LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
To the student of recent Thai history the name of Dr.Puey Ungphakorn has become synonymous with honesty and integrity combined with a brilliant mind which he has put to use time and again to help Thailand out of several tight spots, particularly in the period immediately after the Second World War.
Seemingly a frail old man, his looks are deceptive for they hide a great courage which has shown itself time and again when he refused to go against his conscience. When up against what he considers to be wrong or evil Dr. Puey can be as tough as nails and fiercely true to his principles.
But this does not mean that he is hard, for Dr. Puey is essentially a kind person who has done much to help the less privileged of his fellow men. To this kindness, courage and honesty add a quality of humility and we have a man who has earned the love, loyalty and respect of a great number of people who had been in contact with him.
Earlier this month Dr. Puey reached the age of 60. On this occasion he has written an account of his past life and discussed some of the things he would like to see in Thailand. Written in his usual outspoken style, it gives plenty of food for thought for those who would like to see a free Thailand and a better Thailand.
Looking Back at Family Life
When a man lives to be 60 the older Thais would say that he is a lucky man that the powers that be have helped him to stay alive for as long as five cycles. My father, my mother, my two brothers never had the opportunity to make merit on the occasion of their sixtieth birthday. Thus as I approach the age of 60 I feel a need to look back over the years and to look ahead to see in what direction one’s life should be going.
It is natural for an autobiographer to write favourably about himself. Therefore it is up to the reader to decide how truthful the writing is. It should be easy to find out if there are any lies.
To start on a very personal note, I feel that I made reasonably good plans as a young man. Everyone takes a chance when they marry. When the husband and wife are of different nationality, different culture and speak a different language then the difficulties are magnified many times. But my wife and I have relied on mutual consideration for each other and have taken care not to make the differences in family culture become an obstacle. These things together with goodness, honesty, moderation and consideration for the common good have made our family life a happy one.
This family warmth and love has helped our children, even if they are “half-caste” as they would say in the market. All three children have happily not led irresponsible lives like so many other children, and all have had the intellect to complete degree courses in England. More important for me is that none have become addicted to drugs or obsessed with any other vice. They believe in peace, non-violence, love, truth and honesty, democratic rights and freedom and they believe in working for the good of the public. They have inherited all this mainly from their mother. My wife has selflessly spent her time with our children although she is educated with an honour degree is social science. She cooks the meals herself, does her own laundry, her own house work, but has also found time to help teach the children when they have been preparing to go and study abroad. Only after the children got older did she have the chance to leave the house to pursue the social work she enjoys so much.
Our responsibilities over the children are almost finished. Our first two children are now leading lives with their own families. Our youngest child is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in a few months time. Both of us are getting older and we do not know how much longer we will be able to go on serving society.
Looking Back at Friends and Relatives
I became the head of my family at the age of 18 when I had just completed my secondary education at Assumption College. My father died when I was only nine and my mother was left with the burden of caring for us. My elder brother was working but was not earning very much so I took over responsibility for the family until the time I left to study abroad. I helped my younger brothers and sisters to some extent. After going overseas I managed to send some money back to help our family before the outbreak of war.
Then after I returned from abroad and settled down to work I continued to try and help my friends and relatives, even those I did not know before. I tried to help because I felt that among relatives, friends and fellow human beings I had been the lucky one who had had the opportunity to follow my studies and secure a better job. I therefore had the responsibility to share out some happiness to those who had been less fortunate. But at the same time I had a responsibility to my wife and children first of all.
Looking Back at Work
I started work at the age of 18 as a teacher at Assumption College in charge of Matayom 2 and later Matayom 5. Then I started giving extra tutorial for Matayom 5-6-7 and 8 for over four years before transferring to work as a French interpreter at Thammasat University because by then I had graduated and was preparing to take a scholarship examination to go abroad.
There must be some of my students who never made it in life but there are also many who have become businessmen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, diplomats and members of parliament. Some have even made it to director generals or even ministers. One cannot help but feel glad when they talk about their gratitude towards their teacher but I cannot claim credit for all their success because I know that while a teacher at Assumption I was still very young and had made many mistakes.
After graduating in England and while pursuing a doctorate World War broke out in Asia. I and my friends decided to serve our country by joining the Free Thai movement and enrolled as soldiers. We returned to contact the local Free Thais by submarine and by parachute drops and got to know the moments of life and death and went through considerable danger. (I have written about this in “Taharn Chua Krao” or “Temporary Soldiers”).
Luckily I escaped alive and had the opportunity to help Thailand avoid the fate of losing the war. Thus, looking back on the events of that time my integrity and my loyalty to the nation, religion and the King should appear well established and backed by real action, not by just mere words of people who constantly refer to these three institutions without ever taking any action.
After the war, on completing my doctorate course, I worked honestly to the best of my ability, first in the Comptroller General Department in the Ministry of Finance, then in the Bank of Thailand (as a special officer, seven months as deputy governor, over 12 years as governor). I also served as the Economic and Financial Counsellor in the London Embassy, as the Thai representative in the International Tin Council, as the director of the Budget Office, Director of the Fiscal Policy Office, Executive Committee Member of the National Economic Development Board, Executive Committee Member of the National Education Council and Dean of the Faculty of Economics at Thammasat University where I am now Rector.
Looking back at the various positions I have held I should be satisfied. It might be said that I had the good fortune to have led a full life. I have no ambition for any political position and do not intend to have any. It is enough to look back at the way I have carried out my tasks always with honesty and sometimes a certain amount of courage. In retrospect I can find no reason for me to be accused as a Communist, but then what can we expect; the country is full of lies. I am only sorry that so many Thais have been so gullible as to believe hearsay without any supporting evidence.
Looking Back at the Improvement of the Economy
Those older among us will remember that straight after the war the Thai economy, finance and banking were in a complete mess. The Government had set up the Rice Office according to the needs of the day and exports were in the hands of the Government. All rice exports had to go through the Office which issued permits.
Foreign exchange raters also varied with the official rate, rice export rate and the rate for certain kinds of imports such as books or government imports. Another rate existed for tin export, yet another for rubber, while for others we used a free market rate which fluctuated greatly and led to much unstability. Also there is another black market rate. All this led to unsettled economy and any planning by both the Government and the private sector was difficult because of the uncertainty in the exchange rate.
