mongkut, while serving as the abbot of Wat Bowornniwet, was critical of shamanic and superstitious Buddhist practices. He set out on his religious reform which led to the establishment of the Thammayut Order. This was done in accordance with his encounter with Western science and philosophy, but his pursuit of rationalism and empiricism in Buddhist reform had its own limitation. He didn't go so far as to challenge the metaphysical doctrine of kamma which explained inequitable social hierarchy and legitimated the absolute rule by the king.
King Chulalongkorn heavily patronized the Thammayut Order as an elite group. He promoted Thammayut monks of royal blood to high positions in the Sangha, thereby placing the popular Mahanikay Order under royal control. Just as he strove to integrate numerous semi-independent kingdoms within the newly defined border of Siam, he also engineered to integrate various forms of local Buddhism under the single doctrine of Bangkok-based royal Buddhism. This religious integration was aimed at sustaining the stability of political integration. The Sangha Act of 1902 established absolute hierarchy of all monks in Siam, with the Supreme Patriarch acting the role of "absolute monarch" within the sangha.
The 1932 coup by the People's Party put an end to royal monopoly of political powers. As the Thammayut Order lost its royal patronage, its influence within the sangha diminished. The Sangha Act of 1941 abolished the absolute administration of sangha and replaced it with a democratic model with legislative, executive and judicial branches. The Thammayut Order seceded from the national sangha and established its own administration when it faced the government pressure to assimilate into the predominant Mahanikay Order.
As Sarit revitalized monarchy as a source of legitimation of his dictatorial regime, the Thammayut Order resurged as the leading force in the sangha. The Sangha Act of 1962 repealed the democratic administration of sangha and revived authoritarian hierarchy under the Supreme Patriarch. Sangha became a political institution to assist Sarit in carrying out his authoritarian policies on rural development and dissident suppression. While opportunistic monks were promoted, those who questioned the establishment or sided with popular sentiments were severely persecuted.
In the liberalized political situation after 1973, agitation to repeal the 1962 Sangha Act and reintroduce an amended 1941 Sangha Act intensified. In 1975, a reform bill for a new Sangha Act was submitted to the parliament. The bill passed its first reading in the House of Representatives but the Parliament was dissolved before the second reading, and after the coup of October 1976 the bill was abandoned.
Chapter One: Introduction
Because of the intensive nature of state control of the sangha, Thai Buddhism has not historically had an independent existence apart from the state and has responded to rather than initiated social and political change. The independent exercise of authority or initiative by monks in the social or political domains has generally been regarded as subversive and has usually been forcefully suppressed. Furthermore, monks not sympathetic to state policies are structurally neutralised, being excluded from senior administrative positions within the sangha because of the value-laden nature of the selection criteria used to determine clerical promotion. In contrast, monks supportive of the regime in power receive material and financial sponsorship and career advancement in the sangha hierarchy.
Thai Buddhism is caught in a fundamental paradox. While Buddhism is intimately linked to the exercise of political power through the state-enforced system of clerical administration, the religion's legitimatory power is regarded as deriving from its "purity", defined as the separation of the sangha from the lust-tainted corruption of worldly affairs. This paradox requires the actual political position of the sangha to be obscured behind a facade of worldly detachment, and for the sangha's legitimatory support of the political order to take highly ritualised forms in order to remain within the confines of acceptable Buddhist practice... The actual relations between Buddhism and politics have traditionally been denied by the Thai political authorities. Krajaang Nanthapho comments on this, saying,
Political administrators have always enjoined not to mix religion and politics, but in fact they have always used religion as a political tool, but have said that [Buddhism and politics are separate] in order to prevent others claiming or seeking their own power.
Chapter Two: Development and Differentiation of the Thai Elite
Buddhism played an important role in King Chulalongkorn's programme of political and economic integration. Central Thai Buddhist practices and teachings were standardised and subsequently imposed on the regional forms of the religion as a symbol of the political domination of Bangkok... In this period the Thammayut Order of monks established by Prince Mongkut in the 1830s was developed as an aristocratically dominated administrative elite within the sangha.
Under Phibun Songkhram the monarchy was de-emphasised and the traditional aristocracy remained demoralised as it was increasingly stripped of its former prestige and influence. For much of this twenty-five-year period Thailand was effectively without a monarch as King Rama VIII, Ananda Mahidon, and King Rama IX, Phumiphon Adunyadet, were both children at the time of their respective accessions to the throne in 1935 and 1947, and the two child Kings spent most of World War II and the 1940s at Swiss schools.
During Phibun Songkhram's rule the Thammayut Order of monks and the royal forms of Buddhism fell out of favour and were regarded with suspicion by the new regime as representing potential foci of conservative pro-monarchist tendencies. In 1941 Phibun Songkhram actively sponsored the passage of a new Sangha Act which undermined the authority of the royal-aligned Thammayut Order and effectively transferred administrative control of the sangha to the popularly aligned Mahanikay Order of monks.
The highly authoritarian and centralised nature of the new regime [Sarit] meant that the traditional monarchical religious ideology, which emphasised social hierarchy and the centralisation of political power, provided a more appropriate legitimatory system than the rationalist, doctrinal Buddhism which had been supported by liberals among the 1932 revolutionaries such as Pridi Phanomyong. Traditional forms of Buddhism were revived under Sarit, who in 1962 promulgated a new Sangha Act which recentralised control of the monkhood in the hands of a few state-selected appointees.
For Phibun "democratic" terminology and political forms, often used in parallel with or even to mask quite autocratic actions, denoted "anti-monarchism" rather than any real commitment to popular participation in government. Nevertheless, Phibun's commitment to "democratic" forms as a counter to monarchism did lead to some genuine structural changes, such as the democratisation of the administration of the sangha under the 1941 Sangha Act, a move taken largely in an attempt to mute the influence of the pro-monarchist Thammayut Order of monks over the sangha. However, by the time of Sarit Thanarat, the military-led state was well-established and no longer needed to fear the threats of royalist counter-revolutionaries. Consequently, Sarit no longer needed to distance his regime symbolically from earlier autocratic forms of government and he dispensed completely with any pretence of democracy. It was in this context that Sarit rehabilitated the monarchy and revived monarchist symbols of authoritarianism in order to bolster his position and the political role of the Thai military.
Sarit's and Thanom's rapprochement with the monarchy and senior aristocracy, and their clique's participation in Chinese-operated businesses, created a strong community of interests between the monarchy, the civilian and military bureaucracies, and the larger Chinese business interests. This powerful alignment of economic, political bureaucratic and traditional symbolic power has welded the strong establishment which continues to dominate Thailand politically today.
The middle class assumed some measure of power in the civilian governments between 1973 and 1976. However, this temporary assumption of power was only made possible by divisions within the military-bureaucratic establishment, divisions which had been accentuated by the collapse of the authoritarian military regime of Thanom Kittikachorn in the wake of student-led demonstrations in October 1973. This period of middle-class power did not have a strong social base and the establishment subsequently regrouped and regained political power in a military coup in October 1976.
Paisal Sricharatchanya, commentator for the Far Eastern Economic Review, has interpreted the results of the 1986 Thai general election as a turning point in the expansion of the political power of Thai business groups and the largely Sino-Thai middle class:
In the general election of July 1986, after decades of sheltering behind influential military patrons and bribing the bureaucracy, Sino-Thai business groups decided to have a direct role in mainstream politics. Eighty six businessmen, many of them scions of wealthy Sino-Thai families, were elected and formed the largest professional group in the 347 member House of Representatives.... What happened after the last election was another turning point [after the 1973 student-led popular uprising]; big business interests decided it was time they had a direct say in shaping national policies.
Chapter Three: Forms of Urban Buddhism
The interpretation of Buddhism supported and most emphasised by the Thai establishment is the traditional royal form of the religion historically used to legitimate the institution of the absolute monarchy. This religious form places particular emphasis on the notion of kamma... In the sociological interpretation of kamma those who occupy the most senior positions in the social hierarchy are regarded as having been the most moral in previous existences and so the most deserving to rule in this life. The king was traditionally regarded as the most meritorious person in the kingdom and so was placed at the apex of the social and political order... While the king is no longer the effective ruler, he remains the symbolic political head of the country, and those sections of the elite supportive of a centralised and authoritarian form of government find the traditional royal form of Buddhism a convenient source of their own political legitimacy.
Supporters of metaphysical or establishment Buddhism now rarely speak openly of the centralisation of political power that they seek to maintain. Popular antipathy towards the symbology and language of military authoritarianism and the now almost universal acceptance of democracy, however loosely defined, as the only acceptable political idiom for Thailand in the 1980s together preclude explicit references to the virtues of dictatorship or oligarchical rule. Instead, the establishment employs the indirect device of appealing to traditional symbols of political authoritarianism, in particular, the monarchy. The reason for the strength of the Thai establishment's and, in particular, the Thai military's support for the monarchy lies in the fact that the monarchy provides the most convenient acceptable symbol of the legitimacy and virtue of the centralisation of political powers. Establishment support for the monarchy and the relationship between establishment forms of Buddhism and the monarchy therefore should not be read as monarchist in the traditional sense but as the manipulation of a historical symbol for quite contemporary political purposes.
The rationalist and anti-metaphysical aspects of Prince Mongkut's religious reforms in the 1830s and 1840s have, however, introduced a contradiction into the hierarchical Buddhist metaphysic which has been rehabilitated by the Thai establishment since the late 1950s as a convenient legitimatory symbol of its political authoritarianism. Mongkut's religious rationalism is as a consequence de-emphasised and deflected by contemporary establishment ideologues. Nevertheless this rationalism cannot be fully repudiated because of the religious and political stature of its propounder, who in 1851 became King Rama IV, Mongkut.
Mongkut's religious rationalism was not complete. While he used a strictly doctrinal view of Buddhism to criticise the supernaturalism of indigenous Thai religious forms, he did not fully accept the empiricism of Western science and when he became king he continued to support the traditional metaphysical view of Buddhism with its belief in heavens and hells populated by a diverse range of supernatural entities. That is, while Mongkut criticised local and regional forms of Thai religion as superstitious, he did not radically question the legitimating ideology of the monarchy and, indeed, by attempting to establish the religious dominance of his Thammayut movement over the Thai sangha he tried to supplant local religious traditions with his own semi-rational royal ideology.
Mongkut's partial "purification" of Buddhism, which rejected local and regional beliefs as superstitious, was used by King Chulalongkorn to support and intensify the religious focus on the royal Buddhism of the Thai court. Mongkut's reforms thus laid the theoretical groundwork for the development of a religious absolutism that paralleled and legitimated the political absolutism of the Thai monarchy in the second half of the nineteenth century by undermining the authority of religious forms which had traditionally been used to legitimate the political position of the regional elites.
It should be emphasised, however, that the partial rationalism of Mongkut's interpretations of Buddhist teachings sits uneasily with the rehabilitated metaphysical beliefs now supported by the Thai political establishment. This is because Mongkut's incomplete rationalism always retains the potential of becoming a complete rationalism that debunks not only local supernatural or magical beliefs but also the hierarchical metaphysic of the royal form of Buddhism.
Mongkut's incomplete rationalism, which repudiated traditional Thai supernaturalism but left the metaphysical royal form of Buddhism used to legitimate the monarchy largely intact, has been criticised by those sections of the Thai elite politically opposed to the establishment, that is, the middle-class professionals and intellectuals. Middle-class intellectuals accept not only Western rationalism but also scientific empiricism and they reject the hierarchical metaphysic of royal Buddhism as empirically unsustainable.
While nibbana has traditionally been regarded as a spiritual goal appropriate for only a few renunciate monks, Phutthathat and other reformists maintain that nibbana should be a universally accessible goal for all, both monks and laity. This emphasis on nibbana represents a lay assumption of religious authority and contrasts with the establishment form of Buddhism which teaches that the role of the lay person is to perform merit by supporting the efforts of renunciate monks to attain nibbana. By claiming the ultimate religious goal of nibbana as their own, lay reformists reject the traditional interpretation that the laity can attain spiritual progress only by supporting the sangha hierarchy. While the reformists do not reject the sangha as such or the tradition of renunciate ordination, they are vehemently critical of the state-imposed sangha administrative system and of the links between senior administrative monks and the establishment. By and large the middle class views the senior members of the sangha hierarchy as supporting the establishment and as being associated with oppressive forms of political authoritarianism.
Whereas the religions of traditional societies are based on notions of supernatural hierarchical realms that mirror the super-normal power and authority of a god-king, the religions and ethical philosophies of capitalist societies are founded on the notion of a just and equal exchange of goods and money in the market. The reformist religion of the Thai middle class can thus be interpreted as representing the development of a Buddhist legitimatory system for Thai capitalism.
From an analysis of questionnaires completed by 439 monks in 114 different Bangkok monasteries Phonsak established that there is a statistically significant relationship between the strength of a monk's commitment to democratic principles and his approach to interpreting Buddhist doctrine. Phonsak found that those monks with the most rationalist interpretation of Buddhist teachings and who most emphasised the doctrinal significance of the original scriptures of the Tipitaka were also the strongest supporters of political democracy, both in the administration of the sangha and in the secular society. On the other hand, those monks who held a more traditional or supernatural view of Buddhist teachings and who placed more emphasis on scriptural commentaries rather than the scriptures of the Tipitaka had the weakest commitment to democracy and tended to support authoritarian political structures.
Middle-class and intellectual Thais critical of the political dominance of the establishment have considerable difficulty in developing a politically acceptable independent symbology to support their social and political aspirations. The establishment has succeeded in defining alternative critical ideologies such as Marxism as subversive and "un-Thai". Furthermore, there is a constant campaign by the establishment to monopolise the only acceptable symbols of national unity and political legitimacy, namely, the nation, Buddhism, and the monarchy.
Because of the strength of Thai lese-majeste laws, significantly often enforced by military rather than civilian courts, any public discussion of a redefinition of the political role of the monarchy is at present impossible in Thailand. In order to develop an alternative legitimatory symbology, critics of the establishment must therefore focus their efforts on reforming the only other acceptable intellectual raw materials that are available, namely, the notion of the "nation" and the interpretation of Buddhism.
Military regimes from the 1940s to the 1970s tried to neutralise the symbolic power of the notion of democracy by claiming that Thailand was not yet ready for full participatory democracy and that the conflicts associated with party politics undermined the Thai cultural values of compromise and harmony.
Religious rationalism and political democracy are the basic elements of the alternative ideology which the Thai middle class uses to criticise the establishment and to promote its position in Thai social and political life. Furthermore, the growth of reformist lay Buddhist movements and heterodox organisations of the sangha reflect the attempts of the middle class to wrest control of the administration of the religion from the official state structure. Criticism of the sangha hierarchy is thus related to criticism of the state which controls that hierarchy.
In recent decades there has been a marked increase in expressions of traditional Thai supernaturalism, particularly in Bangkok and the provincial cities. Both the middle class and the establishment agree that supernaturalism undermines commitment to Buddhism and poses a threat to stability and to their respective interests and aspirations.
Chapter Four: State Control of the Sangha in the Twentieth Century
In the middle decades of the twentieth century the political conflicts within the sangha over the system of clerical administration were centred on conflicts between the originally royal-sponsored Thammayut Order and the popularly aligned Mahanikay Order... Mahanikay monks particularly resent the way in which the "special royal favour" was used to entrench Thammayut control over the entire Thai sangha in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. A number of critical Thai scholars, such as Krajaang Nanthapho, have identified the Mahanikay Order with the interests of the "Thai people" and with the struggle for democracy and social justice in Thailand. On the other hand, these same scholars identify the Thammayut Order with the entrenched interests of the Thai establishment, which originally consisted of the monarch and aristocracy but now also includes senior military figures and wealthy businessmen.
The social groups aligned with and supportive of the Mahanikay Order share a common opposition to the political establishment, but they are also diverse and are not united into any coherent social or political force. Mahanikay supporters include both rural peasants and urban labourers as well as the newly formed urban middle class, students, and professionals. Identification of the Mahanikay Order with the interests of "the people" dates from the period of the 1932 revolution but has received renewed emphasis and popularity since the student agitations of early 1970s and the rise of the middle class.
When analysing religious conflicts in Thailand it is important to remember that the Thai sangha has a dual allegiance, both to the state that officially protects and sponsors it and to the common people who daily give alms food to the monks and who financially and materially sponsor their local temple or meditation centre. When there is a political conflict between those who wield the power of the state and certain sections of Thai society, then the dual allegiance of the sangha leads to divisions between monks. The primary dividing line in these conflicts is between those monks who emphasise the sangha's responsibilities to the state and those who maintain that a monk's primary responsibility is to the welfare of the common people who support his renunciate religious quest. Divisions due to disagreements over the proper emphasis to be given to the state and to the people have been the source of most political conflicts within the sangha in the twentieth century, in particular, conflicts between the Mahanikay and Thammayut Orders.
When Sarit Thanarat struck an alliance between the monarchy, military, and larger business interests, senior members of the Thammayut Order developed and expanded the Order's original role as the sect of the Thai monarchy and aristocracy, reforming it into the sect of the new authoritarian military establishment. The Thammayut's historical association with the monarchy and its support for centralised political structures within the sangha, which mirrored the centralisation of secular political power under the military, meant that there was a close affinity between the Order and Sarit's political policies. This affinity was not shared by many Mahanikay monks, who supported the more democratic principles of the previous regime and the original 1932 revolutionaries. This alignment of the Thammayut with the Thai military was forcefully demonstrated when the former dictator Field Marshal Tanom Kittikachorn returned to Thailand from exile in September 1976 and sought sanctuary by being ordained into the Thammayut Order at the royal monastery of Wat Bowornniwet.
By the mid-twentieth century the concern of Thai military governments was not with establishing uniformity and structure within the sangha but rather with the manipulation and direction of the already well-established structures of sangha administration. In this political context monks of either the Mahanikay or Thammayut Order who were sympathetic to government policies could function equally well as agents of government policy within the sangha... Senior titled and administrative monks of both Orders now enjoy close relations with the political establishment and both Thammayut and Mahanikay monks are active supporters of state policies. Similarly, monks of both Orders who are critical of the state are subject to harassment and commonly have their clerical careers blocked by either direct or indirect means.
