Thai Radical Discourse The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today 0877277028

Using Jit Poumisak's The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today (1957), Reynolds both rewrites Thai history and critique

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Thai Radical Discourse The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today

Table of contents :
[Thai Radical Discourse] Frontmatter.pdf
[Thai Radical Discourse] Contents
[Thai Radical Discourse] Preface
[Thai Radical Discourse] Acknowledgements
[Thai Radical Discourse] 1. Jit Poumisak In Thai History
[Thai Radical Discourse] 2. The Real Face Of Thai Saktina Today
[Thai Radical Discourse] 3. Feudalism In The Thai Past
[Thai Radical Discourse] 4. Conclusion

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Craig J. Reynolds


SW Southeast Asia Program Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 1987

Editor in Chief Benedict Anderson Advisory Board George Kahin Stanley O'Connor Takashi Shiraishi Keith Taylor Oliver Wolters Editing and Production Audrey Kahin Roberta Ludgate Dolina Millar

Studies on Southeast Asia No. 3

Second Printing, 1994 © 1987 Cornell Southeast Asia Program ISBN 0-87727-702-8






1. Jit Poumisak in Thai History The Writing of Thai History The Construction of Jit Poumisak's Biography The Life of Jit Poumisak Thailand in the Cold War Student Politics—1953 Death Note on the Translation

9 9 13 18 23 29 38 40

2. The Real Face of Thai Saktina Today


Somsamai Srisudravarna

3. Feudalism in the Thai Past Metaphor and Proper Meaning History of the Term Saktina The Real Face of Thai Saktina Today A Different Historiographic Paradigm Comes to Dominate The Return of Saktina Saktina and Sedition

149 150 151 155 161 165 168

4. Conclusion


References Works by Jit Poumisak Other References Interviews

177 177 179 185


Following page 42

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n this book I have tried to write some Thai history and also, at the same time, to write a critique of the historiography that is relevant to that history. The vehicle for carrying out this project is Jit Poumisak's The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today, first published in 1957 (Jit 1974c), my translation of which appears in chapter two. Jit's text, an original and influential work in a long sequence of Thai-language studies of the country's political economy, presents the past in a form that has been contested by those for whom the earlier historiography was satisfying. Thus I give it pride of place and try to show how it textualizes certain conflicts, tensions, ambiguities, and identities in twentieth-century Thai consciousness. Historians, no less than anthropologists, are engaged in constructing knowledge of other cultures, in representing other times and worlds—Third Worlds, in the cases I am interested in—different from our own. The skill of the Western writer must be to make these other times and worlds both intelligible and different, perhaps an impossible task. It seems to me that historians of Thailand, whether they be historians by profession or by the nature of their writing and teaching, have not been self-reflectively interested in the activity of constructing such knowledge. More needs to be done in articulating the process of knowing and in being able to say what kind of construct results. In this context historians might take note of the epistemological worrying, "quite characteristic of the introspective, existential inclinations of modern thought generally," that now appears in some ethnographic writing. In ethnography selfreflection on meaning and interpretation has led to the intrusion of the ethnographer and his/her fieldwork experience, thus stimulating elaboration and experimentation in the ways ethnography is written (Marcus and Cushman 1982:39, 46-48). Approaching the representation of Thai historical thought in English as an ethnographic task, I look upon my translation of, and commentary on, Jit Poumisak's The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today as an opportunity to elaborate and experiment in the spirit of such concerns. The objectives of this elaboration and experimentation are outlined further in chapter one. Though it is possible for a foreign historian to say things and sometimes to see things that a Thai historian does not, I have tried to resist the conventional posture of the foreign scholar as that of someone who stands outside the society, synthesizing the past and integrating it into a larger, somehow more complete picture. I have had special access to some people and to some materials that may distinguish this book from other writings about Jit Poumisak, but I think of my own contribution as yet another fragment of a forever unfinished construction of Jit Poumisak's life/work rather than a summation of it. In writing about this life/work, I have not sought to produce a "balanced" or "objective" picture but to use the confusions and contradictory significances to display the polysemy I see.


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would like to acknowledge financial assistance from the University of Sydney in the form of study leave and travel grants and from the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, in the form of a fellowship during the northern hemisphere spring of 1980 when I first began thinking and writing about Jit Poumisak and Thai history. The Department of Pacific and Southeast Asian History at the Australian National University provided facilities in the second half of 1983 that allowed me to draft a large portion of the book. During several visits to Bangkok Professor Saneh Chamarik, Director of the Thai Khadi Research Institute at Thammasat University, extended to me many kindnesses that helped to make the research so enjoyable. Phirom Poumisak, Jit's sister, gave permission to translate The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today and has spoken to me about her brother on a number of occasions. I appreciate the access she has given me to her family's history. I would like to thank collectively all the interviewees for taking time to talk to me. The understanding they gave me of Thailand's past goes far beyond the citations to particular interviews. Many of them urged me to check their version of events against that of others, a task which, in the nature of things, was sometimes very difficult to do. Chai-anan Samudavanija kindly provided a photocopy of the rare volume in which The Real Face was first published. For conversation and assistance of various kinds I am also grateful to Sunthari Asawai, Surachat Bamrungsuk, M. L. Wanwipha Burutrattaphan, Saneh Chamarik, Suphaphorn Charanlaphat, Witayakorn Chiengkul, Manas Chitakasem, Nerida Cook, Pensri Duke, Phornphirom lamtham, Phalakon Jirasophon, Atcharaphorn Kamutphitsamai, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Nakkharin Mektrairat, Pramote Nakhornthap, Wichai Napharatsami, Chatthip Nartsupha, Waruni Otsatharom, Dhida Saraya, Suchat Sawatsi, Chalong Suntharawanit, Anchali Susayan, Saichon Wannarat, Somkiat Wanthana, and Thongchai Winichakul. Nidhi Aeusrivongse, Benedict Anderson, Jennifer Cushman, Tony Day, Ranajit Guha, Reynaldo Clemena Ileto, Hong Lysa, Ruth T. McVey, Michael van Langenberg, and Oliver Wolters read earlier versions of the typescript and made astute comments which helped me to improve it. I am especially grateful to Benedict Anderson, who used his considerable gifts for languages and conceptualizing to make many translating and editorial suggestions. Earlier versions of chapters three and four first appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies (volume 43, number 1), published by the Association for Asian Studies, and in Feudalism: Comparative Studies, published by the Sydney Association for the Study of Society and Culture (1985). I acknowledge with gratitude permission from both associations to make use of this previously published material. There are three people, now deceased, who would have liked to read this book. Rex Mortimer, an Indonesia specialist who taught in the University of Sydney's Department of Government, wrote and spoke passionately about the "dis-Europeanization" of the world, a notion that I find congenial. Rex showed an interest in this research as I

began it and would have been a valuable critic had his life not ended so abruptly. Nisit Chirasophon was an activist at Chiengmai University and later in Bangkok in the early 1970s until his death in a railway accident in 1975. Though I did not know it until 1982, Nisit played a part in the republication in 1974 of Jit Poumisak's The Real Face. Nisit was a secondary school student of mine many years ago in his hometown of Krabi in southern Thailand, when he was, even at that young age, both critical and political. I will always wonder if he saw parallels of his own life/work in Jit's. Supha Sirimanond spoke candidly to me about what he and others were trying to do in the 1940s and 1950s. Supha, who was more than the simple newspaperman he liked to pretend he was, put the activists of the 1970s in touch with the history he himself had helped to make some two decades previously. He passed away in March of this year, and I shall always regret that the progress of this book was so agonizingly slow that he did not live to see its completion. Craig J. Reynolds Sydney July 1986


THE WRITING OF THAI HISTORY Thailand is represented in most histories written by English speakers as a country without radical politics and without radical writing. Negative conditions, such as the absence of a colonial past, as well as positive ones, such as geography, religion, and shrewd leadership, are summoned to defend the proposition. The country's muchvaunted escape from colonial domination meant that no group or class or party rose up to demand, and ultimately to wrest, sovereignty from foreign masters and also that the institutions that responded to the pressures of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century survived and adjusted to contend with the internal and external challenges of the twentieth. Until recently, the natural endowments of the land so protected Thai peasants against adversity that, with some regional exceptions, they did not suffer on the same scale as did the peasants of Java, Vietnam, China, and India. The dyad of Buddhism and sacral kingship still serves in the late twentieth century to legitimate the civil-military order that rules. Even after the Enlightenment, constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, and European socialism entered Thai consciousness through Westward-looking and Western-educated minds, the resulting aspirations for political, social, and economic change never achieved their iconoclastic and epochal objectives. Thus no social revolution swept the land, no independence movement was called up to liberate it from colonial oppression, no Chairman ever moved millions with anti-feudal exhortations. By perpetuating such characterizations as all these, Western writers inevitably convey to their readers the idea of "Thailand—a conservative state" (Simmonds 1963). One consequence of this historical discourse on Thailand is that the writing of Thai history in English is rarely taken to be problematic, or problematic only in a technical, tactical sense. Western historians worry about the scarcity of primary evidence, the problems of dating it, and the royal bias investing it. Beyond such basic matters, the writing of Thai history in English remains monumentally noncontroversial. Western historians presume that the arc of continuity is intact and that "the Thai people" themselves uphold the arc of continuity as essential to their consciousness as a people. Thus many critical questions are deferred. How does Thailanguage history figure in the consciousness of foreign historians? In what relation does indigenous, vernacular history stand to a foreign-language history? Only as one of the tetter's sources? By what procedures does a foreign historian apprehend Thai historical consciousness? What characterizes the representations of the Thai past created by foreign historians? Whose history is it? Certainly not the Thai people's or the Thai state's, for the historical consciousness of a people—or a village, a class, a regime, an institution—is its memory of how it came to be what it is. Historians are never in want of continuities; indeed, it is in the nature of the historian's craft to construct them. The fissures, breaks, and discontinuities are there only to be explained, bridged over, sewn together, or contextualized in larger, all-embracing continuities. All breaks are prepared for with the aid of hindsight, and by hindsight


Thai Radical Discourse

provided with an aftermath, thus closing them. Jit Poumisak's The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today, first published in 1957, is known in Thai as a break (waek naew) in Thai historical studies, because of the way it departed from conventional historical practice. It is this break that makes the work a radical history. By means of a translation of the work into English, it may be possible to isolate this break, in a sense to inhabit it, and in doing so, to begin to answer to some of the questions above and to apprehend something of the interrelationship between modern Thai historical writing and contemporary consciousness. Jit's history has on occasion been censored—forbidden to be printed— and thus marginalized. This official proscription points to the text as a break and stands as an index of the emergence of a new form in Thai-language historical writing, an index of an altered historical consciousness. Even at the end of the nineteenth century, when the Thai monarchy was strongest, its power and prestige reinforcing each other without the buttress of a loyal but wary military as is the case today, two fundamental issues arose that point to changes in historical consciousness. One was the form that written history was to take; the other, whose prerogative it was to write history. In the case of the former, chronicle history by reign, taken as a specific form, ceased to exist with the composition in the late 1860s of the chronicle of the fourth Bangkok reign (1851-1868). Other kinds of chronicles—of tributary states, for example—continued to be written through the 1920s, but the chronicle of the fifth Bangkok reign (1868-1910) is a chronicle in name only. It is structured not chronologically, like the chronicles of the first four reigns, but thematically, and it is unfinished, ending for all intents and purposes just before the Front Palace revolt of 1873 that traumatized the royal family. The reorganization of the state during the 1890s, royally directed but stemming from the socioeconomic changes of the preceding decades, is left unrecorded. In fact, the chronicle—it being "beyond the mental powers" (lua phrasati kamlang) of the author to write about the entire reign—is cobbled together from bits and pieces from the earlier part of the reign (Damrong 1950:preface). What was beyond the chronicler's mental powers? Was the chronicle's author, Prince Damrong, one of the chief architects of that reorganization of the state, unable to imagine a historical form adequate to comprehend in a single schema the changes that had occurred? The explanation given by Damrong's family—he told one of his sons that writing the full chronicle would have been like tearing off his own skin (Nidhi 1984)—masks the problem with anecdote and ignores the structural changes in modern Thai consciousness. The fifth reign chronicle reads as if an inchoate form of historical writing (the Thai past emplotted as narrative) were struggling prematurely out of the cocoon of convention (chronicle) only to languish and die. Simply because it enshrined the monarchical absolutism that preceded modern Thai kingship, however, the chronicle form had to be preserved, even if it could no longer textualize contemporary events. By means of modern printing technology and education the Thai elite reproduced the chronicles, thus propagating "chronicle kingship" and implanting it in the growing literate classes. In the chronicle "kings remain the central force of all historical change," a paradigm of the "proper process of change for which the Thai elite was consciously working" (Nidhi 1982:31, 35). The second issue was the identity of the historians: were they to be from the aristocracy, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or the Third Estate? Ultimately, no committee or court clique answered the question, technology did. The printing press, used to great effect by entrepreneurial Christian missionaries who introduced it in the 1830s, enabled anyone with access, motive, and material to disseminate a history. And while the Thai monarchy did not view the new technology with the same apprehension and possessiveness as the contemporary Vietnamese emperor did, in more than one inci-

Jit in Thai History


dent the enterprise of commoners and dissident nobility aroused royal ire. In 1878 the monarchy confiscated and burned a history in nirat verse of an unpopular military campaign when the official who ordered the troops' dispatch took exception to its publication (Jit 1975c). Later, at the turn of the century, a commoner historian who managed to get his hands on official documents was investigated and disciplined several times, and his biography of a high ecclesiastical dignitary withdrawn from circulation (Chai-anan 1979; Reynolds 1973). It is characteristic of both these incidents that the king and his officials were reacting against form in two senses of the word: social form (by refusing to defer to royal authority the authors had violated a social norm); and literary form (the authors had abused, or taken liberties with, established poetic and chronicle convention, respectively). Of the 1878 incident both Damrong and Chulalongkorn noted explicitly that the poet's statements had "gone beyond" (i.e. stepped outside) the nirat poetic genre (Jit 1980a:175-76). Although the court's historical form, the chronicle, ceased to evolve as a vehicle for rendering the elite's conception of its own past, and although commoners were capable of mounting modest challenges to the court's prerogative to write history, the court continued to author—and to authorize—the writing of the Thai past until the absolute monarchy ended in 1932. And historical writing remained an entirely internal matter. No colonial power appropriated or devalued indigenous historical writing; no colonial power subjugated or compromised the Thai social and religious hierarchy, as happened in Burma, Java, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaya, and Cambodia. Until 1932 the court undertook the functions carried out by colonial archaeological services—the excavation and preservation of material remains of the past—albeit with the assistance of foreign gentlemen-scholars resident in Bangkok. This archaeological pursuit did not lead to a holistic refashioning of Thai history but rather to a resuscitation of the once-glorious kingdoms of Sukhodaya and Ayudhya. As if with sideward glances to the work of G. H. Luce in Burma, G. Coedés in Indochina, and N. J. Krom in Java, Damrong and his archaeological team created a vision of an imperial past that revived the national morale after the national disgrace of the extraterritorial treaties imposed by the Western powers. Such holistic writing as did appear in the quarter century after 1932, especially from the pen of Luang Wichit Watthakan who served the new ruling elite that came to power after 1932, rewrote "the plot" of Thai history by braiding together the plot of dynasty and the plot of nation-state (Reynolds 1984; Charnvit 1979b:166-68). This rewriting was not a simple matter. It required that a quite different social and political order be legitimated by a fallen absolutist monarchy that could no longer speak for itself. Thai history still awaited a new form, and an author outside the power structure, and the chronicle mentality persisted—without its form—through World War II and into the 1950s. The constituent parts of the fifth reign chronicle were brought together and termed a chronicle as late as 1950 (Damrong 1950). When an utterly innovative form, The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today, appeared in 1957, it carried within it a discourse about relations of production, modes of domination, and conflict between the rulers and the ruled. The Thai people, struggling to meet the material needs of their existence, sought to become the masters of their own fate, to make their own history, to become the subject of history rather than its passive object. The primary unit of analysis was not the monarchy, for the monarchy had already been set aside as the prime mover of history in the writings of Wichit Watthakan, nor was it any other political or economic institution. The focus of the analysis was the social system, what Thai political economists now refer to as the social formation (rup khong sangkhom) in the Marxian sense (Reynolds and Hong 1983).


