Collected by Nopporn Suwanpanich[To see the catalog of the newspaper collection with an introduction “A Eulogy for My 2010 Memories” by Chertalay Suwanpanich, click here]
In this first of three parts, we present three articles from century-old Thai newspapers on the aristocracy’s corruption and the double standards in taxation enforcement, both between Bangkok and outlying regions and between ordinary people and the high-born.
“That the nobility takes bribes does not go unnoticed by His Majesty the Sultan: he knows it through and through. But how can he get rid of them, when every member of the nobility engages in bribe-taking?
If he were to fire old officers and hire new ones, then the latter would take bribes all the same. Put yourself in the Sultan’s shoes, and you will surely reach the conclusion that it is better to keep the old, for they may one day be satiated from all the taking.”
from Bangkok Kanmueang, Year 1 Volume 6, Monday, 20 November BE 2465 (pdf)
under the heading “Miscellaneous,” pages 94-96
Gunnañce taramānānaṃ — When a herd of cattle fords a river, if the leader of the herd goes off course, the rest of the herd all go off course; if the leader of the herd goes straight, the rest of the herd all go straight. So it is for humans: if the one agreed upon as chief behaves unrighteously, how can you expect the rest of the people to behave righteously? Right?
The Education Ministry enables the nation to flourish. The Royal Treasury Ministry gives it 2,443,634 baht in the BE 2465 Annual Budget. Truly flourishing!
The money the Royal Treasury Ministry proffers to His Majesty the King, the Head of State, totals 10,686,936 baht annually. How majestic!
The Provincial Police and the Metropolitan Police Departments bring peace to the country. The Royal Treasury Ministry gives it 5,100,100 baht annually. Big peace!
Civil servants must go to work at their appointed department and location. But why is Luang Thanasit, the treasurer of Samut Prakan Province, going to work at the Royal Treasury Ministry? Does Jao Khun Sombat know? What are they up to? Their salary belongs to the people, mind you! If you want to play favorites, play it by the rules!
If a person with beautiful eyebrows holds a position in the government, he is called a meritful person put there by fate. Consider Jao Khun Sombat: his eyebrows are beautiful, so he is a favorite of His Highness Deputy Minister of Treasury. What pride!
A gift given may bring justice to the gift giver. Or it may sway justice in favor of the thief. But the authorities say that in case of the Custom House of …, it is mandatory; not giving is tantamount to not being considerate to the work undertaken by the government, as not giving causes significant work delays. Giving may result in speeding up the work as if by an automobile with a 6-cylinder, 8000-horsepower engine.
We would like to affirm that of all the merchandise inspection officers at the 3% Custom House, not one has ever accepted a bribe: if they want it, they’ll just ask for it, isn’t that right?
We ask them directly, and they give it to us without protest; as such, how can it be construed by any legal expert as a bribe?
To those who love, give love; to those who hate, return hatred—a favorite motto of the Custom House officers.
Anyone whose work might involve dealing with Customs, unless you bring with you a large amount of generosity, don’t bother going, because that establishment is a place fit for the generous.
Officers at the Import and Export Department of the Custom House say that people of all nations and tongues are the same. The farang, especially, have an unusually good eye: they win first place in walking with hands folded behind their backs!
Regarding custom checkpoints, a HRH Prince has said that no one surpasses the Turks, in the sense that they do not even care about salary. Not that the Thais come second, just saying.
Speaking of gifts (which are called bribes), everyone who has passed through Constantinople will remark upon how every member of the Turk nobility accepts bribes, from the highest minister to the clerk, and does so brazen-facedly, no need to think of the Sultan. If you find this unbelievable, feel free to ask His Royal Highness Prince Damrong Rajanubhab about it, as His Highness has visited that city.
That the nobility takes bribes does not go unnoticed by His Majesty the Sultan: he knows it through and through. But how can he get rid of them, when every member of the nobility engages in bribe-taking?
If he were to fire old officers and hire new ones, then the latter would take bribes all the same. Put yourself in the Sultan’s shoes, and you will surely reach the conclusion that it is better to keep the old, for they may one day be satiated from all the taking.
Due perhaps to the fact that his noblemen take bribes to such a degree, the Turk Sultan is often declared persona non grata.
Our country’s nobility loves the Nation, Religion, and King. Therefore, nobody accepts a bribe, as it is such a dreadful thing. If some did, they must be noblemen of the nation-selling kind!
