Wisdom and Ideal
Dr. Puey has expressed his wisdom and idealism in a variety of his speeches and writings in Thai and foreign languages. However, the writing which was deemed to reflect every aspect of his wisdom on the society, economy and politics with common core consisting of fairness in the society and living with quality and satisfaction, namely, the quality of life, a calendar of hope, from mother’s womb to a person’s tomb, as presented by him to the Southeast Asian Development Advisory Group (SEADAG) in October 1973 as follows:
The Quality of Life, A Calendar of Hope,
From Mother’s Womb to a Person’s Tomb
When I am in my mother’s womb, I want my mother to have nutritious foods and receive caring attention and service in mother-and-child welfare.
I don’t want many siblings like my parents had, and my mother must not give birth too often.
It does not matter if mom and dad are legally married, or whether they abide by nuptial custom and tradition. What matters is they live together in peace and keep us happy and warm.
During my first 2-3 years in life, the crucial period when my body and brain are growing. I want my mom and I to have nutritious foods.
I want to go to school. So do my sisters. Schooling would provide us knowledge to make a living and learn morality of life. If I have brain to study further, let me have an opportunity to do so whether my parents are rich or poor, living in the city or the impoverished rural areas.
After finishing my school, I want meaningful career that gives me a satisfaction of contributing to the society.
The country where I reside must be a law-abiding society with no harassment, oppression, or assault.
My country should maintain fair and beneficial relationships with the outside world, so that I could learn the ideas and knowledge of the human of the world and my country would access to opportunities to receive foreign funds for our public goods.
I want my country to sell our products abroad at fair prices.
As farmers, I want to own adequate land sufficient for making a living and have access to loans for expanding my production, knowledge for improving my living, good market, and able to sell produces at fair prices.
As a human being, I want to read newspapers and other books that are not expensive, to listen to radio and watch TV without too irritating commercials.
I want good health, the government must provide me free preventive healthcare, good medical service at low cost and convenient to see doctors and nurses when ill.
I need free time for family enjoyment, green public parks, participation and appreciation in arts, literatures, dances, music, cultural events, temple fairs, Loy Kratong and other festivals, and any merit-making occasion as proper.
Anything that I cannot do, or cannot do well, I shall seek help from friends in the form of co-operatives, clubs, or unions that help each other.
All my demands above are not made as request for handouts. I am willing to pay taxes to the public according to my means.
I want an opportunity to be part of the society around me, to participate politically, economically and socially in deciding the fate of the country.
My wife also shares my wishes. The two of us should be taught and trained family planning.
In our advanced age, my wife and I should receive compensation from the social security to which we contributed.
When I die, I don’t want to die foolishly or crazily, like in wars that other initiated, die in civil wars, die in road accidents, die of water or air pollution, or die of political toxicities.
After my death, please cremate my body. Do not bury. Spare the ground for other people’s domicile and productive land. Do not bother to organize an elaborate funeral.
This is the meaning of life. This is a development that would exist for the benefit of all.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of you who have a patience to read through to the end. May happiness and peace be with you, and as the Lord Buddha said about happiness:
“We do not see any happiness for all mortals other than wisdom, enlightenment, endurance, prudence, and sacrifice.”
Later on Dr. Puey has translated this writing into Thai language with elaboration.
Concept on Public Finance
Dr. Puey used to express his idea about Public Finance as follows:
“Our current taxation system still had many loopholes in term of fairness in the society or in term of income distribution. It was one of the facts that the premium on rice export put the farmers in disadvantage and also another fact that we still had channel to collect more taxes from the riches for more money to help poor people. The improvement of land tax in the city, property tax, corporate income tax and the reintroduction of inheritance tax and estate and gift tax will enable the government to spend more money on farmers and other poor people. In this respect, the government would also be able to employ the policy of lessening income gap between the riches and poor people.”
Concept on Political Economics
Pricha Piamphongsan wrote about him on this matter as follows:
“In his view, our economic system is firmly intermingled with politics. Economics and politics are inseparable. Economics must closely follow politics and politics must also change in line with the economy. His concept emphasizes practicality rather than proposing a dream. From this perspective, he wanted to propose the concept of political economics that would improve the economy, society and politics for the benefit of mankind.
To learn the subject of economics, one must learn to analysis all elements of the problem in order to thoroughly understand the core of the problem which will be helpful to find the proper solution of the problem as required.
In his opinion, the thing that motivates human to engage in economic enterprise is not only the monetary incentive but more important is the love of fellow human beings.”