Chapter Five: Persecution of Phra Phimontham Bhikku
Phimontham became well known as a strongly pro-democratic monk who supported the new form of sangha administration introduced in 1941. He had many supporters among the junior, educated Mahanikay monks whose sympathies lay with the farmers, labourers, and rising middle class rather than with the establishment. Conversely, he developed enemies among the senior echelons of both the Thammayut and Mahanikay Orders. Phimontham had close connections with former Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong and was Sangha Provincial Governor of Pridi's home province of Ayutthaya in the early years of the civilian government after the 1932 revolution. This connection with Pridi Phanomyong became a political liability after Phibun Songkhram staged a coup in October 1947 and Pridi was forced into exile. Phimontham disagreed with the way in which Phibun Songkhram attempted to prevent the sangha becoming a base for communist operations when the Prime Minister directed the Sangkhasapha to issue a decree forbidding the ordination of communists. Phimontham opposed the decree on doctrinal grounds, arguing that it was inconsistent with Buddhist principles because it discriminated against those who might wish to seek ordination. Phimontham deliberately delayed the implementation of the resolution, for which he was responsible as Sangkhamontri for Administration. He consequently came under suspicion of being a communist sympathiser and, while there was no evidence to support this, he became labelled as anti-establishment by the political authorities.
Krajaang Nanthapho cites the late Somdet Phra Thairayanamuni of the Mahanikay monastery, Wat Jakrawatratchawat, as claiming that before Kittisophana was promoted from the position of Somdet PhraWanarat to Sangharaja in 1960 he was visited at Wat Benjamabophit by Krommamyyn Bidyalabh, then head of the Council of Ministers in Sarit's government. Bidyalabh told Kittisophana that if he was appointed Sangharaja, his then current title of Somdet Phra Wanarat should be left vacant, because Phimontham was the most senior monk of Rorng Somdet rank and so was next in line for promotion to full Somdet rank and the title of Somdet Phra Wanarat. Soon after Kittisophana was appointed Sangharaja in 1960 a systematic campaign to discredit and ultimately disrobe Phimontham was begun.
The new Khana Sangkhamontri declared that its policies, among other things, would be to prevent the communists infiltration of the sangha and to detect and get rid of those monks who expressed opinions which were regarded as undermining the religion and who were opposed to government policies. Somboon Suksamran observes,
This declaration was widely criticised by the monks, especially by those of the Mahanikay Order. Anonymous letters were circulated among monks and laymen urging them to protest against the appointment of the new Sangha Montri and accusing the Sangha Montri of being the lackeys of the government, of using its power to oppress the majority [that is, Mahanikay monks], and of being a dictatorship. Policemen were sent to search many monasteries. Phra Phimondham was suspected of being the architect of this anti-government movement.
Siriwat Khamwansaa states that Juan Utthayi then plotted with the police to remove Phimontham from his position as abbot of Wat Mahathat. On 18 July 1960 the Bangkok police announced that Phimontham had violated the vinaya and had committed the offence of homosexuality, a parajika or serious crime against the clerical vow of celibacy, which entails automatic expulsion from the monkhood. This charge was based upon the accusations of a monk from Wat Mahathat who subsequently confessed to having been coerced into making the allegations by the police.
At a sangha legal hearing subsequently convened to investigate the accusation, it was revealed that on 9 June 1960 a policeman had requested a monk from Wat Mahathat, Phra Maha Phae Yanawaro, to go to a nearby police station, where an accusation against Phimontham was extracted from him after a lengthy interrogation. A second accusation was extracted by the Bangkok police from a former novice of Wat Mahathat, Wirayut Watthananusorn, on 28 July 1960. The police claimed that they had witnesses that Wirayut had masturbated Phimontham and told Wirayut that if he went along with the story his career and business would prosper. He was shown a document signed by Sarit Thanarat indicating that the Prime Minister was interested in prosecuting the case, and out of fear he signed the accusation against Phimontham prepared by the police.
On 9 September 1960 the Sangharaja ordered Phra Phimontham to disrobe. However, Phimontham appealed against the Sangharaja's directive, saying that under the 1941 Sangha Act, which was then still in force, the Sangharaja had no authority to order a monk to disrobe. This severe disciplinary act was instead the sole jurisdiction of the sangha judiciary, the Khana Winaythorn. On 25 September 1960 400 Mahanikay monks met at Wat Mahathat and collectively vouched for Phimontham's strict ascetic purity, and informed the Sangharaja, the Sangkhanayok, the Khana Sangkhamontri, and the government of their decision. But despite this show of support, Phimontham was removed from his position as abbot of Wat Mahathat on 25 October 1960. Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat subsequently accused Phimontham of causing disorder and ordered the rescission of his clerical title on 11 November 1960, which reduced him to the status of simply Phra Aat Asaphathera.
On 11 November 1960 both Phimontham and Sasanasophana were simultaneously stripped of their clerical titles and the Department of Religious Affairs confiscated the clerical fans which symbolised their clerical status.
A committee of monks was subsequently established to investigate the allegations against Phimontham, and after Phimontham's two accusers confessed that their allegations were fabricated he was cleared for lack of evidence. However, Phimontham's acquittal was not publicised under the regimes of either Sarit Thanarat or Thanom Kittikachorn, neither was his title returned nor was he reinstated as abbot of Wat Mahathat.
While Phimontham was removed from his administrative positions, Juan Utthayi's and Plot Kittisophana's attacks had not succeeded in disrobing him and in the early 1960s he remained at Wat Mahathat, providing a focus for agitation against Sarit's authoritarian government and moves to abolish the 1940 Sangha Act. Sarit subsequently resorted to the exercise of secular power to attack Phimontham after the use of religious means had failed to expel him from the sangha. On 20 June 1962 Phimontham was arrested on charges of being a communist and a threat to national security.
After Phimontham was arrested the Khana Sangkhamontri ordered him to disrobe, but he again refused. Sarit consequently wrote to the Sanghkhanayok (Juan Utthayi), ordering that Phimontham be disrobed because of the serious nature of the charges against him. Two Mahanikay Sangkhamontri, Phra Thammakhunaphorn and Phra Thammawarodom, then went to the police station where Phimontham was being held and forcibly stripped him of his robes.
Soon after Phimontham was disrobed, and the source of any serious form of democratic opposition within the sangha had been removed, Sarit repealed the 1941 Sangha Act and issued a new Act which recentralised administrative power within the sangha in the hands of the Sangharaja, Plot Kittisophana, and the senior titled monks, who included Juan Utthayi and the Mahanikay monks who had disrobed Phimontham. Phimontham was held in jail until 30 August 1966, three years after Sarit's death, when he was finally cleared of all charges by a military court. Krajaang Nanthapho comments on these events as follows:
While Phra Phimontham was suffering the torture of imprisonment, the domain of the sangha of the original nikaya [that is, Mahanikay] was oppressed, interfered with, and broken apart, being placed under the influence of an empire of evil. At the same time, the tyrannical group used all forms of power to change and completely destroy the progressive features of the administrative system of the sangha.
Krajaang Nanthapho maintains that the attacks against Phimontham were not purely personal but rather were part of a concerted campaign against Mahanikay monks. He claims that the recentralisation of power within the Mahatherasamakhom under the 1962 Sangha Act, the discrediting and removal from authority of the most vocal pro-democratic Mahanikay monks, in particular Phimontham, together with a manipulation of appointments to senior sangha positions enabled the Thammayut Order to regain administrative dominance over the Thai sangha under Sarit. Krajaang claims that the chief instigator of the attacks against Phimontham was the then Thammayut Sangkhanayok, Juan Utthayi, abbot of Wat Makut.
What the evidence more clearly suggests is that most senior monks, of both nikaya, are now supportive of or co-opted by the secular political authorities with whom they are intimately connected. It is only the rare monk, like Phimontham, who upon promotion to a senior sangha position does not bend to support the political establishment. It was Phimontham's continued opposition to government policies and his refusal to become part of the conservative "club" of senior monks which drew such a critical response from both secular and clerical opponents and subsequently led to his downfall.
Phimontham continued to be subject to direct and indirect harassment from both within and outside the sangha throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in what amounted to an ongoing campaign to obstruct his rehabilitation and promotion to a senior administrative position. However, his continuing persecution became a rallying point for those monks and lay people dissatisfied with the centralised structure and conservative political alignment of the sangha hierarchy. Phimontham's case focused public attention on the sangha and provided a catalyst for the increasingly vehement lay and clerical calls for reforms of the sangha administration. The struggle for justice for Phimontham became a central part of the efforts by younger monks in the 1970s and 1980s to reform the administration of the sangha and to break the power of the state patronage system over senior administrative positions. The figure of Phra Phimontham thus became a symbol of a genera disenchantment and frustration among junior monks with the conservatism of the sangha hierarchy, and his case has an historical significance for Thai Buddhism beyond the details of an individual monk's struggle for justice.
In the mid-1970s a number of the young monks' groups which had been formed to lobby for the reform of the 1962 Sangha Act also began agitating for the return of Phimontham's and Sasanasophana's clerical titles. This agitation culminated in the week of 10-17 January 1975 when the Federation of Buddhists of Thailand and the Organisation of the Sangha Brotherhood organised a protest sit-in of monks at Wat Mahathat to demand that the Mahatherasamakhom return the wrongfully rescinded titles. 20,000-25,000 monks joined the protest, including titled and senior administrative monks. After a week of growing tension among the protesting monks and their lay supporters and an initial refusal to agree to the protesters' demands, the Supreme Patriarch finally agreed to return Phimontham's and Sasanasophana's Phra Ratchakhana titles on 17 January 1975. The Mahatherasamakhom also acceded to another of the demonstrators' demands, to forward the Federation of Thai Buddhist's revised Sangha Act to the Parliament.
Sulak Sivarak claims that in 1975 the government of Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj decided not only to reinstate Phimontham but to promote his title to full Somdet rank, that is, Somdet Phra Phimontham, which would have automatically entitled him to a position in the Mahatherasamakhom. However, Kukrit subsequently announced that the King had not deigned to promote Phimontham to full Somdet rank "because his fate [duang-chataa] was not consistent with that of the King.
The senior monk Somdet Phra Thirayanamuni died in mid-1984, which then left two Mahanikay Somdet titles and positions in the Mahatherasamakhom vacant. However, senior monks within the Council of Elders, in particular, Phutthakhosajan and Wisutthathibodi, continued to instigate a series of delays in awarding the vacant titles in order to keep Phimontham out of the Council of Elders--perhaps in the hope that he might die of old age in the interim--and in order to manoeuvre the award of the titles to Mahanikay monks who would be more amenable to becoming part of the establishment. Krajaang Nanthapho suggests that there was royal influence behind the delays but says the legal restrictions of Thai lese-majeste laws prevent him from commenting further.
The two Somdet titles of Phutthajan and Thirayanamuni remained vacant for a second year with no new appointees being named in the King's honours list on 5 December 1984. As frustrations mounted in the sangha, Phra Ratcharatanobon sought a meeting with Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanond in November 1985 about the appointment of Phimontham to one of the vacant Somdet positions. Ratcharatanobon, representing the Co-ordinating Center for Buddhist Affairs in the Northeast Region, conveyed the news that all seventeen Isan Sangha Provincial Governors had threatened to return their royal fans and insignia of clerical rank to protest the delay in promoting Phimontham. This highly symbolic threat of ceasing to recognise the status of titles conferred by the state, which as it turned out did not have to be carried out, was backed up by a further threat to entirely dissociate the Isan sangha from the Thai sangha. On 5 December 1985, Phra Phimontham was awarded the Somdet title of Somdet Phra Phutthajan and Phra Thammawarodom was awarded the title of Phra Thirayanamuni.
Chapter Six: Reformist Monks
Chapter Seven: Phra Phothirak Bhikku and Samnak Santi Asok
Chapter Eight: Wat Phra Thammakaay Movement
タイ： 開発と民主主義 good
Thailand: The War That Is, The War That Will Be good
1967, Louis E. Lomax
The author is a journalist. This curious work reveals American intervention in Thai politics during the 1960s.
"Those fellows in Bangkok are living in a dream world. They still don't take this thing seriously enough; they didn't take it seriously at all until you Americans got excited about it. But we have been living in fear of our lives for more than five years. Bangkok didn't care about us then; the people from the back villages were hungry, poor, and all but naked. They were neglected; all Bangkok did for them was to send in special police to arrest the villagers for gambling and brewing homemade whiskey... You Americans don't care about Thailand, about the Thai peoples--particularly those of us here in the northeast. All you care about is your damn airbases."
"It is isolated, with no running water, no paved roads. During the rainy season only a single strand of telegraph wire to the district office or any unusually strong desire to travel connects the village to the remainder of Thailand. In the village, it is rare for anyone to receive mail. Not until 1960 did anyone in our village own a radio. The older villagers are aware only vaguely of the Thai nation; they know still less of any Western country."
American bombers were returning to their bases in Thailand after a day of raids over North Viet Nam; oft-times the Americans were unable to drop all of their bombs, and rather than run the risk of landing with the dangerous explosives still aboard, they were jettisoning them into the jungle belly of Laos.
"The Communists are only taking advantage of a situation that has existed for years," Tuam Na Nakorn, the mayor of Nakornpanom, said to me. "I am fifty-eight years old and have lived this issue all my life. The government in Bangkok has treated the people of my area like dirt; how dare they now wonder why the people are not loyal to Bangkok. Why should they be?
"I can remember the days when every politician who fell out of favor in Bangkok would be banished up here to be our district officer; we have the worst schools, the lowest income, and we get the bottom of the bucket when money for roads is appropriated," Tuam Na Nakorn paused while he took a long, deliberate sip of whiskey. "I was once head of the labor union here. The government abolished that because we were trying to get better wages and working conditions for the people. Everything we tried to do to help the people was ruled out by those bastards in Bangkok.
"Go ahead and write it down," he told me. "I am one man in the northeast who is neither a Communist nor a puppet for Bangkok. I am now the head of my town. I know what is going on. They are spending thousands of bahts building fancy buildings for Bangkok's district offices up here; but nothing is being done for the people. At least a thousand men from my town are now either up in the mountains with the Communists or working with the Pathet Lao over across the river.
"You Americans have accomplished something no foreigners have been able to accomplish in the history of Thailand," the mayor lectured me. "We have always been a free people--that is what the word 'Thai' means; we escaped colonialism; we outwitted the Japanese. But now America has taken over our country. I am very sad about it all."
"Your country must have lost all sense of moral commitment," a well-educated Thai said to me privately, "to use Thailand as a base to send bombers aloft in order to bring freedom to Viet Nam. If America is really committed to bringing freedom to Southeast Asia, you should start by bombing Bangkok!"
Thanom, as of this writing, is still Prime Minister. But the real power in Thailand today is "His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Prapas Charusathira, Minister of Interior, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Royal Armed Forces."
The growing crisis in Viet Nam--not the growing insurgency in northeast Thailand--caused America to build Freedom Road. We couldn't have cared less about the Thais. Our only object was to service our airbases.
The Thais were willing to support our efforts, but they did not wish to be boldly identified with the struggle to win Viet Nam and Southeast Asia. The letter of the agreement was clear: there was to be no mention of the bombing flights from Thailand by either the American or the Thai governments. The cover story (after all, they had to tell the peasants something) was that the Americans were on "training flights," that our planes were simply "refueling at Thai bases."
The Bangkok government had little trouble maintaining secrecy. Thai newspapers dare not print things the government does not wish the people to read. But the American press was yet another matter. Ambassador Graham Martin, perhaps the most powerful American in all Southeast Asia, assigned Bob Beecham, the press officer for the United States Mission in Thailand, to muzzle the American reporters. His job was not too difficult. Most of the American writers are stringers, men with business in Thailand other than just reporting. They certainly were not about to jeopardize their interests. The United Press correspondent was a Thai, a man who would not risk the wrath of his government by writing the truth about the planes that were roaring above his head. But the Associated Press stringer in Bangkok grew weary of censorship, and he filed a story giving complete details of the Thai-based raids over North Viet Nam. The account was carried by hundreds of papers in the United States, only to be sent back to the American embassy in Bangkok marked "top secret--limited distribution."
I am not critical of the Thai government when their censorship of the news is essential to national security. Rather, I speak of the all too frequent instances when the truth is suppressed not for military reasons, but because it might prove politically embarrassing to the government in power... As a result, the Thai papers fawn and flourish each day as they give detailed accounts of the goings, comings, and doings of the royal family. There are documented instances in which editors were berated for having failed to carry pictures as well as stories of the activities of the royal ones. When I was in Thailand, not a single Thai reporter was covering the insurgency in the northeast and the south. They sit at their desks and write innocuous little stories about how good things are under the Thanom regime.
"Every appointment in our government is cleared with Ambassador Martin. A man he does not like could not be promoted to a responsible post in Thailand. Martin runs the Thai government."
"We have been an independent people all of our history," the Thai said to me. "We have become an American colony and I don't like it. The Thai people don't like it. I cringe when I see Thai girls prostituting themselves for American soldiers. It is such a blatant and open thing. I cringe when I see American soldiers swaggering down the streets of Bangkok. Even the Japanese didn't do that. But we cannot help ourselves. We are caught in the hot war between East and West."
"Of course, the baht is sound. It has to be sound because of the American aid that flows in every year. Our government treasury is solvent. The trouble with bahts is that so few Thais have any of them. The greatest economic asset Thailand has is the fact that practically all Thai farmers own their farms. We are not faced with the problem of land distribution that plagues Viet Nam. Our Achilles heel is neglect and poverty in the northeast, racial and religious hatred in the south. This takes us back to the question of the proposed constitution. If we allow universal suffrage, Thailand may well break up along sectional lines. The peoples of the northeast and of the south would vote for secession from Bangkok if allowed to. This has been true throughout our history. Popular suffrage would give us the identical problems that Nigeria now faces. Thai nationalism is as delicately balanced as the spokes of a wheel. That balance must be maintained if the nation is to remain intact."