“The economic downturn has led to doubling rates of property confiscations in outlying Tier 1 cities and towns. In Phra Nakhon, meanwhile, you will be hard-pressed to find anybody whose assets are confiscated or who is asked to show proof of payment of the head tax. People who haven’t paid enjoy a city stroll with impunity, but innumerable villagers and forest dwellers are stripped of their assets.”
“I would like to whisper in my honorable Editor’s ear that nowadays the law already is steps ahead of the citizenry, we should hold the law back and prevent it from becoming full of itself and detached from reality like the current head tax law.”
from Kammakorn, Year 2 Volume 40, Saturday, 1 December BE 2466 (pdf)
under the heading “Reply in the People of Kalasin’s Stead,” pages 626-628
Your newspaper, Vol. 37, Saturday, 10 November 2466, responded to a complaint of the people of Kalasin Province by saying, essentially, that pitching in just 6 baht annually to help the nation should not be such an overwhelming trouble. This comment you probably made after a superficial glance from the perspective of Phra Nakhon residents. If you were to look deeply, you would see the situation of the residents of the forests and the hills, the kind of people who earn nothing each day but must pay the same amount as Phra Nakhon residents do, who are oppressed and extorted by the officials, whose properties are seized and auctioned off to pay the head tax, who are forced to pay a seizure fee on top of that to line the pockets of officials. Such properties include cows and water buffalo, fields and paddies. Some have even been left homeless. This does not only pertain to Kalasin Province; I have heard the same from talking to people in a number of provinces and regions. Therefore, it is impossible not to reply in the people of Kalasin’s stead. While it is true that the honorable Minister of Interior Jao Phraya Yommaraj has, thanks to his supervision and the Administration’s good intentions, recommended leniency for urgent tax enforcement, the Revenue Department has urgently ordered an extortionate policy of levying taxes down the administrative ladder. Why? Because ever since the repeal of the head tax exemption by way of using one’s labor, wealth has declined greatly. Whenever I broach this subject, (?) would argue that “wealth declined because of military conscription.” So let me first dispel that false notion, which at most might account for 25 percent of the decline. The economic downturn has led to doubling rates of property confiscations in outlying Tier 1 cities and towns. In Phra Nakhon, meanwhile, you will be hard-pressed to find anybody whose assets are seized or who is asked to show proof of payment of the head tax. People who haven’t paid enjoy a city stroll with impunity, but innumerable villagers and forest dwellers are stripped of their assets. When subjects supposedly united under His Majesty’s feet do not receive equal treatment, will you, honorable Editor, not express opinion or help find a solution at all? Or will you wait for the eventual repeal of the head tax, substituting land tax in its place? As for land tax (income tax), I think that it is still not appropriate at this time; only the head tax law should be amended for now to correspond to the conditions of the country. I would like to whisper in my honorable Editor’s ear that nowadays the law already is steps ahead of the citizenry, we should hold the law back and prevent it from becoming full of itself and detached from reality like the current head tax law. All of us should take part in finding a solution to the dwindling wealth of the Royal Government. I could write and poke into more things but it would waste paper space, so let me stop. Will write later when I can.
What do you say about this issue, the Royal Treasury Ministry? Or Phraya Inthamontri, Director General of the Revenue Department? Will you see the suffering of the people? The Ministry of Interior has already allowed extensions; how far is the Treasury Ministry going to push for strictness? Should extensions be out of the question regardless of time and place? What to do if people really have nothing? How to make a living once one puts up one’s belongings for auction? Will the government be troubled when the people have nothing to eat? We are not talking about individual government officials, since they can get by comfortably eating their salary. But whose money do the people eat—do they not bathe in sweat in place of water? They should be attended to, should they not? The government has failed to better the people’s conditions toward happiness in any noticeable way. What’s clear is its obsession over levying taxes. So how can the people not end up in tatters? Put yourself in their shoes, Government. Even the rich fall on hard times; what about ordinary citizens? The government should be sympathetic to those who really have nothing.