Importing became risky and dependent on the rates, so importers had to leave a larger safety margin and the price of goods increased accordingly. Finance was also confused. For several years the Government had to set its income budget at less than half of its expenditure, the rest had to be borrowed from the Bank of Thailand or loaned from abroad. The market for bonds or treasury bills was non-existent. Budget accounts went unsettled for several years. Those which had been done were incomplete and guesswork had to be resorted to so that it was impossible to predict events in advance. Sometimes we had to make urgent telephone calls to the Bank of Thailand for a loan before we could pay our civil servants. Roads were almost all laterite all over the country.
The measures developed to rectify the economy, banking and economy were something my collegues and I worked out together from 1952 onwards for several years. It would be impossible to mention all these colleagues but they included Khun Boonma Wongsawan, Khun Sommai Huntrakul, Khun Bisuthi Nimmanhaeminda, Khunying Suparb Yossunthon and Khun Krongthong Chutima. Most were young people in the Bank of Thailand and the Ministry of Finance.
Concerning the Rice Office: Being government-owned, it was ways for dishonesty and the abuse of power to happen. In addition to normal dishonesty the Government House and other ministers also improperly issued permits to people who were not merchants but merely those who gained profit by selling permits to exporters. Therefore students and those who are now proposing that the Government do all the rice exporting should note that it is not such a good method as long as we do not have very good government machinery or while the administrative system is still not good.
At that time we proposed an alternative by turning to free trade. To counter the possibility of a sudden rise in local rice price which had been lower than world price we proposed the collection of a premium over a period with a gradual phasing out. (But the Government is still collecting premiums to this day.)
To deal with multiple exchange rates we proposed a bold solution: abolish the official rate and turn to the market rate as the official rate which would be the sole rate. Extra money from exporters of tin and rubber could be collected in the form of taxes. The reassessment of reserves in terms of market rate meant that the Government had sufficient foreign exchange left over for the establishment of a fund for maintaining an exchange rate with the job of buying and selling foreign exchange with commercial banks and thus stabilizing the rate. And there was some stability for it had not really moved very much for around 20 years. Once the public and the businessmen became certain of the value of the baht relative to other currencies trading became easier and more prosperous and prices went down. International monetary reserves thus increased steadily for around 20 years from 1955.
On the side of finance and budget planning we and the Public Administration Service of America laid out a format for the budget in accordance with proper concepts and theories. Bookkeeping was also correct according to the time so we could know without delay what was the credit and what was the debit at any time. It was also much quicker and could be inspected within a few months so the budget policy could be planned easily.
Customs statistics were improved to be more up to date. If anyone is to deserve credit for improving taxation system it must be Khun Sunthorn Hongladarom who was the Minister of Finance at the time and Khun Boonma Wongsawan. A law was passed nullifying the mass of government debts to the Bank of Thailand. It became possible to open markets for bonds and treasury bills once interest rates and other things became freer until in some years the Government did not have to borrow as much money as there were people applying for bonds.
Where roads were concerned, at the time the Government wanted to build as much as possible without thinking about the quality of the roads. Therefore, without proper standards, there were many accidents while in some places roads were destroyed within a year or two by water, necessitating major repairs.
We sent a team to ask for a loan from the World Bank and insisting on continuing what we had been doing. The World Bank refused. That team spent several months in the United States and returned empty handed. So I thought out a plan with Ed Session who was then the Director of USOM (MSA at the time) and Howard Parsons who was the American Charge d’ Affaires, proposing that the American Government come and build the Saraburi-Nakhon Ratchasima Friendship Highway as an example without the Thai Government having to pay a single satang. After this they also went on to build the Friendship II between Phitsanulok and Lomsak.
In addition to having good roads there was also an important side benefit namely that our agricultural goods increased greatly. What was already being grown was stepped up such as jute; what had never been exported was exported such as corn. At this stage there were other additions such as tapioca, millet, soya beans and other beans. Also, once the Thai Government guaranteed the standard of roads it was possible to plan road building in Thailand properly. To this day, we have been able to get many loans from the World Bank for road building purposes.
I have told about the improvements in the economic, financial and banking system in Thailand from BE 2495 till a little past BE 2500 in order to point out that sometimes in order to carry out government work efficiently we needed to reform the system. The reforming of the system has to be done together collectively and must be done so that the elders will see our integrity and honesty.
The elders in this case were ML Dei Snidwongse, the Governor of the Bank of Thailand and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Development Board at the time. Khun Phra Boripan Yuthakit, the then Minister of Finance. Both of these were instrumental in persuading the Prime Minister, Field Marshal Pibulsongram, to accept the reforms.
Any reform would lead to loss on one side and gain on another, therefore there are extra difficulties calling for thoroughness, moderation and some courage. But if we have a basic integrity and honesty it can help to make those who lose some benefit respect us even if they sometimes become angry at us.
Looking Back at Crisis in Bangkok
In 1953 I was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand. This was because Prime Minister Field Marshal Pibul wanted to force the international exchange rates to increase the value of the baht (this would make our reserves dwindle to almost nothing) so he ordered the Bank of Thailand to sell sterling to commercial banks for the purchase of certain commodities at a much lower rate than the market rate.
Such action would ten to lead to dishonesty for there would be greedy people who would ask to buy the cheap sterling for buying the said commodities but then would use the foreign exchange for personal gains.
One commercial bank in fact did this and the Cabinet accused the then Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand of not making proper checks and dismissed him. (In fact he was transferred to be the director of a government enterprise thanks to his strong connection with Soi Rachakru.) I was appointed to the position instead and was told by the Governor to investigate the guilt of the commercial bank in that case.
Filed Marshal Sarit Thanarat (then a general) wanted to buy the commercial bank which had erred as a plan to control the various commercial banks of the country, so he asked Lt. Gen Prayoon Pamornmontri, the Deputy Minister of Finance, to invite me to lunch at the Ratanakosin Hotel.
Once there I saw about 20 top brass from the army, navy, air force and police. After we had our lunch Field Marshal Sarit asked me about the result of my investigation into the affair of the commercial bank. I told him, because he was a minister. He asked whether it would be possible for the Government not to take action against the bank. I said that it was unlikely because the breach was quite blatant.