Thai Radical Discourse

The social formation was comprised of three elements: the economic, the political, and the cultural. This social formation, be it the primitive commune, slavery, or feudal society, underwent change through a complex interaction of the forces of production (technology and labor, for example), relations of production, and class antagonisms. The resulting dynamic process propelled society from one formation to the next, with a new formation unfolding within its predecessor even as the latter was crumbling and falling away. The economic element—the productive relations of society as a whole— dominated The Real Face, while "culture" and "religion," the mainstays of Thai national identity, receded into the background. This emphasis on economics, put into perspective in a postscript by the anonymous editor who explains that lack of time and funds had forced deferral of the political, social, and cultural characteristics, was a corrective to hitherto existing Thai historical writing. In his stress on economics the author of The Real Face could have spoken the words of Engels in his 1890 letter to Joseph Bloch. He and Marx had to emphasize the main principle vis-á-vis their adversaries, who denied it, and they had not always had the time, the place, or the opportunity to allow the other elements involved in the interaction to come into their own. The project announced in Jit's text of mapping out the economic, political, and cultural relations of Thai society was never completed, at least not in The Real Face or any sequel to it, although many of Jit Poumisak's other works investigated the non-economic characteristics of feudal power. "Today," which appeared in the title of the work when originally published in 1957 but was dropped in subsequent reprintings, gave it a contemporary thrust, pointing to the presence of feudal remnants in the Thailand of the late 1950s. These remnants are understood by contemporary Thai political economists to persist prominently in Thai consciousness in the form of allegiance to the monarchy and the Buddhist religion. In the 1957 text feudal, or saktina in Thai, is broader and more comprehensive than simply monarchy, the latter being subsumed as an essential part of the feudal/saktina whole. Those who are feudal/saktina are thus not identified solely as royal or even aristocratic ("to identify the saktina by looking at their birth status or the size of their feet is misleading"), but the big Land-Lord of saktina times was the kshatriya, that is, the king and his "extended and extensive family" who monopolized the ruling class's privileges and rights to exploitation. The kshatriya, as head of that class, was prominent in its formation, even though the monarchy is not the primary unit of analysis. By attributing avaricious, rather than pious, motives to that class, by exposing religious and cultural values as instruments of rule rather than as sources of spiritual and social security, and by demonstrating how this social formation finally stagnated in conditions that were detrimental to human welfare and production, the text links economic,* political, and social backwardness to the monarchy. Such a characterization of the monarchy is an inversion of what the contemporary Thai monarchy would claim for itself as an agent of economic, political, and social development: a force for democratic change; a model of nuclear family solidarity; the patron of simple inventions for the cultivator (water pumps out of bicycle gears), of sophisticated technology for modern agriculture (large-scale irrigation projects, and cloud seeding with chemicals), and of agricultural diversification (dairy farming). Picture books produced by the palace such as Kasat kaset (1980)—a title that draws on an ancient Sanskrit etymology (ksetr to kshatriya transcribed phonemically as kasat) and links the ruler (kasat) and agriculture (kaset) in a near homophony—advertise these claims. Since the late 1950s military regimes have restored monarchical prestige and placed the Crown at the center of official nationalist ideology. Laws defining sedition include the crime of lese majesty, and the tinkering with, or inversion of, any estab-

Jit in Thai History


lished meanings of the monarchy thus risks violating these laws. To link the monarchy to a backward agrarian order comes close to a seditious act. The legitimacy of the Thai state rests on a web of meanings that are articulated in law, in public ceremony, and in symbolism (whether it be monumental sculpture or the plan of the capital or the ubiquity of monasteries). These meanings inextricably associate the military, the monarchy, and the Buddhist monkhood as a triad that stands for "Thailand." The military and the police maintain public order and guarantee territorial integrity; they back the authority of the state with armed strength. The monarchy is at once the contemporary vestige of an ancient sacral authority, commanding awe and deference, and, in the persons making up the royal family, a domestic unit with a popular touch in tune with the times. The Buddhist monkhood is a repository of the society's ethical norms and guides the faithful to spiritual ends. When occasion requires, each member of the triad borrows core meanings from the other two to supplement or fortify its own stock of meanings. Sedition might be defined as an effort to unravel this web of meanings, to toy with the meanings, to use the meanings improperly or in an unsanctioned manner (Ryan 1982:1-8). In chapters three and four, following the translation of The Real Face, I will explore the seditious implications of Jit's text—how the text unravels proper meanings—and discuss various kinds of reactions against those meanings, censorship being only one such reaction. The Real Face of Feudalism Today connects writing and sedition, and its publishing history illustrates the link between absolute authority and proper meaning. Since its first publication it has been pulled back and forth in a conflict over the meanings it releases, the author it evokes being one of these meanings. The work first appeared in the euphoric atmosphere of 1957, the year of the 2,500th anniversary of Buddhism celebrated by Theravada Buddhist countries. Soon after, in 1958, it author was imprisoned and it was banned. Fifteen years later, after 14 October 1973, it was republished in another euphoric moment, only to be banned once more in 1977. It was reprinted again in 1979. In this first part of my commentary on The Real Face, I will offer an interpretation of Thai history after World War II and of the life of the text's author, Jit Poumisak. I will discuss what the author meant to others and will give the text a context—a time, a place—but I will defer my own reading of the text to the commentary following the translation. The text already has a place in the history of Thai historical writing; it has already been absorbed into a lineage of Thai-language historical writings. In translating the work and providing a commentary on it I intend, in some sense, to re-present this place for English speakers, at the most basic level to "report" where that place is in Thai writing. This exercise is not, however, simply one of translation and reportage. The translation and commentary also point to the relation between historical writing and contemporary consciousness and constitute my argument as to how and why this particular Thai-language text must be figured in English-language histories of Thailand. THE CONSTRUCTION OF JIT POUMISAK'S BIOGRAPHY The life of Jit Poumisak in twentieth-century Thai history is problematic in a number of ways, not least because it resists the cohesion and the summing up of the person that readers hope to find in the story of a life. Life resists biography, because a biography "represents a counterfeit integration of its subject. . . . It is logical and necessarily centripetal" and must therefore be "untrue to life" (Sturrock 1979:53). In accounts of Jit's life the many parts that do not fit, the many lacunae, and the contradictory testimony point to a life that resists integration and closure. Although Jit Poumisak is now a cen-


Thai Radical Discourse

tral figure in Thai radical thought and although he has been somewhat tamed by formal academic discourse that gives him a place in the lineage of analyses of Thai society and history, his biography is still diffuse, dispersed in the hundred and one texts that testify to his existence. These include memoirs by relatives and friends, interviews given by them, biographical prefaces, at least one academic "life-and-work" study, autobiographical materials, and biographies crafted from such sources. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of his scholarship—three manuscripts were published for the first time in 1982, one in 1983—has helped to keep alive the project of discovering and constructing his life, though the unearthing of unpublished manuscripts has probably come to an end. The elusiveness of the life is underscored by the occasionally anonymous, pseudonymous, and fugitive character of the materials themselves. The more that is produced to verify the life, the more complex becomes the task of circumscribing it and locating it. And the manner of his dying (he was shot on 5 May 1966 while in the maquis) meant that the paradigmatic Thai biography, the cremation biography, could never be written. Cremation biographies are not published for outlaws. Thus, even the formal, proper statement of the life, so welcome to students of Thailand for biographical data, is lacking. It is no wonder that the date of his death, given in some books as 5 May 1965 and in some as 5 May 1966, has at times seemed uncertain. This indeterminacy surrounding the biography of Jit Poumisak—which is another way of saying that the life is controversial—stems in part from the episodes of exclusion in it. In 1953 university authorities suspended him from his studies for a full academic year, thus separating him from his classmates and pitching him into the category of dissident. Between 1958 and 1965 the absolute authority of the state imprisoned him without trial, removing him from civil society and making him a political prisoner. In late 1965, some ten months after release from prison, he entered the maquis, whether to join the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) or to make his way to China is not clear. Who was this person to merit such exclusion and separation? What circumstances surrounded these exclusions? These are the questions that have come to be asked of him. Pursuit of answers has led to the construction of a mythic life, and he has become a culture hero and a model revolutionary intellectual for the young. The story of his life is now part of a larger discourse about the struggles of youth against age, of radical thought against received wisdom, and of the marginalized against the securely entrenched. The drive to define the life that is "necessarily centripetal," to retrieve the life from the margins and the periphery, has been constantly undermined—or reinforced—by these themes of exclusion, separation, and revolt. In Thai language he may well be the most talked about, as well as the most celebrated and the most vilified, Thai radical thinker since Pridi Phanomyong, the civilian leader of 1932 whose economic plan of 1933 was discredited as "communist" for its socialist principles. A generation younger than Pridi and in his adolescence during the late 1940s when Pridi's political fortunes were ebbing, Jit made his reputation in journalism, literature, and education rather than in the law and public life. Unlike Pridi, who briefly became Prime Minister in 1946 after the end of the Japanese Occupation, Jit Poumisak never held government office. Also unlike Pridi, who acquired a Doctorate of Laws at the University of Paris, Jit never set foot in a Western country. Had he been educated abroad, his imagination would have been harnessed and trained by judicious academic etiquette. He would have learned to qualify his assertions and suggest alternative explanatory models, and his project of reinterpreting Thai history would probably have lost the singlemindedness and decisiveness that endow The Real Face with such force.

Jit in Thai History


Pridi attained mythic status in his own lifetime. As the principal intellect of the 1932 coup group and as founder of Thammasat University (The University of Moral and Political Sciences), he sought to transmit the ideals of the French Enlightenment to Thai public life. All Thai nationalists on the Left, even members of the CPT, defined their politics in relation to Pridi's, and although some CPT members urged that the party acknowledge his reputation and use it to advantage, its failure to do so divided the Thai Left for several generations into two streams: Pridi and his followers; and the CPT (Phin interview 1984). After being unjustly implicated in the regicide of the young Anan in 1946 and forced to flee the country, Pridi lived in exile abroad, first in China, then in Paris, until his death in March 1983. From these foreign outposts he engaged in long-distance litigation with courts and lawyers in Bangkok, trying to clear his name of one charge after another. Once he became accessible in Paris, many Thai students and teachers abroad made their way to his home to interview him, to partake of his political wisdom, and to locate their own ideals in relation to the history of Thai politics and political thought that he embodied. These pilgrimages increased after the mass student mobilizations of October 1973 and the suspension of military rule. Between October 1973 and October 1976 the country enjoyed full parliamentary democracy, though it was a democracy increasingly under siege (Girling 1981; Morrell and Chai-anan 1981). And Pridi, who presided at the installation of parliamentary institutions in Thailand, was a critical reference point for young Thai activists as they constructed a history of their own consciousness. But for many of those who were in their twenties and thirties during that three-year period, Pridi was too remote and too elderly a figure to measure against their own experience. His charisma as a potential leader of a radically restructured society had hardly diminished, but his age and distance from Thai political struggles limited his ability to act as a center for a new politics. For the younger activists, Jit was closer in age, closer in educational background, and his life had the added meanings of a martyr's death. Moreover, the search for his biography and the discovery of his work between 1973 and 1976 were part and parcel of an unearthing—a kind of cultural excavation of Thai literary and cultural history after World War II (Anderson 1985; Flood 1975; Reynolds and Hong 1983). This period, from the end of the war until 1957-58, was the real heyday of Thai socialism when many literary and historical studies were inspired by materialist philosophy, social realism, and the achievements of post-revolutionary Russia and China. Between 1973 and 1976 Jit's poems, music, reviews, essays, and scholarly studies were dug out of old books and journals (and literally out of someone's back garden in the case of one thick manuscript), assembled into collections, where before there had been only scattered pieces, and reprinted. His life/work and that of other progressive writers of the 1950s touched a nerve in the Thai youth movement, and the pursuit and discovery of that life/ work became one of the activities around which the movement cohered. Some aspects of the political change of 14 October 1973—the mass mobilizations, for example—were unprecedented in Thai political history, but with hindsight much can now be seen to anticipate the change and prepare the way for it. Nevertheless, events moved so swiftly and the change came with such a rush that at the time it seemed a new age was dawning. A different kind of past or history was urgently necessary for the new epoch, not a history that spoke of evolution to the present but one that spoke of similar conditions, authors, and activities already existent at an earlier time. Such a past provided temporal depth and the shock of recognition for an emergent post-1973 consciousness. Temporal depth here meant that youth was reviving and reanimating something that had been dormant or forgotten. To change the metaphor, something was being repeated. Jit's life—lived until his death, discovered, and retold after it—


