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Thai Country Studies

Class Consciousness of the Thai Elites and upper Middle-level Bureaucrats

Of the categories or strata discernible in Thai society, only one — the royal family and the hereditary nobility — constituted a self conscious group. It was not clear that class consciousness had developed among the power elites or upper middle-level bureaucrats by the 1980s, in spite of their shared views and aspirations.

Nevertheless, as social mobility diminished, which it had begun to do in the early 1980s, and as each category or section increasingly generated its own replacements, distinct status groups might emerge. Outwardly there were many indications of a conscious middle class, consumer-oriented, cosmopolitan way of life. For example, golf, tennis, delicatessens, fast-food restaurants, boutiques, and shopping malls were very popular among the Thai residents of Bangkok in the late 1980s.

Militating against solidarity, particularly at the upper and middle levels, was the continuing competition for political power and the access to economic opportunities and resources that flowed from such power. People competing for high-level positions in the military, the bureaucracy, or within the economy were engaged in a complex and shifting pattern of patron-client relationships. In this system, all but the individuals at the highest and lowest ends of a chain of such relationships were simultaneously patrons to one or more others and clients to someone above them. A developing career was likely to put a person at different places in the chain at various stages.

Given the fluctuations in the fortunes of individuals (to which the patron-client system contributed), patrons and clients, particularly at the higher levels, had to make judgments as to the benefits accruing to them from their relationship. Moreover, a client had to assess present and potential sources of power and the extent to which his support and services would be reciprocated by the current or alternative patrons. It was not uncommon in this system for both patrons and clients to shift allegiances. Patrons often had several clients, but there were no real bonds between the clients of a single patron.

The expansion of the bureaucracy and the military and the movement of the Thai into a rapidly growing private sector created opportunities for social mobility, although the major part of the population remained rural workers or moved into low-level occupations in the urban labor force. Associated with upward mobility, given the Thai orientation toward bureaucratic careers, was the availability of education. Expansion of education facilities beyond the secondary level occurred in the early 1970s. In 1961, for example, about 42,000 full-time and part-time students were enrolled in 6 higher education institutions, but by 1972 there were roughly 72,000 in more than a dozen institutions. The oldest and most prestigious universities, such as Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, and Mahidol, were in Bangkok. Many students attended universities outside Thailand, but these were more likely to be the children of Thai or Chinese who had already attained a fairly high socioeconomic position.

Education was necessary for entry into the bureaucracy, but other capabilities or characteristics, including political reliability and involvement in the patron-client system, also played a part in upward mobility within the bureaucracy. In the military, the system played perhaps a greater role than education. Military expertise as such did not seem to be an important consideration.

The sangha offered a special avenue of social mobility to some of the sons of the peasants at the base of Thailand’s socioeconomic pyramid. Positions in the upper tiers were filled by examination, and monks were offered higher education at two Buddhist universities (Mahachulalongkorn and Mahamongkut), which by the 1960s included significant secular components in their curricula. The Buddhist education system provided support for its talented students through the highest level; access to these opportunities by villagers might reflect the declining interest among the urban classes and the provincial middle group in a career in the sangha. The social mobility achieved through the sangha was not necessarily limited to those who were lifetime monks. Monks who left the sangha in their thirties and forties could legitimately enter other careers, and their education and experience in the sangha were helpful.

By the mid-1970s, the number of aspirants to the bureaucracy with undergraduate and even graduate degrees had begun to exceed the number of openings. Moreover, the economy was no longer expanding as it had in the 1960s and early 1970s (see Economic and Financial Development, ch. 3). Opportunities for upward mobility had lessened in the early 1980s, and children of families already established in the upper or middle reaches of the socioeconomic system were able to maintain their head start in a system that was no longer growing so rapidly.

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Thai Country Studies

Industrial Policy of Thailand

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The Thai industrial sector was under the supervision of seven governmental agencies. The Ministry of Finance administered taxes and duties and provided tax refunds on exports. It was involved in large-scale industrial projects in the role of deciding on government equity participation, arranging public foreign borrowing to support the project, and extending protection through tariffs.

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Thai Country Studies

Introduction to Thailand Country Studies

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A STABLE AND PROSPERING NATION located in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand faced the 1990s with abundant resources, not the least of which was its people. Thai society was characterized by a rich blend of cultural traits, an openness to new ideas, and a high degree of adaptability to new situations. Despite a certain amount of diversity, Thai society, according to many observers, was bound together by three basic tenets:
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Thai Country Studies

The Social System of Thailand

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The rural areas, where most Thai live, have been affected by change for many decades, especially since the mid-nineteenth century, when the impact of European economic and political activity was first felt. The full effects of change started to become manifest in the 1930s.

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Thai Covid-19
3,966
Confirmed
5
Confirmed (24h)
60
Deaths
0
Deaths (24h)
1.5%
Deaths (%)
3,798
Recovered
8
Recovered (24h)
95.8%
Recovered (%)
108
Active
2.7%
Active (%)
In Thailand, the health authorities reported 5 new corona infections by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration within 24 hours. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the CFCSA has counted a total of 3,966 infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Thailand. The number of deaths related to the virus rose 0 to a total of 60.

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Thai Travel Warning

1. Anti-government student protests have occurred in Bangkok and other areas of Thailand. The security environment can be unpredictable and turn violent. Those attending protests can face arrest or other legal consequences. Monitor media reports from thaienquirer.com for information on protest locations and avoid public gatherings. As a foreigner take official warnings seriously.

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3. If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel to Thailand. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

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