Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Changing TAO council sizes

The size of the council of a subdistrict administrative organization (TAO) varies a lot, because every administrative village within the TAO has two elected councilors. Only in case there are less than three villages, the number of councilors per Muban is higher since the minimum size of the council is six. Thus there are TAO councils between six and more than 50 members. But not only the size of each TAO council differs, also the size of one TAO council can change - whenever a new administrative village is created, the council will be enlarged by two seats. The councilors from the village which is split are assigned to that part village in which they live, so its no necessarily the seats from the new village which will be filled in the by-election.

Now I add the council term ends in this year and thus the election dates for 2009, I stumble over several cases where the council size has changed between the 2005 and 2009 election. In those cases where I know that a new village was created during the term that change is easily explained - one example can be the TAO Chae Chang (องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบลแช่ช้าง) in San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Main province. In 2005 the council had 14 members, in 2009 it had 16 members. Today, the subdistrict contains 10 administrative villages - thus at first one would expect 20 TAO members. But village 7 is completely covered by the municipality San Kamphaeng and thus is not eligible to send councilors to the TAO council, and for village 8 the area which belongs to the TAO is unpopulated, only for Mu 6 one part of the population belongs to the municipality and another to the TAO - so effectively there are eight Muban for the TAO. And since village 10 was created in 2006 there must have been a by-election to enlarge the council shortly after the new Muban became effective.

This way I could already explain a big number of the council size changes, but sadly no all. Even though those files from where I copy my data are published by the Election Commission, they obviously contain wrong data - for example for the TAO Don Du (องค์การบริหารส่วนตำบลดอนดู่) in Khon Kaen province, according to the EC tables the council had a size of 18 in 2005 and 24 in 2009. But - the subdistrict has 12 villages and no area shared with any municipality, and already in 2002 it had 11 villages. Only one village was added in 2006, so the number for 2005 must have been 22, not 18. There were even a few cases where instead of the number of seats the table showed the number of constituencies (i.e. of Muban). In other cases, there were smaller councils in 2005, and in 2009 the council had two members for every Muban - but part of the subdistrict belongs to a municipality, and there were no boundary changes between TAO and municipality as far as I knew. So I have no idea why those Muban were eligible to have councilors in 2009, but not in 2005.

Apparently, the Excel sheets and PDFs from the ECT were created manually, otherwise such obvious mistakes could not happen. If I could spend more time on the programming part of my data collection project, I would easily have a small tool which could output the same tables from my collected data. But then there's still the problem that I don't have the full source data, I can only reconstruct them from those files I have. Especially whenever a mayor or a council ends its term prematurely I would have to update the data in the XML directly - but I rarely find these information at the ECT provincial websites.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Local government terms 2009-2012

The task which kept me busy the last months was to add election data to my XML files reached a first milestone. On the website of the Election Commission, I originally found an Excel sheet with all the term ends of the local government councils and mayors in 2012, and after some more searching another Excel file for 2009 and two PDFs for 2010 and 2011. Since those files cover the last four years, in principle I should now have data for every local government unit. But actually, a few are still without - those which ended their term in 2008, but had the next election in 2009 are missing, especially the TAO upgraded to municipalities in 2008. Nevertheless an impressive number of local government units:
An example entry in the XML, taken from the subdistrict municipality Khlong Cha-un in Surat Thani, looks like this
  <term begin="2012-12-16" type="ThesabanTambon" size="12" />
  <term begin="2008-11-09" end="2012-11-08" type="ThesabanTambon" size="12" />
  <term begin="2004-07-25" end="2008-06-30" type="TAO" size="26" endreason="StatusChange" /> 
Notice that the last term as a TAO ended about one month before the nominal end of term because the upgrade was effective a little earlier than in most cases - normally the upgrade happens on the day after the term ended. Such cases of prematurely ended terms are the most interesting ones, and will write up some articles on some types of premature ends - the end due to a status change is the least interesting one.