Concept on Education
Dr. Puey said about education as follows:
“Education and economy support each other and the result is perfect harmony, namely, if national education is good, national labor will be good along therewith and it will also help national economy a great deal. On the other hand, if national education is bad, national labor will be bad likewise and national economy will be worse. In other regard, this education development will also help developing economy in two aspects, that is, apart from helping the entire economy to be more advance, it is the best method to distribute the property and income to everyone everywhere, resulting in every child to have equal opportunity in seeking knowledge and prosperity evermore.”
Political and Social Ideal
“In order to adhere to the principle of public virtue, there is no other way to obtain it, except through peaceful means.
Using weapons for intimidation and extermination of each other to obtain public virtue, even unsuccessful or may be temporary in effect, it shall not lead to permanent public virtue. With one party using weapons, the losing party will also use weapons in retaliation, how can we preserve public virtue. There are examples at large in Africa, Asia or South America and those who conspire to use weapons for seeking power would later on be disunited among themselves as they would likely use weapons against each other to secure power again, there is no end to this madness.
Peaceful means is the only method to obtain permanent public virtue. It shall take a long time and a lot of sacrifices. It requires extra absolute bravery. It will be ridiculed by others. However, with real adherence to the principle, perseverance itself will follow.”
Throughout his life, Dr. Puey always adheres to the principle of fairness in society, freedom of speaking, writing, thinking, proper expression and making the majority in the society to obtain better quality of life. However, since 1948 Thailand never had a real democracy. On 17 November 1971, Field Marshal Thanom Kittikhajorn, who was respected by Dr. Puey, had made a coup d’etat against his own government in order to obtain absolute power in governing the country. Dr. Puey was so disappointed that he wrote a historical letter in February 1972 signing the name of Khem Yenying, his codename during the Free Thai Movement service in World War II, to Tamnu Kiatkong, the village headsman, mimicking the name and family name of the field marshal in corresponding translation, to object the taking over of governing power and call for a quick return of power to the public.
The said letter, even though being a gentle demand and plead for the return of the village covenant but it was deemed a defiance against the powers that be. The movement of Dr. Puey was then closely put on the watch. Some people went as far as suggesting the government to take disciplinary action against him for being a civil servant daring to write such a letter. In 1972, Dr. Puey decided to resign from government service prior to his prescribed retirement.
An open letter from Khem Yenying to Tamnu Kiatkong, the Village Headsman
To my dear and personally respected Elder Brother Tamnu,
For more than two years before my moving from our beloved Thai Charoen1 village to live in faraway place, in your capacity as the village headsman, you have accomplished two things deemed by me and many others to be most valuable for our village, specifically for the future of the villagers, namely, providing the village covenant as its topmost regulation. It means that from now on our villagers may adhere to the covenant as the basic rule to make the living. It will be better and more progressive rather than ruling the village at will by few people. It will also allow the changing of village rulers by peaceful means on the one hand and on the other hand you have arranged for the villagers to elect their own proxies to advocate their rights on their behalf. The elected proxies will then form themselves to be the village assembly with the authority to determine various rules for our village by holding the principle of public virtue, i.e., Morale is (a source of) power, and not power as (a source of) morale and power (from morale) comes from the villagers. All in all, the topmost power comes from the good morale of the villagers in the whole Thai Charoen village.
Upon the creation of the village covenant and upon the formation of the village assembly, I am not certain myself that every clause of the covenant satisfies me and also I am not sure whether every member of the assembly is decent folk but I am pleased that you have taken the trouble to create the covenant, it is better than there’s no covenant, and to have the assembly is better than there’s no assembly.
Alas, not long after leaving Thai Charoen village, I’ve heard that you have abruptly changed your mind by joining some of your friends to cancel the village covenant and dissolve the assembly once and for all and return to governing the village at will by the headsman and cohorts. In this case it is still you and your deputy and the same old group of assistants, only in fewer number.
For all the reasons declared by you and your friends to be the cause for this change, I’ve already taken them into careful consideration in details and taken time for contemplation that upon repealing the village covenant whether or not all the vicious clauses could be amended and turned into good ones but I’ve not seen any prospect of magic conversion as claimed. Some matter even deteriorates, for example, the unrest at the village boundary. I’ve made observation from afar and is not yet satisfied and not yet certain. On two occasions I returned to the village to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears. The result still confirms my old opinion. As for the problem of unrest, external threat, economy problem, social problem or youth problem, all of these problems should be able to be solved, if being seriously taken, without having to revoke the village covenant. If really necessary, the assembly may be dissolved and a new one could be elected. But for the most important things, namely, the limitation of human rights such as prohibiting the villagers to think, to speak and to write freely and not to assemble meetings for discussion on governing our beloved village at liberty, will bar Thai Charoen village not to benefit from the precious brains of the villagers in their capacities as individuals and also as a collective entity.