The modern Thai village is a divisive, rather than a cohesive, force for nationalism.
There is something much more disturbing--as we discovered in Viet Nam--about suggesting that Buddhism is a national force that binds Thailand. It rips the Moslems from the Thai mainstream and ignores the mounting expectations among the devoutly Buddhist masses. Even more, as orthodox Christianity did in America, Establishment Buddhists in Thailand are shielding the ruling powers from the reality of discontent in Thailand.
The ultimate concern of every organization is self-perpetuation. If the organization is religious, then its ultimate concern is to establish God as they see him. This keeps the bahts coming, and it also keeps the leaders in power over their flock. Once the government allows them to exist, the religious leaders staunchly support the status quo. Thus the Temple ceases to reflect the concerns of the people and becomes an arm of the government. The rising expectations of the masses are scorned by their own religious leaders.
I have no alternative but to view Buddhism as a divisive, not a cohesive, force in the spectrum of Thai nationalism.
The Thai teacher lives closer to the farmer than most Thai officials, yet his commitment to Bangkok exceeds that of any headman or district officer. The teacher is Bangkok's ambassador to the village. He brings with him the national language, Bangkok Thai. Teachers from the villages in the north, the northeast, and the south often complain that beginning students have difficulty understanding simple commands, such as "close the door," when these orders are issued in Bangkok Thai. Required by law to employ Bangkok Thai, teachers accomplish their task by teaching it as a mandatory second language.
The object of Thai education is to instill strong feelings of nationalism. Pupils are drilled in the history of the nation and are taught to worship its heroes. Morality is equated with Thai Buddhism and civics classes stress loyalty to Thai officials, and above all, to the king.
The teacher epitomizes Bangkok's authority over, rather than involvement with, the village. He comes as an order giver rather than as a problem solver. This is why the teacher is a prime target when the insurgents come into the village by night. There is little that the teacher says or does that alters the basic fact of a village-oriented life. The teacher may bring Bangkok to the villages, but he fails to involve the villagers with Bangkok. The Thai national government is an uninvited, not a welcome, guest in the village.
Once upon a time, the king could have unified Thailand. Now it is too late, much too late. The military have destroyed his divinity and the intellectuals have destroyed his authenticity. The masses, on the other hand, have enjoyed his existence. He is their Linus blanket, something to snuggle with when the cold winds blow. The king can no longer unify Thailand. The peoples in the south want out. The peoples in the northeast don't want Bangkok in.
The USIS, which is chartered by Congress to disseminate information abut the United States in the remote areas of the world, has been transformed in Thailand into the propaganda arm of the Thai government. Several times a month this USIS official and his Thai employees go on field trips into the back villages. They show films and pass out literature deliberately designed to give Bangkok the "good guy" image. The pretense is over. The notion that the purpose of the USIS is to inform people in Thailand about America is openly scoffed at. Ambassador Graham Martin has barked the orders and the entire American Information and AID program in Thailand is devoted to the propagation of the current Thai regime.
Thai officials have threatened to restrict American military personnel to their bases because prostitution in Thailand is undergoing an unprecedented boom. And American officials have refused to sign a "status of forces" agreement that would subject American soldiers to Thai law--because they do not respect the Thai courts. In Thailand people are tied to the stake and shot after the most perfunctory trial procedure. America is not willing to have its servicemen tried under such procedures. And this, perhaps, is the most telling comment that can be made about the Washington-Bangkok axis: Americans are committed to die in defense of a government whose laws are so unjust that the American government will not allow Thailand jurisdiction over American soldiers who walk and yell along the streets of Bangkok, Nakornpanom, and Udorn.
During a sharp exchange with me, Mr. Sithi-Amnuai said the American public had no right to know about their government's quiet arrangements with Thailand; he even went so far as to say that Americans should seriously examine that clause in their constitution which gives them the right to know what their government is doing.
From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya's Maritime Relations with Asia
1999, Kennon Breazeale ed.
This is a collection of theses concerning Ayutthaya's maritime trade with Asian countries.
Thai Maritime Trade and the Ministry Responsible
-- origin of farang --
The term farang was used in the Ayutthaya period for the Portuguese, who were virtually the only Europeans in the Thai kingdom for nearly a century. See for example a 1674 missionary report in Latin, which states that the Portuguese settlement was known locally as Ban Farang. In the early Bangkok period, the ethnic category farang doem ("original Europeans" in modern translation) was still used for the Portuguese Christians.
Origin of a Capital and Seaport: The Early Settlement of Ayutthaya and Its East Asian Trade
-- choosing the location of Ayutthaya --
To understand how Ayutthaya became such an important center and why it emerged during this period in history, it is essential to consider not only the political and economic factors that contributed to its power, but also the transformation of the landscape itself...
The earliest inhabitants and societies that are of immediate concern to Ayutthayan history are those of the Dvaravati period, from the sixth to the eleventh centuries of the Christian era, and those of the Lopburi period, from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries... Central Dvaravati's important towns can be divided into two groups. The eastern one included Chainat, Saraburi, Phetchabun and Lopburi. The western group included Nakhon Sawan, Singburi, Suphaburi, Uthong, Nakhon Pathom, Ratburi, and Phetburi.
Artifacts of the Dvaravati period have been discovered in all these places--but not in the immediate vicinity of Ayutthaya or elsewhere in the lower reaches of the Chao Phraya basin. The probable reason is that, until about the eleventh century, this area was not suitable for habitation. In fact, early in the Dvaravati period, this area was covered by sea water or brackish swamp, and the waters of the Gulf extended north of Ayutthaya. During the few centuries, the shoreline gradually receded to the south, but the land was still subject to salination caused by the tides and was probably infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, making it highly undesirable for habitation... Only after a long period of time, during which the landscape was transformed by natural processes, did the area become suitable for people to settle there in substantial numbers...
One legend suggests the slow process that made it possible for people to live in the lower Chao Phraya basin. According to this source, at some time after the year 1044, a local king issued orders for a new city to be built in the area that later became known as Ayutthaya. His orders could not be carried out, however, because the water at the site was found to be too salty.
Ayutthaya, 1409-24: Internal Politics and International Relations
David K. Wyatt
Ayutthaya and Japan: Embassies and Trade in the Seventeenth Century
-- chronology of Japan-Ayutthaya relationshhip in the 17th century --
1606 - Japanese Shogun Ieyasu writes a diplomatic letter to Siamese King Ekatotsarot, thereby starting correspondence.
1610 - King Song Tam succeeds King Ekatotsarot.
1616 - First Thai embassy reaches Japan.
1621 - Second Thai embassy reaches Japan with:
1. letter from King Song Tham to Shogun (in Chinese)1623, 1625, 1626, 1629 - Subsequent Thai embassies to Japan.
2. letter from Yamada Nagamasa to Hasegawa Gonroku
1628, Dec - King Song Tham dies. Prince Chetta (15 y.o.) succeeds.
1629, Aug - Phraya Si Worawong kills King Chetta and replaces him by his younger brother Prince Athitwong (10 y.o.).
mid 1629 - Phraya Si Worawong maneuvers King Athitwong into commissioning Yamada Nagamasa to put down a rebellion in Nakhon Sithammarat and to serve as governor of that town.
1629, Sep - Three Thai envoys arrive in Edo. King Chetta's letter to the Shogun reports his father's death and his accession to the throne. Shogun Iemitsu replies with assurances of continued friendship between the two countries.
1629, Sep - Phraya Si Worawong kills King Athitwong and takes the crown for himself as King Prasat Thong. He slaughters many of the Japanese residents in Ayutthaya and drives away the survivors. Yamada dies of wounds sustained in battle, although it was widely rumored that he had been poisoned. The Japanese contingent in the south leaves the Kingdom to Cambodia.
1630 - A Japanese captain returns home from Siam and reports that the new king is a usurper.
1633 - 1639 - The Japanese government issues a series of decrees prohibiting Japanese people from leaving Japan and Japanese expatriates from returning to Japan.
1634 - King Prasat Thong sends mission to Japan to resume diplomatic exchanges and trade. Shogun rejects to meet the mission.
around 1636 - King Prasat Thong reverses his expulsion policy and tries to entice Japanese traders to settle once again in Ayutthaya.
1636 - Thai ambassador arrives in Japan with a gift to the shogun. Officials question the ambassador about the political changes in Siam, who can only give inconsistent explanations. Officials don't allow him to see the shogun and sends him back with a letter to Siamese officials:
The bearer of this letter was worse than, and knew less about the incident than, the previous ambassador. Therefore, he was not received and was likewise sent away. If you want to send junks here, choose an accomplished, discreet and competent person, who is able to bring a reply to all previous letters and who is provided with instructions from the king. He will then be received with favor by the magistrate and, through his intermediation, will be given an audience with the shogun.1638 - A Japanese official in Ayutthaya with the rank and title of Okphra Chula sends a letter to Japanese government (text lost). The Japanese government replies:
As I have written already, we were told that a subordinate killed the king to usurp the throne. Therefore, our authorities were ordered not to correspond with a king without legitimacy. ...If the facts are different and if what we understand is untrue, a highly qualified person can give assurances in front of our counselors in order to discharge his duties. Only after Japan lawfully recognizes the legitimacy of the king will the route to Japan be open.1640, 1644 - Prasat Thong commissions special envoys, but storm prevents them from completing their mission.
1655 - King Prasat Thong dies.
1656 - King Prasat Thong's last embassy arrives in Nagasaki, but was sent away.
Mergui and Tenasserim as Leading Port Cities in the Context of Autonomous History
Ayutthaya and the Persian and Indian Muslim Connection
Leonard Y. Andaya
Power Politics in Southeast Asian Waters
Adrian B. Lapian
Ha Tien or Banteay Meas in the Time of the Fall of Ayutthaya
Yumiko Sakurai and Takako Kitagawa
-- King Taksin was determined to wipe out tthe surviving family of the late king of Ayutthaya --
1767 - Fall of Ayutthaya. King's third son Prince Chui flees to Ha Tien. As Phraya Phiphit (governor of Chanthaburi) advises Taksin to massacre the descendants of the previous dynasty, Taksin asks Mac Thien Tu (ruler of Ha Tien) to return Prince Chui to Siam.
1769 - In the name of Prince Chui, Mac Thien Tu invades Chanthaburi.
1771 - Taksin's army attacks Ha Tien
1772 - Taksin returns to Siam with Prince Chui as a prisoner. Prince Chui gets killed in Siam.
Thailand: A Short History excellent
1984, David K. Wyatt
This is a pretty comprehensive chronological history of formation of modern Thailand. The author presents various political forces in Southeast Asia during the last millennium and examines their collaboration, conflict and absorption.
|- 1000||The Beginning of Tai History||19 pages
|1000 - 1200||The Tai and the Classical Empires||18 pages
|1200 - 1351||A Tai Century||23 pages
|1351 - 1569||Ayudhya and Its Neighbors||38 pages
|1569 - 1767||The Empire of Ayudhya||40 pages
|1767 - 1851||The Early Bangkok Empire||42 pages
|1851 - 1910||Mongkut and Chulalongkorn||42 pages
|1910 - 1932||The Rise of Elite Nationalism||20 pages
|1932 - 1957||The Military Ascendant||34 pages
|1957 - 1982||Development and Revolution||31 pages
Traditional Festivals in Thailand
1996, Ruth Gerson
The author takes up major festivals in Thailand and describes their origin and meaning.
|Buddhist Festivals||Maka Bucha||Commemorates the gathering of 1,250 disciples of Buddha who came to hear him preach.
|Visaka Bucha||Commemorates the three major events in Buddha's life: his birth, his attainment of enlightenment, and his death or passing into nirvana. Most important day on the Buddhist calendar.
|Asalaha Bucha||Commemorates Buddha's first sermon.
|Khao Pansa||Beginning of Pansa--Buddhist Lent.
|Ohk Pansa||End of Pansa.
|Thot Kathin||Period spanning 30 days from Ohk Pansa. Acquire merit by bringing gifts to monks.
|Devo Merit Ceremony||Commemorates the descent of the Buddha from Tavatimsa Heaven where he preached his deceased mother. Most often observed in northern Thailand.
|Chak Phra Ceremony||Commemortes the occasion when Buddha reached the city of Sankassa in India. Typical in southern Thailand.
|Royal Barge Procession||Linked with Thot Kathin. Rarely held due to high cost.
|Agricultural Festivals||Ploughing Ceremony||Farmers from all over the country participate in Bangkok.
|Rocket Festival||Typical north-eastern village festival. Farmers appeal to Phya Taen, god of the sky, and please him by firing rockets, to which he will resond by releasing his semen in the form of rain which will fertilize the earth.
|Ghost Festival||Held in the village of Dan Sai in Loei Province. It recounts the return of Prince Vessantara to his city after years of exile. It was said that the entire city came to meet Vessantara upon his return and even the ghosts could not resist joining in the festivities.
|Traditional Cultural Festivals||Songkran||Also observed in Yunnan in China, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.
|Swing Ceremony||A young man seated at the front of the swing would try to grab the purse tied to a pole with his teeth. Discontinued after several fatal accidents.
|Loy Krathong||Nang Nopamas, a daughter of a Brahmin priest during the Sukhothai period, first crafted a float in the shape of an open lotus flower.
|Sporting Festivals||Boat Races||Traditionally, the races were sponsored by monasteries in Nan with monks rowing the boats, giving them the much-needed physical outlet following the period of confinement during the rains.
|Kite Flying||Fight between a large chula kite and a group of small pakpao kites.
|Elephant Round Up||In Surin since 1960.
|Royal Festivals||Chakri Day||Commemortes the coronation of Rama I on April 6, 1782.
|Chulalongkorn Day||Commemorates King Chulalongkorn's death on October 23, 1910
|Coronation Day||Commemorates Rama 9's coronation on May 5, 1950.
|King's Birthday||December 5, 1927
|Queen's Birthday||August 12, 1932
The majority of Thai festivals and holidays are based on the lunar calendar, adhered to for centuries, with December being the first month of the lunar year. As a result, a great number of festivals and religious holidays coincide with the full moon.
Circumambulating [of the temple] clockwise indicates the cycle of life; walking in a counter-clockwise direction indicates the cycle of death, a ritual performed only at funerals.
The Emerald Buddha traditionally has three robe changes annually to coincide with the onset of the hot, wet, and cool seasons.
When Kathin ceremonies are completed in a temple, two makara (crocodile) flags are placed at the entrance to indicate that it has received the annual Kathin donations, and that worshippers find another temple for acquiring their seasonal merit.
In the past the Ploughing Ceremony in Thailand was conducted by Brahmin priests only. During the reign of Rama IV, this changed. As a devout Buddhist, King Mongkut added religious rites to the ceremony.
Kites were forbidden to be flown over or near the royal palace, a symbolic tradition that is still followed today. Ayutthaya's historical records also tell of a rebellion in the town of Nakorn Ratchasima during the reign of King Phetraja, quelled by using a large kite loaded with gunpowder. It was flown over the town, setting it ablaze with this ancient method of aerial bombardment.
Every Chakri king casts a Buddha image for each year of his rule, but only one image symbolizes his reign.
Celebrating a birthday was not originally a Thai custom. It was introduced through Chinese tradition by Rama IV as were a few other customs and ceremonies. For a Thai it is more important to know the hour, day, and month of his birth, and which animal in the Buddhist twelve-year cycle was presiding that year.
In the past only a monarch's birthday was designated as a national holiday. This changed when Queen Sirikit became regent during the King's period of monkhood, an act required of all Buddhist men.
Reflections: One Year in an Isaan Village Circa 1955
2000, William J. Klausner
This is a collection of photographs taken by the author during his stay in Ban Nong Khon--a village 16km from the provincial capital of Ubon Ratchathani. The photographs reveal curious aspects of Isaan village life in mid-1950's.
Studies in Thai History good
1994, David K. Wyatt
This is a collection of articles by the author written over the period 1963 - 1989.
* Early History of Siam
1979, Chronicle Traditions in Thai Historiography
1968, Mainland Powers on the Malay Peninsula, AD 1000 - 1511
1989, The Authenticity of the Ramkhamhaeng Inscription
1967, Three Sukhothai Oaths of Allegiance
1984, Laws and Social Order in Early Thailand
1967, The Thai "Palatine Law" and Malacca
* Ayudhya and Early Bangkok Periods
1974, A Persian Mission to Siam in the Reign of King Narai
1986, Family Politics in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Siam
1968, Family Politics in Nineteenth-Century Thailand
1982, The "Subtle Revolution" of King Rama I of Siam
1989, Assault by Ghosts: Politics and Religion in Nan in the Eighteenth Century
1963, Siam and Laos 1767-1827
* Origins of Modern Education in Thailand
1966, The Buddhist Monkhood as an Avenue of Social Mobility
1975, Education and the Modernization of Thai Society
1965, Samuel McFarland and Early Educational Modernization, 1877-1895
1970, Almost Forgotten: Ban Phraya Nana School
* Reign of King Chulalongkorn
1968, Interpreting the History of the Fifth Reign
1976, King Chulalongkorn the Great
By 1351, the Thai challenge to Khmer authority on the plains of central Siam was a century old, and the successes won early by the Thai rulers of Sukhothai were being exploited by their fellows to the south. The foundation of Ayudhya in that year transformed a loose multilateral confederation into a bitter bipartite competition for leadership of the struggle against a Khmer empire which was to collapse two decades later.
The supposed continuity between Sukhothai and Ayudhya is more a product of twentieth-century historiography than of any past reality: the peoples of Sukhothai and Ayudhya were of different stocks and came out of different historic experiences, and the kingdoms were contemporary rivals, rather than successive generations in a line of political (or social or cultural) descent... Ayudhya with the long, slow khmerizing process that had been going on in the Caophraya Valley from the tenth or eleventh century, and Sukhothai with more narrowly Tai streams of development that had been flowing in the interior valleys of mainland Southeast Asia from even earlier.
