Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book excerpt "The Thai Bureaucracy"

I have received my copy of the 1966 book "The Thai Bureaucracy" by William J. Siffin, and at first look it already seems like an interesting read on the history of the Thai administration. As a first teaser I am quoting the section on the local government from chapter 8 "The essential character of the contemporary bureaucracy".
A small local government service also exists outside the national bureaucracy. It has perhaps 10,000 officials and employees. Terms and conditions of employment follow those of the national bureaucracy, but the local officials work for particular municipalities, have no opportunities for mobility beyond their particular jurisdiction, and posses little prestige. Autonomous local government is not significant in Thailand. Urban municipal government (apart from the capital area) did not even exist until passage of the Municipality Act of 1933, and today more than half the nation's local officials are employed in the metropolitan cities of Bangkok and Thonburi. Outside the capital there is one city - Chiengmai - with a population approaching 100,000; about eighty towns have average population of 15,000. These data are not necessarily adequate indices of urbanization, for city boundaries do not necessarily coincide with areas of high population density. But to this point, local government in Thailand has been more nominal than real, and this is reflected in the insignificance of the local bureaucracies.
Again, there are two interesting references to older publications, but it seems these are impossible to get in print - and while Google Books has entries for them, they don't even offer snippit view of the contents, neither for Winyoo Angkanaraksa "Local Government in Thailand" nor Frederick James Horrigan "Local government and administration in Thailand".

But since the decentralization of the 1990s the last sentence of the quote is now no longer valid - now there are not just around one hundred municipalities and sanitary districts as there were in 1966, but almost 10,000 covering the whole country. And also the prestige of the positions in local administrative must have grown (or at least have become very lucrative), as otherwise there would be need for a pledge for better protection of local election candidates.
The Election Commission has asked the Royal Thai Police to ensure adequate security for local government elections being held throughout the country.
There have been reports of violence and intimidation of election candidates. Some of them have been killed, he said.
Bangkok Post, "EC asks for protection for candidates", 2012-07-09

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