And I am not yet done with this huge task of adding term data, in the meantime the term ends in this year were published as a PDF, and I also found another PDF with the data for 2008. This year there will be a total of 3596 term ends, again a lot of TAO end their term since it is 4th four year period since 1997 when 3637 TAO were created. And again a significant number of these I expect to be upgraded to municipalities this year.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Elections in the 1950s

The book Village life in modern Thailand by John E. DeYoung is a very interesting description of the rural life in Thailand in the 1950s - which at the time of writing the book was the "modern time". A few sections also mention the relationship of the villages to the authorities, like the following on the national election.
A few weeks before an election each district officer instructs the headmen of his village and communes to encourage their villagers to vote; the headmen assemble the villagers, urge them to vote, instruct those who have never voted in how to cast a ballot, and assign a registration number to each person eligible to vote. A registration list is sent by the headman to the local polling place (which is often the nearest primary school), and watchers and checkers are appointed for the polls. On the day before the elections the headman sends his assistant to all households to remind them that the election will take place on the morrow. Thus, even though the villager sees, hears, or reads nothing of the candidates, he is constantly reminded of the election during the several weeks preceding it.

In 1949, in a by-election for assemblyman, 49 per cent of those eligible voted in the village of San Pong — 72 per cent of the eligible males and 25 per cent of the eligible females. None of the candidates visited the village, no campaign literature was distributed, and since they do not read newspapers, few of the villagers had any clear idea of the campaign issues. The villagers made their choice partly on the basis of what the headman and the schoolteacher said about the candidates, partly on the basis of the nearness of the candidate's home town. A man from the closest town, even though he was personally unknown to the villagers, was regarded as a "local" man, a consideration which made him a better choice in the eyes of the villagers than his rivals from more distant parts of the province.

Eligibility to vote consists simply in being older than twenty-one. Since so many adult villagers are illiterate, a technique has been devised to allow those who cannot read and write to vote. Each candidate is assigned a number. These numbers are printed in Thai numerals and also in large dots on perforated paper. When the voter comes to the polls he is told which number corresponds to which candidate; he enters the voting booth, tears off the piece of the ballot which contains the number of dots for his choice, seals this inside an official envelope which is given to him when his name is checked on the registration list by the polling inspectors, and drops it in the ballot box. For his vote to be valid the envelope must be sealed, for Thailand voters enjoy the privilege of secret ballot. [...]
I'll post some more quotes from this book later with other sections on the local administration. The whole book is also available at, apparently already out of copyright. Despite being available online, I have got myself an antiquarian copy - reading it in paper is more comfortable...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Graphical license plate for Phetchaburi

Today, a new graphical car license plate was announced for Phetchaburi province [Gazette], replacing the design originally announced in 2005 [Gazette].
Comparing the two design, one can easily find the new elements. In the background is Phra Nakhon Khiri with the fireworks of the annual festival, held in the beginning of April. Also new are the two Garuda figures, though I don't know how these are special for this province. The flowers, fruits and the local sweets have been moved together to the left side - the palm trees as the source of the palm sugar as the main ingredient for these sweets are now much smaller and spread in the background.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Local political crimes

Probably the biggest news last week was the arrest of Somchai Khunpluem (สมชาย คุณปลื้ม), better known as Kamnan Poh, who was on the run for eight years. As his nickname suggest, he was subdistrict headmen from 1968 till 1989 in Saen Suk subdistrict, Mueang Chonburi district. 1989 he became the first mayor of Saen Suk subdistrict municipality, which was upgraded from a sanitary district in that year. He stayed in office till 2005, when he fled the country facing arrest for the 2003 murder of another subdistricht headman.

However the legal problems of Kamnan Poh haven't affected the political influence of the Khunpluem family - one of his sons is chairman of the Chonburi PAO, another the mayor of the city of Pattaya. And also Saen Suk municipality is still led by a Khunpluem family member. Thus it is no wonder that some analysists claim that his arrest now was the result of loosing protection from influential figures - Bangkok Pundit has a summary of the most likely theories.

Coincidentally, just one week before this arrest, another political murder led to the arrest of an important local politician. Last November, the mayor of Songkhla municipality, Peera Tantiserani (พีระ ตันติเศรณี), was fatally shot. A political reason for this murder was suspected right away, and now Uthit Chuchuay (อุทิศ ชูช่วย), the chairman of the Provincial Administrative Organization (PAO) Songkhla was arrested as being one of the masterminds behind the murder. Another local politician is apparently also involved, the mayor of TAO Tabon in Ranot district. As usual, the case is around an infrastructure project which probably would have gained the suspected plotters some additional income - a cable car crossing the mouth of Songkhla lake. Peera was a strong opponent of this project due to its ecological impact on the remaining forest in the municipal area.