From 1610 to the fall of Ayudhya in 1767 virtually every succession to the throne was contested; and in no case could a king come to the throne without some support from the nobles (khunnang), the officials of the capital, and, to a certain extent, the provinces.
It is perhaps most intriguing that all four of the main families [of Ayudhya] with which we have been concerned intermarried with the Chakri family before 1782 when Rama I ascended the throne of Siam. The implications of this fact may prove to be of paramount significance, for it suggests that the Bangkok monarchy was well rooted in the nobility of late Ayudhya in a way that none of its predecessors were. No wonder, then, that the Bangkok kings seem to have had a much closer working relationship with their nobles than the Ayudhya kings had, or that the same families that were prominent in the late Ayudhya period continued to gain power under the Bangkok monarchy.
There are obvious sociological and psychological reasons why maternal descent should be stressed in the royal family: among the fifty to eighty children of a single king, it was natural that individuals should be distinguished one from another by their maternity, as their paternity was common to all.
Most of the new taxes which they introduced in the Third and Fourth Reigns depended on the participation of Chinese tax farmers; and, in addition, in order to make their official control over the Chinese community effective, they would have had to work through the Chinese secret societies.
The ties which linked the Bunnags to the forward-looking generation of Mongkut grew rapidly. By 1851, as Rama III lay on his deathbed, Caophraya Phrakhlang (Dit Bunnag) was admirably suited to play the role of kingmaker. The kingdom was acutely fearful of the threat of the West, and the Bunnags, who long had dealt with foreign traders and emissaries, were among the leaders of those who were confident that that threat could be contained and manipulated in their favor. They had formidable power and resources, and were closely associated with the most logical candidate for the throne, the prince-priest Mongkut who had been passed over for the succession in 1824 and who had spent much of the intervening quarter-century studying Western science, English, and Latin from the European and American missionaries resident in Bangkok. It was the Bunnags who were primarily responsible for raising Mongkut to the throne in 1851, presenting the rest of the government with a thinly-disguised fait accompli; and it was the Bunnags who were paid the price of that accession. Caophraya Phrakhlang (Dit) and his brother, Phraya Si Phiphat (That Bunnag), were created somdet caophraya (viceroys) with almost unlimited powers by the grateful Mongkut, who also raised two of the Phrakhlang's sons to succeed their father as Kalahom and Phrakhlang.
The [Bunnag] family as a political grouping was able effectively to challenge the power of the throne, until they began to pass from the scene in the mid-eighties. King Chulalongkorn at least once came to consider abdication in his frustration at the checks they put upon his powers.
In the Bangkok period, the monarchy was on the defensive as early as the reign of Rama II (1809-24)... It appears that, despite such attempts to win for members of the royal family a share in administrative power, the monarchy essentially was isolated from the day-to-day workings of government. Lesser members of the royal family found official office closed to them unless they married into the noble families; and, even when they did so, more often than not they found real power beyond their grasp. Having been brought to the throne with considerable Bunnag support, King Mongkut was in a difficult position to attempt to challenge them, and to do so would have been to alienate the single most powerful and effective proponents of modernization and accommodation with the West. Herein lay the real difficulty of Thai politics in the Fourth and Fifth Reigns.
The ultimate fault of the Bunnags is not that they abused political power, for on the whole they did not. They served successive kings with great loyalty in the best traditions of Thai public life. In the end, however, they were simply too outstanding, too capable, too rich, and too powerful... They could not have failed to come into conflict with a strong king who had his own ideas about the position of the throne and the requirements of modernization. Oral tradition has it that one of the granddaughters of the last great Bunnag statesmen, Caophraya Si Suriyawong (Chuang), once asked him, "Grandfather, why don't you become king?" He is said to have replied, "Why should I bother? I have everything a man could desire."
At the beginning of the Fourth Reign (1851-1868), many monks left the monkhood for government service on the accession of King Mongkut... King Mongkut was greatly upset, fearing that religious education would deteriorate with the exodus of so many learned monks to government service... [Decree in1854] "It is the Royal Desire to obtain only men of good family and background, the sons of nobles, for high positions in the Ministries of Interior, War, and Foreign Affairs... if any ecclesiastical official or degree-holder leave the monkhood, he will become a phrai luang, attached for compulsory labor service to the Royal Printing Press, and will continue to be so attached..."
Old Siam was less an absolute monarchy than it was a nominal monarchy ruled de facto by a small oligarchy of noble families who controlled the departments and ministries of state, sons succeeding their fathers for generation after generation. In fact, the accession of King Chulalongkorn in 1868 marked the pinnacle of this oligarchy's success: by placing a young boy on the throne who was seriously ill and expected to die and by naming at the same time an heir apparent who was far removed from the normal line of succession and totally beholden to the preeminent noble family, the ruling oligarchy expected that they would be able to continue to rule as they had before, without any fundamental changes in the existing structure of the kingdom.
The political dominance of the nobility and their resistance to fundamental institutional change were serious handicaps to the survival of the kingdom and the king. Both were very weak. The kingdom was only loosely centralized: amateur military forces, finances, provincial administration, and even the legal system were under the control of semi-independent individuals and families. Personal relationships, subordinate and superordinate, characterized the political system. The king's decree was law only when it did not infringe upon the customary prerogatives of entrenched interests.
It was also natural that Chulalongkorn, despairing of the nobles' political orientation and their lack of progressive inclinations and suspicious of their loyalties, should have counted for support and future leadership on his younger brothers and junior members of the royal family, and on members of minor noble families and parvenu Chinese families--all alike excluded from real power by the conservative establishment. The most important power at the King's command remained the power of appointment: although he could not remove men from their families' strongholds in government, he could put new men in their positions when they retired or died, for only his signature legitimized a noble. As the old guard passed rapidly from the scene between about 1883 and 1889, he filled their posts with those who had rallied around him in the bleak years after 1875--men whose loyalty he counted upon and whose modern orientations he assumed.
The conventional interpretation of King Chulalongkorn's reign that is expressed in Thai school and university teaching and widely accepted in the West is that the great modern reforms of King Chulalongkorn's reign came about almost by magic, as though the institutions of old Siam, by the logic of their autonomous development and perhaps some dialectical influence of Western models, transformed themselves under a benevolent great king. This interpretation does not admit of the possibility that such obviously good accomplishments could have been resisted or opposed by anyone, and implies that the nation, with a single will, lifted itself up by its bootstraps (or sandal-thongs) into the modern world. The conflict and opposition which the reforms encountered and the difficulties inherent in their achievement are simply ignored in a totally ahistorical fashion. The accidental by-product of this interpretation is an impaired appreciation of the greatness of King Chulalongkorn: by ignoring the difficulties of his tasks, one underrates the scale of his accomplishment. This interpretation is the product of the transitional period of nation-building in Thailand--the fruit of the necessity of inculcating in the Thai educational system precisely those qualities still in some measure deficient in the nation. Because the nation has been constructed to bridge social divisions, ethnic divisions, regional divisions, and political and economic divisions, the past has been interpreted to emphasize the unity of the state. Fortunately, this particular interpretation is beginning to fade as unity becomes a reality.
Poeykwan: The Remittance among Overseas Chinese in Thailand
1992, Suchada Tantasuralerk
Poeykwan (spelt 批舘 in Chinese) is a remittance system among the overseas Chinese developed over the past couple of centuries. Local Poeykwan agents collect money from overseas Chinese together with a short letter addressed to their families and relatives in China. The bills and letters are carried to China where Chinese Poeykwan agents deliver them. The delivery fee is 15 - 20% of the amount of money sent.
The formal postal service in Thailand started in 1885, putting an end to the era when the Poeykwan agents could send money freely. Ever since, the Poeykwan agents have adapted their form of business to cope with various government interventions and regulations.
Even today, despite the highly developed worldwide postal services and banking systems, the Poeykwan agents in Bangkok has steady customers. They often assume a form of travel agency. Their international network allows them to profit by non-formal currency exchange.
The historical significance of the Poeykwan system is that, through the transaction of enormous sum of money sent to China, the Poeykwan agents in Thailand themselves could acquire and accumulate vast capitals. Many of them emerged as capitalists, extending their business to former sectors as banking.
A clerk was hired to write letters to kinsmen; because most of the bill senders were illiterate or knew only little of the Chinese written language. They could not write the letters to their kinsmen; those receiving the bills had to ask the clerk to read the letters to them.
In 1911, King Rama VI succeeded to the Throne. The policy toward the Chinese in Thailand became stricter in relation as political conditions in China affected the Chinese behaviour in Thailand. The remittance of money to their homeland through Poeykwan firms was under suspicion by the Thai government... The money sent by the overseas Chinese through Poeykwan firms, or through someone who returned home, was about 16,551,724 Baht at that time. This was a tremendous sum of money taken out of Thailand. The government became aware of this loss and decided to limit or control the amount of money remitted by the overseas Chinese in Thailand.
The Chinese who begged for royal protection at the end of King Rama VI's reign were different from those who came before this period. The former group wanted to settle in Thailand and developed close relationship with the Thai people. But the latter group felt differently and held strong patriotic feelings for their own country. Their objective was to work for money and send it back to their families and kinsmen in China. They did not want to settle in Thailand. When they acquired enough money, they sent it back home to build houses in China. The Thai government tried to prevent the remittance of money back to China and tried to keep the money circulating inside the country. The Thai government set up a gambling house to operate Chinese lottery as well as a poll tax and the revenue from the intoxicants such as opium and alcohol.
After 1958, the amount remitted by the Chinese in Thailand decreased dramatically. In 1957, the remitted amount was 191 million baht. This decreased to 6 million baht in 1960, and this level has been fairly kept stable since then... In 1975, the Thai government normalized diplomatic relationship with the People's Republic of China, and the Chinese in Thailand were able to return to their homeland freely... With better communication, they became aware of the real plight of their kinsmen. The remittance service became popular once again... Most assistance was carried out in the form of house repairing, and cemetery building for the ancestors. Some well-to-do Chinese helped build village public facilities to honour their family. The Chinese in Thailand spent a lot of money for this purpose. The help was provided mainly during the first 4 or 5 years after the diplomatic relations were reestablished, and diminished almost to the point of non-existence, except in cases of illness, marriage, or special occasions such as Chinese New Year or religious rites.
Poeykwan business is now part of international tourism. Chinese travel by plane to Hong Kong, and take the ferry to Mainland China. During these trips, the Poeykwan entrepreneurs visited business contacts in Hong Kong and Sua Tao... At present the Poeykwan business is carried on secretly because of the foreign currency exchange control law.
These interviews showed that thirteen persons out of the twenty did not want to pass on the remittance behavior to their grandchildren. They felt there would be no need to send money because the senders themselves would have died and their tombs would be in Thailand, and their grandchildren could perform the sacrificial offerings here in Thailand.
Temple Murals as an Historical Source: The Case of Wat Phumin, Nan good
1993, David K. Wyatt
The author looks into mural paintings of Wat Phumin in Nan Province, which are renowned for their artistic splendor. In his attempt to interpret the story behind the murals, the author excavates a long-forgotten episode of local Nan history.
Here, then, is another warning that what is widely perceived as Thai history is largely a local history of the Bangkok power elite.
In the Land of Lady White Blood: Southern Thailand and the Meaning of History good
1995, Lorraine M. Gesick
Scattered around the area surrounding what is known today as Songkhla Lake are remnants of ancient human landscape: Crumbling temples hundreds of years old, limestone caves with old Buddhist votive tablets which date back a thousand years.
Several temples in the area had long cherished old manuscripts from the 17th century. They were decrees from the Ayudhya king exempting those monasteries--and those under monasterial protection--from sending annual tributes to the capital city. Those manuscripts were worshipped with awe by successive local custodians, only consulted with on special occasions and with strict ritualistic procedures.
In the early 20th century, Prince Damrong and his circles were intent on collecting historical documents within the newly defined Siamese territory to make the official Siamese history. They took notice of these manuscripts and brought them back to Bangkok. Descendants of the custodian families, however, still hold today a manuscript merit making ceremony every year.
This is an anthropological probe into the sensibility of "history."
I had returned to Thailand in the bleak period after the bloody right-wing coup of October 14, 1976 ended three years of full democracy in Thailand. Those three years, part of which I had witnessed during my first visit to Thailand, had been an intellectually exciting time. The works of previously banned Thai Marxist writers were dusted off and reread, sparking a lively debate on "Thai feudalism" and on Thai history.
In Thongchai's narrative, instead of the usual "hero" Siam being deprived of its territory by the "greedy villain" France, there intrudes the possibility of an equally greedy Siam, checked in its ambitions only by lack of the necessary military strength to enforce its hopeful claims. The true winner in the dispute was the discourse of absolute national sovereignty and modern mapping to which the Siamese modernizers had already enthusiastically subscribed. The loser was the older Southeast Asian discourse of multiple, overlapping sovereignties in which borders were not the concern of the center--and certainly not the "nation," a concept that did not exist in this older discourse--but rather of the border people themselves. When this discourse lost, so also did those smaller, intermediate polities, such as Xiang Thong or Champassak, tht had relied on this discourse for their very existence. As the geo-bodies of "Siam" and "French Indochina" were being mapped into place, these small states were literally being mapped out of existence.
New, royally sponsored institutions such as the Vajirayana National Library, the Archaeological Society, and the Royal Academy or Rachabandit Sapha, in all of which prince-savants predominated, in turn governed how knowledge of the past would be produced. Not surprisingly, the historiography of this era, according to Somkiat, stressed the themes of social harmony and national independence under the rule of benevolent monarchs, and the historical sources so assiduously collected were interpreted in this light.
What might be called the "paradigm" interpretation of Thai modernization in this era, subscribed to by mainstream historians, both Thai and non-Thai, holds that the modernizing elite were able to modernize successfully while yet preserving Thai identity--that is, to "modernize" but not to "Westernize"--by selectively choosing elements of modernity, as opposed to European culture as a whole, that were congruent with Thai culture. I should like to suggest, invoking once more the notion of modernization as a discourse, that it might be more accurate to say that the Thai modernizing elite selectively reinterpreted "Thai tradition" to emphasize those elements that were most congruent with the discourse of modernity, thus enabling themselves to feel both modern and Thai. Of course, this formulation entails the corollary that elements of Thai tradition that were less amenable to this discourse had to be scrapped or suppressed, as we have seen was the case with multi-vocal histories. King Chulalongkorn, in a speech to the nation after his return in 1898 from a European tour, says as much. This selective reinterpretation of what is "truly Thai" (and, hence, congruent with "the modern Thai nation") continues today in such activities as those sponsored by the National Identity Board and Subcommittee for the Propagation of Thai Identity.
Khmer was used in Ayudhyan times as a language of superior magical efficacy. Rachasap, the special vocabulary used to and about royal personages (and gods), was almost entirely Khmer (or Sanskrit via Khmer). Khmer script was, and sometimes still is, used to inscribe Pali sacred texts, and is still widely used to inscribe magical mantras on yantra clothes.
According to a well-known story, the Buddha predicted, in conformity with his doctrine of the mutability of all things, that even his own teachings would eventually disappear. This disappearance would be gradual, he said, proceeding by stages, during which one after another of the elements of his teaching and the rule he had instituted would decay. According to popular tradition, the duration of each of these stages would be 1,000 years until, at the end of 5,000 years all trace of the religion would have disappeared. (In the earliest Buddhist histories the prediction was 500 years... When the vigilance of the Sinhalese monks prevented this prediction from coming true, later texts extended the prediction to 5,000 years.)
Into Siam: Underground Kingdom
1945, Nicol Smith
This is a memoir of the author--an OSS officer who trained Siamese agents and directed their infiltration back into Siam during the World War II.
As Japan's defeat became more and more inevitable, the War Crimes Commission and the State Department in Washington sought information as to how Siam had been brought into the war on Japan's side.
"Yamamoto, the ambassador, was furious at having been kept waiting. He said bitterly that it was most regrettable that the premier was away and also unfortunate that the deputy had refused to see him, because he had important instructions from his government. He said everyone was aware that the United States and Britain had been oppressing Japan and that the time had come to rise against them. 'Today,' he announced, 'Japan has declared war on both governments!'"
"Were you surprised?" I asked Jayanam.
"I knew that tension between the powers was great, but couldn't believe Japan had been so reckless as to take the first step."
"What did he expect you to do about it?"
"He wanted me to authorize free passage of Japanese troops across Siam. I protested that we were neutral, but he said that for Japan it was a matter of life or death and they must be granted permission to move troops in all directions--by land, sea and air.
"I reminded him that Premier Pibul was the only person invested by the cabinet with authority to command our troops to resist or to submit to invasion.
"The military attache, General Tamura, spoke up and said that delay meant bloodshed. I didn't like his threatening tone, but I was nonplused when he announced, 'At this moment Japanese troops are landing at various places in Siam!'"
"What could you say to that?" I asked Jayanam.
"Far less than I would have liked. I had to agree to ask the deputy to convene the cabinet. We sent a plane for Pibul. We waited all night in the council chamber for him. At seven in the morning he arrived and took his place at the head of the cabinet. The Japanese ambassador had been waiting downstairs since 6:00 A.M."
"Who else attended the cabinet meeting?"
"Representatives of three parties: one pro-Ally, another neutral, and the third--headed by Pibul--definitely pro-Axis.
"Adul opened the meeting, and then he asked me to repeat my conversations with the Japanese. When I was halfway through, Pibul interrupted, saying, 'Let's decide what to do.'
"Ruth, who was Finance Minister, then urged that before we made a hasty decision the cabinet should consider the nation's honor and future welfare. He said we should ask ourselves what the rest of the world would think of us if we resisted and what they would think if we gave up."
"What was Pibul's answer to that?" I interrupted.
