Friday, June 17, 2011

Elected village leaders

Yesterday, a very interesting article was published in The Nation, basically a rant of a spokesman from the provincial administration bureaucracy on the suggested changes by the National Reform Council. As the whole piece is worth reading, it wasn't easy to pick few main parts to quote
Any attempt by a future government to abolish the system of the Interior Ministry appointing village representatives up to provincial level - and replacing it with the election of local leaders - will be vehemently opposed, the influential Governing Officer Association of Thailand (GOAT) said yesterday.
Surasak warned that Thailand would disintegrate and be replaced by "many pockets of small states" if governors were elected along with others like village headmen.
The Nation, 2011-06-16, Elected village leaders could lead to 'disintegration of the country'
It is basically the same thinking as shown in the proposal of a half-appointed parliament by the PAD and their New Politics Party - the citizen are too stupid to choose their right representatives, so any decentralization and democratization at local levels will bound to fail. Better stay with the well-known and claimed-to-be successful bureaucratic polity, the system already described by Fred W. Riggs in his 1967 book "Thailand: The Modernization Of A Bureaucratic Polity".

It is of course not surprising to read such a conservative statement by someone from within the provincial administration bureaucracy, it would be interesting to see if the winner of the forthcoming election will dare to change anything in this system, implementing some or all of the proposals of the National Reform Council. Too bad I haven't yet found a good English description on what the actually propose for the provincial and local administration. It already took me quite some time to find the Thai name of this association with the strange acronym - สมาคมนักปกครองแห่งประเทศไทย.

But there is one thing I real wonder about in the article, and especially the headline. The article suggests that right now all of the administrators - from provincial governor, district head officer, subdistrict headman and down to the village headman are officials sent from the Ministry of Interior. While this is true for the two higher levels, the headmen are and always were a thing in the middle. The Ministry has to approve them, and they are under strong control of the Ministry and the higher administrative levels, but they are and as far as I know always were elected by the local population. And since 1997 every five years, and not for life (till retirement age actually) as in the past. I can only guess that the article was written by a Bangkokian, who never lived in any village outside the town and thus never experienced the election of a village headman.


john francis lee said...

The people quoted in the article are all amaat : Newins people, and Army : Lt-General Surasak Karnjanarat representing the present administration.

If Thaksin wins he's unlikely to change things either. It's much easier to control and to skim from Bangkok than to deal with the provinces.

Real democracy requires local control of as much as can be locally controlled, which is a lot. It is going to be a continuing uphill battle for the Thais no matter who wins on 3 July.

john francis lee said...

I forgot to mention the 'red villages' story by the Bangkok Post... could there be a more flagrant act of disrespect for democracy?

Mike said...

Andy, village headmen/women. Definitely elected and for five years although can be dismissed earlier by the village council.

Can stand for re-election possibly up to retirement age(unconfirmed).

This is my local village in PKK some 300 km from Bangkok.

You may well be right to surmise the article was written by Bangkokian...... who may well be a mushroom farmer(keep in the dark etc);-)

Interesting election posters down here, quite a mix but NOT many red candidates although plenty of red propaganda posters!