Monday, August 8, 2011

Village headmen term changed

Yesterday's Bangkok Post commentary "A delicious feudalistic dish" has a lot of interesting points on the local elections. I'll only focus on those around the village headmen election, as those made me notice a major change which happened in 2008 already.
But the position of village or district head _ lower in the steep vertical abyss that is the Thai political structure though it may be _ is secure and, if you play it right, very lucrative.
The village or district head is only elected once and his or her term lasts until the day he or she retires, at 60 years of age. It's pretty much a life-time job. Not to mention, they get better benefits and sometimes better pay.
Now as far as I knew, the headmen had their term changed to five years around the adoption of the 1997 constitution, so the life-time terms were a piece of the past.
Why and how have we come to this?
The particular law responsible came into effect on Dec 31, 2009, but it was passed in 2007.
But as the author claims that there was a recent change in the law, I had to look more close into it. The roles of the headmen are codified in the Local Administration Act (พระราชบัญญัติลักษณะปกครองท้องที่), originally from 1914 [Gazette] and amended 11 times since then. And the most recent amendment was announced December 30 2009 [Gazette], so it'd fit to the law referred to above. Alas, this only adds one sentence to the law
การยกเลิกตำแหน่งกำนัน ผู้ใหญ่บ้าน แพทย์ประจำตำบล สารวัตรกำนัน และผู้ช่วยผู้ใหญ่บ้าน จะกระทำมิได้
Cancellation of the position of subdistrict headman, village headman, village doctor, district inspector and assistant headmen shall not be made.
This refers to the cancellation of these positions when the subdistrict gets elevated to a municipality, where these officials were originally considered obsolete. This amendment might have been added due to the protest of the outgoing headmen on Ko Samui, when the island was upgraded to a town in 2008. But this change does not say anything about the term of the headmen.

So I had to check into the older amendments as well, not that easy since I could not copy-and-paste the text from the Royal Gazette announcements directly, but had to find them in text on a website to be able to check them with Google translate. But finally I could find that amendment 9 issued in 1992 [Gazette] introduced the five year term by added one sentence the article 13 of the law.
ผู้ใหญ่บ้านอยู่ในตำแหน่งคราวละห้าปี นับแต่วันที่ราษฎรเลือก
The term of the village headman is five years, starting from the day of the election.
And now amendment 11, issued in 2008 and therefore legislated by the coup group of 2006, changed this article 13 completely again, so now a village headmen leaves office only due to the reasons stated in article 14, most notable item 1
When aged 60.
I haven't looked up the same item for the subdistrict headmen yet, but as the commentator claims these are also now effective life-time positions I have no reason to disbelief him.

It's odd I totally missed this big change with the 2008 amendment, even though I was already following the English press for news on these things. Thus the headmen elections happening now - like the one observed by fellow blogger Mike in Prachuap - will be the last regular ones for quite some time, once all the headmen elected for a five year term before 2008 finished their term these election will happen only when the headman retires, dies or gets removed by higher authorities.

And if anyone interested, the complete text of the current version of the Local Administration Act can be found here.

1 comment:

john francis lee said...

Certainly one would expect this to be changed when the coup's constitution itself is changed by the present government.