“Certain lords and royals still owe the government their rice field fees from 2456 to 2465: 10 years’ worth of fees. The District Chief and the provincial authorities are well aware, but they dare not issue a warning nor seize their fields for auction like they do to the common people. I owed a single year’s worth of fees and yet I was forced to pay up—who in my place wouldn’t be distressed? … Allow me to mention some examples for all the people to know”
from Kammakorn, Year 2 Volume 39, Saturday, 24 November BE 2466 (pdf)
under the subject “Letter of Mr. Dislikes Injustice” (as appears in the contents), pages 615-618
Rob Krung District, Sri Ayutthaya Province
11 October 2466
A bow to you, honorable Editor of Kammakorn:
If you may, I would like to take up some space on your paper to beg for justice and equality for me in comparison with many other owners of land. My situation is as follows. I have one paddy plot in Wang Noi District, Ayutthaya Province. Every year I would bring money to pay paddy fees at the District Center, but for the year 2464 I did not pay because the rice yield was quite poor. I received a letter from the District Chief of Wang Noi urging me to pay the outstanding paddy fees within 10 days, and that if I fail to make payment within the specified timeframe, my paddy plot will be seized and auctioned off. I had to go around taking loans so I could pay in time. I also went around asking people about outstanding paddy fees for those who have farmland in this district, and a certain village headman who was trustworthy related to me that many lords and royals still have not paid their paddy fees. As for himself, he was given the least discount for his paddy fees since the noble and royal landowners collected rent and paddy fees [from tenant farmers] but did not make payment to the government, and the District Chief dared not seize their fields. And I went around asking more people and learned of the fact that certain lords and royals still owe the government their rice field fees from 2456 to 2465: 10 years’ worth of fees. The District Chief and the provincial authorities are well aware, but they dare not issue a warning nor seize their fields for auction like they do to the common people. I owed a single year’s worth of fees and yet I was forced to pay up—who in my place wouldn’t be distressed? The lords and royals already have more than enough monthly stipends to live on; they charge 3 baht per rai rented; each one of them owns thousands of rai; still, they hoard the paddy fees collected from farmers. They don’t pay fees to the government and nobody sees to it (Justice). Allow me to mention some examples for all the people to know: Jao Phraya Yommaraj, Minister of Interior, owes fees every year from 2456 to 2465 in the amount of 1,500 and some, while his paddy overseers have collected all the rent and the paddy fees to the owner; Prince (Kromma Muen) Bongsa owes fees like Jao Phraya Yommaraj, in the amount of 1,500 and some, and all money has likewise been collected; Somdej Phra Matuccha Jao [Savang Vadhana] owes fees from 2463 to 2465, the amount up until 2464 is 100 baht and some, and Her Royal Highness’s pages have likewise collected all the money; Prince Damrong Rajanubhab owes fees from 2462 to 2465, the amount up until 2464 is 900 baht and some, and his paddy overseers have collected all the paddy fees for His Royal Highness; Phraya Attakarn [William Alfred Tilleke] owes fees from 2463 to 2465 in the amount of 1,500 and some, the Madame has collected all rental and paddy fees, his tenants say they can’t even be one cent short in rent and paddy fees, if they owe anything their water buffalo will be seized and they must sign away their ownership papers with identifying features of the animals; Mom Rajawongse Suwaphan owes fees from 2456 to 2465 in the amount of 2,000 baht and some; so do many other lords and royals who reside in Bangkok. These examples should suffice to raise questions why the District Chiefs, the City Rulers, and people above let slide the 9-to-10-year-old debts, while they extort every last cent from commoner households. Or is it that those royal family members and Minister of Interior have enough credit and ‘honor’ to trust that they’ll have money to pay anyway, doesn’t matter how long they owe it? (Oh my Justice, oh my)
Mr. Dislikes Injustice
Regarding the officials’ strict enforcement of prompt payment of paddy fees among the populace and even the seizure and auction of assets, we have discussed this issue in our papers once before under the subject of the people’s troubles and the royal government’s losses. This practice among the officials is tantamount to encouraging the people to become thieves and bandits, because when the people run out of assets, they do not have a way of making a living. Poverty presses on them ever more heavily and they can’t but turn to dishonest means. We would like the officials charged with collecting taxes to take on board the warning to local administrative officials written by the honorable Jao Phraya Yommaraj on page 20 regarding the strict enforcement of payment of taxes. On top of this already reproachable practice, there’s the matter of rushing the commoners but leaving the lords and royals untouched for upwards of nine to ten years. Are there special exemptions? Or is it the fear that taking action will get one removed from office? If that is so, then we must have misunderstood when we believed that this huge pile of back fees that the lords and royals owe the government was due to forgetfulness on the part of the overseers managing the land in their stead who failed to report to their masters, whether the nobility or the royalty, that they’d completed their work, whereas the officials were simply afraid of people in high places, and dared not issue a warning or enforce a payment. As long as the officials remain biased because of fear and cannot follow through, we recommend that they resign, so that the government can fill their posts going forward. Otherwise, the government’s funds will be stuck in the pipeline and go missing for no good reason. Some supervision, some reprimand from senior executives is called for.
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This series is part of the project Dissident Dreams, sponsored by Democracy Discourse Series, De La Salle University, the Philippines