"He brushed Ruth aside, saying that this was no time for such a discussion. He then turned to one of the pro-Axis military members and asked what he thought. The militarist said resistance was impossible. Pibul then asked the opinion of the Minister for Defense, an opportunist who could be counted upon to follow the premier. He agreed that we couldn't stand up against the Japs.
"Having received the answer he wanted, Pibul had little trouble bringing the others around. Without bothering to take a vote, he declared that it was obvious it would be futile to attempt to stop the Japanese and said he would order our soldiers to cease firing."
"You mean he didn't consult Ruth?" I asked.
"He asked Ruth nothing. He went out immediately and informed the Japanese ambassador that the cabinet had granted his request.
"Then the traitor Vanit asked permission to address the cabinet. He told us that the Japanese had three alternative plans of co-operation to offer. The first was an agreement only for the passage of troops. The second was a military alliance with Japan for the defense of Siam. The third was a joint declaration of aggressive war on Britain and the United States, in return for which Siam would have lost territory returned to her."
"And you chose Plan Three?" I asked.
"No, the cabinet was divided. Pro-Axis members were strong for the third plan. Neutrals had nothing to say. I said, 'Since we have already favored the Japanese by deciding not to resist the movement of their troops across Siam, we certainly should go no farther than Plan Number One.' Adul and Ruth supported me. We were able to swing the majority to us, and the first plan was accepted.
"I went immediately to see Sir Josiah Crosby and Mr. Peck, the American minister, and explained what had happened. Each said that he sympathized with the cabinet's decision, provided it never went beyond the provisions of Plan Number One."
"Why did it?" I interposed.
"Because of the news of Pearl Harbor. This was a tremendous advantage for the Japanese, strengthening the hand of every pro-Axis Siamese. Pibul immediately called his cabinet and told them that he and some of his friends had looked deeply into the matter and thought it was best to co-operate to the extent of a military alliance. 'Otherwise,' he said, 'the Japanese will not be convinced of our sincerity.' Then he had the nerve to tell us he had already approached the Japanese on the subject of Plan Two, and had gone so far as to ask the ambassador to meet him at the palace within an hour, when he promised him an answer.
"Half an hour later the Japanese, as scheduled, arrived. Pibul then said, 'And this time I will sign. Direk Jayanam, we do not need your signature.'"
"He was certainly becoming more arbitrary by the hour," I said.
"Yes. The next day, the twelfth, I asked Adul to inform Pibul privately that I wished to resign. On the thirteenth, at the cabinet meeting, Pibul said, 'It has come to me that some of my ministers wish to resign. True friends do not desert us in hard times. I advise any who have such thoughts to forget them.'"
"Did Ruth resign as Director of Finance?"
"Pibul removed him at the request of the Japs. Ruth was so popular that Pibul dared not refuse him another post. He kicked Ruth upstairs, making him regent, to look out for the affairs of the absent king. Then Pibul took my post as Foreign Minister for himself, making me a deputy. I tried again to resign, but was not allowed to. Later Pibul thought of a way to get me out of Siam. He called me to the palace and told me that in the interests of the country I should be ambassador to Japan. When I protested, he said, 'You cannot refuse. A telegram has already been sent to Japan requesting their acceptance of you as our representative.' He was a complete dictator.
"General Adul advised me to accept the post, choose a staff with great care and escape to China if I got a chance. I had not been in Japan three weeks when I received a telegram from Pibul, saying he had declared war on the Allies. His justification was that they had bombed us indiscriminately. I found out later that the declaration did not contain Ruth's signature, and so was actually invalid, but Pibul had long since ceased respecting democratic procedures."
When Direk Jayanam finished, I felt that I had a much better understanding of how Siam had been railroaded into war. This was the kind of information which, in the hands of the State Department and the British Foreign Office, should help determine the fate of this country after the war. I sat down that night and drafted a long report to take back to Washington with me. I also had a list of names which I knew would be of interest to the War Crimes Commission.
Thai Women in Local Politics: Democracy in the Making
1995, Sheila Sukonta Thomson
The author examines sociological and economical difficulties which discourage women from entering into local politics.
After more than two decades of experiences in the field of Women in Development, it is well known that one of the crucial factors needed to improve women's situation worldwide is an increase in their participation in decision-making.
Women today make up only one percent of Subdictrict Council members throughout the country.
The Subdictrict Council and Subdistrict Administration Act B.E. 2537 (1994) introduces a change in the administration of subdistricts in the country. The law states that all Subdistrict Councils are now legal entities. Furthermore, Subdistrict Councils with an average income of 150,000 baht per year for three consecutive years would become Subdistrict Administrative Organizations. In 1995, 617 out of over six thousand Subdist Councils were upgraded into Subdistrict Administrative Organizations.
Thai men and women were granted suffrage for local elections in 1914 and for national elections in 1932, when the parliamentary system replaced absolute monarchy. Although women could stand for national election from 1932 onwards, they were not accorded that same right at the local level until 1982, with the amendment of the Local Administration Act B.E. 2457 (1914). The discriminatory law was kept in place for 68 years due to the belief that women would not be capable of performing the job as Village Head.
Although Thai women also worked outside the home as farmers, this role went unnoticed for centuries. For example, the Thai government only officially recognized women as farmers in 1991.
The campaign sought to change the wording of Article 24, Section 3 of the Constitution from "Persons have equal rights before the law" to "Men and women have equal rights before the law." For though in theory the term "person" referred to both men and women, in practice it was interpreted by many lawmakers as referring to men alone.
Freedom Highway [fiction]
1999, Nigel Krauth
Stephan Brasch is a young American lawyer, a Harvard graduate. His mission in life is to do good to the society, but his choice of working in Thailand in late 1950s turns out to be nightmarish.
Dubbed as "political thriller of corruption and espionage," this novel depicts Thai society under the Sarit regime when assassination, corruption and CIA agents were abundant. Thailand was just about to be aligned with America's war on Communism.
While they waited, Brasch read the sign on the wire fence: 'FREEDOM HIGHWAY--A US-THAI INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP COOPERATION PROJECT.'
Ahead of them it started. Wide, flat and grey. Brasch was surprised at how wide it was. It looked as if it was going to be a six-lane turnpike--but more than that, a six-lane turnpike with a perfect gradient, rising gradually towards the horizon. Moss nudged him and they veered away from a direct line towards the office, taking a route which allowed them to get a closer look at the construction design. Even to Brasch the work looked unusually complicated. The road base was more than three feet deep. The concrete pour was another two feet on top of that. It was heavily reinforced with steel rods. An elaborate drainage system ran away on both sides.
'It's not a highway,' Brasch said.
Moss nodded. 'It's an airstrip. A bloody important airstrip.'
'It's not a highway, then?' Moss said.
'It's a highway of a kind,' the Texan grinned. 'For heavy bombers. The specifications happen to coincide with a B-52 facility. Gonna be the biggest air base in the world. I've worked on similar projects in the Philippines and Guam. And in Darwin, mate.' He winked at Moss. 'But this is special. It points directly at China. At Peking, to be exact.'
Red Bamboo [fiction] good
1954, Kukrit Pramoj
This is a heart-warming story of Abbot Krang, Comrade Kwaen, and Kamnan Cherm in the village of Red Bamboo.
Comrade Kwaen gets inspired with communist ideology and starts his struggle against the institution of capitalistic feudalism in the village. Kamnan Cherm, as the administrative head of the village, experiences hell of a time, coping with Kwaen's uninhibited behavior. Abbot Krang, brimming with Buddhist wisdom, mocks Kwaen's fallacies, but, yet, with care as a childhood friend.
1964, レイン クルーガー
|1948.9.28 || 初公判
|1955.2.16 || 死刑執行
Through Travellers' Eyes: An Approach to Early Nineteenth Century Thai History
1989, B. J. Terwiel
This is a curious attempt to reconstruct the Central Thai society during 1800 - 1850 from various historical sources. The term "Central Thailand" being defined by the extent of direct political control from Bangkok, it included following border provinces:
North: Kamphaeng Phet, Phichit and Petchabun (but not Phitsanulok)
Southeast: Thung Yai (in present-day Trat)
While Protestant missionaries brought their wives and raised children, the Catholic priests, like Buddhist monks, were celibate and thereby earned a good measure of respect.
From the Buddhist perspective, the Catholic religion had other readily recognisable features such as the use of candles and incense, the priests' wearing of cassocks to set the religious specialists apart from ordinary men, and the building of some of their churches in the style of the Thai Buddhist Uposatha halls. In addition, unlike the Protestants who insisted on a thorough examination of a prospective convert's understanding of Christian principles, purety of motivation and steadfastness, the Catholics seemed more ready to accept converts without much prying into the quality of their faith, apparently in the hope that a deeper understanding, if at all attainable, would evolve over time.
Before they were published, many entries in the Chronicles of the First, Third and Fourth Reign have been changed... The editing process was mainly directed to increase the prestige of the Chakri Dyasty; to weaken statements on court scandals; and to depict Siam's foreign policy a little more enlightened.
While Bangkok's suburbs stretched widely beyond the walled city, the Thonburi side had much fewer people.
In 1784/85, only two years after the decision to move the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok, it was decided to shorten the route to the sea by digging the canal at Pak Lat. It was soon apparent, however, that this caused the water at Bangkok itself to become brackish, and in early1785 the short-cut canal was provided with a dam, made of clay and bricks.
Pak Lat, the oldest of the two fortified towns, was almost wholly populated by Mo'ns, while Pak Nam seems to have been almost wholly Siamese.
[West and Northwest]
Here Richardson came across only a few houses, where people at first took fright, fearing that he and his party were government officials who would tattoo their men and enter them on the rolls so that they would have to do corvee. When they found out that these were harmless strangers, one old woman freely abused the government of the country, saying that the Siamese were bad enough, but the Mo'n army officers were worse to people like them.
The construction of Kanchanaburi's city walls, a mound of earth and masonwork three or four meters thick and two meters high, provided with another two meters of breastwork, in an oblong some two kilometers long and 250 metres wide, was made by corvee labour from Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburionly.
As early as 1821/2, well before the first British-Burmese war broke out, the Siamese government had decided that no invasion was imminent, and it was no longer necessary to keep a large army guarding the Three Pagoda Pass. However, in order to have troops ready at short notice, it was decided to employ soldiers in exploiting the natural resources of the region. Probably this was an innovation in Siamese martial history...By ordering the troops to exploit the forests, first by searching for boulders to assist in one of the king's building projects in Bangkok, and later by cutting sapan wood and growing cotton, a large advance guard could be maintained and, instead of draining the treasury, the government and a number of its officers were able to reap a profit.
Nakho'n Sawan was apparently also very small; the Shwai Gyeen Myo Thoogyee stayed one night here and wrote that it had formerly been a city, but in 1831 it contained no more than a hundred houses. Pallegoix had apparently formed a very similar opinion when he noted that in 1834 this town, notwithstanding its glorious history, was but insignificant.
The next morning these farmers refused to accept Christian tracts, saying they could not read. Davenport felt that this was probably untrue, because Siamese generally could read, and some of these men looked very intelligent. This is the first sign of many, that in 1843 the rural populace had been warned against the missionaries and their pamphlets.
In the Third Reign Chronicle are also details of the digging of the new canal between the Chao Phraya and the Bang Pakong River (the Saen Saep Canal). In 1837 Phraya Siphiphat (That Bunnak) was given the supervision of the large number of Chinese who were hired to dig almost 54 kilometers from Hua Mak to Bang Khanak at a cost of just over 76,500 baht, a truly massive amount for those days. It took about three years to complete.
The only major overland route that connected the northern part of the Eastern segment with other regions was the road from Ayutthaya through Prachin Buri and Kabin Buri to Cambodia, the chief route by which Siamese armies invaded Cambodia. Past Kabin Buri that route led through a forested region to Aranyaprathet.
It was there at Chachoengsao that the disturbances of 1848 broke out that led to the first recorded general pogrom against Chinese in Thailand. The story of how Thai and Laotian troops, followed by local farmers, slaughtered people simply because they could be recognised as Chinese, may be taken as an indication of a smouldering resentment against the Chinese. That this should happen to Chinese, rather than to any other ethnic group is not altogether surprising. The Chinese were quite conspicuous with their own way of dressing and their long braid of hair dangling from the skull. Unlike most, they were exempt from corvee (having to pay the Thai government a capitation tax that was much lower than what other groups had to pay for exemption). Related to this, and probably most difficult to accept was the fact that they had been extraordinarily successful in trade and business. In addition there may have been some resentment, arising from the fact that in their wake had come gambling halls, distilleries, and, it may safely be assumed, some prostitution, so that the negative aspects of the massive Chinese immigration were easily remembered.
While the Chao Phraya at Bangkok gave a different impression from all other river scenes in central Siam through its great number and variety of water transport, it also differed from the provinces in the absence of people fishing, either from the shores or in boats. Roberts thought that the reason for the absence of fishermen was that the monopoly had been allowed to a tax-farmer. In fact, it was forbidden to catch fish in Bangkok waters. Upon leaving the city, for example when entering Khlo'ng Bang Ko'k Yai, the traveller passed a pair of neat wooden pillars painted white, one on each side of the stream. These wooden posts were markers indicating that on the one side began the capital city, where fish were protected, and on the other side people could, at their own moral risk, kill animal life. Such a measure was a symbol readily understood and accepted by the Buddhist population. In the provincial towns and villages there existed many small sanctuaries for all forms of animal life, namely the Buddhist monasteries. It would have been considered the destruction of part of a monastery's sanctity if a fish or bird were killed within its precincts. The regulation not to fish in Bangkok's waters was an extension of the same principle: a symbol of the sacredness of the capital. It gave its citizens a certain moral superiority over the countryside.
He added that during a certain annual festival gambling was not taxed and everyone was given the liberty to gamble wherever and as much as he pleased. The Phra Khlang was reported to have gambling parties at his house every night of this particular "free period", during which there was heavy gambling. Bradley confirms the existence of days when everybody was allowed to gamble, and from his diary it is possible to pinpoint the time that this annual license was granted by the Thai government:
Three days in the year the people are allowed to gamble where they please. This season occurs on the Chinese New Year when almost all are intoxicated with this sin. It is well calculated to create a taste for this employment which gives rich patronage afterwards to the regular gambling houses. The king knows this and is fool enough to think it a wise plan.
Bradley also confirmed the fact that gambling was fairly common among the Siamese upper class. He was informed that all the rulers of the people from the king down to the khunnang (nobles) were in the habit of gambling by proxy when their dignity forbade them playing in person.
In the 1840s anti-farang sentiments were widely encouraged by the government, partly as a reaction against China's shocking defeat in the Opium War; and, emboldened by alcohol and encouraged by the missionaries' discomfort, this seems to have led to regular harassment of the Protestants.
All Chinese immigrants, from the Thai government perspective, were taxed in a similar way: they had to pay a triannual poll-tax instead of serving corvee. In 1822 this was two baht (plus a small commission for the tax collector), but by 1840 this had risen to four baht with an extra quarter of a baht for the collector. This poll-tax was collected without a register. The officials collecting the poll-tax did not have lists of names or sizes of the groups of Chinese in particular locations; during the months in which the poll tax was collected, they simply put a seal around the wrist of every Chinese who came to pay his tax. By the end of the collecting period those who walked about without a badge were likely to be stopped and arrested by officials.
It has generally been recognised that during the Third Reign the tax burden was increased dramatically. It does not appear to have occurred to economic historians that this proliferation of taxes could only be sustained in a growing economy, and that under Siam's unpredictable circumstances this carried a steadily growing risk of sending the country into an economic depression. This is exactly what appears to have happened near the end of the Third Reign, when a combination of difficulties in the export market, disappointing local agricultural output, together with an ever-increasing tax burden that was too rigidly and indiscriminately imposed, caused severe hardship to wide sections of the populace.
Before 1850 the relationship between the government and the people was much tighter than at any time during the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Additionally, in this work the government has appeared as much more centralised than recent literature on the Thai countryside may lead one to assume. Prior to 1850, not only did representatives from Bangkok travel extensively in the provinces under Bangkok's control, assessing the number of fruit trees, the amount of rice land, and the types of other crops grown, registering this, and exacting money from the farmers, but even the Nai Ko'ngs, the men appointed to supervise corvee work, were directly responsible to officers in Bangkok. This highly-centralised government was effective throughout the central region.
Throughout the vast region under direct Bangkok control, the central government appears to have dominated the scene to such an extent that there was no room for locally-elected village committees. Of all the farmers encountered in this book, only a few in a single hamlet were found who had managed, for the time being, to escape being tattooed and registered for corvee. These lived out of sight from the main river, and it has been noted how they felt that they had to hide whenever a government official was spotted.
The economic base of the state seems to have been extremely wide. It was trade-oriented and exploited a wide range of resources in order to reap profits. This was why so many Chinese were encouraged to immigrate and assist in turning waste-land into profitable plantations. It was only after 1850 that the Central Region was gradually changed into a mono-cropping area; in the first half of the nineteenth century the region has been shown to have produced a great variety of products other than rice, and it was the state that encouraged the planting of new products such as coffee.
There have been many references in our travellers' reports to the increasing alcohol abuse among ordinary people, and to a great dependency upon gambling. These observations of a larger-than-ever trend to seek temporary escape from reality by excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as of the growing addiction to the dream of winning in a lottery, may well be interpreted as signs of general stress under a government that had become oppressive.
One finding of this study concerns the remarkable ethnic diversity of Central Thailand. Hitherto historians have only acknowledged the cosmopolitan character of the capital city, and the fact that the countryside was equally diverse has been ignored. It has been shown here, however, that during the first fifty years of the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Mo'ns and Laotians, and thousands of Khmers, Vietnamese, Malays and Burmese were distributed throughout the provinces.
[About the difficulty in research of Thai history]
There have been serious losses [of historical documents] in the past through fires, and there is a risk, even though it is relatively small, of theft. Another risk, one that tends to increase as governments become more fiercely nationalistic, is that of deliberate suppression or even destruction of documents that do not fit the ruling powers' image of the past.
