Friday, February 18, 2011

Importance of the District Office

Mueang Samut Songkhram
The 1962 book Politics in Thailand by David A. Wilson, while it otherwise has nothing about the administrative subdivisions, in the concluding Chapter has the following interesting quote on the population structure.
...consisting of an extremely large agrarian segment and a small ruling segment. The two groups interact in a tenuous manner so that the smaller does not irrate the larger. [...] Direct relationship between the two social segments are maintained through the district office, which is highly formal and socially (and often also geographically) distant.
While there are two more administrative levels below the district, these are led by locally elected headmen, which are villages same as their electorate. Therefore the district is the lowest administrative level manned by government officials sent from Bangkok. Citizen have to visit the district office sometimes, especially for the registration services - even though these are now also possible to do in the municipality offices - but the province hall they usually don't need to visit, so the district office is the most important of the government offices for the normal citizen.

This quote describes the situation 50 years ago, and the population structure has changed a lot since then. Today there's a big middle class, and only in the northeast the agrarian sector still predominates. While working in the government sector is still very popular as the career choice, it is no longer the only way to middle and higher class. And as mentioned before, now the municipality office have taken over some of the registration services, so the importance of the district office has shrunk a bit. And finally, in the last 50 years the number of districts has grown a lot from around 500 to 928, thus the district office has come closer to the people geographically as well - and with increased mobility it is also much faster to reach than 50 years ago.

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