Thai Radical Discourse

was one such repetition that made possible resemblances between the 1950s and 197376, and these resemblances helped to define and fortify the emergent post-1973 consciousness. In giving the 1973-76 period a past in the 1950s, Jit Poumisak became an author who helped to authorize the literary movement of that three-year period and to nourish the post-1973 consciousness of the people who learned about him. Yet he is a product of that consciousness as much as a cause of it. The discovery of his life/work exemplifies what Foucault has called "the author-function/' wherein commentary on a life/work lays claim to certain meanings, expropriating some meanings and excluding others. The author's name, according to Foucault, "performs a certain role with regard to narrative discourse, assuring a classificatory function. Such a name permits one to group together a certain number of texts, define them, differentiate them from and contrast them to others" (Foucault 1979:147). The author functions to give unity and coherence to a body of texts in such a way that "author" and "works" are mutually defining. As a unifying principle, authorship is one of the important ways that discourse is mobilized or controlled for particular purposes (Foucault 1972). In the case of Jit Poumisak, two works (Jit 1972, 1974c) preceded the author, in the sense that their discovery and republication set off the search for their author, almost as if the works chased after the author. When the works caught up with the author and the episodes of exclusion and separation were discovered in Jit's life, biography and more authorial works followed. Though it had parallels with the early 1950s, the time after October 1973—and who could say for how long it would flow on?—was felt to be separate from all previous Thai history, and it was in this special, separate time that Jit Poumisak's life/work began to function as an indispensable sign in Thai radical discourse. The youth movement and its allies constructed an author to function for their purposes, even as government and university authorities sought to control radical discourse by constructing a very different author. In the early stages of constructing the author "Jit Poumisak" after 14 October 1973, when authorities began to relax censorship controls, Jit's given name and family name still had to be denied—blacked out, or replaced with his pseudonyms or with the neutral pronoun for the third person, khao. In assembling one of the first biographies testifying to Jit's existence and place in Thai literary history, the editors had approached former classmates and teachers to verify the author they were uncovering, but they "encountered unexpected obstacles" and were forbidden to refer to him by name (Chonthira et al. 1974b:6-31). So they referred to him by pseudonyms and khao, drawing attention to the crossing out of his name by having the pronoun printed in enlarged, bold-face type. The story of Jit's life in this account included the incident in 1953 that caused his suspension from Chulalongkorn University, and it was in that university's student journal, Aksonsatphichan, that this early biography appeared in 1974. The university's own traditions had been violated in the incident, hence the reluctance of senior university people to allow the proliferation of dangerous meanings around "Jit Poumisak" even at a time of open politics. In listing the names of the writers and activists arrested in the aftermath of the October 1958 coup of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, the editors did manage mischievously to smuggle in Jit's name (Chonthira et al. 1974b:28). But there is no way of telling from the biographical text that the name Jit Poumisak lies behind the pronoun, the pseudonyms, and the blacked-out name. The crossed-out name surrounded "Jit Poumisak" with secrecy and forbidden knowledge, thus giving it potency and talismanic power. Throughout 1974, the new generation (khon run mai) of students, lecturers, writers, and activists debated the meanings of 14 October 1973 and drew "Jit Poumisak" and other writers of the 1950s

Jit in Thai History


into a discourse about politically committed literature (Chonthira 1974a; Lamnam 1980). "Jit Poumisak" focussed the literary and historical concerns of this new generation, for example in an exhibition on "Literary Struggles and the 14 October Incident" held at Thammasat University in August. In September the Social Science Association of Thailand organized a seminar on "The Thought of Jit Poumisak," with papers by three academics (Chonthira Satyawatthana, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Saneh Chamarik) and an older colleague of Jit's from the 1950s, Supha Sirimanonda (Sucha11974). Much of the discussion was devoted to The Real Face and to his literary criticism, in an effort to bring him out into the open, demythologize him, and establish his reputation as a scholar and thinker. The seminar participants were laying claim to certain meanings for Jit Poumisak, in other words trying to determine the way the author Jit Poumisak would function. As it turned out, the discussion merely multiplied the potential meanings of the author. Was he a HUMANIST or a ROMANTICIST or a REVOLUTIONIST? The terms leap out of the Thai text in román typeface. In that turbulent time the seminar could not reach agreement on the most appropriate label. Suchat Sawatsi, one of the many who saw resemblances between the 1950s and 1973-76 and helped to construct the comparisons, pointed out that the new generation had given Jit a prominent place precisely because of the secrecy and forbidden knowledge represented by the name (Suchat 1974:89). And even today secrets persist: "Mother," one of Jit's most famous poems has never been printed in full. Authority still uses the author Jit Poumisak to determine what can and cannot be said. Throughout the three-year period from 1973 to 1976 academics and students, as well as publishers and even the CPT, contributed to the construction of "Jit Poumisak." At the end of December 1974 a dramatization of Jit's life was performed at Chulalongkorn University. Significantly, three of the four acts concerned the episodes of exclusion and separation that had come to mark his biography (Chulalongkorn University 1975). The CPT, which made Jit a party member after his death, hastily issued a brief biography and laid claim to some ostensibly revolutionary meanings for itself (Klum phithak wannakam n.d.). Publishers were quick to reprint his works (Jit 1974a-e; 1975a-c; 1976a-c), including The Real Face which went through five new editions. "Jit Poumisak" was good business for the book market as well as good reading. A memoir of the collective life in prison of those arrested in 1958 provided welcome details of his personality and living habits (he tended the prisoners' garden, complained about the food, and argued with the wardens about TV viewing rights) (Thongbai 1974). In 1976 the Chulalongkorn University student journal devoted an entire issue to the life/work on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Jit's death (Chulalongkorn University 1976). This issue contained summaries of Jit's writings that had not yet been reprinted, a 120item bibliography of his works, and more testimonies by colleagues, some of whom concealed their identities behind such pseudonyms as "Friend in Struggle." Among the many materials that surfaced in 1973-76 to construct the author and to fuel the debate on the meanings of "Jit Poumisak" was "Evidence Given by Jit Poumisak," the record of his 1958 interrogation by the political police, which at least seemed to offer some facts about his life (Jit 1978a). But the text's factualness was undermined by the fugitive manner of its circulation in photocopied and mimeographed form, and the attribution of the document to the political police was hearsay, hence suspect, though it was the correct attribution, confirmed many years later by a retired senior police officer close to Jit's case (Chat interview 1979). The evidence is in the first person and is therefore cast in an autobiographical mode that gives an effect of authenticity to the speaker's statements. What is printed seems to be the answers to questions but without the questions. Various interview sessions in transcript form may have been


Thai Radical Discourse

strung together to construct a complete life to date, resulting in overlaps and confused chronology in places. This autobiography, which begins with the speaker's name, birthdate, parents' names and occupations, and so forth, has served other purposes apart from the efforts to clarify and define the author Jit Poumisak during 1973-76. Its first formal printing in Athit magazine in May 1978 was a sign that the post-October 1976 suppression of dissent and debate had lifted; and a reprint the following year contributed to the discourse about the CPT and dissident writers and intellectuals in the jungle (Kong Bannathikan Sayam Nikon 1979). Apart from the 1958 record of interrogation, most of the information about Jit's childhood has come from interviews with his mother, who died in December 1977, and from his sister, Phirom, who has given many interviews and has also written a memoir (Phirom n.d.). "Muang Boyang," the pen name of an editorial assistant at the nowdefunct literary journal Lok Nangsu (Book World), dedicated himself to the search for Jit memorabilia, assiduously collecting photographs, unpublished manuscripts, letters, notebooks, and other oral and written scraps of the life. He has used some of this material to fashion a biography of Jit's early life and school years that depends for its authenticity on personal contact with family members and access to Jit's personal possessions ("Muang Boyang" 1980). In more than one of his books, "Muang Boyang" has reproduced a photograph of Jit's desk and books, as if to present a shrine of learning and revolutionary origins much like those preserved for Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Mao Zedong in China. Interviews with family members, former classmates, and teachers figure prominently in this biographical literature; the interviewer—and the readers— make contact with "Jit Poumisak" through the direct encounter of first-person speech. So along with fugitive, confidential, and pseudonymous materials, there are interviews and testimonies, sometimes mediated by a pseudonymous author. In fact, the activity of acquiring the oral testimony is as much a part of the story as the author it purports to clarify, and this is no less the case for myself. One of the many pleasures for me in doing research on Jit Poumisak over the past few years has been meeting the large number of people who have been more than willing to talk to me, or who have taken me aside to tell me what they knew, what Jit had said to them, what their association with him had been. Their speech indicated a wish to affiliate themselves with the forbidden subject, whatever their political sympathies may be. What stands in dialectical relation to secrecy and the forbidden subject is disclosure. The continuing series of disclosures—more witnesses, more works—implies there is still something left undisclosed, and here and there gaps still exist in the life or the authorial works. Thus in relating the life of Jit Poumisak in English, a life that textualizes much about postWorld War II Thai history that has been related in other ways, never related, or forgotten, I shall include as part of my story the Thai-language construction of his life with all its lapses, disclosures, and polyphonic testimony. In Thai language the meanings of "Jit Poumisak" in a wide-ranging discourse on Thai politics, history, literature, culture, and radical social change resist being tied down, and so they might be allowed to disperse in English-language biography as well. THE LIFE OF JIT POUMISAK When Jit—given name Somjit, shortened later to Jit—was born on 25 September 1930 in Prachinburi, a province that stretches east from central Thailand as far as the Cambodian border, his father, Siri, was a clerk in the district revenue office, and his mother, Saengngoen, a seamstress who made clothing for the local military camp. His sister Phirom, two years older, was his only sibling. The father's position in the civil service meant periodic transfers, and it was thus that Jit received his primary and secondary

Jit in Thai History


schooling in several provinces—Kanchanaburi to the west of Bangkok, Samutprakan to the south, and Battambang to the far east. Battambang, the urban center of the Cambodian territories relinquished by France to Thai control at the outset of World War II, lies in a zone of conflict that has, over the centuries, been a battleground for Southeast Asian powers, and here the family lived in the mid-1940s until France reclaimed its colonial possessions at the war's end. The political circumstances of Jit's first exposure to Cambodia were not lost on him, even in his mid-teens. With Thailand now ruling western Cambodia and his father working as an administrator, he was perforce implicated in a colonial occupation. He and his Thai friends, many of them children of Thai officials sent to govern the Cambodian population, bore the brunt of local bitterness and were sometimes physically abused. The first entry in a diary he began to keep at this time records the evening of 22 March 1946 when he was shot at, the bullet whistling by so close that he could feel the rush of cool air against his ear (Jit 1979b:44). The incident gave him cause to curse the Khmer, and he declared that had it not been for his attachment to his mother, he would have taken up arms against the Free Khmer who were fighting for a Cambodia independent of all foreign rulers, Thai as well as French. But this personal experience with anti-Thai feelings did not prevent him from eventually seeing the justice of the Free Khmer cause; he came to express his sympathy for it, in defiance of the Thai irredentism around him (Jit 1979b:56). As the date of the return of Battambang to France drew near, his teachers gave tearful nationalistic speeches charging the students with the duty of repossessing the western Cambodian provinces for Thailand, and a newspaper celebrated the bonds of Thai-Khmer amity, promising the Cambodians they would no longer be the "scum" of French masters. Cambodian language and civilization figured prominently in Jit's life and writing ever after. With his gift for languages he picked up Khmer quickly; he is said to have spoken Modern Khmer fluently (Phirom interview 1979) and to have known Old Khmer as well as anyone else in Thailand (preface in Jit 1979c). His scholarly essays reveal a rich knowledge of ancient Khmer society and politics, a knowledge he probably displayed to foreigners when he worked as a guide in the late 1950s on tourist excursions into Cambodia. This knowledge and his multilingualism could, however, be held against him. As a secondary school student in Bangkok, he was taunted by a teacher for being Cambodian, an accusation his sister found insulting to their Thai nationality (Phirom 1981:38). When the Thai administrators and their families were forced to leave Battambang in 1946, Jit's mother brought her two children to Bangkok to continue their education. The father, barely discernible in any of the oral and written accounts of Jit's life, disappears from the family history at this point, with both children in their mid-teens; it was some years before Jit's sister said anything at all about the absent father, Siri (Phirom 1980:33). He had abandoned the family, leaving Saengngoen to raise the two children on her own. She sustained and supported the family as a single parent from then on. All the interviews and biographical accounts testify to the mutual affection between Jit and his mother, to the extent that "mother" pervades the biography and authorial works and becomes a motif in them. Phirom's memoir of their mother—much of which concerns her brother—is the latest embellishment of this motif; Phirom has included a photograph of Jit standing behind his mother, his arm resting affectionately and possessively on her shoulder (Phirom 1980). Saengngoen visited him faithfully during the six years he was in prison and lived to see the recognition and fame accorded her son in 197376.


