Dr. Puey’s family name “Ungphakorn” derived from that of Mr. Por, a tax farmer granted the title of Khun Raksa Akorn Kij1. Apart from performing the duties of a tax farmer, Mr. Por was also a fishing terminal owner who loaned to fishermen for investment and bought the fishing at sea.
Dr. Puey was the son of Mr. Sa, who emigrated from China and assisted his brother, the tax farmer Por, assuming his family name. Mr. Sa worked very hard from early morning until nightfall to take care of his family, mostly returning home at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. (according a memoir by Dr. Puey). His health deteriorated and he died when Dr. Puey was only nine years old. The burden of raising the family then fell upon his mother, Sohseng, whose Chinese family name was Teo, Later, she adopted the Thai family name Prasatseree. Mrs. Sohseng took great care in bringing up her children strictly. She was much interested in education.
Dr. Puey started his studies at Sapan Tia School in Talat Noi Sub-district. At first, his father wanted to send him to study in China at his father’s birthplace, but his mother refused.
“My mother made arrangement for me to enter Assumption College by asking Maha2 Suk Supasiri to introduce me for admission. Maha Suk was then a teacher of Thai language at Assumption College. He lived close to our house in the alley of Talat Noi Water Pump Station. I called him Uncle Suk.
At that time Assumption College charged seven baht per month tuition. One school year consisted of ten months, therefore the total payment for tuition was 70 baht which was highly expensive at that time. The cost of notebooks and textbooks was also more than in other schools. But my mother, determined as ever, said that no matter how expensive they were, she wanted her child to obtain good opportunities as others.”
Dr. Puey attended school with the admission number 7036 (ID number) and chose the French class section. He finished high school in 1933. As an outstanding pupil, he was invited to become a teacher after graduation. He took a job as full-time teacher to earn income to help family.
One year later, in 1934, the University of Moral and Political Sciences (later renamed ‘Thammasat’) was established. At that time there was no requirement for class attendance and the university published lecture notes for sales at low prices to encourage working students, to further their educations at their own pace. Dr. Puey saw an opportunity to gain additional knowledge for future progress while working to help his mother. He enrolled as a student at Thammasat University.
As he had to teach at Assumption College every weekdays and could not attend class at Thammasat, he diligently studied the coursework by himself at night and on weekends. He received a bachelor’s degree in law and politics, then called a Thammasat bachelor’s degree, in 1937 after three years of study.
“During my college education at the University of Moral and Political Sciences, I work at the same time, but passed the degree examination in three years. Most of my grades were mediocre and I ranked of 65th out of 79 graduates in my class.
During my studies at Thammasat, I worked as a teacher in the daytime. Assumption College teachers worked very hard, all day. I studies nights and early mornings. Mostly, I spend nights with classmates at Thammasat.”
While studying at Thammasat, Dr. Puey was impressed by learning through discussion and argument with the students:
“For college education, arguments and panel discussions among students are necessary. When I attended Thammasat, the inclination of students to discuss and argue academic issues already existed in the old days of the law school. During group study sessions with friends, panel discussions and arguments were frequent, especially for the students like us who did not attend lectures in the daytime. Arguments and panel discussions resulted in motivating students to further their studies, to think in depth discuss the matters again. This is what learned men in former times elegantly called the academic atmosphere.”
Further education abroad
After graduation from Thammasat University, Dr. Puey resigned Assumption College and took a job as interpreter for French teachers at Thammasat. During that time, he won the government scholarship for study abroad and received a Thai government scholarship to study economics. Dr. Puey chose to further his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) at the University of London.
Dr. Puey had to start all over from Bachelor’s Degree level and he could finish the degree in economics in three years in 1941, receiving the first rank among the summa cum laudestudents in his class. With this distinction, he was awarded the Leverhulme Studentships for further study at Ph.D. level. However, his study came to an abruption for a period of time owing to the outbreak of World War II. Dr. Puey joined the group of Thai nationals in England and helped forming the Free Thai Movement in England in 1942 and enlisted as soldier in the British army, starting from the rank of private until attaining the rank of major upon his resignation to renew his study in 1946.