Thai Society in Comparative Perspective
1991, Erik Cohen
This is a collection of theses on Thai politics, namely:
1. Thai Collective Identity: Unity Through Ambiguity
2. Sociocultural Change in Thailand: A Reconceptualization
3. Siam and the West: The Problem of Thai "Modernization"
4. Bangkok and Isan: The Dynamics of Emergent Regionalism in Thailand
5. Thai Democracy as National Symbol and Political Practice
6. Citizenship, Nationality and Religion in Israel and Thailand
7. Thailand, Burma and Laos: An Outline of the Comparative Social Dynamics of Three Theravada Buddhist Societies in the Modern Era
The author provides curious insights in making of modern Thailand. His probe includes the conflict between Bangkok and Isan, and a comparative study of Muslim Malays in south Thailand versus Arabs in Israel.
The official language of the country, standard Thai, is Central Thai as spoken by the prestigious social classes of the capital, Bangkok. Standard Thai, taught in the schools throughout the country is intelligible, though sometimes only with difficulty, to the other Tai speaking groups. Of particular significance are two such groups: the Isan, or northeasterners, (about 31% of the population) who speak a variety of the Lao language which in the past was also written in the distinct Lao script; and the Khon Muang or Yuan of Northern Thailand (about 20% of the population) who speak Northern Thai, also called Lanna Thai or Kham Muang, which also had a script of its own in the past. The question whether these are separate languages or mere dialects is as much a political as a linguistic one.
There is no doubt that the formula "Nation, Religion and Monarchy" was coined in analogy to the British "God, King and Country." Batson comments significantly that "The order of the three components does not seem initially to have been rigidly fixed, though Vajiravudh offered to put 'King' first, and 'Religion' seems always to come directly after 'Nation.' Subsequently, the usual order has been 'Nation, Religion, Kingdom' [i.e., Monarchy] in part perhaps because the relatively lengthy honorific used to denote 'King' (phramahakasat) would fit somewhat awkwardly in any position but the final one."
In the process, a unifying language and culture was imposed on the various constituent groups and units, often against considerable local resistance. Thus, e.g., in the northeastern part of the country, where the ethnically Lao population had been rechristened as "Thai," the use of the term "Lao" was prohibited, and the dozen small principalities (chao muang) were integrated into a region and given a new name, "Isan." The various Tai languages spoken in different parts of the country, such as Kham Muang in the north and Lao in the northeast were proclaimed to be mere dialects of the Thai language; the use of their distinct scripts was discontinued and the Thai script introduced.
The Sanskrit term satsana (Pali sasana), generally translated as "religion," is no less ambiguous than the term chat... In Thailand, the term satsana originally referred specifically and solely to Buddhism; however, at a later stage the connotation of the term was expanded to include all officially recognized religions in Thailand, including Christianity and Islam.
The Thai constitutions, after the revolution of 1932, defined the king as akkharasasanupathamphok, which according to Ishii, is a term, "... open to alternative translations, 'the protector of Buddhism' or 'the protector of religion,' depending on the interpretation placed upon sasana (satsana)." This ambiguity in the term satsana, is the source of an important dilemma in the definition of the monarch's role towards religion: if the term is taken in its narrow sense, the king will be perceived as the protector only of his Buddhist co-religionists--which is certainly acceptable to them, but leaves out the Thai subjects belonging to other confessions...However, if the term is taken in its broad sense, then the belongingness of non-Buddhists to the Thai collectivity is reconfirmed--but the monarch's protection may be unwanted by some of the religious communities themselves...It causes a problem for the Muslim community, which finds it hard to reconcile even the benevolent protection of a Buddhist monarch with the basic precepts of Islam.
The various ambiguities which we have pointed out in each of the basic principles of the formula "Nation, Religion and Monarchy" and in the relationships between them, are not random phenomena. Indeed, the enduring nature of these ambiguities and the lack of desire to resolve them are important factors in the preservation of Thai unity... In fact, Thailand is replete with ambiguities which play an important role in preventing the conflicts and contradictions between various facets of Thai society and culture from breaking into the open and provoking a crisis.
Many ascribe whatever economic development there has been to the efforts of the Chinese minority rather than to those of the Thais. The argument has been forwarded by some authors that the responsibility lies with Theravada Buddhism, which, owing to its other-worldly orientation and given its emphasis on individualism, is said to impair economic development.
The political meaning of the Buddhist religion was, quite consequentially, gradually reinterpreted. Instead of providing the cosmological conception which legitimizes the monarch's rule as divine king or universal ruler, it became the basic symbol of the Thai national identity and community.
A centralized administrative structure was established which differed sharply from the structure which had prevailed in the Lao principalities: "The horizontal lines along which Lao authority was oriented, keeping the highest officials in relatively intimate contact with the peasantry, were radically transferred into vertical lines, allowing officials with all effective power to remain isolated." This isolation deprived the local population from effective leadership.
The Siamese considered it their duty "... to prepare the Lao to adopt the Thai way of doing things. A process of assimilation which included the obliteration of many facets of Lao culture was the natural extension of this policy." The aim of the Bangkok government was to unify "...the Thai and frontier peoples into a strong and independent nation..."This aim was to be achieved through the dual effort of inculcating the population with a reverence for the Siamese monarch and inducing it to identify with the Thai nation. The principal conveyors of this effort were the Buddhist religion and the Siamese educational system, which underwent a process of modernization at about the same time. Thousands of pictures of the king were distributed among the northeastern population and the peasantry was asked to pay homage to the king within the framework of Buddhist religious ceremonies... The widespread tendency of the populace to"... revere and worship almost any sort of spirit and deity..." was exploited to turn the Siamese king into an "object of worship."
The influx of American money had far-reaching consequences for the structure of the northeastern economy; and once the U.S. operations were phased out and the American presence eventually terminated as the U.S. withdrew from the Vietnam war, the economy of the Northeast suffered a serious shock. The American presence moved it out of its traditional gear and it could not easily move back into it.
The Isan identity results from an overlap of Thai political and Lao cultural elements; unlike that of the Chinese in Thailand, it is, however, not a "double identity"; rather it is a sub-identity within a wider Thai political identity.
The inhabitants of the region were encouraged to learn the Thai language, while the use of the Malay language was discouraged; the school system was reformed and integrated with the national school system in terms of language of instruction and curriculum. Attempts were made "...to replace the Malay script with the Thai alphabet [but] have so far proved a singular failure"; the authorities also attempted to change local Malay and Arabic place names into Thai ones. Recently, the Malays were even encouraged to adopt Thai names instead of Malay and Arabic ones. To encourage the Malay Muslims to become Thais, and to attract the younger and mobile elements of the population to the Thaization program, the authorities even strove to equate becoming "Thai" with becoming "modern."
The basic problem, however, consisted of the demand of the central Thai polity that the Malay Muslims pay homage to the king, as the personified symbol of Thai nationhood, and to Thai national symbols. Given the basically Buddhist nature of the symbolization of the Thai nation, and the Buddhist character of the Thai monarchy, these demands were interpreted by many Malay Muslims as contrary to the precepts of Islam: "...submission to a Buddhist conception of political sovereignty has been considered sacrilege by the Malay Muslims." Moreover, the attempts by the authorities to universalize the role of the king from Protector of Buddhism to the Patron of all religions professed by the Thai people did not help much to alleviate the problem.
In particular, Malays "...resented being required to make obeisance to an image of Buddha. This ceremony was explained to them as meaning respect for the sovereign power of the nation. Muslim leaders found this difficult to believe."
Though the practice of Islam was by no means restricted by the authorities, the Islamic religious hierarchy was administratively streamlined under a chularajamontri, an officially appointed head of the Islamic community in Thailand. Such actions, presented as merely administrative steps by the Thai authorities, were perceived as meddling in their religious affairs by the Malay Muslims.
Even the learning of the Thai language in schools was opposed for religious reasons; indeed, according to one author, "The inability of the Malays to speak Thai is evidence of their opposition to Thai religious beliefs, since Malays equate the learning of Thai with Buddhism..."
Despite the attempts on the part of the central authorities to improve the attitude of the officials, the Thai-Malay relations in the southern provinces have not yet improved substantially. Small annoyances continue to cause friction. Thus, a recent regulation banning female officials and students from wearing Muslim dress at work, since such dress represents an infringement of the dress code, caused angry outbursts by Muslim leaders, until it was eventually rescinded.
Eventually, the active local population split into loyalists and separatists; but each of these groups embraces only a small percentage of the population, the majority remaining neutral, but providing a potential source of resistance.
The Teachers of Mad Dog Swamp [fiction] good
1978, Khammaan Khonkhai
Piya was born in a rural village in Ubon. With the assistance of his uncle--an abbot in Bangkok--he finishes his education in a Teachers' Training College. With a sense of mission and lofty ideals, he chooses to go back to Ubon to teach in a rural village called Mad Dog Swamp.
The author compiled this book to introduce rural aspects of life as well as social realities. If carefully read, this book provides various examples of social customs and problems deeply rooted in Thailand.
Thai Administrative Behavior good
1957, James N. Mosel
This 53-page booklet is a reprint from "Toward the Comparative Study of Public Administration." The author examines historical development of Thai administration and points out dynamics and peculiarities of Thai bureaucracy up to 1956.
Brahmans were imported by the Thai but were given the exact opposite function from that which they had in India and Cambodia. In India the Brahman caste possessed divine qualities and their sanctity served as a check on the absolutism of the rulers. Among the Thai their divinity was transferred to the king so that he became a godking or devaraja and the function of the Brahmans was to sanctify and justify his absolutism... Thus, unlike India, Thailand never developed a priestly caste with a philosophical interest in the theory and ethics of government. By making the king more sacred than the Brahmans, the Thai avoided the conflict between priestly Brahmans and rulers, which in India led to the latter's demise and the appearance of decentralized local governments, a feature which greatly facilitated colonial invasion.
The true Thai lower class is the village rice cultivator. He does not like to work for wages, hence wage positions, along with many of the crafts and industrial jobs, have gone mainly to the Chinese.
Roughly corresponding to an incipient and very small middle class is the stratum composed of civil servants and military officers, together with an extremely small number in the professions and commerce. It is not too inaccurate to say that in Thailand the middle class is equivalent to the officialdom.
There is almost no significant Thai mercantile class. Business, the usual foundation of the middle class in the West, is largely in the hands of the Chinese, who, while having many points of contact with the Thai, have maintained their own ethnic identity and exist outside the social framework of their host country.
Numerically, it may be estimated that the present ruling group consists of about 400 persons, distributed throughout the principal posts in the ministries, legislature, the provincial administration system, and the military and police. About 70 of these participated actively in the 1932 coup and thus hold the more responsible posts.
There are five ways in which legality may be established... But most flexible of all are Royal Decrees. Issued by the Council of Ministers in the name of the King, these do not require ratification, although they may be judged by the courts to be contrary to law... The council must technically seek a vote of confidence from, and in turn be responsible to, the National Assembly. But because of its power to appoint one-half of the Assembly's 320 members, and also by its power to issue Royal Decrees and Proclamations, the Council has a strong hand in legislation... In effect, there are few effective checks on the Council of Ministers.
"Government is the business of the officials in Bangkok" is a common attitude... "You can't elect the Prime Minister" and "The National Assembly cannot influence the Council of Ministers" are frequent statements which express this view.
In Thailand the self-image of the leader has always been of one who initiates according to his own perceptions rather than listening to and representing a followership. If he listens at all it is to above, not below, and if he can get away with it, he listens to himself.
In conclusion, two general observations are in order. The first is that many of the difficulties in Thai administration can be remedied only by changes in the larger social and economic system in which administration is imbedded. The non-availability of occupational roles outside government is an obvious case in point. Irregularities occasioned by discontent over low salaries is another. The second observation is that the Thai system works; it functions fairly smoothly, and on the whole gets things done. This is not to say, of course, that there is no need for improvement, but rather that what many outsiders take as points of criticism is the way in which things get done.
The Phi Tong Luang (Mlabri): A Hunter-Gatherer Group in Thailand
1992, Surin Pookajorn et al.
The Mlabri tribe in north Thailand was first observed by scholars in 1919. Their distinctive features soon came to draw various attentions, including the tourist industry.
They hunted and gathered food but didn't cultivate. For this reason, they needed to migrate regularly, staying only 5 - 10 days at one location. They didn't wear a shirt and gathered around a fireplace in the cold of night.
Today, due to several decades of deforestation in north Thailand, their nomadic lifestyle is difficult to maintain. Their present number is assumed to be between 100 and 200.
This book is a collection of theses on various topics on the Mlabri tribe; namely, their language, music, family system, use of wild plants for food and medicine, recent economic and social changes, genetic study, nutritional status, etc.
If a married woman has an affair with another man, the husband will give his wife to the man without any punishment of either person. And they must not be angry with one another.
They only cook the food necessary for consumption and make no attempt at food preservation by smoking or curing.
Since these jungle people do not live together in a big group, they must have a method to get signals from one hill to another. They blow a small bamboo flute to signal in case of a serious incident or urgent necessity. After receiving the signal, other Phi Tong Luang will come to the place at once.
There are two ways of counting: the Mlabri way and the Thai way, the Thai way being used more frequently... For numerals over 'ten' the informant used Thai numerals entirely but they are probably meaningless since the Mlabri lack the concept of quantities beyond 'ten'. Thus money has no meaning to them because they do not know its real value.
They never had the slightest inclination to grow plants and raise cattle. This tendency came from their ancestors who had taught them that if they cultivated plants and settled down permanently, an evil spirit would send a tiger to destroy them.
All of the subjects had Group A blood... There have been no marriages with other tribe. All unions are within the group, so gene spread is limited.
A Physician at the Court of Siam good
1986, Malcolm Smith
First published in 1946. The author was a British doctor. For five years during the 1910's, he served Queen Mother Saowapa--a daughter of King Mongkut, a wife of King Chulalongkorn and the mother of King Vajiravudh and King Prajadhipok.
In this remarkable book, the author recounts his first-hand experience at the Court of Siam, as well as his research on lives of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn. He spares a few pages in describing the Second King during Mongkut's reign, whose name rarely appears in books of political history despite his influential role and remarkable capacity.
He also inspects the polygamy in Siam from a medical point of view, revealing some curious points in understanding the lives of kings.
In the beginning of the year 1851 King Nang Klao [Rama II] fell ill. By the middle of March he was worse and likely to die, and the question of his successor became a dominant one with his ministers. The King himself wished his eldest son to succeed, but against that was a strong party who desired to see Prince Mongkut ascend the throne... Popular feeling was on his side and of this the King was informed. To his wish as he lay dying that one of his sons should succeed him they replied "An heir has been chosen"... Mongkut was then consulted. He hesitated; he said he had been so long away from affairs of State that he felt unequal to the task alone. But he would accept it if his younger brother Prince Itsarate Rangsan was appointed Second King... Very early on the morning of Aril 3rd the King died, and a meeting was immediately held to appoint his successor. Prince Chao Katai and Chao Pya Sipipat announced at once that determination to make Mongkut King and his brother Second King. Moreover they said, if there was any dissent by other prominent officers of State they would execute their purpose by force. They hoped however that there would be unanimity, for any delay might lead to bloodshed. As those two men held almost complete control of the army and navy, the opposition was overawed and collapsed.
Yet with all his progressive spirit Mongkut maintained a rigid conservatism as regards certain customs. From all his subjects he demanded absolute and unquestioning obedience. The whole structure of the society which he governed rested upon reverence for authority, the submission of those of inferior rank to those in rank above them. Every person in a lower station had to prostrate themselves on the ground before those in station above them, and to maintain that posture as long as they were near... The origin of the custom goes back to the early days of the people and King Mongkut did little to change it. He took the first step in the right direction when he encouraged the people to come out of their houses and see him as he passed by... None but the Europeans are allowed to stand erect; but Siamese subjects may kneel down and have a fair sight of the King. Mongkut did most of the talking. No one could speak until addressed by him; no one could move from his place except those with letters or gifts to present.
About 9 o'clock in the evening he went to his private apartments, and immediately afterwards his domestic bulletin was issued. It named the women whose presence he desired and also those whose turn it was to be on duty through the night.
When Mongkut entered the priesthood at the age of 20 he was already married and had two sons by a wife named Noi, a direct descendant of King Yot Fa. They were still alive when he came to the throne.
The most striking feature of the Siamese to me was that so many of them never seemed to mature. Intellectually they remained children all their lives, with all the qualities of lightheartedness, irresponsibleness and fickleness that belong to youth; delightful people to meet but to the serious minded European difficult to work with.
He was a difficult patient. Many physicians were called but they came by ones and twos and not to meet in consultation. That was not their way of doing things. The King also had his own views on treatment. Drs. Campbell and Bradley were invited to the Palace but they were never allowed to treat him. Dr. Campbell always maintained that if quinine had been properly given the fever could have been cured. But the drug was given in fitful doses and because its effects were not immediately apparent was soon discontinued.
He begged his ministers to see that his son Chulalongkorn was elected to succeed him, and to let no one else be chosen... That night a meeting of the ministers was held, and without opposition, almost without discussion, Prince Chulalongkorn was elected and proclaimed King.
He is said by one recorder to have died, as he wished, on his birthday, but the date does not agree with this.
That [portrait] of King Mongkut was done from life, but of the first three Kings there was no record and their portraits were painted from the descriptions given by their relatives. The first King was a difficult problem because most of those who had known him were dead. Finally a very old man was found who said he remembered him, but his description was vague. Someone then had the idea of parading before the old fellow all those members of the royal family who were over 60 years of age, and asking him to pick out the one who most resembled the King. He then sat for the portrait, and after some criticism and alteration it was completed.