He asked whether it might be possible for me to report to the Cabinet that the commercial bank had erred and to recommend that the bank be merely warned not to repeat the offence. I pointed out that in the contract for buying and selling of sterling there were clear and specific clauses dealing with breaches of regulations which were punishable by fines. I said that it would not be possible to recommend anything else, except that after receiving the recommendation the Cabinet, which included Field Marshal Sarit and several others at lunch with us, wanted to be lenient. That then was the affair of the Cabinet. The lunch ended there.
A few days after that, Lt. Gen Prayoon Pamornmontri told me again that Field Marshal Sarit and General Pao Sriyanond had invited me to lunch, this time at Rajdamnern Klang Mansion. Last time Gen Pao had not been present; this time he was, plus all the top brass as before. Field Marshal Sarit and Gen Pao tried to change my mind on the same topic again. I had thought about it and had discussed it with my wife, realizing that although we still had much financial difficulties and our children were still young, we could not accept the proposal of Field Marshal Sarit as it would affect our good name, so I stood my ground and countered that both Khun Sarit and Khun Pao had power within the Cabinet and could force any Cabinet decision, but as for myself, I had to make proposals to the Cabinet according to the letter of the law.
After that I proposed that the Cabinet fine the commercial bank to the tune of several million baht according to the contract for buying and selling sterling. The Cabinet agreed with the proposal. Field Marshal Sarit pushed ahead with his plan to buy the commercial bank out at an undisclosed price. As for me, the Cabinet passed a motion dismissing me from the position of Deputy Director of the Bank of Thailand on December 25th, 1953. I had served in the position for a little over seven months and had held one of the shortest terms as deputy governor. I returned to serve as a financial expert with the Ministry of Finance.
Soon after that, Gen Pao Sriyanond, who was also the Deputy Minister of Finance (inaddition to being the Deputy Minister of Interior and the Director-General of Police), plotted with the American OSS (which became the CIA later the OSS was the American secret service during World War II) to allow an American company to print Thai bank notes in place of the Thomas de la Rue Company of England which was subject to many accusations. The Cabinet appointed me the officer in charge of studying the case together with people from the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Thailand. I tried to make the fairest possible assessment by taking national safety as the prime consideration.
We considered whether the Thomas de la Rue Company was trustworthy politically and when there was no reason to believe otherwise we considered the quality of printing and the cost of printing by considering a second English company and a second American company in order to compare with de la Rue and the first American company which had made accusations against de la Rue, making four companies altogether.
Where quality was concerned the second American company proved the best but the price was too high. Next best was Thomas de la Rue Company which was cheaper and which had been printing bank notes for Thailand for dozens of years and had earned the trust of the people. The other English company was inferior in both price and quality. The American company which had accused de la Rue produced not very good, easily faked work and in addition we learned form reliable evidence that the manager of the company had a not very good reputation from the time of the World War while his personal behaviour was also objectionable.
I told Khun Phra Boripan Yuthakit, the Minister of Finance, of the matter. He agreed and told me to write a report. While I was doing this the Minister of Finance told Gen Pao Sriyanond about my verbal report. Gen Pao must have told the manager of the American company of the matter for the manager came to see me and wanted me to change the report. I refused so he swore and accused me of many things and also made some accusations about the Minister of Finance. I included all this in my report to the Minister of Finance and at the same time telephoned Howard Parsons, the American Charge d’ Affaires, to tell him of the behaviour of his man. Mr. Parsons expressed sorrow and apologized.
In the report which I proposed to the Cabinet I recommended that we continue with the Thomas de la Rue Company as before, but if the Cabinet was still doubtful about safety then we could use the second American company. If a decision was made to award a contract to the first American company to print Thai currency notes then I would not be able to continue working in the civil service because the manage had made accusations against me and the Minister of Finance and it was a truly bad company.
Field Marshal Pibul, the Prime Minister, said to Khun Phra Boripan in the Cabinet meeting that Khun Phra’s student is just too arrogant, always threatening to resign, Khun Phra answered on my behalf and finally the Cabinet approved my proposal. Field Marshal Pibul had had an appointment to see the manager of the first American company the next day but he cancelled it and sent Khun Rak Panyarachun, his son-in-law, instead. The whole affair made Khun Pao Sriyanond very upset.
Several years later the manager of that American company reopened the bank note printing case with Khun Chote Kunakasem who was both Minister of Finance and Governor of the Bank of Thailand in the first period of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat’s rule. Khun Chote agreed with him until the scandal forced Khun Chote from his positions and had to face the court.
In fact Field Marshal Pibul had always been kind to me, possibly because I was a friend of Prasong Pibulsongram, his son. Once he became angry with the National Economic Development Board committee which he thought was obstructing him, so he dismissed the whole committee and got rid of the old people. The new committee appointed consisted only of ministers. The only people not ministers were M.L. Dej Snidwongse and myself. In meetings I always found myself sitting at the end of the row as the most junior person together with Khun Siri Siriyothin and Khun Pramarn Adireksarn and we used to get together to oppose the senior ministers on several occasions.
Field Marshal Pibul once teased me about my name. He said that as I was becoming a senior civil servant why don’t I change my “Chinky” name? I told him that my father gave me the name and if there was to be any changes it would have to be done by my father. I said that it was a pity that my father had died so I was not able to change it. Besides, if the Prime Minister knew Thai geography well he would know that in Lampang Province there was a tambon called Pang Puey, so Puey was a Thai name as well. He laughed and never mentioned my surname.
Around 1955-1956 I knew well that I was the subject of dislike of the three power holders, namely Field Marshal Pibul, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat and General Pao Sriyanond. Therefore I thought of moving abroad for a period so we would not have to continue quarrelling. So I contacted Professor Fredric Benham who used to teach me, asking him to find a job for me. Prof Benham was kind enough to do so but the facts became known to Khun Phra Boripan Yuthakit who sympathized with me but did not want me to leave government service. He sent me instead to work as the Economic and Financial counsellor at the London Embassy and also to act as the Thai representative to the International Tin Council.
When Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat successfully staged his coup he called me and asked me to work with the Revolutionary Council. I saw that there were several respected people included in the group such as M.L. Dej Snidwongse, Khun Leng Srisomwong, Khun Tawee Boonyaket and Khun Phra Vejayan Rangsarit, all of whom I had respect for, so I decided to join in the work. I can say that at that time Field Marshal Sarit was really devoted to developing the country. It was the kind of work which I really enjoyed and was really interested in and believed to have been for the real common good.
