Monday, July 16, 2012

Role of the district officer

In this system, the district officer was the lowest level of generalist, and an important man. The district officer and his deputies became the chief source of higher administrative personnel in the tesapiban system. And it was at the level of the district that the official structure of government came into contact with the populace. From the beginning, the district officer was the local eyes and ears - and perhaps the nose - of the government, as well as the chief executive of a small domain, vested with symbols of authority in an authoritarian society. He was the king's man.
William J. Siffin, The Thai Bureaucracry, page 88.
Though the above quote is on the role of the district officer during the thesaphiban in the years 1892 to 1910, and taken from a 1966 book, it is basically still valid today. The leaders of the two lowest tiers of the central administration - village headmen and subdistrict headmen - are no career bureaucrats but elected local people, and it is the district officer who consults with these headmen on a regular basis. At the beginning of the 20th century (and for many parts of the country until much later) the difficulty of traveling or communicating made such a hierarchical system a necessity, as it was simply impossible for a villager to get into direct contact with the province administration.

But of course, the district officer has much more to do than just being the middlemen between the populace and the province administration. Just recently, the Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA) has put a PDF with 294 pages on their website titled "กฎหมายที่เกี่ยวของกับ อํานาจหนาที่นายอําเภอ" (The laws which are related with the power of the district officer) - a wide collection from the Criminal Act, Family Registration Act, Weapons Act, Hotel Act, Fishery Act and many more laws covering a wide area of topics. Way too much to read for me, at least it is possible to copy-and-paste it into Google Translate...

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bueng Kan emblem in the Royal Gazette

In March, the emblem of Bueng Kan province was officially announced in the Royal Gazette - I just didn't notice it directly because the title of the announcement is simply
ประกาศสำนักนายกรัฐมนตรี เรื่อง กำหนดภาพเครื่องหมายราชการตามพระราชบัญญัติเครื่องหมายราชการ พุทธศักราช ๒๔๘๒ (ฉบับที่ ๒๖๖)
Announcement of the Office of the Prime Minister about government emblems according to the government act of 2482 (Amendment 266)
So there are already 266 announcements with government emblems, and browsing through them shows a wide range of government agencies, ministries or departments, and many others. But of the administrative subdivisions, only the provinces are covered by these announcements, and there are only four such announcements so far:
  • All 75 provinces in a single announcement from 2004 [Gazette]
  • Krung Thep Maha Nakhon from 1973 [Gazette]
  • Chachoengsao emblem change from 2007 [Gazette]
  • Bueng Kan from 2012 [Gazette]