Prince Itsarate, who was chosen by Mongkut to be his Vice-King, was his younger brother by four years. On the death of their father, Mongkut as we know, entered the priesthood, but his brother more ardent and restless, took active service with the new king. He was appointed to a high post in the army and was translator of English and secretary of English correspondence. He engaged Europeans to help him and his knowledge of English, both in speaking and writing, was far greater than his brother's... His Palace was modelled after an English residence and his library abounded in works of science... After working with his brother for some years they quarrelled and he went to live at Chiangmai, the northern capital of the country returning south only when required to do so on State affairs. But falling desperately ill at last, he was brought back to Bangkok and expressed a wish to see his brother before he died. Mongkut hastened to his bedside and a very beautiful reconciliation between them took place. He died in 1865. He held very democratic views on government. His greatest hero was George Washington and in a flush of enthusiasm called his eldest son after him. When Chulalongkorn became King, Prince George Washington was made Second King, but having none of his father's fine qualities failed completely to live up to his name. He died in 1885 after which the office of Second King was abolished.
THAILAND King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Golden Jubilee 1946 - 1996
1996, ed. Anand Panyarachun et al.
This book was published in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the present reign. It carries hundreds of curious pictures of historical value. Its chronicle of major social events between 1946 and 1996 is well composed.
1. The Monarchy ... M L Thawisan Ladawan
2. Democracy in Thailand ... Dr. Likhit Dhiravegin
3. Thailand's Foreign Policy ... Anand Panyarachun
4. The Thai Economy ... Dr Ammar Siamwalla
5. Agriculture and Fisheries ... Chulanope Snidvongs Na Ayutthaya
6. Thai Society in Transition ... Dr. Akin Rabibhadana
7. Thai Arts ... M C Subhadradis Diskul
8. Managing the Environment ... Phaichitr Uathavikul
9. Destination Siam ... Mechai Viraraidya
-- some curious dates from the chronicle ---
May 28. Some 200,000 students are stranded as three thousand Chinese schools fail to open for the new term when the Ministry of Education refuses to grant them approval.
July 20. The Constituent Assembly discusses reverting the kingdom's name from Siam back to Thailand, as before the Second World War.
Feb 8. Strict enforcement of visa regulations leads to three hundred Chinese citizens being deported.
Dec 16. The country closes its northern and northeastern borders to Chinese immigrants.
|1950||Mar 31. Foreigners are prohibited from owning land in Thailand.
|1952||July 14. Viewers watch Thai dancers in the kingdom's first television broadcast.
Jan 2. A Royal Decree is signed making identification papers compulsory for all Thai nationals between the ages of sixteen and seventy.
Oct 1. A new bus system is introduced in Bangkok paralyzing traffic and confusing commuters.
Nov 3. Police issue fourteen rules for safe driving to curb rising traffic accidents.
|1954||Mar 1. Three WWII Japanese soldiers surrender on the Thai-Malay border after eight years in the jungle.
|1955||Apr 22. The Thai-Cambodian train service begins.
Jan 19. The government bans the sale of all Chinese goods.
July 1. Legal opium smoking comes to an end, a milestone burned into the night with a fire set with 8,935 confiscated opium pipes.
|1960||Feb 1. Implementing a cabinet decision to discourage rock and roll, the Interior Ministry orders Bangkok municipality to prohibit bands from playing it in Lumpini Park.
July 2. In a televised address, PM Sarit explains that Thailand will comply with a World Court ruling and withdraw from the temple at Preah Vihear.
July 16. The temple at Preah Vihear is officially returned to Cambodia.
|1969||Dec 21. The National Education Council grants permission to establish private colleges in Bangkok and Thonburi.
Feb 11. Draft legislation is approved requiring foreigners to obtain permits to work or do business in Thailand.
Sept 10. Four thousand Chulalongkorn University students force their way into parliament for ninety minutes to obtain promises from the government to curb corruption.
|1972||Dec 19. A new Bangkok city administration plan is proposed: a governor and deputy governor will replace the lord mayor and the city will be renamed Krungthep Mahanakorn.
|1974||Dec 28. Former Prime Minister Thanom is arrested after secretly entering the kingdom; two days later he returns to exile in Singapore.
Aug 19. Protesting police hold a rally in Bangkok and ransack PM Kukrit's residence.
Dec 7. All charges against former Prime Minister Thanom, his son Narong and former deputy Prime Minister Prapass are dropped.
Jan 8. Thailand closes its borders to refugees from embattled Cambodia.
June 3. The Navy is ordered to repel all boats arriving with refugees from Vietnam.
Feb 3. A radical one-way system introduced on seventeen Bangkok roads creates havoc.
July 3. In an initiative to alleviate worsening traffic conditions, HM the King instructs police to stop blocking roads for unofficial Royal Motorcades.
July 30. A charitable event turns to tragedy when nineteen of the nation's poor, mostly children, are trampled to death in a frenzied stampede for free ride.
Oct 4. Doctors confirm the kingdom's first AIDS case.
|1985||Mar 17. HM the Queen sees The King and I on Broadway.
Jul 6. The Interior Ministry proposes a Condominium Act to the Cabinet that for the first time will allow foreigners to own units.
Oct 13. The Cabinet approves a decree that prisoners with AIDS will not be included in amnesties.
|1990||Sept 30. GATT rules that a Thai ban on imported cigarettes is illegal.
July 2. The Cabinet cuts import duties on cars from 180-300 percent to 20-100 percent--placing imported cars on a vastly more competitive footing with locally produced models.
Oct 14. Thailand hosts the World Bank-IMF meeting; the government declares a two-day holiday to ensure a smooth flow of traffic in Bangkok.
Feb 16. The Dalai Lama arrives as part of a group of Nobel Prize Winning laureates drawing attention to the plight of pro-democracy activists in Burma; the government issues the Tibetan spiritual leader's visa over military protests that it will endanger Thailand's standing with China.
Nov 4. The Palace announced the forthcoming publication of HM the King's translation of William Stevenson's novel A Man Called Intrepid.
Endangered Relations: Negotiating Sex and AIDS in Thailand
2000, Chris Lyttleton
The author is an anthropologist. He spent 20 months in 1991 and 1992 in two villages in Khon Kaen Province:
1. Don Han... typical rural village
2. Ban Khem... along the highway R2, several factories offer cash employment
He describes sexual behaviors in Isan and compares them with those of North Thailand. In North, prostitution is recognized as a profession while, in Isan, it is still despised. Northern women tend to enter into prostitution at young age to assist their parents and siblings, while Isan women tend to enter into prostitution after failed marriage to send money to their children.
[price for sex]
Within traditional forms of social control, if a marriage does not result from a sexual relationship between young villagers then the male is obliged to pay a fine... Having sex and paying money are thus tandem facets of premarital relationships regardless of whether they lead to marriage.
Through Isan there are regular incidences of men paying fines to avoid 'shotgun marriages'. By contrast, in Ban Khem, where more men have ready access to cash income from the nearby factories, it is more typical for a man to marry a woman with fitting ceremony and then after a matter of weeks (sometimes only days) disappear to either Bangkok or his home village... The men in Ban Khem rationalise this strategy as preferable because they have been honourable and married the woman, no matter that they had no intention of staying. In this way, the woman's 'face' is not so much tarnished by being left sullied and unredeemed by marriage, but rather by having chosen badly.
If a man holds or grabs the hand or arm of a woman the fine is between 500 baht and 800 baht; hugs or embraces 1000 baht - 2000 baht; touch a woman's breasts or attempted rape up to 5000 baht and sexual intercourse and rape anywhere between 5000 baht - 25000 baht... Any physical connection with female bodies--that is to say, female sexuality--outside of marriage, is therefore definitively linked to a financial transaction. One cannot be had without the other. The young woman learns that her body has a value tied to sexual interaction, both in terms of specific anatomy and behaviour. The young man learns that physical relations with a woman will customarily involve a payment. If marriage is enforced he will pay bride-wealth--if not, a fine.
In both Thai and Isan vernacular the act of sleeping together is described by women as 'I am his now' (tok pen khorng khao laeo) using the possessive pronoun to describe the act of sex--I belong to him now.
A major reason men engage in commercial sex is reportedly due to inhibitions felt by their wives in displaying sexual pleasure and I frequently heard men liken marital sex to: 'sleeping with a tree.' This stems from the way, in general, that Thai women are taught that overtly expressing themselves sexually is inappropriate... The sense of restraint women feel is compounded by lack of private quarters in older-style village house. Many commented that the close proximity of sleeping people is an inhibition. Daeng, for instance, remarked that, because she's embarrassed to make love with others around, she makes her husband wait until everyone else is asleep during which time she usually falls asleep herself.
[North vs. Isan]
Historically, young women from the North of Thailand have been esteemed for their transcendent beauty, their light skins and softness of demeanour. They were favourites as court concubines... The development of communications and rail transportation between Bangkok and Chiang Mai under King Rama V made export of the women from the North possible earlier than in other regions of the country.
Prostitution is widely accepted as cash employment in the North because ostensible 'deviance' is countered by the merit the woman accrues through supporting her family and contributing to the local community... Despite huge numbers of CSWs recruited from Northeast villages, prostitution by no means has the high profile it does in North Thailand.
In the site of his research in Phayao, for example, Yot estimates 70% of the young women in the village have entered prostitution.
But in the 1960s and 1970s, the massive presence of the testosterone-charged American military added an impetus for Isan women to enter commercial sex. American bases in the Northeast established a large range of accompanying entertainment locales and the practice of 'renting wives'. The notion that farang are more attracted to Isan women than Northern women took hold during this period... Yot, for example, comments on the predominance of Isan CSWs in farang bars: "Perhaps because of their darker complexion and their sense of not being the attractive type in terms of the Thai concept of beauty, they feel they would have more appeal to the Westerners... The girls from the North tend to be shy and keep to themselves. So Northeastern girls get more clients than the Northern girls."
In marked contrast to the North where most women are still single when they enter prostitution, Isan women are far more likely to have been previously married and have dependent children.
In much of Isan it is commonly said that a new house indicates someone has gone overseas to work as a labourer. Many villagers felt this distinguished Isan from the North where new houses are a symbol taken to mean a daughter has 'gone south' into prostitution. An important outcome of this distinction is that Isan women who do make money from prostitution have not felt at ease bringing it home for display. The general tendency not to save money as an investment for the family or the future was commented on by a brothel owner in Khon Kaen city: "The Northern CSWs are much more focused and patient, they accrue money steadily that they then take back to their village--the Isan women seem far more casual in their approach, not as concerned with saving money for the future. They spend the money as they get it."
Eh, in a brothel near Ban Khem, compared Northern prostitutes with those from Isan: "They borrow money and then come to pay it off, it's an occupation. They work for three or four years then go home. Isan women have generally been married first. If an Isan woman borrowed money like that, she would just disappear with it."
During our visits to this brothel in Khon Kaen, we would occasionally see parents of Northern women coming to collect money; the owner said this was less common for Isan families. Many Isan CSWs said only their immediate families knew of their work and many are scared word will spread further.
In Northern Thailand, a prostitute can sometimes go back home and get married to a fellow villager... But in the Northeast this is still very problematic. She would be stigmatised and she could be the focal point of gossip and a mockery in her village.
Bureaucrats who travel regionally are fond of saying that they haven't visited another city until they have slept with a local woman and those who play host to visiting delegations are responsible for providing available women. Sometimes the men prefer a 'good girl', that is, someone who is not fully involved in the sex industry. For example, Somjit, who acted as an agent in a provincial capital obtaining women for hotel guests and the local army officers, told us how he would arrange it with the help of the woman who ran a papaya stand next to a dormitory for technical college students.
A woman who works the desk of a hotel in Khon Kaen described growing numbers of students (both high school and college) who leave their contact numbers with her should any guests ask after women.
The Third Precept states that one should abstain from improper and lustful sexual conduct. Although it is not gender-specific in its wording, throughout Thailand this precept is taught in lay language as 'one should refrain from violating other's wives and daughters.' Generally, popular discourse further limits the prohibition to the belief that men are morally immune so long as they do not sleep with another man's wife. Other men's daughters are not included in this reading and visiting CSWs is therefore widely considered uninjurious in a spiritual sense.
Letters from Thailand [fiction] good
This is a story of Suang U, a first-generation immigrant from China. He arrives in Bangkok in 1945 almost empty-handed and gradually works his way up as a successful businessman. But being successful in properly guiding his children turns out to be another matter.
This novel takes the form of his letters to his mother in China, from 1945 to 1967, in which the author expresses her sharp criticism of Thai society. It also carries curious anthropological depiction of the Chinese subculture in Thailand which, after all these years of government-led assimilation programs, can still be seen and is essential in assessing the ethnic diversity of contemporary Thailand.
"Don't tell anyone you haven't been to school," he said. "Just say that you can read and write, and let them guess..."
"Shouldn't I be proud that my mother educated me?"
"That isn't what I said. I said you shouldn't talk about it; there's a difference. You see, in Thailand they have more respect for diplomas than for skill. They like to see a piece of paper that states you've sat in such and such a school for so many years. With that, you can get a job anywhere, even if you can't count to five. Among the older Chinese, it doesn't matter so much, but the younger ones were educated in Bangkok--some of them have begun to think like Thais, heaven help them."
"There are people who would rather scramble in mud on the chance of finding a diamond ring than work at a regular job which would keep them fed but not much more. It is an important thing to learn about Thai people, that they love to gamble."
Nguan Tong was right about Thais working half-time, using only 50 per cent of their ability; we Chinese use 100 per cent of everything except money. You might say that if the Thai work 50 per cent and spend 110 per cent, we Chinese work 100 per cent and spend 10 percent.
Thailand's greatest admirers are those who have spent two days in the country, mostly foreigners who have no idea of what life here really is. They nod wisely and say that the Thai "really know how to live" and "know the value of an easy life". They do not guess to what extremes of laziness and irresponsibility this philosophy is carried, or how great is the disregard for order and civilized behavior.
Our Thai workers move quickly while I am watching them, but I am not deceived. They know that I know; such is the game I am expected to play. What annoys me more is their hypocritical flattery and constant belittling of each other. Their disloyalty to each other is depressing; any one of them is ready at any moment to assure me that he alone does a fair day's work, though the truth may be quite the opposite.
They have no patience, these people, no endurance, and understand neither the world nor the people whose good opinion is everything to a merchant. Without such understanding, a man simply cannot do business, but Thais continue to search for an easy way to achieve the success we have struggled for so long, and for which we have made many sacrifices.
History of Anglo-Thai Relations good
1970, M. L. Manich Jumsai
The author examines the historical relationship between Thailand and England, from the Ayutthaya period to the post-WWII period. His quoting of numerous original sources is curious and convincing. Through his discourse, the capitalistic nature of the British Empire becomes apparent.
(Letter from Sir James Brooke to Major Stuart, 1850)
Siam is, however, a country well worthy of attention, and in commercial point of view, second only to China, but the government is as arrogant as that of China, and the King [Rama III], in comparison, is inimical to Europeans...we may wait till the demise of the King brings about a new order of things. Above all, it would be well to prepare for the change, and to place our own King on the throne.
(Letter from King Chulalongkorn to the Governor of Singapore, 1877)
As for your suggestion that I should bring the Laos States under my immediate control, I doubt if even you know how great are the difficulties. There are difficulties among us Siamese and Laos and other difficulties caused by foreigners... I would doubtless change the customs of Chiangmai and make it a province of the inner circle. But that would be considered by all even by my own people an act of oppression and would excite much disaffection... There is not to be said about Chiangmai that of all the dependencies of Siam without exception, it appears to be best governed instead of being a very disorderly place... it might not be quite just to the Chief to make him the first to lose his present authority. Moreover probably, it would not be done without a war and great loss of lives and money.
(Letter from Mr. Swettenham to the British Foreign Office, 1891)
He [Prince Prisdang] says the Siamese authorities quite understand that these provinces will go, and perhaps Siam after them, but that they have wanted to hold on as long as they could, "to preserve the position held by their ancestors," and, if possible, to make believe that they are a great nation... Prisdang also says that the Siamese government has always told him they wished to claim as much as they could (whether on the French side or in the Malay Peninsula), and hold on to it as long as possible, with the idea that some day that might, like Medea, save Siam or some part of it, by throwing these outlying provinces, one by one to the pursuers, France on one side, and England on the other.
King Chulalongkorn's Journey to India 1872
2000, Edward Bosc Sladen
This is a description of King Chulalongkorn's journey to British India. The royal party included
1. The King
2. Six Princes - two full brothers and four half brothers of the King
3. The Kalahome - Minister of War
4. The Minister for Foreign Affairs
5. The Private Secretary to the King
6. The Colonel Commandant of the King's Body Guard. Eighteen officers of various Departments of State. Twenty attendants.
They left Bangkok on three steamers on December 16, 1871, and came back on March 16, 1872. At the age of 19, the King had been on the throne for four years, but was still under the regency of Chuang Bunnag.
The Buddhism of Siam and Burma was not identical as regards many of the outward and visible signs of reverence with which orthodox followers of the creed in Burma are accustomed to do obeisance at the sacred temples. The Siamese party entered these temples with their boots on and their offerings were made without any special regard to the observances which are a cherished portion of Buddhist ritualism as practiced by the people of Burma.
The Siamese, though eager purchasers of everything novel, were shrewd as regarded fixed prices and always asked for and received a discount for cash payments. But wen bargains had once been concluded they paid promptly and without stint. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the party must have added at least a ton's weight to their baggage in shawls alone, taken on with them from Delhi. These were carried away not as a trade speculation but as presents for distribution amongst female relatives on their return to Bangkok.
He always regarded the crowds with kindness and saw in their seeming prosperity and vast numbers a solution to one of the mysteries which for a time perplexed him, viz. the uninterrupted area of cultivated land which stretched away for hundreds of miles along the line of our railway route and offered a palpable contrast to the uncultivated waste lands he had met with in other less cared for, though perhaps equally fertile, tracts within his own dominions.
Real Life at Moo Baan Dek
1997, Rajani & Pibhop Dhongchai
Moo Baan Dek is a progressive school in Kanchanaburi. It was established in 1979 after the model of "Summerhill School" in England. There, children are not forced to attend classes and it is rather teachers' duty to make classes attractive.