When Field Marshal Sarit set up a government he made me director of the Budget Office. I held the post for three years; then I was appointed to other offices, namely governor of the Bank of Thailand and director of the Fiscal Policy Office. I felt that a single person should not take responsibility for budget policy, finance policy and fiscal policy so I resigned from the position of director of the Budget Office.
Even though Field Marshal Sarit may have been angry with me in 1953 he must have got over it and must have thought that I was loyal to the country so he could entrust me with government work. The Field Marshal said to me on one occasion, “Dr.Puey, I know you are living in a small uncomfortable wooden house. Shall I build you a nice comfortable building for you to live in ?” I thanked him and said that I was quite comfortable and had never complained that I was uncomfortable. I kept insisting and I had to say to him half in jest that my wife did not like living in a brick building and we would not be able to move in even if he did build us one.
When Khun Chote Kunakasem had to leave the post of Minister of Finance I was attending a meeting of the International Tin Council in London. Field Marshal Sarit sent me a telegram asking me to accept the position of Minister of Finance instead. At the time Field Marshal Sarit was holding absolute power and could control the fate of all men. I was not sure what would happen if I refused but I still had to. So I sent him a telegram saying that I beg not to accept the position because I had sworn when I became a Free Thai not to accept any political position until I had reached retirement age, to make sure that I did not join the Free Thai movement for personal gains. Field Marshal Sarit sent me another telegram urging me to accept “Thailand is in an economic crisis and only you can help me…” I sent back a reply saying that I was glad to serve the country in any way but not as a minister, and that the Prime Minister surely would not want a minister who had broken his oath. Field Marshal Sarit accepted this and appointed someone else instead. When I returned from the International Tin Council meeting the Field Marshal made me governor of the Bank of Thailand.
At the meeting of the International Tin Council at that time there was an important matter connected with the reputation and potential gains of Thailand. It concerned the smuggling of tin outside of Thailand’s quota. It took place quite blatantly from Phuket docks and was well known to Thai and foreign mine operators alike (the leader of the smuggling gang was none other than Field Marshal Sarit himself, but in my stupidity I did not know it.).
The Malaysian member of the Tin Council raised the matter with the council. In my position as the Thai representative I sent an urgent proposal to the Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Field Marshal Sarit, asking that he issue an immediate order for Customs and police officers to carry out urgent investigations and to hold all capture illegal tin. He then should send an urgent telegram to the Tin Council telling them that the Thai Government had started investigations and had seized the illegal tin and will inform the council of any progress. Of course, no report of any seizure ever appeared at any subsequent meeting of the Tin Council.
The various members of the council pressed the Thai delegate and Government to take some course of action but we kept on putting them off all the time. The ship loading the illegal tin was found to have taken the ore to Texas in the United States. We tried contacting the United States and its officials asking for details which were never produced. The ore ship was later found to have sunk and the chances of any information became even more unlikely. The council continued pressing Thailand to take some action. After a year or two it was Field Marshal Sarit himself who became angry, saying that the council was bullying Thailand. He telegraphed me, telling me that the next time the council brought up the matter I was to protest and walk out of the meeting, Thailand was to cease being a member of the Tin agreement.
I thought about it and sent a telegram countering the order, saying that I did not agree with his order because everybody knew that there was tin smuggling from Thailand. Walking out of the meeting would only make it look as if we were a bad loser. Also, if we wanted to leave the tin agreement we had to give a year’s advance notice and during the intervening year the Council could put any kind of pressure on us such as drastically cut our quota. It would not have been for the good of Thailand at all. I asked him to send me new instructions. Field Marshal Sarit sent a telegram canceling the previous order and telling me to do what I wanted.
I pressed the Council to take some action and the representatives from Malaysia and Belgium proposed the appointment of an arbitrator. I thought that an arbitrator would not have been beneficial to Thailand so I debated that the regulations in the tin agreement dealing with the appointment of an arbitrator dealt only with disputes between members. In this case there was not any dispute. Thailand and the other members agreed that there was smuggling, only we did not know the quantity, that was all. Therefore we should amicably agree on what level to fix the amount. The Council agreed and fixed a likely amount (I cannot remember how many thousand tons it was.) In the next step Thailand proposed the use of a regulation governing the export of tin over and above the quota, and that Thailand be fined the value of the smuggled tin, with the fine going to a buffer fund, with rights to that sum of fine plus any income arising in the case of the fund be abolished. The Council agreed.
Returning from the meeting, I explained the situation to the mining association and asked the Association to buy government bond to the sum of that fine, so the Government would have enough money to pay them. The Association agreed willingly. Later when the buffer fund was abolished it was found that we got back the “fine” and also got some dividend from it.
The Thai Government did not lose its reputation, we also made a profit instead of losing money but it made me very upset for a long time because I had to go against the order of the Prime Minister and had decided that if he stood by his original order I would resign not only as representative to the Tin Council but also as governor of the Bank of Thailand, in protest.
It can probably be fairly well remembered how I carried out my duties in over 12 years as the Governor of the Bank of Thailand. During that time the Commercial Bank Law was redrafted (with several friends such as Khun Sommai Huntrakul being major contributors). The bank note printing press was set up and the setting up of branch offices was begun. Our currency reserves increased greatly, thus preserving the stability of our currency and benefiting business and industry. Commercial bank business was expanded all over the Kingdom and within the bank itself there was adjustment of works procedure and pay rates. Welfare was improved and a number of able people were collected to act as the future strength of the bank.
One day when Field Marshal Sarit was still Prime Minister, someone made the proposal that the Government set up a committee to be responsible for determining fiscal policy, particularly international fiscal policy. By chance, on the day that the matter was to be discussed by the Cabinet I went to the meeting rather early and met Khun Luang Vichit Vatakarn who told me that a list of members of the committee would be proposed that day. I told him that fiscal policy was the direct responsibility of the Governor of the Bank of Thailand under the direction of the Minister of Finance.
Concerning international fiscal policy, not only was the governor responsible, there was also a committee for maintaining an exchange rate with the Minister of Finance as chairman. I did not see any use for the new committee, on the contrary it could be harmful for it blurs the line of responsibility and also there were several names on the list which I did not trust and if this committee was appointed I would have no choice but to resign from the position of Governor of the Bank of Thailand. Khun Luang Vichit must have taken the matter to the Prime Minister for on that day and subsequent days nobody ever mentioned the committee for fiscal policy again.