Thai Radical Discourse

According to one witness, Jit vowed to write about his mother and excel Gorky's famous evocation of motherhood ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:51); according to another, the similarity between Gorky's protagonist and his own mother led him to translate the Russian Mother from English (Cintana interview 1979; Jit 1978c). One of the pen names he used as a critic was Sanskritized word play with his mother's name, deciphered in the late 1970s by Jit's most diligent biographer ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:145-62). In 1979 a pirated reprint of The Real Face by Saengngoen Press exploited his mother's name in an unauthorized way; the hitherto unknown press traded on the mother-son bond that was now well-known by readers of Jit's works who depended on it to construct Jit the author. The close mother-and-son tie flew in the face of the charge that his political dissidence stemmed from a broken home. Yet as early as 1953 "mother" was problematized in Jit's works. In that year his "mother" poem—about a child conceived out of passion rather than intention—was read by university authorities as a transgression of Thai ideals of motherhood. Throughout Jit's works, "mother" flickers in a variety of motifs and gives continuity and familiarity to "Jit Poumisak." Filial piety helps to override the exclusion and separation that otherwise punctuate the life. In 1946 in the capital, the hub of the country's cultural and political life, Jit began attending the government school at Wat Benchamabophit, "The Monastery of the Fifth King," built at the end of the last century by King Chulalongkorn as a model of religious art and education. Although he came to see religion as a creation of ruling class cunning, in his early adolescence he was an observing student of the artifacts produced by religious belief. He would visit the monastery to pay homage to the famous Chinnarat Buddha image and to listen to the monks preaching. He meticulously recorded in his diary the details of the monastery's architecture: the five-tiered receding roofs; the placement of lamps and incense holders; and the collection of representative Buddhaimage styles that made the main sanctuary a museum of Thai Buddhist sculpture. In a melancholy mood—"I feel totally world-weary"—he contemplated ordination as a novice, "perhaps forever" (Jit 1979b:46). This is the closest he ever came to fulfilling the Thai-Buddhist expectation that all able-bodied males should, if only briefly, be ordained. Yet there was something ascetic, even puritanical, about his personal habits and tastes. He was, says a close acquaintance, a person who could not stand impurities or imperfections (mai hat mi tamni) in himself or others, a remark supported by others who knew him (Thawip interview 1979). The diary begun in Battambang, the bulk of which covers nine months of 1947 when he was studying at the government monastery school, is filled with musings about meals and quarrels with friends, his mother's and sister's health, trips to the Thieves Market for book bargains on archaeology and chronicle history, and travels upcountry when school broke up for the hot season. An occasionally recalcitrant student, he was caught allowing a friend to copy his math examination and was failed on the spot. In an episode he found humiliating, the headmaster admonished him to overcome his country-boy ignorance by reading books, any books. What the headmaster did not know was what the diary discloses. Jit was already reading extensively in classical Thai literature. On frequent visits to the National Library he examined the inscribed stones in Pali, Sanskrit, and Old Khmer and perused George Coedés's book on Thai writing systems. His interest in the classical past took him more than once to visit Princess Phunphitsamai, daughter of "the father of Thai history," Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (Phirom 1981:39). For Jit at this time Thai culture was high culture, and where better to absorb it than at the feet of its aristocratic guardians? Even in his early university years when he was becoming skeptical and critical of high culture, he

Jit in Thai History


continued to pay homage to it with visits to a senior member of the royal family, Prince Dhani Nivat. In June 1947 he paid his respects to the remains of King Anan which, in accordance with Thai funerary rites, were lying in state in a large ornate urn twelve months after the young monarch had been found on 9 June 1946 in his palace bedroom with a fatal gunshot wound in the head. The occasion stimulated Jit to write on 9 June 1947 a long rumination about the days immediately following the king's death, when he himself was still living in Battambang. He recalled the exact moment he learned of the death— 9:45 a.m. —and the joking disbelief with which he, his mother, and his friends had discussed the news. In the market people had talked of little else for days: only the king! the king! the king! Nothing about the people at large, he went on, just the king. It was in this diary entry that he expressed his own conflicting feelings about Cambodian rights to sovereignty and Cambodian nationalistic feeling directed against him as a representative of Thai rule. In a statement that is really a set of detailed observations about the political space around him, the speaker shows himself fully aware of the complexity of the entry: "I was going to write about my reflections on the regicide but I was pulled toward the Free Khmer; anyone reading this would laugh" (Jit 1979b:56). He composed these observations only after he moved to Bangkok and looked back. When the diary was published in 1979 the editorial staff of Lok Nangsu magazine offered it as evidence that Jit respected Buddhism and the monarch (Lok Nangsu 1979c), but the above-quoted diary entry suggests something more complex in Jit's thinking about state authority. The hearsay evidence that the diary has not been published in full, that there may be "sensitive" (i.e., possibly seditious) parts as yet unprinted, points to such complexity and the possibility of further disclosures. An intense and ethnocentric nationalist in these years, Jit organized a boycott of Chinese goods in his Bangkok school, arousing his fellow students with circulars and speeches (Jit 1979b:63). When between 1973 and 1976 the new generation pursued the author Jit Poumisak, his leadership of the boycott was taken as hard evidence of a precocious political activism, foreshadowing the more famous incident at Chulalongkorn University in 1953 ("Muang Boyang" 1976; 1980:215). Indeed, the diary taken as a whole is evidence of an early political sensibility. One Thai friend, in her twenties in 1979 when I spoke to her, said, "You can see from the diary that he wasn't like most of us." And this was a young woman who had lived through the upheavals of the mid1970s, whose generation was more politically aware than Jit's. She was referring to the unusual way his mind worked as much as to his political sensibility. After studying for two years at Triam Udom, the preparatory school affiliated with Chulalongkorn University, Jit matriculated in the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn in 1950 and began studying languages and history. His grades were indifferent in the first two years. He was often late with his assignments, not because of idleness or because the course demands exceeded his abilities, but because he would become engrossed in some question or other and neglect the formal course requirements (Phirom interview 1979). This waywardness—as defined in terms of what it took to get a degree—is a difference between himself and others that continues to be valued and to attract documentation. In a volume of bits and pieces of Jit's writing from early university years that surfaced in 1982, "Muang Boyang" has reproduced a teacher's comment critical of Jit for straying away from the assigned question (Jit 1982a:156). He was doubtless bored by much of the instruction and reacted against it, ignoring the course work to such an extent that he failed his second-year history course at Chulalongkorn University and had to repeat the entire year in 1952-53, an ironic turn of events for the future author of one of Thailand's most famous histories.


Thai Radical Discourse

In The Real Face he is critical of the uncritical methods by which students in the feudal/saktina education system were taught to absorb and recapitulate, to ACCEPT (he used the English word) rather than to think for themselves. He himself was argumentative, and relentlessly questioned his teachers. One of them, the late Phya Anuman Rajadhon, a respected scholar of Thai customs and history, thought him very bright (brai) and, unlike most senior faculty at the time, saw generational conflict between student and teacher as a necessary and positive social value ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:39). The progressive movement first brought forth these recollections of Phya Anuman in 1976 to help clarify the author-function, to fortify claims being made for Jit's intellectual brilliance, and to contribute to the debate on Jit as a rebel scholar. Music was among his many talents. Later, in prison, he would compose music, picking out melodies for revolutionary songs on the many-stringed cha-khe. He also played another stringed instrument, the so-u; a photograph taken at Chulalongkorn shows him playing intently in an ensemble ("Muang Boyang" 1980). Outside the university he was becoming known in literary circles. At preuniversity school his reputation as a writer had won him a place on the editorial staff of his class magazine—as a child he had made up little booklets of cartoons and illustrations of folk tales, drawn with his own hand (Phirom interview 1979)—and during his early university years he wrote a number of erudite and intricately argued articles for various magazines. These essays, which drew on French and English Orientalist scholarship, were grounded in Thai linguistic science: philology, etymology, epigraphy, scripts, and Sanskrit and Pali, the classical languages. A good example of these essays is "Thai Shampoo." It discusses the etymology of 'shampoo' and 'soap' and the cleansing, medicinal, and auspicious properties of the bergamot or kaffir lime fruit (makrut), so popular with Thai people that one of Jit's aristocratic informants on Thai customs termed the fruit's essence "Thai Shampoo." Parichat, which published the essay in July 1950, took it as "a sign that Jit Poumisak is destined in the future to be an important artist of literature and other arts because of his unique writing style and technique. . . . So long as he does not abandon his love for literature, this young man will become yet another of Thailand's literary jewels" (introduction to Jit 1979c). Many people would agree that this expectation has been fulfilled, though in view of the life/ work that was being made even at that moment, not quite in the way the royalist magazine editor imagined. With the reprinting in 1979 of several studies of 1950-54 in a single volume (Jit 1979c) and such testimonials as that just quoted, the author manifest in the essays has been separated off and made to function as a particular kind of author—the scholarly Jit. In fact, he was writing and doing other things in those four years that do not fit the "scholar" classification. Indeed, they resist any classification. The editors of Lok Nangsu who assembled the 1979 collection of scholarly essays also printed another testimonial from an expert, a personal letter to Jit in English dated 11 February 1953, congratulating him on "Phimai Inscriptions," "ojie of the finest articles ever written by a Siamese scholar, [which] would do credit to any scholar in any country" (preface to Jit 1979c). The author of the letter was William Gedney, an American linguist who had come to Thailand in 1947. Two of Jit's teachers had introduced him to Gedney, and from 1950 until late 1953 Jit shared a house with the American and his Thai wife, Choi (Gedney interviews 1980). A voracious reader with an excellent command of Khmer who seemed to have read "practically everything," Jit struck Gedney as one of the brightest Thais he had ever met. Gedney remembers a rather puritanical young man with good manners and such a self-controlled bearing that Jit's informal pose in a 1955 photograph, where he is sprawled in front of Angkor Wat, strikes Gedney as atypical. So demanding was Jit

Jit in Thai History


about his clothes and food that his requirements once drove Choi, who was then Gedney's housekeeper, out of the house in tears. It seems that for breakfast Jit liked his eggs fried with the yolks intact, and when they were served broken, he insisted on having new eggs cooked. "He liked to provoke me like a dog teases a chicken (ma yok fan)," she said many years later (Choi interview 1980), as if life had been a daily battle of her wits against his. She found Jit uppity and felt that he looked down on her because she had less education than he—"He bossed me around." Later she was able to take advantage of his higher education. When she and Gedney had to leave Thailand as a result of the 1953 incident she was required to pass a literacy test for her American visa, and Jit gave her a crash course in reading and writing English. Jit had his own room, and he and Gedney would emerge from their respective studies to seek relief from the heat out on the veranda where they discussed the political news of the day and Thai culture—language, music, sculpture. Gedney observes that Jit was as fond of high culture then as he was critical of it later on. He had acquired a knowledge of the iconography of the Buddha image from his years at the monastery school and trips to the National Library. To this day, Gedney wonders "if Jit was a Red when I knew him" (Gedney interviews 1980). It would seem he knew—or was allowed to see—only one side of the brainy Chulalongkorn student with a hunger for the world. Gedney gave Jit recognition and treated him as a person of knowledge, which doubtless enhanced Jit's self-esteem. In any case, so close were the two men in the early 1950s that, as events unfolded, their friendship would always mark Gedney's association with Thailand, just as it created a foreign figure in Jit's biography, who had to be interpreted by Authority as well as by the rebel intellectual's readers. In view of what happened to Jit Poumisak and William Gedney in an incident that occurred toward the end of 1953, it is necessary to say something about Marxism and communism in Thai public life during the 1950s. For the way the author Jit Poumisak figured in Thailand has had something to do with superpower rivalry. "Jit Poumisak" has functioned as much to control Marxist and communist discourse as it has to advance propositions for radical change in Thailand. In Thai language the construction of Jit's life—by the political-police in the 1950s as well as the "new generation" after 14 October 1973—has concentrated on the particulars of Gedney's relationship with Jit in an effort to puzzle out how and to what extent Gedney "influenced" Jit. Actually, knowledge of Marxism was easier to come by in Bangkok during the early 1950s than Gedney and the Thai political police realized at the time. The origins of Jit's Marxism cannot be traced to foreign persuaders— Russian, Chinese, or American. Indeed the incident, which led to Jit Poumisak's suspension from university in his third year, was constituted by what Foucault would call a discursive formation: a complex set of practices and verbal and visual signs that relates to the American containment of communism in Asia after World War II and to the McCarthy era in American public life. Thailand in the Cold War Gedney was in the vanguard of American scholars who were to travel to Thailand after the war and make their careers in Thai studies. Although he himself had no previous experience in Thailand, association with the country for some of these Americans—the art historian Alexander B. Griswold and the late historian Walter F. Vella, for example—grew out of work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Asia during the war. With American interests in Southeast Asia expanding, the government in Washington was in urgent need of expertise on Thailand, and it naturally turned to Americans already familiar with the country. The scholar-missionary and former ambassador


Thai Radical Discourse

Kenneth Landon was so well-connected that he became a key figure for both American business people in Thailand and for the fledgling Southeast Asian division of the State department, which lacked then the specialists it would have subsequently in abundance (Neher 1980:chap. 2). The anthropologist Lauriston Sharp, who came into Thai studies from a more remote field, was struck by official ignorance of Southeast Asia and by structural weaknesses in State department policy making, an ignorance that he, Landon, and others sought to dispel (O'Connor 1981). Gedney's presence in Bangkok in the late 1940s and early 1950s was in part determined by this nexus of American power and the knowledge that helped sustain it. Post-war American acquisition of knowledge about Thailand and Thai studies in the United States today have their origins in a complex of economic and strategic American interests in Southeast Asia. At first the American government formulated a policy for Thailand concerned primarily with the country's economic health, a policy which "preceded any explicit consideration of the threat of Asian communism spreading to Thailand" (Neher 1980:4). Still another element in American policy lay in the suspicion that the United Kingdom would seek to reestablish its colonial empire in Asia (Darling 1965:43-44). The post-war Pridi government in Thailand made shrewd use of this suspicion by using the Americans to mitigate British demands for war reparations and various neo-colonial measures. But with the endorsement of the Marshall Plan by the U.S. Congress on 14 March 1948, the world was divided into "two halves of the same walnut" (LaFeber 1976:chap. 3), and American concerns changed in substance and intensity. As the Cold War developed in both Europe and the Far East, and as Chinese communist successes began to alarm U.S. officials, American policy with respect to Thailand evolved rapidly to focus on national security. By 1948 the United States had identified Thailand as one of the key countries that would fit into American strategies for the containment of Chinese communism (Darling 1965:67). American ambassadors to Thailand in the decade or so following the war—Edwin F. Stanton, William J. Donovan (former head of the OSS), and John E. Peurifoy—were all committed and outspoken anti-communists. Given the nature of American politics at the time, it is difficult to imagine how they could have been otherwise. In February 1950, on the eve of the outbreak of the Korean War, U.S. Ambassador-at-large Philip C. Jessup left for a tour of Asia, conferred in Bangkok with American ambassadors to Southeast Asia, and returned to Washington with a recommendation for granting economic aid to Thailand. An Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement between the two governments was negotiated in September 1950 under Truman's Point Four program, and American aid began flowing in 1951 (Darling 1965:chap. 3; Hayes 1971; Nuechterlein 1965:chap. 4). It was in this context of American security concerns, with Donovan as US ambassador in the early 1950s, that Gedney's friendship with Jit developed. The importance of Thailand to U.S. defense strategy had already been given effect in plans for the CIA to help build a Thai paramilitary police force (Lobe 1977:19-25); and the Americans were engaged in making anti-communist propaganda for the Thai authorities. Gedney, whose research grants had been more or less exhausted by 1951, was at one point hired to help in the making of an anti-communist film. His job was to verify that the Thai actors in the film were speaking their parts according to the script. He was one of the few Americans in the country at the time who knew Thai well enough to monitor the dialogue. Willis Bird, a Bangkok-based businessman with OSS experience who now worked for the CIA, also hired Gedney to retranslate Bird's anticommunist magazine from Thai back into English (it had originated in English), in a similar effort to verify that the message was getting across (Gedney interviews 1980; Lobe 1977; Neher 1980:chap. 2).