The founder of the school got acquainted with Sulak Sivaraksa during the 1973-1976 period and engaged in political activities. After the massacre of 1976, he joined the Community Party of Thailand.
He rejects the idea of authoritarian school education in Thailand, prescribed by the Ministry of Education, and aims to give liberal education so that children will acquire independent attitude and critical thinking.
Most parents intervene often in their children's growing process and create pressure in their lives. Parents usually fall victim to attitudes, values, moral codes and laws that unintentionally mislead them in bringing up their children.
Regarding school environments, it is now quite evident and generally accepted that the school system not only fails in developing one's quality of life, but also adds to his/her emotional problems, frustration, antisocialism, as well as other aspects of behaviour. It is so because schools in general are interested in encouraging only superficial success and the ability to memorize, they do not care how happy a child is.
Both teachers and parents must stop using power, and allow children to be themselves. They should not mold children's characters, should not teach, and should not preach. Nor should they force the children to do anything.
At the school [Moo Baan Dek], we hold that learning is a child's right. The children have the right to choose to learn or not to learn. But the teachers have to go to class. This does not mean, however, that the school does not encourage learning. Psychologically, we allow the children to play freely to let out their suppressed feelings until they are satisfied and choose to attend the class themselves... Learning and teaching have to be fun and the teachers have to pay attention to the children's differences emotionally as well as intellectually... this does not mean that a pupil can wander around annoying others in class. The teacher has the right to reject a pupil if s/he does not attend regularly, or if s/he disturbs the others.
The children may wake up to any time at our school, but meal times are set. Breakfast is at 7:30 a.m., lunch between 12-1 p.m., and dinner from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. If they wake up on time, they have breakfast. Waking-up hours are the choice of individuals, but the distribution of food is a public matter... Thus, the children learn about individual rights and communal rights from the very first meal.
We do not regard the classroom as the center of the learning process. It may be only a small part. Accordingly, between 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., every section of Moo Baan Dek is open for the children to learn as they prefer. The teachers only help cautiously in guiding and suggesting... Education does not consist of demurely sitting in a classroom, listening to the teachers who may be unprepared or possess insufficient knowledge... This is the reason for Moo Baan Dek's opposition to compulsory education, which forces all children to start primary one education at the age of six.
Most teachers feel embarrassed if there are too few children, or if the children walk out of the class when the lessons are not entertaining. Our culture prefers that the children sit quietly in class, and this has become contagious, even at Moo Baan Dek. Here, holding the children's attention on boring subjects is not a matter of authority, but a question of skill.
In most schools and in most Thai families, adults have authority over children, and the children must listen and obey. The life and future of the children, in many ways, are determined by the adults... Arguing with the elder or teacher is not acceptable conduct in Thailand. Children with such behaviour are considered rough and ill-mannered. At one time it was even believed that such a child was a "leftist." "Freedom" is a word seldom used in Thailand. "Equality" is almost unheard of in public forum or in schools... We began simply by prohibiting adults from hitting and forcing the children to do things, whether regarding study or other areas. The adults are not to interfere with the child regarding private life, such as study, dress, thought, work and other private affairs. Adults are not to force their own values on children... Children who have been controlled by authoritarianism, some of whom were physically hurt and emotionally scarred, have deep emotional problems. Such a child likes to hurt others, to take advantage of others, and is selfish and mean.
Capital Accumulation in Thailand, 1855 - 1985 good
1989, Akira Suehiro
In this book, the author carries out extensive research in tracing major capitalists in present/past Thailand, thereby explaining the social/economic structure of present-day Thailand.
Chapter 1 Introduction
1. New Studies of the Thai Economy
2. Scope of the Study and Hypotheses
3. Major Concepts
4. The sources
Chapter 2 Integration in the World Economy
1. The Bowring Treaty
2. Trade and Industry
3. Economic Change without Development
Chapter 3 The Rise of Capitalist Groups: 1855 - 1932
1. The European Capitalist
2. The Chinese Capitalist
3. The Sakdina Group
4. The Dominant Capitalist before the 1932 Revolution
Chapter 4 Economic Nationalism: 1932 - 1947
1. A Thai Economy for Thai People
2. Chinese Rice Business Groups
3. The Development of State Control
4. The Results of Economic Nationalism
Chapter 5 Bureaucrat Capitalist Development: 1947 - 1957
1. Economic Control under Military Rule
2. The Development of the Bureaucrat Capitalists
3. The Reorganization of Chinese Capitalists
4. The Return of the European Capitalists
Chapter 6 Industrialization (I): Multinational Enterprises, 1960s - 1980s
1. Industrial Promotion and Economic Change
2. Multinational Enterprises
3. Japanese Multinational Trading Companies
Chapter 7 Industrialization (II): Domestic Business Groups, 1960s - 1980s
1. The Development of Domestic Business Groups
2. Industrial Groups
3. Financial Conglomerates
4. The Agri-business Group
Chapter 8 Capital Accumulation in Thailand
1. Stage Development and Dominant Industries
2. The Tripod Structure of Dominant Capitalist Groups
3. Historical Origins of the Tripod Structure
4. The Rise of the Bureaucrat Capitalist
5. Industrialization and the New Capitalist Groups
6. The Limitations of Domestic Capitalist Groups
There is still the conflict between the military group, which is largely ethnic Thai, and the capitalists, who are largely ethnic Chinese. (p. 9)
Captain Burney, who visited Thailand in 1825-26, observed that "the trade [with China] is so profitable as to yield at least 300 per cent. In this last trade the King and most of the officers of Siam are engaged, and it is said that large profits are realized even if only one out of two vessels return." (p. 17)
It should be noticed here that the legalization of opium import into Thailand, which was one significant purpose of the Bowring mission, was closely related to the commercial interests of Jardine Matheson, which happened to be the largest opium dealer in the Far East. (p. 20)
Development of such colonial industries as tin ore mining caused a sudden increase in demand for Thai rice, while railway construction in India required tons of teakwood from northern Thailand. (p. 23)
Burmese rice was traditionally exported west mainly to the European market, and later to the Indian market. Likewise, French Cochin-China rice was exported in large part to French and other European markets. In this way, Thailand became the most important supplier of staple for the "rice-eating wage labourers" of Southeast Asia and China. (p. 29)
It is true that a European capitalist group brought necessary capital funds, management know-how, and modern technology into major growing export-oriented industries. But at the same time, they carried away a great deal of Thailand's natural resources at very high rates of profit. (p. 41)
Tin ore produced in southern Thailand was very significant for the king, because it was used as a raw material for bullets. This is why the royal court, as well as the Krom Kalahom, had constantly supported tin mining and tin ore tax farmers. (p. 64)
Until the reign of King Rama II(1809-24), the largest source of state revenue was the profits extracted from the royal monopoly trade with China. But increasing state expenditures forced the king to seek new revenue sources. King Rama III thus decided to introduce a tax farming system for a total of 38 items, including gambling, lotteries, and major exportable products such as pepper and sugarcane. This system was further extended to another 38 items during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-68). These included opium, raw silk, iron, and tin ore. (p. 72)
What precisely distinguished tax farmers from other Chinese merchants was that they essentially belonged to a class of Thai political officials... they also were given such political privileges as extra-legal rights. (p. 77)
The four most important tax farming items were opium, spirits, gambling, and lotteries. In 1863 opium, spirits, and gambling alone produced a revenue of 1,273,000 baht, contributing around one-third of the total state revenue. (p. 77)
Revenues from opium, spirits, gambling, and lotteries jumped to 9.15 million baht in 1895, representing 51% of the total state revenue. (p. 79)
Many leading Chinese businessmen were willing to use their Thai family names after 1913 when the government enacted the Family Name Act and the Nationality Act. (p. 99)
He [Pridi] said that it was the purpose of the government to enlarge the position of the Thai in agriculture, tin mining, trade, and industry. Government departments were to be made more efficient. He urged the people to cooperate, claiming that the most important thing to be accomplished was the entry of Thai into the profit-producing activities of the nation. (p. 108)
After the first Phibun government was established in December 1938, restrictions of aliens were immediately extended from immigration to the business activities of Chinese in line with the policy of economic Thai-ification.... Between 1939 and 1940 Chinese were deprived of such major occupations as taxi driving, pig slaughtering and wholesaling, distributing petroleum products, fisheries, and rubber plantationing. (p. 109)
Two questions should be posed here concerning the economic policies of the first Phibun government from 1938 to 1944. The first question is, in the campaign of "Tai economy for the Thai people," who was a Thai and who in actuality socially and economically represented the Thai people? According to Pridi's economic plan, "Thai" possibly meant the ruled classes. In the ideas of Prime Minister Phibun, "Thai people" indicated Thai farmers, workers, and consumers. But whatever the original intent, "Thai people" later did not come to indicate either the common people or Thai farmers. Rather, it came to mean the government officials or a specific political group. (p. 130)
In exchange for providing management skills and capital funds, Chinese business leaders obtained security as well as political patronage. More interestingly, in order to cope with enhanced discriminatory measurements against aliens, many Chinese changed their nationality to Thai and used Thai names.... Consequently, when they were called upon by the government, they were no longer "alien" people to be regulated, but "Thai" people to be economically promoted within the new economic policies. (p. 134)
Putting the 1938 cost of living index at 100, it increased to 222 in 1943, and further to 1,072 in 1946. Besides, the government's control on the rice trade as a measure to stabilize the economy, in turn, caused rice hoarding and illegal rice exports, which finally resulted in a serious lack of rice all over the country.... What should be noted is that inflation attacked more seriously war veterans, who had no permanent occupation after the ward. In addition, society as well as the government showed little appreciation towards these veterans, although the government did remunerate the members of the Free Thai movement. It is very easy to suppose that these factors caused an increase in dissatisfaction with the civil governments. (p. 135)
After seizing political power, the new military leaders, first of all, tried to take over the existing firms that were formerly under the control of the People's Party, as well a the Pridi group. Their purpose were (1) to destroy the economic base of the former political leaders and (2) to acquire their own non-budgetary income base with the lowest compensation. (p. 141)
Government policies promoting state enterprises discouraged private investment. The most important reason, however, may be attributed to the predominance of bureaucrat capitalists or the military-involved business in state, public, and private enterprises. Bureaucrat capitalists, by their nature, primarily aim at exploiting and appropriating the economic surplus for political purposes. They pay little attention to the improvement of technology and the expansion of production capacity. Even though a firm apparently suffers economic losses, the military group who sits on a firm's board of directors will not worry about anything other than the generation of a certain amount of income for its members in forms of salaries, bonuses, etc. (p. 151)
In manufacturing, private capital could hardly compete with military-related capital, which employed larger amounts and had access to political privileges. Therefore, insufficient operation of state enterprises and public companies directly caused the underdevelopment of the industrial sectors of Thailand. Unfortunately, the military leadership-controlled firms frequently had neither the will nor the ability to improve their insufficient operation. Such limitations rooted in the mode of behaviour of bureaucrat capitalists constituted formidable obstacles for the progress and upgrading of the industrial sector. (p. 153)
The World Bank sent its first economic research mission to Thailand in September 1957 to survey the economic problems that Thailand was facing.... Many technical experts were invited from the US to help draw up the master plan, and Thai staff members were also sent to the US to study necessary techniques for economic planning. (p. 179)
The Sarit government virtually prohibited state participation in those commercial and industrial activities which might be expected to directly compete with private capital.... This new attitude towards state enterprises was undoubtedly a reflection of the negative evaluation by the World Bank. Another important reason had to do with the intention of the Sarit regime to quickly destroy the economic base of its political rivals, who had strong vested interests in state enterprises and state-sponsored companies. (p. 180)
In contrast to the second Phibun government, the Sarit government did not adopt discriminatory policies against foreign businessmen. To the contrary, it attempted to abolish the existing regulations imposed on their activities in order to attract foreign capital including Thai-Chinese capital. (p. 186)
The economic troubles after the oil crisis of 1973 also required domestic capitalists to improve their traditional mode of capital accumulation depending heavily on political patronage. In addition, the economic crisis presented the opportunity for the technocrat class to increase their power in the undertaking of national economic policy. In this process, state enterprises and state-sponsored companies became the corporate base for "state capital" supported by the technocrat class, rather than a non-budgetary income base for the military and politico-bureaucrat class. (p. 191)
The American-European MNEs entrusted a larger part of their management to local staff, although final decision-making was left to Western top-managers. Moreover, the Western managers' tenure was by far longer than that of the Japanese. Japanese MNEs, on the other hand, frequently changed delegated staffs, and hence their tenure became relatively shorter--three to six years at the managing director level. This in turn gave rise to an instrument for the Thai government to regulate the ownership structure of the Japanese-involved firms. That is, the authorities demanded Japanese partners to reduce their shareholding in the joint ventures in exchange for approval and renewal of work permit certification for new Japanese staff, who would come every three to six years. (p. 197)
In Japan and in other industrialized countries, technical experts and factory owners frequently became significant contributors to domestic industrial development. The founders of Toyota, Nissan, Matsushita, Hitachi, and Sony, which now represent giant industrial firms in Japan, arose exclusively from a group of technical experts and factory owners. But in Thailand, there was no comparable development. Why? One major reason probably stems from the government policies after the 1960s. Since the BOI intentionally backed a group of larger-scale firms in the promoted industries by regulating either the minimum value of initial investments or minimum production capacity, almost all the owners of existing factories were automatically excluded from the programmes. (p. 231)
A Window on Isan
1989, Peter Rogers
In this book, the author depicts general topics on Isan, its history, land, people, agriculture, festivals, and Buddhism. It also provides a number of curious pictures. Its publishing year 1989 gives it a touch of historical document as to what has changed and what has remained unchanged in Isan during the past decade.
If we look then at the cultural patterns that dominate the Northeast it is immediately obvious that they are essentially Lao.
In southern areas of Isan nearly half a million people speak Khmer, a language totally incomprehensible to the native Thai or Lao speaker.
There seems little doubt that the present (1988) population of the capital is well over six million, or approximately 55 - 60 times that of Khon Kaen, now Thailand's second largest city. Until very recently this distinction had always been held by Chiang Mai but the government's avowed policy of making Khon Kaen the focal centre of the Northeast has resulted in spectacular growth.
In the Northeast the farmer is growing the wrong crop on four-fifths of the cultivated land. The fact of the matter is that in many parts of Isan neither the soil, acidic and poor in nutrients, nor the climate with its uncertain rainfall are felicitous for the growing of rice... The reasons for which rice dominates the Northeast's agriculture are largely cultural and historical. That is to say that rice farming was an inevitable priority amongst a people for whom this cereal forms the backbone of their diet... Rainfall in the Northeast of generally adequate for most annual crops except rice and agricultural production would be substantially increased if the switch from rice to other crops could be made.
As in most countries the first of the annual celebrations welcomes in the New Year though in Thailand it is only since 1941 that this has been done on 1 January. Prior to that the Thai New Year began on 1 April and until 1889, there were in fact two New Year's Days--one roughly at the beginning of the cool season in late November or December and another in mid-April at the time of the Songkran festival.
Even monks are subject to the customary Songkran ducking and it has been said that in some Northeastern villages young girls use the opportunity to douche their favourite young monks as a mark of high esteem. In general it should be said that the donor of the water gains merit by his act and at the same time indicates his respect for his victim.
In 1986 the revenue from tourism reached 40,000 million Baht for the first time and this upward trend continued through 1987, Visit Thailand Year, to reach the record figure of 57,000 million Baht in 1988. The new Bangkok International Airport, opened during 1987, has a greatly increased capacity for handling passengers (6,000 at any one time) andhas evidently contributed to the continued growth in the number of tourist arrivals.
The King of the White Elephant [fiction]
1940, Pridi Banomyong
This is a story of the Kingdom of Ayodaya and its wise monarch Chakra. In 1540, the Kingdom of Honsa attacks Ayodaya. King Chakra fights back to protect his country and people.
This is Pridi's only novel and is supposed to carry his political message at the early stages of the Second World War. The story was made into a movie in the same year.
Quote from the preface: "This novel is based upon certain well-known episodes in the history of Thailand: the invasion of the country by her neighbour, ostensibly with the object of securing a few white elephants, but in reality for the purpose of personal aggrandizement; the defeat in single combat of the ambitious and aggressive ruler by the greatest and noblest of Thai warriors; the decisive victory of Right over Might...."
High Banks, Heavy Logs [fiction]
1991, Nikom Rayawa
Kham Ngai was born in a rural village near the Yom River. He was brought up with an elephant named Phlai Sut who was born in the same year. They were playmates.
While Kham Ngai was conscripted to the army for two years, his father fell ill and had to sell Phlai Sut to the local boss Phaw Liang.
Having lost his dream of becoming a mahout, Kham Ngai worked as a forest laborer and, then, a wood carver. He made a deal with Phaw Liang that, if he carved a life-size elephant, Phaw Liang would trade it for Phlai Sut.
This is a 1988 SEA Write Award winner.
1797, ed. King Rama I
Rama is the crown prince of Ayudhaya where virtuous populace prosper. Sita is his beautiful wife. Ravana is the king of Lanka where evil giants live. One day, Ravana kidnaps Sita. Rama is determined to get her back by all means and starts his expedition....
Kings are reincarnations of divine figures. Magic weapons are decisive in conducting a war, whose power is enhanced by strict ritual ceremonies. Hermits and astrologers display supernatural powers. Extramarital romance is commonplace, whereas royal consorts are required to keep purity....
While there seem to be various versions of the classical epic Ramayana, this version is known to be compiled by King Rama I in 1807. This book is its English translation. The story reveals curious aspects of the mentality and logic of the ruling class in Siam up to the early nineteenth century.
Erawan Shrine & Brahma Worship in Thailand
1993, Trilok Chandra Majupuria
The Erawan Shrine was built in 1956 when the construction of the Erawan Hotel encountered various difficulties. It enshrines Brahma, a Hindu god with four faces and eight arms. In this book, the author gives basic lectures on Hinduism and Buddhism, and illustrates the influence of Hinduism in Thai society.