When Field Marshal Sarit died I was one of the people appointed to probe into his properties and I guarantee with my honour that in that investigating committee I had been one who tried to give full justice to Field Marshal Sarit. Any time there was any doubt in a point of law or in a fact I always gave the benefit to the estate or to other people. Even then, when Thanpuying his wife sued the Government I became the first defendant. But what made me very sad was the fact that the statement described me as a person who tried all kinds of tricks “for want of personal gains.” Thanpuying’s lawyer who wrote the statement was a friend who studied with me in England.
Why did he write the statement like that, as if he had never known how my mind worked? I was very upset on the day I read the statement and I returned home early because I did not have a mind to work. But luckily, when I got home there was a telegram waiting, telling me that I had been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay prize for honest and selfless service in government work. The sadness I felt that day vanished and I was once more encouraged, such is human nature. Satisfaction still has power over man.
The Prime Minister who had given me the most kindness during my work had been Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn. In addition to being in the same class as leader in the National Defence College he also gave me much trust. While he was Deputy Prime Minister he often spoke up for me and if there was an important piece of work from the Cabinet he usually proposed my name.
Personal relations between him and myself were very close. Therefore when I wrote the letter from Nai Kem Yenying to chide him when he staged a “coup” in 1971. I wrote with the best intention for him and had addressed it exclusively to him, informing him that it was from me. Later when he showed no reaction I printed the letter as an open letter.
Three of four years before that I went to see him on a personal basis. He met me at the ministry of Defence and there were only us two in the room. I told him that his close relatives were earning a bad reputation for dishonesty, taking advantage of the people and businessmen and breaking the laws on several accounts. I told him story by story. He was silent for a while, then thanked me for telling him and said that he had let it be known that he did not mind how they made their money as long as they did not take advantage of other people. He agreed to look into the matter and would do something. But what happened later proved him to have been ineffective.
Once the Government of Field Marshal Thanom made an announcement forbidding all ministers from carrying on businesses or acting as committee members or chairmen of any business. In an annual speech at the Thai Bankers Association I composed a poem praising Field Marshal Thanom for his good action but pointed out that there were still several ministers acting as chairman or committee member of variuos banks, or was a commercial bank not a business? A few days later Field Marshal Thanom resigned from his post as chairman of a commercial bank but no other minister followed his example.
When Archarn Pridi Banomyong left China for France in 1970 I had already made plans to take a holiday in France without knowing that Archarn Pridi was going there. Once he was there I thought it fit that I should visit him as a measure of personal respect as student to a teacher and as a Free Thai under his command. Therefore I met Field Marshal Thanom before leaving, telling him that I was going to visit Archarn Pridi. Field Marshal Thanom gave his blessing and asked me to carry a message to Archarn Pridi. I acted as a go-between and also brought a message from Archarn Pridi back to Field Marshal Thanom. Later when Archarn Pridi sued the Thai Government for a passport and a pension I acted as a go between to allow both sides to settle out of court. Field Marshal Thanom in fact congratulated me for arranging it successfully.
Looking Back at Ideals
Those who have heard me talk or read my books may remember what I have said and written about my personal ideals. I wish to stand by my statement that in order to be a complete person we have always to be aware of three virtues namely Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Briefly, truth means Truth and knowledge; beauty means the various things which gives man his culture, enjoyment and past times including different sports; Goodness means not wishing harm to others and being helpful to fellow human beings.
The absence of any of these virtues will make for an incomplete human. For example, if there is goodness without knowledge then benefit cannot grow from it because the goodness may be used in the wrong direction and no good would come of it. If we have only truth and goodness but do not think of beauty then art, literature, music and dramatic art cannot develop and that person or that society would be arid and lacking in happiness.
If we or our society lack Goodness then we would only wish ill of each other, or at least we would not wish each other well and would be without generosity. That person or that society would have only selfishness, unrestrained fighting for wealth and power. Therefore whether you are holding the power of administration over the country or whether you are a private citizen you cannot ignore Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
It is the duty of us educationalists to support the growth of truth in whatever branch or level of knowledge. Students entering a place of education want knowledge both in order to make a living in the future and also to stimulate the ability to think and consider for themselves, and not to believe in unfounded accusations or in the occult. It corresponds to the Buddhist word “Vijja” and covers both worldly knowledge and knowledge of the Dharma.
Today in Thailand there is a bewildering amount of rumours including what appears in the newspapers, on radio and television. Once it involves you personally then you become certain that the rumours are normally untrue. Leaflets accusing various people are also in great abundance, all of which are making grave accusations, particularly where politics are concerned. (Some even urge the taking up of arms and some made threats on lives. These leaflets are against the law and the police should arrest the offenders for punishment.)
When they are mere leaflets or rumours which the source dare not back with his name, then the reader who loves truth ought to treat them as any other anonymous note and not believe them. In the same way if newspapers, radio and television are to pass on these rumours then if they are really responsible they should find supporting evidence or seek out the truth. Otherwise they should not present that “news” at all, particularly where it might affect someone’s reputation or mislead the public on important matters.
I have learned from reliable information that there are institutes of higher learning in Thailand which presented rumours to students without any supporting evidence in ways which could mislead them. This obviously goes against the best interests of knowledge.
An example was the National Defence College where I and several others had been accused without any evidence of being communists and wanting to destroy the country, religion and the monarchy with the aim of making me a president. These stories were obtained from leaflets.
First and foremost, we still have an anti-communist law and if anyone was a communist or acted like a communist, then the police should act according to the law and arrest him. But nobody came to arrest me. Seeing that I was not arrested and the speaker did not have any supporting evidence then he should not have said it in such an institute of high education.
Also, if there had been an accusation then the accused should have been given an opportunity to reply so that the Truth can emerge. The National Defence College is an institute which I love and respect because I was in the first class at the college and still have close ties with fellow students of that class. It is also a place of education for senior officials in the civil service, military and police. It is therefore a pity that it pays too little attention to truth.
Similar accusations have been found to exist in the National Security Council, the screening committee of the council, in the Internal Security Operation Command and various military teaching places. These institutes have much responsibility for the security of the nation (and cannot be compared with certain other groups which do not have such responsibility and which often made loose accusations as well as illegally used weapons without formal punished.)