Jit in Thai History


In the decade following World War II Thai governments responded to the paramountcy of the United States in the Pacific by attuning themselves to American needs and policies. Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram and other military officers seized effective power in a coup d'etat in November 1947 and a few months later, in April 1948, forced out the civilian prime minister and cabinet, thus giving themselves complete control (Thak 1979:chap. 1). Phibun, who initially lacked a firm grip on his government, was quick to voice his anti-communism in order to strengthen his position by winning American support (Darling 1965:70). When hostilities began in Korea in June 1950, the new Thai military government contributed troops and rice to the U.N. forces. This decision, along with the acceptance of U.S. aid, helped to solidify the alliance. The convergence of Thai and American anti-communism was something of an irony, for American officials had helped Thailand through the difficult negotiations leading to the establishment of a Soviet legation in Thailand in 1948, the first such legation in Southeast Asia after World War II and, until the early 1950s, the only one. In part this diplomatic assistance had been aimed at countering British hegemony and neocolonial policies. Along with an undertaking that the Thai government would legalize the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) formed in 1942, formal diplomatic representation was the price exacted by the Soviets in exchange for Thai admission to the U.N. (Shirk 1969). Some of Jit's source material for The Real Face—in particular, the Russianlanguage historical journal Voprosy istorii—may well have come ultimately from the Soviet legation's cultural affairs center. This is more to credit his enterprise and to locate one of his sources of inspiration and information than to find the origins of his Marxism in Soviet propagandizing. With the CPT operating legally and openly and with the momentum of liberal and democratic expectations generated during the Pridi years (1946-47) only somewhat diminished, there was a distinctly Left orientation in Bangkok public discourse for a decade or so after World War II. The country witnessed a flowering of interest in Marxist thought, historical materialism, the rights of workers, and international communism (Flood 1975; Reynolds and Hong 1983). Mahachon ("The Masses"), organ of the CPT, was published weekly in 1947-48. Udom Sisuwan, who had gone to Yenan in 1938 and worked with the Red Cross as well as the Esperanto Association there, began his long career as an essayist and columnist on Mahachon after returning to Bangkok and becoming a member of the CPT in 1946 (Udom interviews 1983, 1984). The CPT was active during this time at Thammasat University, with some twenty students involved in party activity. One of these, Phin Bua-on, resigned in 1951 to become the editor of Satchatham (lit. "truth"), a Thai version of "Pravda" (Phin interview 1984). Aksonsan, a literate and progressive monthly that appeared from 1949 to 1952, was edited by Supha Sirimanonda in a conscious reaction to the party publications. Supha wanted a magazine that did not "lead people by the nose" (Supha interviews 1979). Direct translations into Thai, "summary" translations, and expositions of classic Marxist works and concepts abounded in all these publications. There was even a superficially pro-Russian appeal entitled / Want to be a Communist, written under the pseudonym "Protector of the People" ("Prachaban" 1950; "Mae Khwan Khao" 1979). Many of the writers engaged in the Thai transmutation of Marxism also wrote poetry, fiction, and literary criticism characterized by such rubrics as "social realism" and "art for life, art for the People" (e.g. Jit 1972; Udom 1978). These writers, some of whom later became senior people in the CPT, saw Western mass culture as corrupting—the guitar was despised—and could not appreciate the liberating aspects of avant garde trends taken in context (Picasso, for example, or Elvis Presley) (Sathian interview 1984). Udom Sisuwan's criticism in the 1950s of the corruptions of Western culture seem out of proportion to the phenomena being criticized, though by 1964


Thai Radical Discourse

when Jit wrote his stinging poem about the decay of Bangkok's capital, "Khao Klangkhun" ("The Stinking Smell of Night-time"; Jit 1981a:253-64), the Sarit years had begun turning Bangkok night life into the sordid, vice-ridden thing it is today. Providing a world-view for this writing were the neo-cosmologies of Samak Burawat, a London-trained geologist and mining engineer who taught philosophy at a Buddhist academy in Bangkok from 1947 until 1952 (Reynolds and Hong 1983:85-86). Samak also published a translation and analysis of Stalin's "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" in Aksonsan under the pen name "Sea Captain" (kaptan samut). He was by nature a philosopher, interested in dialectics and in the relational existence of things (e.g. Samak et al. 1974:27-28). Prawut Simanta, who had reacted against his own religious upbringing even as a youngster growing up in the northeastern province of Yasothon, remembers reading Samak's works when he was a university student and being impressed with his explanations. There was a radical alternative in the Buddha's teachings: if all existence was suffering, then one was obliged to alleviate that suffering, not simply recognize it (Prawut interview 1983). Attempting the critical articulation of Buddhism and Marxism, Samak Burawat was drawn close to the CPT—Supha Sirimanond, Aksonsan's editor, warned him to keep the party at a distance—which had already attracted, if not recruited, some of the best minds of his generation (Supha interviews 1979). But because of Samak's apprehensions and because the party did not want everyone close to it, Samak never became a member (Phin interview 1984). It was such texts as Samak's, which forged connections between scientific socialism and Thai Buddhism, that Jit Poumisak had an opportunity to read and discuss with progressive (kaona) thinkers at the same time as he was writing his clever essay about Thai words for soap. The capability of Thai communism as a political force in the immediate post-war era has been seen by almost all students of the subject as grossly overestimated (by American policy makers to maintain global security, by Thai governments for opportunistic reasons as they saw how beneficial a pro-American stance would be). But there is no question that certain members of the urban-based Thai intelligentsia, drawing on Soviet and Chinese revolutionary models, sought to inspire a radical and distinctly non-militaristic nationalism for Thailand. With no colonial masters to attack and displace, this radical nationalism was directed at the indigenous power elite, and at Phibun in particular. What is interesting about the decade from 1947 is the extent to which a certain volume of Leftist discourse was allowed, even encouraged, by the character of the power structure: no single member of the triumvirate—Sarit Thanarat and Phao Siyanon, in addition to Phibun—was able to oust the other two until Sarit triumphed in 1958. Each of the three hired barbed pens to attack his rivals, and Leftist writers flourished, as it were, in the interstices between the power domains of the members of the Coup Group. Even in these circumstances, however, the regime would tolerate only so much dissent and opposition to its policies, and as the decade progressed, the Coup Group put in place legislation that would enable military and police authorities to suppress dissent completely and force the CPT underground. This legislation followed a few years after the Chinese communist victory in 1949, which had alarmed the Thai government just as it had altered the dynamics of interstate relations in Asia. At least one Marxist text that originated in Russian had made its way into Thai language along Chinese pathways (Reynolds and Hong 1983:80), and communist organization among the Chinese working-class in Thailand was a source of ideas and information about radical social change. The Chinese communist victory was also of concern because of the anti-feudal exhortations that accompanied it. The Thai

Jit in Thai History


throne was vulnerable at the time. Phumiphon Adulyadej, who was only twenty-two years old when he succeeded his fatally wounded brother in 1946, had been king for just three years. The military regime of the day was unsure of its relationship with the monarchy and the extent to which that relationship could assist military domination; it was not until after Sarit assumed his dictatorship in 1958 that Nation, Religion, and Monarchy came to seem the natural emblems of military-bureaucratic government. This deep-seated unease about the legitimacy of the Thai state finally brought the communist threat forward as a justification for rule. In the Radio, or Silent, Coup of 29 November 1951 "for the first time, the communist threat (both internal and external) was used as major justification for a coup d'etat" (Thak 1979:71). The legitimacy of the state rests on meanings about proper authority, and censorship is an index of which meanings authority forbids and which it upholds. Several events occurred in 1952 that installed new meanings about authority and opposition to authority or revised old ones. On 30 June 1952 Police Chief General Phao issued a directive prohibiting the distribution and sale of certain books on the grounds that they were damaging to good order and the morals of the people (Thongchai 1978:500-504). What is curious about the books, which were listed in the Royal Thai Government Gazette, is that most of the works—by Lenin, Stalin, Engels, and Gorky, among others—were in English and Chinese, despite the fact that even by that date a good number of works in the Marx-Engels canon had already been paraphrased and summarized in Thailanguage publications. Another curiosity of the list was the inclusion of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons! Since many of the English-language works in the classic Marxist corpus could be purchased in Bangkok, the list was probably meant to be more a sign of the government's orientation—easy reading for analysts in Bangkok embassies?— than an effective control on public debate. Then, as if to greet the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as U.S. president with further evidence of anti-communist resolve, the Thai military and police moved against its Leftist critics beginning on 10 November 1952. The arrests and interrogations of writers, journalists, and some military officers accused of plotting a coup were provoked by an alleged "Peace Revolt," an oxymoron pointing simultaneously to the strong-arm tactics of the military and police in suppressing advocates of peace and at dissidents who would ride to revolution on a peace wagon. "Peace" here referred to the world-wide Peace Movement, born out of genuine disarmament concerns at the dawn of the nuclear age, organized in France in February-March 1948, and quickly exploited by the U.S.S.R. through the Cominform (Shulman 1965:chaps. 4, 5, 9). Peace conferences were held in a number of world capitals, and following the 1950 meeting in Stockholm, organizers claimed they had collected 500 million signatures on behalf of the Stockholm Appeal (Stanton 1957:274-77; Thak 1979:69; Thongchai 1978:chap. 4). Yet it was not the European but rather the Asian movement based in China against which the Thai authorities were reacting. Peace committees had been formed in Thailand to collect signatures, and when six Thai delegates left for a huge Peace Congress in Peking in late October 1952 they were promptly branded traitors in a Thai government radio broadcast (Bangkok Post 11 Oct. 1952). A local issue that focussed the peace campaign in Thailand was the government's decision to send material support to the American troops fighting under U.N. auspices in Korea. The decision provoked sharp criticism in the Thai press and touched a responsive nerve in a Thai public unhappy with such interference in the affairs of another Asian state (Wiwat 1985:12-13). The November arrests and the interrogations and revelations that followed (the police discovered documents and Russian-made weapons), all of which made front-


Thai Radical Discourse

page headlines for weeks, gave Phao an opportunity to move against his critics and weaker rivals. The repression struck at newspaper editors, writers, and labor organizers as well as supporters of Pridi who were still actively writing and speaking against the regime (Phritthisan 1985:59). Pridi's wife and son were among those arrested (Wiwat 1985:19). The use that Phao made of the peace movement spawned an anecdote that Chat Chawangkun, then a middle-ranking police officer in the division (Santiban) which investigated and reported on political crimes, had gone to Phao and said that nowhere in the world had a government been overthrown by a movement campaigning in the name of peace. Phao was very angry at this criticism of the repression (Thawip interview 1984). Some of the opposition figures apprehended were involved in an affair called The National Liberation Movement (khabuan kankuchat), which seems to have drawn up a new constitution dated 1 October 1952 (Suphot 1957). Phao also provided the setting for the anti-communist legislation—which was to be used as a dragnet—by alleging that the conspirators were going to arrest the king and force him to proclaim the abolition of the monarchy. Western intelligence had informed the government that Soviet agents had "turned" a young Thai air force officer who had been stationed in London (Neuchterlein 1965:111). "Reds Plotted to Oust HM King," screamed the headlines in the English-language Bangkok Post of 13 November 1952. The binary opposition communism/monarchy was now encoded in laws on sedition. Based on the American Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, the legislation, banning the CPT and giving the authorities wide powers to detain without trial individuals who had transgressed its vague provisions, passed the Assembly on the same day (Bangkok Post 14 Nov. 1952; Thanin 1974:239-56). The third clause of the law stipulated three kinds of "communist" acts: 1) overthrowing the democratic system of government headed by the king; 2) altering the country's economic system by nationalizing private property or private means of production without fair compensation; 3) creating instability, disunity, or hatred among the people, and taking part in acts of terrorism or sabotage. The last of the three was the catch-all, and in fact, the police had already used it to make the arrests. The editor of Aksonsan, Supha Sirimanond, who was later to be a friendly employer of Jit Poumisak, was caught in this net, though he had signed no peace appeal—and his magazine ended its run. He had been to a Russian film at a friend's home—foreign films of any kind were a special treat for Bangkok residents in those days—and he was arrested on that evidence. Just prior to the round-up he had published in his magazine a lengthy essay on corruption in the newspaper world (Supha 1976). He had other Russian experience that might have tainted him, having served the Thai foreign ministry in Moscow in 1946 as a public affairs attache. Like many in the literary-journalist world at the time, he read and wrote about Marxism and was genuinely interested in the Chinese and Russian revolutionary experience. Though he did not hold a regular university appointment, he gave extension lectures on Marx at Thammasat University which became a book, Capitalism (Supha 1951), an exegesis of Marx's ideas. Supha's problem, the political-police decided, was that he was a "lonely communist," a paradox that bemuses him; to give him some company they tried more than once to recruit him (Supha interviews 1979). Other writers who were touched in one way or another by the arrests had also been extension lecturers at Thammasat. (The published collection of their 1952 lectures, From the Vantage Point of the Masses, is now a valuable document of progressive thinking at the time of the Peace Revolt [Samak Burawat et al. 1974].) Although not hitherto regarded as a significant event in Thai political history or even in the flow of power to and from factions in the Coup Group (the charge of the