“I renew my studies at the end of the war in early 1946. I finished my dissertation and took the oral examination in late 1948. However, it was rumored among Thai political circles that I had parachuted into Bangkok (while serving in the Free Thai Movement) to join the revolution or counterrevolution. Many friends were already under arrest. I approached Professor Robbins and requested the university not to announce the successful examination results. The university delayed the announcement for several months, finally making it in 1949.”
When the Thai government become an ally of Japan in late 1941, Thai nationals were summoned home, Certain groups refused. The Thai group in the U.S., headed by the ambassador, M.R. Seni Pramoj, persuaded the U.S. government to accept the Free Thai Movement and Free Thai Forces. The Thai group in England was less successful begin revised to enlist in the British army.
Dr. Puey such. He traveled by submarine from Sri Lanka to the Gulf of Thailand hoping to land in Thailand. Contact signals from Thailand were I acting, and return with the submarine entered to Sri Lanka. Dr. Puey would be sent to parachute into Thailand. He landed a paddy field near Wang Nam Khao Village, Wat Singh District in Chainat Province. The parachutes landed far from the predetermined target in the jungle. As a result, all the First, Puey free Thai Movement slodiers were arrested and taken to Bangkok. Prior to being taken to Bangkok, he was chained to a pole in one of the pavilions of Wang Nam Khao Temple. This pole has been preserved in front of Wang Nam Khao School.
“After the end of the war with Japan, in my capacity as a British army major, I was sent twice to join the Thai delegation to negotiate on military and political affairs with England in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Later on, the University of London which granted me a scholarship for Ph.D. study contacted the British War Ministry making requesting my speedy discharge from active service to return to study.”
Dr. Puey returned to England in December 1945.
Home and family
In early 1946, Dr. Puey married Margaret Smith, a sociology undergraduate at LSE.
They had three sons; namely, Jonathan (Jon) born in September 1947 in London, Peter (Maitri) born March 1950 in Bangkok and Giles, born in October 1953 in Bangkok. By then, Dr. Puey had returned to Thailand to join the government service.
Dr. Puey and his wife raised their children with loving care.
“The warmth in our family had good effects on the children and when they received tender care, they had no problems. They are intelligent and graduated from English universities. More importantly, noone became a drug addict, sex maniac or other offender. They believe in non-violence, not harming anyone, truthfulness, honesty, liberty, democracy and devotion to beneficial public service. This attitude towards education, habits, and personality traits derived mostly from their mother.
The virtue of Mrs. Margaret Ungphakorn was not only restricted to raising her children but her moral values helping Dr. Puey to lead his ethical way of life. Dr. Aran Dharmano said about Dr. Puey and his wife: “I believe if he had had another woman as spouse, he may not have been as ethical. Of course, I believe that no person would have diminished his virtue. But if a wife had been more a on bilious, he may not have been able to do the good deeds I have mentioned today. If we think of him, we should also keep her in mind.”
Dr. Puey’s house was in Soi Aree IV, a single-story wooden structure:
“I did not buy my house during the war, only wards. During my Ph.D. examination, I wrote to my big sister to look for a house. She was also buying one for herself, so she transferred her house to me. I was able to afford the house at half price (30,000 baht from my savings during military service). I owed the bank for remained the other half and made installment payments for another three or four years to clear the debt.
Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat told me once or twice: ‘Khun Puey, I know that your home is a small wooden house without conveniences. Will you accept it if I build you a mansion, to live in comfort?’ I replied: ‘Thank you so much! But I am already comfortable with no complaints.’ When he insisted, I replied half-jokingly, half-seriously that my wife hates to live in a brick-and-stone. Even if he really built a mansion for me, we could not move in.”
Dr. Puey and his wife were in their lives, believing ideal is tribally that property must be obtained through personal efforts, in a proper way.