Therefore for the sake of truth and for the good of national security, the accused ought to be given the chance to reply, or if there is solid evidence against the accused then he should be arrested according to the law.
Such truth also includes sincerity and the relations between one person and another should be based upon a foundation of sincerity; particularly when one side falls into bad fortune then the other must be consistant, and not simply play up to him when he is in power and the ignore him when he is going through a period of hardship. My visits to Archarn Pridi Banomyong in Paris and to Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn were due to these reasons and not to other reasons which had been rumored by other people without any truth.
Beauty is a matter of the mind and body without any connection to any political ideology. If it has been penetrated by politics then beauty is gone and ceases to be a virtue. We admire art, love music, we are impressed by athletes who could make their body achieve what normal people cannot do, not because that artist, that musician or that athlete has to be of the same political ideology as we, but because what he did was outstanding and impressed us, made us enjoy and we like what he did, Because of this, I feel that when students criticize Thai music or literature, saying they are the product of a privileged class, and are drugs for the masses, then the students are making a mistake in their understanding of art and beauty.
We are each of us his own taste, whatever a person likes it is his own business. Although I do not like modern music or modern literature, but if the younger people want to listen or read them, then I do not interfere and I can stand listening or reading them. The duty of students is, if they like modern music, dances and literature then they should help them progress instead of obstructing those which they do not like. Then it may be called true art for the people.
Goodness and good deeds are something which all religions teach us to follow. The relation between child and parents, teacher and student, relative to relative, friend to friend and one man with the public masses are something which religions spell out for us to do. It boils down to kindness and generosity towards eachother, not wishing ill to eachother, helping, supporting eachother and sharing out happiness. As it says in Buddhism:
Sapuriso Bhikkhawve kulay jayamano
Janasa attaya hitaya sukaya hoti
An important point to remember is that all religions have their own good points. We are born into Buddhism so we think that our religion is good, but we must also see that others also have a freedom in their choice of religion. Common agreement in religion (and nationality) would give more security.
As for myself, although I felt that I have served the country and society to the full until I am 60, I feel that what I have done has been inadequate in some sectors, namely that in straightening out the economy as described earlier.
I could not improve the lot of a large number of poor people in Thailand, particularly in poor rural areas. This may be due to some reasons which were beyond my control such as a high birth rate, inadequate education and health, for example. Because of this I had come to think that if there is no real grass roots development of rural areas but only the structure and improvement of the economy alone then we would not be able to help improve the lot of tens of millions of fellow Thais.
So with some colleagues I set out to develop rural areas not in competition but rather in working to help the Government. The said rural development works were divided into three projects, two of which are now in their seventh year of work. These are the Rural Improvement Foundation of Thailand projects Under Royal Patronage at Chai Nat and Uthai Thani and the Thammasat University Graduate Volunteer Centre project.
His Majesty the King knows of these two projects and have made inquiries to follow their progress. He even granted his patronage and gave his advice to a few groups of graduate volunteers. The third project is the Mae Klong basin development Project which Thammasat University is carrying out with Kasetsart University and Mahidol University and which is just over a year old, so no result is evident one way or the other. But many lecturers and students of all three universities have poured much physical and mental energy into the Project.
The present political situation together with lies which are evident everywhere these days have made the rural development projects the targets of attention of certain government units such as the ISOC, and the screening committee of the National Security Council, due to the accusation of those who claimed that lecturers and students in these projects have been inciting the people to hate the Government. The truth is otherwise. All graduate volunteers, lecturers and students in the Mae Klong Project have briefings and instructions to carry out their work without bringing any politics into it. Those who do not do so are asked to resign from the Project.
Both of these projects have the support of the Cabinet and have a fund from the national budget to carry out their work, but there are still those who suspect and accuse in various ways, possibly connected with a mistrust of myself, perhaps.
Because of this and for the benefit of progress in the Project I resigned from the position of Director of the Mae Klong project and now I am looking for a replacement. The Graduate Volunteer Project I resigned from almost a year ago.
Looking at Thai Society and Thai Future
I have said and written elsewhere that a desirable society must consist of four virtues namely efficiency, freedom, justice and kindness which should be discussed briefly here and applied to the present Thai situation to find what we all should do in order to achieve an ideal society for the future.
In an efficient society the administrator of that society must use knowledge to carry out state work in all respects to allow that society to carry on life with the minimum investment and maximum results according to the goal, in all branches—be it science, agriculture, medical health, engineering, architecture, all social sciences and all humanities.
It is not only government workers or administrative politicians who must have ability and knowledge but the people as a whole should also have reasonable education so they will have some knowledge and ability to solve their own problems and know how to make their own decisions, therefore education and health of the people is of considerable importance.
For a society to be efficient there must be no leaks and rottenness. The people, businessmen, civil servants must pay full taxes. Officials must not take advantage of the people and should do their job accordingly, so the police will catch criminals, teachers will teach students, and a district officer will look after the welfare of the people step by step.
Government servants both senior and junior would not waste government money or extort money from businessmen. In this matter the present Constitution stipulates the appointment of a Parliament account inspector which would help prevent and stop dishonesty on the part of civil servants, but the post still has not been filled by the Government according to the Constitution.
At the time of the drafting of the Constitution there had been a proposal for the appointment of a parliamentary inspector of government affairs but the proposal was dropped. It is a great pity because if there were the two posts then the leaks and rottenness in Thailand would decrease and the country would be more efficient.
Also, it is said in Thai society that the present-day civil service is inefficient because the system is not good on the one hand and because there is too much centralization within the capital city on the other hand. The system is not good because there is much duplication of work with units fighting for some work and ignoring others and there is no common policy.
The centralization of power means that the rural areas are not receiving as much attention as they should, thus leading to all kinds of obstacles in the overall development of the country. These two points cannot be ignored for long because they are like rust which eats away at the civil service, so it becomes more and more inefficient, so it is time that we people, universities and the Government, get together to solve this problem quickly.
Social freedom means freedom of speech, writing, thought and peaceful and unarmed assembly for example. Such freedom is not a freedom which will deprive others of their own freedom. Another limitation to freedom is the common good according to the opinion of the majority of the people or the Government. A dictator always claim the common good, but it is the common good by his definition not the definition of the people. The paying of tax which is by the motion of a parliament elected by the people is a rightful limitation of freedom.