Jit in Thai History


coup plot, for example, seems trumped-up, and the affair has not counted for much in the standard books on Thai politics), the Peace Revolt of 1952 is, in fact, an historical benchmark, foreshadowing the more comprehensive repression of 1958. Supha was detained for only fifty-two days, but some writers—Kulap Saipradit, for example— were imprisoned for four and five years and released only at the advent of celebrations for the 2,500-year anniversary of Buddhism in 1957. With recent Thai scholarly attention focusing on this important event, the Peace Revolt is being rescued from footnotes and made visible once again (Phritthisan 1985, Wiwat 1985). "Jit Poumisak" was forever affected by—was, in part, constituted by—this anticommunist discursive practice which was not simply enshrined in law to furnish the military and police with powers to remove their opponents, but became essential to the very legitimacy of the Thai state. Attributing the ideas and activities of people like Supha and Jit to communist foreign powers was a way of reducing the danger of those ideas and activities. The source of those ideas was thus made external and alien to the Thai community, and attention was thereby diverted away from any substantial problems at home. By shifting the inspiration for these ideas to an alien source, proper authority declared them non-Thai and excluded from the community those individuals committed to such ideas. After the Peace Revolt of 1952 members of the intelligentsia who entertained these ideas also experienced physical exclusion by incarceration. It was in the context of rigid anti-communist measures and the hardening of proper authority's attitudes toward dissent and criticism as Thailand and the US grew ever closer in their crusade against communism that the relationship between William Gedney and Jit Poumisak was tested. American ambitions and policies in the Pacific after World War II, Bangkok intellectual life and its Soviet and Chinese referents up to 1957-58, and McCarthy-esque Thai government measures intersect in this relationship and overdetermine the exclusion that both men experienced. Although the connections made in the foregoing paragraphs appear in Thai-language materials only in fragmentary and intermittent form, Thai academic research was stimulated by the events of 1973-76 to explore some of this terrain, particularly the evolution of Thai anticommunist policies (Suwadi 1979; Thongchai 1978; Wiwat 1985). Significantly, these academic works do not locate "Jit Poumisak" anywhere on this terrain. Proper authority, acting through Thai universities where research is pursued for M. A. degrees, controls discourse by keeping "Jit" the literary celebrity away from international politics, superpower rivalry, and the history of sedition in Thailand. The one M.A. thesis devoted exclusively to Jit's work, admittedly written in difficult times just after the 6 October 1976 coup, is concerned solely with his writings and does not mention— indeed, does not "see"—these things (Chamroen 1977). Yet "Jit Poumisak" textualizes these connections and brings them together, and I offer these connections as my own contribution to the construction of the author "Jit Poumisak." Student Politics—1953 These connections are understood, if not articulated, in Thai language and in some sense remembered by means of an incident that occurred within a year of the 1952 Peace Revolt and the anti-communist legislation, an incident that brought notoriety to both Gedney and Jit- This incident has a name in Thai—korani yonbok, the yonbok incident— that is at once a sign evoking a moment in the history of Chulalongkorn University, the unarticulated connections with world history sketched above, and one of the major episodes of exclusion in Jit's life. And because students and young lecturers from that university were the ones delving into Jit's biography in 1973-76, the yonbok incident enters the biography at the initial moment of its construction (e.g., Chonthira 1974b:25-27) and is cited forever after.


Thai Radical Discourse

In his third university year Jit had been elected editor of the Chulalongkorn University yearbook, published every 23 October to commemorate the death day of the university's namesake, the fifth king of the Bangkok dynasty (r. 1868-1910). Although admired for his mastery of the Thai language, Jit was a disturbing presence on the campus because he aired in university publications his own critical positions—on abortion, for example, which he denounced as self-contempt and irresponsibility on the part of the mother-to-be (Lok Nangsu 1981c:44-45). Such cultural nonconformity would be read later as political subversion. Throughout the 1953 academic year, Jit put in a great deal of work on the yearbook, assembled some forty articles and poems, at least two of which he had written himself—one, the poem about motherhood; the other, a witty historical materialist critique of Buddhism—and delivered them to the printer. About a week before the publication date, he went to check the proofs and learned that some of the contents, particularly his own two pieces, had been brought to the attention of university authorities because of "communist" content (Jit 1978a). One of the links between the university and the police was M. R. W. Sumonnachat Sawatdikun, a teacher with literary interests in the Faculty of Arts, whose career now involved the suppression of communism ("Muang Boyang" 1981:53-54; Lok Nangsu 1981a:ll). Gedney is bitter about the prominent role Sumonnachat played in the discipline meted out to Jit, because although Sumonnachat was one of the teachers who had introduced Jit to Gedney several years earlier, he was now vigorously prosecuting Jit's case (Gedney interviews 1980). Jit's accusers also objected to the translation of an article by an American, critical of Thai government policy, and the cover design which departed too abruptly from past yearbook editions. A committee appointed by the university council requested Jit's resignation as editor, and, as news of the university authorities' intervention spread, campus leaflets began to appear for and against the intervention. The twenty-third of October is a major holiday on the Thai calendar, and Chulalongkorn is the most beloved of Thai monarchs. In the early 1950s the yearbook was named with the king's epithets, piyamaharat—Great Beloved Raja (Chulalongkorn University 1952). Thus even something as apparently inconsequential as its cover was packed with hallowed signs with which Jit was tinkering. The cover of the previous (1952) issue had portrayed the king's equestrian statue in black, with background in yellow and grey tones. I have heard several stories about what Jit was going to do with the cover: replace the equestrian statue with the picture of a laborer who made the statue, or introduce different colors. "Friend in Struggle," now known to be his friend Prawut Simanta, remembers Jit's very words about the colors and symbols and that Reader's Digest was the source of some of his ideas ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:69-70). Texts being polysemic and unpredictable, even material from a pious magazine of Middle America could be put to subversive uses. Jit was playing with signifiers that had become formally fixed in the annual return, on 23 October, to the university's eponymous founder. By doing so, he violated tradition, and TRADITION was one of the five qualities in the student code of conduct printed in English in the yearbook—SENIORITY, TRADITION, ORDER,SPIRIT, UNITY, represented by the acronym SOTUS (Chulalongkorn University 1952). The 1953 issue never did appear, and almost all the contents became fugitive documents. Only the critique of Buddhism, "Spirits of the Yellow Leaves," has been printed in full (Jit 1981c); and fragments of the poem about motherhood have appeared here and there (e.g., Jit 1978d:preface; Jit 1982a:84-86). "Spirits of the Yellow Leaves" (phi tong luang) is complex word-play that ridicules undisciplined ascetics, the embodiment of moral authority, by comparing them to a minority people of hunters and gatherers that dwells deep in the jungle in flimsy shelters of dried, yellowed foliage (cf. Bernatzik 1958). Monastic dress is a masquerade. The saffron robes of monks are

Jit in Thai History


as flimsy and temporary as the jungle shelters of this forest-dwelling minority group. The young man destined to be another of Thailand's literary jewels had a barbed wit that could stick into monks as well as monarchs. The climax of the controversy came when a student assembly of the entire university, some 3,000 students, was called for 28 October to explain why the yearbook had been censored. Oral accounts of what happened at the meeting are plentiful; there is no shortage of "I was there" testimonies. Student leaders put the charges before the assembly, and Jit was accused of being a communist. He was then allowed to speak, and swung the opinion of the meeting in his favor by explaining that he wanted to break (waek naew) with past issues and make the yearbook more attractive. But his eloquence also enraged his accusers, according to one student present who later came to his aid. Even if she found him opinionated, she respected his poetic imagination and right to speak (Lok Nangsu 1981c:44-45). Before he could finish his defense, students from the Faculty of Engineering, always as a group the most Rightist at the university— strong-man (nakleng) types, in the opinion of another student who was there (Wipudh interview 1979)—rushed on stage, grabbed him, and threw him off, knocking him unconscious. This was the yonbok ("thrown upon the ground"), a linguistic sign-shift of yonnam ("thrown into the water"), by means of which more senior students enforced SOTUS, dunking hapless junior violators of the code in the campus pond. Jit was taken to a hospital for x-rays, which showed no serious injury, and then home to Gedney's house where he recovered quickly from a mild concussion. In the Thailand of the 1950s the communist construction put on Jit's writings, editorial guidance, and graphic design was inescapable, the links between the monarchy and communism having been forged by the police and lawmakers during the Peace Revolt of 1952. From that time on, the use of improper meanings for the monarchy and monkhood would signal sedition. In the plain language of Chat Chawangkun, a police official in the Santiban division for political crimes who knew the case well, Thai society was headed in one direction, and Jit was walking in the opposite way (Chat interview 1979). Sihadet Bunnag, one of those who spoke against Jit in the student assembly, put it slightly differently by attributing a boast to Jit that h.e would "turn the 23 October yearbook 30 degrees to the left" ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:69). The press, provided with statements by the various principals, pounced on the incident. Some teachers and students tried to explain it away as hazing, traditional student punishment for student misconduct. The late historian Khachorn Sukhabhanij dismissed the whole affair as nothing out of the ordinary: yonbok was the same as yonnam ("Muang Boyang" 1981:56-57). Yet what the yonbok incident had done was to unmask the ritualized violence inherent in yonnam. Hazing, in the circumstances, easily crossed over into hooliganism. The day after the meeting the engineering students jostled journalists and press photographers who had come to the campus to cover the story. It is easy to learn so much about who said what to the newspapers because Jit kept a detailed scrapbook of press clippings on the incident ("Muang Boyang" 1981). It was an important event in his life. He told Choi Gedney, "if they keep going on about this communist thing, one day I'll be one." He had gone ahead with the student meeting, anticipating there would be trouble (Choi interview 1980). Gedney was one of the few people who stood by Jit at the time; to Gedney's dismay, Khachorn and other teachers refused to help. At some point after the student meeting he took Jit to see Khukrit Pramot, whom Gedney knew socially, hoping to elicit some influential support. Khukrit was at first sympathetic, saying "we can't let McCarthyism happen here" or something to that effect, but then, as the furor continued, he retreated to his house in the mountains to wait out the storm (Gedney inter-


Thai Radical Discourse

views 1980). In an effort to bring a rational voice to the situation, Gedney gave a newspaper interview (Prachatipatai 31 Oct. 1953), seeking to play down the yearbook's alleged deviations and seditious content, but this move turned out to have the reverse of its intended consequence, for it attracted public attention to Gedney as a farang (European, white man) behind the scenes, a foreigner subverting Thai youth with radical ideas. Chat is convinced to this day that Gedney was a CPT member, indoctrinating the younger Thai national (Chat interview 1979). The prime minister issued a statement saying the matter was in police hands, and so it was. Gedney was being questioned by the political-police and now saw his continued stay in Thailand threatened, an odd turn of events for a man who had assisted an American agent in the filming of anti-communist propaganda. In any case, Gedney is adamant that his library contained little if any socialist literature, though the mythic notion that he was some kind of eminence grise in Jit's life lingers on in student circles and in the police explanation of what happened. William Gedney's involvement in the yonbok incident gave rise during 1973-76 to curiosity about who he was, and he has figured in the Jit biography since 1974. The newspaper interview he gave in 1953 has been an important document and was reprinted in 1981 (Lok Nangsu 1981b). Indeed, to some people in Thailand he is better known as Jit's "foster father" than as a Thai linguist. In fact, there was some substance to the allegation of foreign subversion, but not quite what the newspapers were implying. The American embassy, then under the ambassadorship of "Wild Bill" Donovan, former head of the OSS, had wanted to impress the Thai police with the communist threat and offered to pay Gedney to translate "The Communist Manifesto" into Thai. Gedney was running a newsclippingsin-translation service in 1952 to make ends meet, the newsletters that survive vividly documenting the political tensions of the time (Gedney 1952). The American linguist accepted the commission to translate the Marxian text on the condition that he have the assistance of a native Thai speaker. Jit was that speaker—Gedney had hired him for many translation jobs—and the American embassy thus unwittingly contributed to the education of a Thai radical by placing in front of him a key Marxist work (Gedney interviews). The "Manifesto" translation job was, however, the only instance of Jit's exposure to Marxism that Gedney can claim to know about (Gedney interviews 1980). Having pursued a policy of encouraging the Thai government to fight the Red menace, the embassy could not now come to Gedney's aid when his Thai visa was jeopardized in the yonbok incident. This was McCarthyism with a Thai twist. Hurt, dispirited, and made to feel unwelcome, Gedney agreed to leave the country with Choi in January 1954. He had been gently deported, and stayed away from Thailand for five years. The yonbok affair had been big news, and Jit's colleagues, classmates, and former students remember that it preceded him wherever he went. Their memories have supplied information for prefaces to the works of "Jit Poumisak"; during 1973-76 and in the aftermath, they gave interviews or wrote down their recollections and published them. It is in these testimonies—complex statements of respect for Jit's literary talents undercut in many cases by mistrust of his politics—that Jit's biography is scattered. At this point, Jit was forced to abandon his studies for a time and required to report regularly to the police (Chat interview 1979). While suspended from the university until the 1955 academic year, he briefly taught secondary school, but was not a great success with the school's administrators because of his unorthodox ideas about literature. Supha Sirimanond, who had not completely given up journalism, the profession he loved best, was assistant manager for Thaimai newspaper and gave Jit work reviewing films and books. One of these pieces, written under the pen name "Bookman" (bukmaen), has been reprinted several times (e.g. Jit 1979c; 1982a:134-46). Supha remem-

Jit in Thai History


bers him as a natural teacher, impatient for clear explanations, and strict in his personal demeanor. He did not care for Supha's smoking a pipe or cigar—said it was bourgeois—to which Supha replied that there was nothing in Marx's writing that forbade smoking. How ironic that one of the most popular photographs of Jit, touched up and reproduced in a thousand ways for magazine covers and posters, shows the puritanical political-poet squinting into the light with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth! In the full photograph his left hand clutches the neck of what might be a whiskey bottle (Jit 1981a:204). At Thaimai]it got to know Thongbai Thongbao, a recent law graduate, who was a regular short story writer for the newspaper and who was later to become a lawyer for labor leaders and political prisoners (Thongbai interview 1979). "Friend in Struggle" writes that Jit worked hard on his English in these two years—he was always making word lists—and read Marx, Engels, Mao, and Stalin (Problems of Leninism), as well as many Thai progressives: Seni Saowaphong, Kulap Saipradit, and Samak Burawat ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:79-81). When he returned to the university in 1955 to finish his B.A. degree his grades improved, and he completed the remaining two years with distinction and without incident. At the same time, he began to write for more newspapers and magazines: Phimthai, where he met Thawip Woradilok who suggested the pen name "Somchai Prichacharoen"; and Pituphum, where he knew Pluang Wannasi and wrote a column called "Review of the Arts" under the pen name "Sinlapa Phitakchon" ("Art that Protects the People") (Jit 1974b). Along with the "Life and Art" column he wrote for Sanseri newspaper in 1957-58 under the Somchai pen name (Jit 1974d), some of these publications exemplify the space for opposition activism created by struggles within the Coup Group. Sanseri was owned by Sarit, and Thaimai had links to Phao; the strongmen needed such papers to attack each other, thus giving writers like Jit, Supha, Thawip, Thongbai, and the rest a forum for social and political comment. In his last two years of university Jit also worked as a tour guide for World Travel Service, then for Bangkok Tours, escorting foreigners around Bangkok, Ayudhya, and the ancient Khmer ruins at Angkor. One of his fellow guides was Wit Witsathawet, later a philosophy lecturer at Chulalongkorn, who used to spend evenings talking politics with Jit and another university friend, Suthi Guptarak. Jit's conversation was filled with talk about class struggle and economic exploitation, and most of the well-to-do students steered clear of him. Those from poorer families—Wit was one—were rather more interested in what he had to say, though they did not always accept his ideas even if they associated with him. Few of Jit's peers were equal to him in debate, most losing out to his "superior intelligence, intense interest in politics, and high ideological commitment" (Wit interview 1979). Wit remembers that students during his university years in the 1950s were very conservative about the monarchy, religion, and the family, and teachers did not pay much attention to student activism because it was confined to such a narrow group. Then, as today, however, the annual Thammasat-Chulalongkorn football game was an occasion when protest and political comment were sanctioned. In 1956, when Wit had become president of the student association through the support of Jit and others, the students organized a skit in the parade in which they represented themselves as peasants carrying a globe—the rural proletariat holding up the world. The historic role of the downtrodden, debates with friends, the dynamics of class strife in sociopolitical change, the looming presence of Angkorean imperial might in Thailand's history—Jit at some point transformed all these into writing (Jit 1982c). A series of lengthy conversations among his friends in which he cast himself as an inquisitive participant orchestrating the various arguments, the work was neither fiction nor autobiography but a hybrid form, a sort of highly intellectualized diary perhaps never meant for publication.


