Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Administrative and Political Structure of Chiang Mai Province

On August 12 2008 Dr. Tanet Charoenmuang (ธเนศวร์ เจริญเมือง held a talk at the Informal Northern Thai Group (INTG) on the administrative structure of Chiang Mai province. A bit late they now added a summary of this talk on their website. In fact, it was this talk which made me notice this INTG, as I stumbled on the then scheduled talk while researching about Dr. Tanets book "Thailand - a late decentralizing country". I still don't have the book however, still hesitate to buy it at the only Internet bookstore with a 50% surcharge for shipping.

The Informal Northern Thai Group is a group of mostly foreigners in Chiang Mai, who regularly convene for invited talk on various Thai topics. It is no formal club or foundation, in fact it was one before but was closed in 1975 due to various reasons like time constraints of the original panel members. They are now doing a monthly informal meeting with an invited talk, by now already over 300 talks had been held. If I were living in Chiang Mai, I would probably be a regular guest at these meetings, especially the quite unusual special topics make it very interesting.

Back to the actual talk, which coincides a lot with the topics covered in the book. As the book comprises essays and papers written by Dr. Tanet over the past two decades on the topics, it seems that the summary refers to things which had changed long time already - so it is more a summary of the book than of the talk itself. For example in the decentralization strategy the following points are listed
  1. To hold governors’ elections, starting in major provinces and later proceeding to all provinces.
  2. To abolish the PAO because it overlaps with the Tambon Council.
  3. To replace the council system of Municipality with a strong executive system in which both the mayor and councilors are directly elected by the people.
  4. To abolish the Sukapiban system and replace it with the strong executive system of Municipality.
  5. To set up a full-fledged local government agency in each Tambon. The people should decide if they prefer the council form, committee form or the strong executive form of government.
  6. To oppose the Interior Ministry’s plan to maintain the council form of municipal system.
  7. To maintain the regional administrative system for the present and gradually transfer government officials under it to operate under the authority of local government agencies.
The Sukhaphiban were already abolished in 1999, the "local government agency in each Tambon" has been created 1996-1999 with the creation of the TAO. Also, the municipal mayors and councilors are now directly elected. However, the first two points are still unchanged, the province governors are still appointed by the Ministry of Interior, the the PAO with their overlapping responsibilities with the TAO are still in place.

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