Freedom is beneficial to society because in society with a large number of people opinions would differ. Every person has a brain and the thoughts of each person no matter what class or wealth, is useful to society. Why then should we limit ourselves to the opinion of the minorities? why not give everyone the chance to express his opinion so we will be able to choose the best path for the best common benefit?
Certain teachers have said of human freedom that it goes with life, meaning that every person is born with standard rights and freedom since birth. Whoever destroys freedom is thus wrongfully infringing on the rights of his fellow men.
This right to freedom can only exist in a society which has free Democracy. Dictators, be it right-wing (facist) or left-wing (communist) limit freedom according to their wish. Right-wing dictators normally forbid their people from doing certain things. Left-wing dictators, in addition to banning certain things such as the setting up of a political party, also ban the act of NOT doing something. For example, the people cannot be idle but must work according to schedule. Communists normally claim to be democratic economically and socially, namely that there is equality among the people, but does not have democracy in politics or culture. A facist is not democratic in politics, culture, economy or society, so we should not accept either a right-wing or a left-wing dictatorship.
We were talking about Thai society. The right to exist, we said, can only be obtained in a society which has a free democratic way of life.
Justice means that within that society every human being is equal in the eye of the law. Be they children of a rich man, lord or of whatever rank, if they break the law they must accept punishment the same as a poor beggar; if they committed a good deed they would receive the same just reward.
In a fair society, law and order is most important. The military, police, prosecutor and judiciary must be efficient and work with devotion and fairness. There must not be trumped up charges, no burning in a bin, no shooting of suspects, and no unfounded accusations such as accusations of being a communist, for example.
The military must defend the country honestly and not cause a rift in the country by using tax money to suppress tax payers. The police must carry out their duty without being afraid of any power and must not be prejudiced. Anyone carrying a bomb must be arrested no matter what group be belongs to, whoever plans to stage a military coup against the Treason Law must be arrested because the military and police are the supporter of the people, not their masters.
The accused must not be guilty until evidence can be found that he is really guilty. Whoever distributes leaflets urging the use of arms or accusing others of using arms should be arrested in an effort to find the source of the leaflets. Prosecutors and judges must maintain their honour and remain above the power of money, threats or influence.
In a fair society one reaps what one sows. Hell and heaven are here in this life, there is no need to wait for the next life. Those merly posing as a good person would not last long and would soon be found out.
A society which has efficiency, freedom, justice but is devoid of kindness must be an incomplete society, because each member of the society is different by birth according to hereditary factors and surroundings. A person may be born lame, blind, deaf or abnormal in other ways which are not his fault. Those born normally must help him. It is not proper simply to attribute his abnormality to his “past sins” for which he is paying in this life.
Intelligence is sometimes a hereditary factor which is uncertain. A clever father may produce a stupid child or vice versa. We have no choice. A child with plenty of toys would have an advantage over a child without any toy, a child born in a remote rural area with a bad school and bad teacher would not be able to compete with a more fortunate city child. Therefore it is not right to adhere to an ideology of efficiency and freedom with the winner taking all. The more fortunate should help and share happiness with the unfortunate.
The above is usually known as social justice and covers a far greater scope than the distribution of income or distribution of wealth because happiness is not up to wealth alone. In a social system where woman is at a disadvantage to man the system must be rectified in order to give justice in the society. Whoever has not the tools of trade they must be found for him. Education, health and a job are something which must be given to every human. Poverty makes man lose his human qualities. We have the duty to help each other.
The opposite of kindness is killing. No matter if it is the left killing the right or the right killing the left, it is evil. In the present situation in Thailand it is noticable that the side which we call the left, namely students, workers, farmers do not have any weapons-although some may have a gun for self defence. But then on some occasions when this group threatened to burn down a building or to destroy property, it committed a wrong. But the rightists namely the Red Gaurs, Nawapol and numerous other groups, routinely use weapons to destroy the morale of the other side.
This is wrong and a clear breach of the law. If we use kindness as a basis, then however big the rift it would be possible to settle peacefully. Arms has never solved any problem in this world, it has only led to new problems. Kindness supports the world. Nonviolence and peace can make a society happy.
The use of weapons and lies as a tool instead of solving a problem gives strength to the enemy. For example, if a man is not a communist and we call him one, and threatened to kill him with weapons for being a communist, the threatened would be a afraid and run away into the jungle. While in the jungle he would receive weapons, food and others from the Communists and before long he would become sympathetic to the Communists which become strengthened. Do we want this? ISOC should think well. There have been many examples in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. If you love the country, religion and the Monarchy truly, then think well and carefully.
And now we are saying that even if there is an election on April 4, we cannot have a stable government because there are a great many political parties and the government to be set up would have to be a coalition of several parties.
Adding minor parties would increase the instability. Also many members must have paid for the votes which took them to Parliament, so, once there, they would put themselves up for bidding–before long Parliament would be dissolved again.
What is being much discussed is whether there will really be an election on April 4, because there are people thinking of staging a coup.
This matter bothers me greatly because our democracy has only sprouted a tiny root for three years. The blame for the confusion cannot always be placed on the National Legislative Assembly of which I was a member.
I believe that at this stage it does not matter who constitutes the government, be they left or right wing. The important point is whether we will be a Democracy, or are we thinking of abolishing Democracy?
The politicians who believe in Democracy should find a way to give democracy a chance to sink its roots to a safe level; then they can think about left or right. They should drop their obstinacy and turn towards eachother and unite to prevent dictatorship from both left and right.
One way which will make for a stable government in the present conditions would seem to be by combining the top three or four parties into a National Government with a majority vote in Parliament. If four parties are not enough, then let’s have five parties. The party with the most members can have its leader as Prime Minister; the leader of the second largest party can be the Speaker, and the position of ministers can be divided according to the number of members. No matter if they are right or left.
The joint policy of the coalition would be: (1) National independence, (2) Peaceful law and order for the people, and
(3) Ridding of the gap between the rich and the poor. Nothing else is important and these three points are already present in the policies of all parties.
The forming of a government from the major parties is according to democratic principles–it will be more difficult for MPs to sell themselves. The Government will have reasonable stability while the groups outside Parliament, such as workers, employers, students, and the Nawapol group would continue functioning, but peacefully and without weapons.