Thai Radical Discourse

After earning his degree in 1957—but refusing to attend the graduation ceremony to receive it directly from the hand of the king—he took teaching jobs, continued to write for magazines and newspapers, and began work on a master's degree in education. The years 1957 and 1958 seem particularly productive, partly because the reviews and essays he wrote have, since 1973, been collected and reprinted as whole volumes, in some cases more than once. Some of the major literary studies date from this time (Jit 1974a). The complete Art for Life, Art for the People volume (Jit 1972) was published in 1957 under the pen name "Thipakon," "One Who Lights the Way/' at Theves Press. This progressive press also published translations of Gorky and Lu Xun, the Russian and Chinese social realists whom Jit admired (Jit 1975b; "Thawipwon" 1981; Cintana interview 1979). He treasured a plaster bust of Gorky and a portrait of Lu Xun, which the police would later use in accusing him of communist sympathies (Jit 1978a). A particularly detailed and vivid memoir of the few months in mid-1958 when he taught English at the Faculty of Architecture at the Fine Arts University recalls how energetic and popular he was as a teacher (students started coming to class!) and how anxious he was for criticism—or approval, perhaps—of his teaching style. Siri-usa Phonlachan (a pseudonym to honor the poet and critic Atsani Phonlachan?), who wrote down her recollections in 1976, was one of many contemporaries captivated by Jit's control of the Thai language—the simplicity and clarity of his explanations, the intensity of his conversation, the demands he made on students to think clearly and have confidence in their own judgments ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:29-61). She visited his house where his room was filled with books—lining the walls, even under the bed. He was always buying books and resorted to all sorts of expedients to obtain them. With a student travelling to Moscow for a youth congress he placed an order for Howard Fast, the American novelist who had suffered in the McCarthy persecutions. He began to study Chinese before his arrest, as the police discovered when they found among his possessions several volumes in Russian and Chinese. As if to verify his autodidactic diligence and multilingualism, Lok Nangsu printed excerpts from his language workbooks, demonstrating by the Chinese characters in his own hand that he really did study Chinese (lang Huadong 1979). Not the least of the works from this period was The Real Face, published in 1957 under the pen name "Somsamai Srisudravarna,"—Glory of the Sudra Caste (Jit 1974c). As it was the 2,500th year in the life of the Buddha's teaching, the year 1957 was charged with special meaning in the Theravada Buddhist world. To celebrate this auspicious event—which was somewhat contrived by the Buddhist nations involved, the year 2,500 in the Buddhist calendar having no particular significance in the Pali scriptures—the Thai government declared an amnesty for those political prisoners rounded up in the 1952 Peace Revolt who were still in detention. The occasion also gave progressive activists and writers an opportunity to celebrate May Day 1957 and to nudge history forwards. The Thammasat University Faculty of Law Yearbook for 1957 was one product of the "semi-free, semi-unfree" conditions under the Phibun dictatorship ("Mae Khwan Khao" 1978).Jt was in this volume that Jit's The Real Face first appeared, in the company of songs, poems, essays, and speeches charged with millennarian expectation and socialist vision. Prawut Simanta, Jit's university friend who was already in the eye of the CPT, and other friends suggested that Jit write the Marxist history, and he agreed (Prawut interview 1983). On the cover of the 500-page volume was a red sphere rising from wisps of bluegreen cloud. A Red star over Siam? The photographs, which emphasize youth, certainly map out the kind of world American ambassadors in Bangkok during the preceding decade feared: students demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Interior on 2

Jit in Thai History


March 1957 to protest American interference in the February elections; a demonstration of 19 May at the Pramane Grounds to protest the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization; the British-French military incursion into Egypt of 1956 and a mass rally in Peking in support of Egypt (both of these with a caption about youth protesting colonialism and war); Singaporeans demonstrating against British colonialism; Jordanian street protests; 15,000 Japanese protesting the British hydrogen bomb; students in Moscow; a park scene in springtime Peking; gymnastics and mass youth formations; and the Thai basketball team in southern China. At the beginning of the volume photographs of university officials—Prime Minister Phibun was Rector; Phao, DirectorGeneral of Police, was Deputy Rector—point in a rather different direction from the referents of the above-mentioned photographs and so complicate the book as a set of signs that the volume can barely contain the forces generated between its covers. Phibun, Phao, and Sarit were, after all, the targets of the protests, demonstrations, and speeches that fill the pages following their likenesses. The book was a rallying cry to overthrow the power holders who presented themselves for attack by their very incumbency of the top university offices. Further complicating the book as a set of signs is the fact that Phibun made available 30,000 baht to help fund its publication. Phibun may well have been hedging his bets: if history should shortly prove the American alliance ill-advised, he did not want to be caught on the wrong side as had happened when he aligned himself with the Axis powers during War II (Thawip interview 1984). Through Sang Phatthanothai, a popular and somewhat secretive radio broadcaster who had connections with progovernment labor organizations, Phibun had opened up channels of communication with the People's Republic of China (Kanchana 1979; Say am Nikon 1979). Also, the funding of what might turn out to be a socialist publication could have another purpose: Phibun and Phao wanted to impress the Americans with the local communist threat (Prawut interview 1983). The antagonisms and dialectical opposition depicted graphically in the 1957 yearbook of the Faculty of Law were not unique to Thammasat University but were visible on other campuses as well. When Jit arrived at the Fine Arts University to teach English he was called a "communist dog" (ai khommiwnit), and when students there produced in 1957 a "Welcome to Freshmen" book in the iconoclastic manner (waek naew) of Jit's 1953 yearbook they discovered how polarized the atmosphere had become ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:33-37). The new literature movement was still very active. The freshman book contained, along with a translation by Phya Anuman of Tolstoy's What is Art?, one of Jit's essays later collected in the Art for Life, Art for the People volume (Jit 1972). In a reprise of the yonbok incident, "reactionary students" refused to accept the book. They objected to the absence of the royal seal and to a sculpted image of peasants, and they charged that the volume propagated communism. A student mob first tore out the thin frontispieces of the books, which had an unsigned aphorism of Jit's about committed art, and then destroyed whole books piece by piece, tearing them up, burning them, or throwing them into a well. The incident ended in fist fights. When the "new generation" of the mid-1970s constructed its own history, it looked back and drew upon confrontations with writing such as these in the 1950s. The issue of the physical destruction of books—and book burning—returned after 14 October 1973 to be debated in university seminars—"Should we burn Thai literature or not?" (Chumnum wannasin 1976). After the bloody coup of 6 October 1976, many people were so frightened by the violence that they burned numbers of the books in their possession that had been printed and reprinted in the preceding three years. They now feared that they would be caught by the political police in the possession of incriminating evidence.


Thai Radical Discourse

The polarization of the campuses in 1957, the scandalous elections of February that year, and the related protests and demonstrations were manifestations of the friction among the three members of the Coup Group—Phibun, Phao, and Sarit. In two coups of October 1957 and October 1958 Sarit finally resolved the power rivalries and emerged as an unchallenged military dictator (Thak 1979:chap. 2). As he consolidated his hold and imposed monolithic order on the Thai political system, Sarit moved against a wide range of opposition figures and heterogeneous social elements—pedicab drivers, prostitutes, and vagrants, as well as writers, journalists, and activists—with arrest and detention, using the anti-communist legislation of 1952. Jit, though warned in advance of his arrest, took no measures to avoid it, and was taken into custody on 21 October 1958. He was but one of many to be detained without trial for several years. Cintana Kotrakun, the owner and manager of Thewet Press where Jit's Art for Life, Art for the People was first published, was interned along with her infant child (Thongbai 1974:196-98). Those not arrested went underground or retreated to a more conforming posture. Poets altered their writing styles and judiciously chose different subjects for their verse. What is known in Thai cultural history as the "dark age" (yuk mut) had descended. In the months following his arrest the police questioned Jit Poumisak about his activities—his friends, his jobs, his writings, what he earned, what he read—and his answers became the "autobiography" that circulated in 1973-76 (Jit 1978a). The police asked him to describe the yonbok incident in some detail, because they based their detention of him on the evidence from the 1953 yearbook controversy. He was wellknown to the police as much for his learning as for his leftist politics. One officer, Ari Karibut, who spoke to him two or three times after his arrest but did not interview him, remembers not being especially eager to meet Jit at first because the latter was so knowledgeable (mi khwamru mak) (Ari interview 1979). Perhaps to avoid implicating others, the answers Jit gave to his interrogators seem to confine his friendships to a small circle, to fellow students Suthi Guptarak and Prawut Simanta, both of whom had been arrested with him. His students from the Fine Arts University got into a taxi and raced across town to visit him in the Santiban detention center—another episode in the life of "Jit Poumisak" to be recalled and committed to writing—and found him pale but in good spirits, convinced he had done no wrong and concerned to assure the students that he had finished grading their papers before his arrest ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:56-57). After being moved around various prisons he ended up in Lard Yao prison just outside Bangkok, where he spent the next six years reading, writing, and composing music, a member of the community of political prisoners. Thongbai Thongbao, rounded up with the others in October 1958, has left an account of the political prisoners at LardTao, which he wryly called Lard Yao Communists (Thongbai 1974). Jit, joining in the collective tasks of the prison commune which structured their routines and supplemented their meager food allowance, was in charge of the vegetable garden. With several other inmates he gave school lessons to the children and younger relatives of the prison officers. He also taught standard Thai to a Lahu hill tribesman and his son. One of the few of Jit's manuscripts as yet unpublished is a Lahu ethnology, phonology, and word list which he compiled during his sessions with the Lahu at "Lard Yao University" (Jit 1963)—though a brief essay on Lahu songs has appeared in some collections (e.g., Jit 1978e:62-70; 1981a:3-13, 25-31). In September 1979 Matichon newspaper publicized the existence of the ethnology to commemorate Jit's birthday, bringing before the public another authorial work, one that bears traces of Gedney's linguistic discipline ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:163-70). Jit got himself into numerous scrapes in prison both with wardens and with other prisoners. Not all the prisoners cared for this brainy man who could not tolerate idle-

Jit in Thai History


ness or compromise and who took resolute stands on issues of fair play and justice. To some people, resolute meant obdurate and stubborn. The term for "stubborn" (du) turns up in conversations with police and acquaintances who had no sympathy with his politics. Even for those who did, such as Prawut Simanta, his friend from university days who was the main link between him and the CPT, Jit's behavior was never very subtle. He had no sense of restraint and was too quick to take up the cudgel for a cause (Prawut interview 1983). Freed from the demands of family and ordinary work routines, Jit wrote prolifically during his six years in Lard Yao, work he might not have accomplished had he been teaching and writing on the outside. There are substantial translations—of Gorky's Mother (Jit 1978c), Premchan's Gothana (Jit 1978b), a biography of Marx by E. Stepanova (Jit 1975a), and a collection of Vietnamese short stories (Jit 1976a); and shorter translations—An Essay on Religion by the British Marxist historian of the ancient world, George Thomson (Jit 1976c), and On Art and Literature (Jit 1980b), a speech given by Zhou Yang in 1959. More widely read in Thailand today than the translations are two complex and difficult studies. One is on the Thai oath of allegiance (Jit 1981b), the other on Thai-Siamese nationality in which the historical materialist framework of The Real Face is integrated with an etymological, epigraphic, and linguistic analysis of the origin of the Tai peoples (Jit 1976b). This latter work, which many Thai readers regard as Jit's greatest if most erudite and demanding contribution to Thai studies, is the one Supha buried in his Thonburi garden until the time was right for its publication in 1976. Hundreds of copies which were in a warehouse awaiting distribution when the coup of 6 October 1976 occurred, were reportedly carried off in lorries and destroyed. During his prison years, Jit continued to write poetry and songs—"The Lard Yao March," "The International," "Thai Peasants March," some of which were translations and reworkings of foreign-language material (Jit 1978d; 1981a). A term in prison was also time to reflect on the repression of writers and their works, hence the study of Thim Sukhayang whose nirat poem the Chulalongkorn court had confiscated and destroyed in 1878 (Jit 1975c). He also translated a statement by a Spanish dissident, a writer and poet like Jit, who had been imprisoned by Franco for twenty-three years and was released about 1963 (Jit 1978e:46-60). Like prisoners in other times and other places, Jit and the others became jailhouse lawyers, mastering the technicalities of their cases with the help of inmates who had legal training (Thongbai interview 1979). Under one of Sarit's decrees they were being detained for investigation, and they used writs of habeas corpus to try to force the government to try their cases. One of Jit's legal petitions has survived and found its way into print, another vital document for the life/work ("Muang Boyang" 1980:6-12). His defense was that the political police investigations of 1953 had already passed judgement on the yonbok incident, and thus it was no longer relevant to his case. He was finally released on 30 December 1964 (Thongbai 1974:652). He tried to resume a working life and made a half-hearted effort to recover the back salary owed him as a teacher in the Thai civil service, but he had been tainted by the communist charges, and his prison record stood in the way of his rehabilitation (Ari and Phirom interviews 1979). His activities over the next nine months are difficult to trace, though he did spend a lot of time writing at home. Then, after depositing some books with Thawip and the nationality manuscript with Supha, he bade farewell to close friends at a party ("Muang Boyang" et al. 1980:60), and in November 1965 went into the jungle. The CPT had recruited him through its front organizations (Prawut interview 1983). The life that Jit led in the maquis is an episode of exclusion, but compared with the other episodes—suspension from university for eighteen months, political prisoner for six years—there are fewer testimonies and recollections to supply the life/work.