You may disagree with me that, as for the change so far, the village officers and the villagers in general rejoiced in agreement, with some objections by just only a few fools. Respectfully I would like to inform you that most of the village officers benefit from the termination of the assembly. They don’t have to be bothered by the assembly members anymore. Frankly speaking, no more objections. As for the villagers, you are well aware that most Thai Charoen villagers hold their survival as the ultimate aim. I can confirm this matter from my own experience as the foreman that no matter how wrong or right am I, it’s hard to find someone opposing me because all of them will look after their survival first. As for the objections to be small in number, it is true because you and your friends have armed guards at hand from the beginning and by using fear as the instrument causing the objections to be softened. If you really want to know how sincere are the villagers, try not using intimidation as the instrument of fear.
However, this note of mine has no intention to oppose you in essence. I would like to propose the matter agreed by both of us as the beginning, namely, we shall develop Thai Charoen village to be ever more prosperous.
Such development must be made in every aspect to be genuinely useful, for example, the social aspect, economy aspect, peace and order aspect, moral aspect, cultural aspect, wisdom and education aspect and governance aspect, etc.
As for the governance aspect, ever since I have known you with love and personal respect for more than twenty years, I have always heard that you (and your friends) admire liberal public virtue (we always claim that the Reds limit liberal public virtue, which is true). Thus you took the trouble to spend the time, to use contemplation, brains and money of the village for almost ten years to create the village covenant. As for you (and your friends) admiring the principle of liberal public virtue, I am sincerely appreciative. Nowadays in all other developed villages, usually they are interested in the environment of human beings. Should it be toxic, it shall be greatly hazardous to humanity. They are afraid of harmful effect from science when we abuse it, for example, automobile gasoline vapor odor, factory black smoke, use of chemicals in a way contaminating the basins, soils, forests, mountains and climate, etc. As for our Thai Charoen village, we also have a lot of toxic environments. However, in my opinion, the toxin of fear is worse owing to its origin from intimidation and the use of power by force (even rightly used). Since fear would have reflection contaminating the wisdom and upon the wisdom becoming toxic, in some case it turns the wisdom into paralysis and becomes useless, in worse case it affects and badly depresses the wisdom such that it explodes, as already occurred in many other villages. Nowadays we could read about it in newspapers all the times.
I agree with you that we have to get rid of all external threats to Thai Charoen village. However, if our village is full of using the power, not using the brain in sensible way as our forefathers had used it such as to preserve our independence for a long time and when power causes fear, in biological sense, the nerve cells will force us to close our eyes and that is when disaster will set in. Whenever we close our eyes, our enemies will grab the opportunity and we shall be at disadvantage.
One more thing that I deem it very important, you are now in your early sixties and I am also approaching that age, both of us shall depart from this earth sooner or later. I also have my own ambition like your own to leave this world and Thai Charoen village to our descendants as the world and village to be livable, peaceful, independent as its name implies and prosperous as we wish. The vital factor for being Thai and prosperous is the ability to change things in our village by peaceful means and in accordance with the covenant. If we could make only this achievement, even unable to accomplish more other things, I would say our young people shall owe a deep gratitude to you.
Someone may pose the question whether today’s young people should be promoted to gain the right and liberty under the village covenant, should we support them? Nowadays the conducts of young people are often detestable and disgusted. I am myself also repugnant to them many times. However, you yourself have assigned me to mingle with them for many years. In my opinion with fairness, I in turn feel proud of the young people in Thai Charoen village instead of feeling repugnance toward them. They are more reserved and respectful of us, contrary to what I have seen in other villages. I sympathize our young people who have been taught by us to love the principle of public virtue (which is right) to love and admire the freedom in thinking, speaking, writing and socializing (which is true as stated in all village covenants, past and present) and these young people have inscribed our teachings in their hearts. When the village has acquired the covenant, they are jubilant because it is their expectation, as being in line with our teachings. However, the covenant is short-lived and suddenly terminated without certain hope when shall it be revived again. Who would not regret, who would not be disappointed since they have expectation to participate in the creation of prosperity to Thai Charoen village in accordance with the village covenant. Notwithstanding this unfortunate event, our young people remain calm and try to suppress their fear when making request to us because they still believe in the good intention of our generation. Thus how could we be unaffectionate and unkind to and unproud of our young people?
With all the variety of reasons I would like to inform you above and with love and respect to you, I would like to plead with you in accelerating to form the village covenant as soon as possible in mid-1972 or at the latest not crossing over to next year. Please provide the Thai Charoen villagers with freedom under the principle of public virtue, to be able to elect the assembly soon as you have arranged in the past. Thai Charoen villagers shall feel deep gratitude to you, both at present and in the future.
Most respectfully yours,