The various disputes would be settled by Parliament whose motion would be accepted. If not satisfied, the issue can be brought up and discussed again at the next session. Will the various political parties agree to this? Will they make sacrifices for the benefit and stability of the nation and of Democracy?
I wrote at the outset that I feel sorry that there has been some oversight in considering the economy of the country, namely, we have concentrated on the overall growth and not thought about justice in society. So I tried to rectify this by a real effort at developing rural areas.
At a stage, such as now, when industrial investment is slack, it is an opportunity for the Government to find a way of investing in agriculture and social welfare in rural areas without fear of inflation.
An important problem today is to find jobs for the unemployed. Briefly, if we carry out the following, it will help create more employment in rural areas and the crime rate will drop: (1) A real effort at land reform, (2) land allocation, (3) encourage farmers to grow several crops by arranging water supply and markets, (4) set up agro-industries, (5) intensify social welfare in rural areas in, for instance, the fields of food, clothing, health, education and family planning, and (6) teach and train people to carry out the above works.
Some teachers have said that too much attention on social justice will slow down the progress of the country as a whole. Therefore we should develop the economy first because, even though the rich will get richer and the poor poorer, progress will soon catch up with the poor. We have used this method for 20-30 years now without result.
Some teachers argue that social justice does not go against economic progress and that if we concentrate on helping the poor, the rich will look after themselves, and the country will prosper. Some countries have tried this, but have met with failure. I agree with the latter theory but feel that it had to be applied correctly. The correct way is through the six point program described above.
There are many more things I would like to write about, but in just a few more hours I will have reached 60. So I will end here, but let me make just two more points.
Firstly, about incitement or enticement. This concerns me, so I would like to say something here and now. I am tired of hearing that Dr Puey is leading students astray or students are leading Dr Puey astray. Those with children of 17 to 18 or 20 years of age should know that today’s youth, particularly the students, more particularly Thammasat students, can think for themselves. There is no need for anyone to lead them.
If you are thinking of leading the youth of today in any direction, then get ready for disappointment. Concerning the claim that the students are leading me, this way and that, the claimants probably do not know me well enough. When the time comes I can be as obstinate as anyone, such as in the case of the three Prime Ministers I have written about.
The same argument can be used against the accusation that Archarn Pridi Panomyong has ried to lead me, or Archarn Saneh or some other aide has tried to lead me. It is an insult to Archarn Pridi, Archarn Saneh and the others, and also a grave insult to me personally, as if I am a piece of wax which may be molded to any shape or form and devoid of any ideas of my own.
Once when I was the Governor of the Bank of Thailand someone accused Khunying Suparb Yossunthorn of leading me and writing speeches for me, until Khunying Suparb had to scold the critic and on several occasions, show him proof to the contrary, until the accusations died down. Will others not leave me alone to be just myslef?
One thing more. I would like to quote here a few lines I have written before, in the hope that some time they will reveal to others the qualities of life I hold dear.
A calendar of hopes from the womb to the crematorium
- When I am in Mother’s womb I want mother to be able to eat nutritious food and receive good attention and service in mother and childcare.
- I do not want as many brothers and sisters as my parents have, and mother must not have children at too frequent intervals.
- It does not matter if mother and father are married according to the law or according to custom but it is important that they are living peacefully together and are giving me and my brothers and sisters warmth.
- In my first few years, when my body and brain are developing and are in an important stage, I want my mother and myself to have nutritious food.
- I want to go to school. My sisters also want to go to school so that we can have enough knowledge to earn a living and can have some of the good things in life. If I have the intellect to pursue higher education I should like to have the opportunity to do so, no matter if my parents are rich or poor, living in the city or in poor rural areas.
- After leaving school I want a meaningful job which can make me feel satisfied that I am working for the good of society.
- The country I am living in must have law and order and be free from threat, suppression or malevolence.
- My country should have a correct and useful relation with the outside world, so that I could learn something of the thoughts and knowledge of the whole world and my country would be able to receive foreign capital to use for the common good.
- I want my country to be able to sell products abroad at a fair price.
- As a farmer I would like to have a reasonable piece of land of my own for earning a living; also the means of borrowing money to expand my work, the opportunity of learning new ways of making a living, and a good market and a fair price for my products.
- As a worker I would like to have some share, some part in the factory, company or store, I am working for.
- As a human being I want to be able to read newspapers and other reading matter which is not too expensive; also to listen to the radio and watch television without too much advertising interruptions.
- I want to have good health and sanitation and expect the Government to give me free immunization service and good and cheap medical service. When ill, I should be able to find a doctor easily.
- I must have some leisure to spend with my family. I wish to have some green parkland, to be able to participate in or enjoy art, literature, dance, music, the various cultures, and to be able to attend-to some extent-temple fairs, Loy Kratong, seasonal fairs and fairs of merit.
- I want clean air to breathe, pure water to drink.
- Whatever I cannot do myself or cannot do well, I will still want to assist in with friends in the form of a cooperative, club or union, so we can help each other.
- All that I have asked for above, I do not want free. I shall be pleased to pay due taxes according to my own means.
- I want the opportunity to play a part in the society around me. I want to have a part in determining the political, economic and social fate of my country.
- My wife wants the same opportunities as I do, and we should have some knowledge of family planning.
- When old, my wife and I expect to receive benefits from social securities to which we have contributed all along.
- When I die, may I not have died futilely in, for instance, a war which someone else started, in a civil war, in a car accident, from air or water pollution, or from political poisoning.
- When I am dead I would want some of my left over wealth kept for my wife to use during the remainder of her life. If any child of mine is still young, let there be some of this left for bringing him up, but none for my grown child. The rest should go to the Government to be used in improving the life of others.
- When I am dead, let them cremate me, not bury me, so that others will have land to live on and on which to earn a living. Let there be no fussy funeral ceremonies.
- This is the meaning of life. This is the way things should develop for the benefit of everyone.
Lastly, thank you for reading thus far. May happiness, goodness and peace be with you. The Buddha has said this about goodness: “I do not see any other goodness in all creatures except intellect, the means to enlightenment, persistance, concentration and sacrifice.”
Four-Part Article published in THE BANGKOK POST March 26 to 29, 1976 A Calendar of Hopes will also appear in Prof. Herbert Phillips’ THAI THOUGHTS: A DECADE OF CHANGE, New York: Columbia University Press.