Thai Radical Discourse

The lapses and invisibility of his life in the jungle make it particularly rich for legend and myth-making. As if to mark this time in underground resistance with a sign of absence, the date of his death has sometimes been given as 5 May 1965 rather than 5 May 1966, the effect of which is to leave out a whole year of his life. But the vagueness and ambiguity are understandable. For all the publicity that the CPT receives today and for all the leaked documents that testify to its plans and setbacks, it remains an illegal party, and Jit's life with it is a matter of speculation and debate. Although the party hurried to produce a biography of him after October 1973 to capitalize on his growing popularity (Klum phitak wannakam n.d.), it seems he was not a party member in his lifetime; the CPT conferred membership on him only after his death. The party let it be known that Jit would have been sent to China, but this was party propaganda, for it had no intention of grooming him as a cadre (Prawut interview 1983). His relations with the party leadership were not smooth. In prison and in the jungle he had differences with Udom Sisuwan, active in the progressive movement from the 1940s, who went into the jungle after release from Lard Yao in the mid-1960s and rose to membership in the Central Committee (Sayammai 1983; Udom interview 1984). As a party elder ten years Jit's senior, Udom enforced party discipline vis-á-vis his juniors, and Jit was not the sort of person to be held in check by any party's or any person's discipline (Ari and Supha interviews 1979; Khamsing interviews 1980). As I will show in chapter three, The Real Face is a kind of riposte to Udom's radical history, Thailand, A Semi-colony, published seven years earlier in 1950 (Udom 1979). Neither on theoretical nor on personal grounds did the two men have any rapport. Death

On 5 May 1966 Jit was shot and killed in the northeast province of Sakhon Nakhon, near the Phuphan Mountains where the party then concentrated its strength. In 1961 the CPT had declared its commitment to armed revolution in response to Sarit's dictatorship, and in August 1965, just before Jit went into the jungle, CPT insurgents and government troops had fought in the northeast, the first of many armed clashes (Morrell and Chai-anan 1981:81). The manner of Jit's death does not, however, fit conveniently into the history of a people's war against the Thai government. According to one brief account of his death that appeared in a preface to the reprinted editions of The Real face, a village headman boasted to Thai students abroad that he fired the fatal bullet, and that the grateful Americans rewarded him with a trip to Hawaii (Jit 1974c). A Thai literature teacher studying in Hawaii in 1967 met a party of touring Thai headmen, one of whom made such a boast and spoke candidly about his role in eliminating the tough communist in his jungle lair (Wipudh interview 1979). Other accounts leave a very different impression. Jit and another resistance fighter needed food and came upon a village they assumed was safe. They asked an old woman for rice, but she reported the two men to the village authorities who then pursued Jit and shot him, wounding him in the leg. He managed to run away into the forest, and the villagers—led by the boasting headman?—pursued and finally killed him (Khamsing interviews 1980; Prawut interview 1983). He had on his person a small amount of money, an identity card, and a diary noting his expenses. Yet a rumor still circulates that the body could not be identified and a hand was cut off and sent to Bangkok for fingerprint identification. The village militiamen wondered if they had taken the correct action, news of which was telegraphed to Bangkok. The counter-insurgency authorities did not announce the death, perhaps because it would have attracted attention and made Jit a martyr at a critical time in the government's efforts to bring the CPT to heel (Prawut interview 1983). But later the death became most important in constructing "Jit Poumisak" and puz-

Jit in Thai History


zling out his relationship to the CPT, which seemed to have been negligent in letting an inexperienced cadre out on his own. The episode was read as further confirmation of his socialist and humanitarian conscience: placing his faith in the poor and downtrodden, Jit had trusted an old peasant woman. Six years passed before the new generation, searching for a history of its own consciousness, discovered Jit and began to reconstruct his life. At first, when a Thammasat literary group stumbled onto Art for Life, Art for the People in the university library the students seemed not to be able to identify the author or place him/her in Thai literary history (publisher's preface to Jit 1972). Then, as the new generation began to think about the implications of 14 October 1973 in terms of Thai social and cultural history, one of the centers of the movement seeking to foster a new literature began to take shape in the very activity of assembling Jit's biography and excavating his works. Chonthira Satyawatthana, the innovative literature student and lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, was instrumental in the task of assembling the details and documents of Jit's life. Other university people, such as Charnvit Kasetsiri, brought Jit back from the margin and argued in favor of his scholarly reputation (Suchat 1974; preface to Jit 1976b), thus attempting to appropriate the author-function for academic purposes. When Chonthira went into the jungle after 6 October 1976, "Muang Boyang" at Lok Nangsu magazine took up where she left off and ferreted out more authorial works and more biographical documentation to retrieve the life/work from the exclusion and separation to which it had been consigned. An important source until she died on 5 December 1977 was Jit's mother, Saengngoen, who had been close to her son throughout his life (Lok Nangsu 1978). Jit was so important to the consciousness of the new generation that when many of the young people went into the jungle after the October 1976 coup they continued to ask questions about him. In revolt against the Thai state, their lives were now one with his, his rebellion a model for theirs. How had he really died? What were his years with the party like? What were his relationships with his peers? The CPT leadership was still puzzled by the appeal of a figure who was accorded only a minor role in party history (Khamsing interviews 1980). On the occasion of Jit's death day in May 1977 Prawut Simanta, one of Jit's friends from university days who was himself now in the maquis, gave a talk on Jit's life in which he told the story of Jit's death (Khamsing interviews). And in October 1977 CPT leaders held a meeting to extol the contributions of Jit and two others in his generation, Sanoh Mongkhon and Somphong Pungpradit, and to declare them important party intellectuals (Sathian interview 1984). It was also about this time that Jit Poumisak's life/work began to make its way into English-language writing for the first time: Thadeus Flood's "Profile of a Revolutionary Intellectual" (Flood 1977). In October 1979 when I gave a talk at Chulalongkorn University on my research, the assembly hall was filled to hear the foreign scholar talk about Jit Poumisak. The reigning literary magazine sent "Muang Boyang" to record the talk, and the occasion eventually made its way into a book which quoted some of my remarks. Here was more testimony, a visitor from overseas adding his own piece to the Jit story (Lok Nangsu 1979b; Sathian 1982:463-64). The "scholarly Jit" was still in the process of being fixed in place—The Real Face and other works were being reprinted again—and the October talk helped to validate the continuing excavations. "Jit Poumisak" has continued to be a presence in Thai literature and Thai literary circles, offering material to the literary imagination and, in doing so, threatening to escape some of the positive meanings that have been assigned to him. Yet no literary product can be made from this material without reference to the author-function that Chonthira, "Muang Boyang," Charnvit, Suchat, Thawip, Supha, the CPT, and other


Thai Radical Discourse

"witnesses" have constructed. Thus in 1979 when a police officer of some literary ambition wrote a short story about Jit's death (Chinda 1979), the editors of Lok Nangsu magazine read the story as biography and promptly questioned the accuracy of the account (Lok Nangsu 1979a). Those committed to preserving the meaning of "revolutionary intellectual," for example, work hard to keep that meaning in place. The magazine of the student literary group at Thammasat (chumnum wannasin) commemorates Jit as a revolutionary intellectual on his birthday in September by devoting an issue to his life and gracing the magazine's cover with a drawing of him as a bespectacled university student. A visitor to Thammasat University in May 1979, the thirteenth anniversary of his death, would have seen in front of the Faculty of Political Science a poem about Jit by Naowarat Phongphaibun (Naowarat 1983) pinned to a bulletin board framed with dried leaves—a reminder of the forested setting where he finally fell. In the police officer's short story the narrator asks rhetorically: Where are the remains of Jit Poumisak? Were they cremated with the proper rites? In a society where the teeth and hair of the Buddha are enshrined and worshipped 2,500 years after the Buddha's time, these questions evoke the power of the relic. But Phirom received Jit's remains from government authorities only in late 1981 and quietly laid them to rest in a little-known Bangkok monastery; it seems some villagers in Sakhon Nakhon had maintained the spot where Jit died in the forest as a shrine, so that there was something to pass on to the one surviving family member so many years later. Discretion and privacy surrounded this final physical interment. There was no longer a youth movement alive with promise, in need of an emblem of its destiny, and thus eager to take possession of yet another trace of the political-poet. Yet in the age of mass communications, a photograph can be as potent a relic as a lumpofashandbone.Inl979,Iboughta student copybook at Thammasat University which had faint photo-portrait images behind the ruled lines. In the first half of the copybook Gorky and Kulap Saipradit face each other; in the second half, Jit and Lu Xun; and at the centerfold Jit and Kulap. Each element draws strength and meaning from its paired opposite. Gorky and Lu Xun are appropriated for Thai purposes at the same instant that Kulap and Jit are thrown out into the world, internationalized by their association with the Russian and Chinese social realists, and drawn into a lineage of socially conscious writing that knows no national boundaries. In the case of Jit Poumisak theyouth movement of the mid-1970s, university teachers, CPT members, and government censorship all contributed to the creation of the author-function—the specific historical figure who lived from 25 September 1930 to 5 May 1966 bound to the rules and conventions for speaking and publishing about his life/work. Now the students write down their lecture notes over the faces, obscuring the faint images even further, and as the years go by, perhaps increasingly ignorant of the biographies, the authorial works, and the political history that put the faces on the page. But there are still enough witnesses around—Supha, Thawip, Thongbai, and others—to appear at the occasional seminar and once again add their account to the composite figure that never quite becomes fully assembled. In May 1984, on yet another anniversary of Jit's death day, members of the Caravan band, popular after 1973 for its revolutionary music, sang to Jit's memory. Jit is still breathing (Khletlap 1984). NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today, originally published in 1957, has been reprinted many times, beginning in 1974. I have been told that while the CPT could never claim this work as its own, it nevertheless supplied a sum of money to facilitate the first reprinting at Chomrom Nangsu Saengtawan (Sun Books), though the per-

Jit in Thai History


son receiving the sum of money, Nisit Chirasophon, was not aware of its real source (Prawut interview 1983). There may have been an underground copy—a nangsu pok luang or "yellow book"—circulating before the 14 October 1973 uprising, though I have never seen this copy. I accept the 1957 original edition as the most accurate (later editions contain printing errors and grammatical "corrections"), and it is from this edition that I have translated. The original and some subsequent editions make selected use of boldface and enlarged type to lift particular sentences and paragraphs from the surface of the page. Though it would have been too costly to reproduce in English, this typography does capture something of the spirit of the moment in 1957 when the text first appeared. Jit used English punctuation, a Western borrowing by the Thai writing system that is increasingly common in Modern Thai writing and printing, but he used it inconsistently. Again, it would have been awkward and fussy to indicate this punctuation, and I would simply note that all exclamation marks and many question and quotation marks are Jit's, not mine. After technical or translated terms Jit inserts in parentheses the foreign language terms in román typeface, e.g. thunniyom (CAPITALISM) or saktina system (FEUDAL SYSTEM). This convention, which I have retained in the translation by capitalizing the terms in román typeface, graphically illustrates the ambiguity of resemblance and difference that any translation entails, just as it underscores the sense in which vernacular forms are alienated and made immune from their Western referents. I have also retained misspellings of foreign words. For reasons explained in chapter three, sakdina and saktina (= feudal), written identically in Thai script, are transcribed differently to illustrate the new meanings being created in Modern Thai for Old Thai sakdina. To print saktina without italicizing it is to grant the term partial admission into English language and to recognize the new ring in its use. I have translated Thai book titles in what I imagine to be the spirit of Jit's thought. For example, what some translators have rendered as "Aspects of Ancient Siamese Government" or "Ancient Siamese Government" I have translated as "The Nature of Rule in Siam from Ancient Times" [Laksana kanpokkhrong prathetsayam tae boran]. Similarly, some key terms I have chosen to translate in such a way as to reinforce the thrust of Jit's book. For example, chao khun munnai is "ruling masters"; and chaothidin is "Land-Lord" (vs. chao khong thidin as "landlord") in order to emphasize that the precapitalist ruling class of Land-Lords wielded political, juridical, and cultural power and did not simply collect rents. The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today has the feel of a strange and imperfect work, even in Thai let alone in English, however it may be historicized and contextualized as a sign of its times. To preserve this feel I have left the translated text to stand on its own, with an absolute minimum—some would say neglect—of annotation. With a few exceptions where I thought the text was egregiously misleading, I have chosen not to "correct" it. The text's analysis of the political economy of Thailand has been rethought in the last three decades, particularly by Thai scholars, and I report this rethinking in chapter three. Any piece of writing must lose some of its life in translation as it becomes expropriated by the host language, indeed by its translator. To signal the resistance that a text puts up to this kind of expropriation—to mark the way a translation mediates, interprets, and re-presents something that is entirely different from the source-language text—I have used two kinds of references. Footnotes in the Thai original of The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today appear in my translation as endnotes to chapter 2. Citations in chapters one, three, and four (my commentary on the translation) are given as authordate references in brackets.

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Jit (center, foreground) during May Day celebrations in Lard Yao prison, 1962. Photo: Phasa lae nirukkatisat (Jit, 1979c)

Jit (second from left) playing classical music at Chulalongkorn University. Photo: Muang Boyang, Botphleng haeng rungarun (1980)

Jit with sister, Phirom, and mother, Saengngaon, at Lard Yao prison. Photo: Phasa lae nirukkatisat (Jitf 1979c)

Jit on a visit to Angkor Wat, 1955. Photo: Phasa lae nirukkatisat (Jit, 1979c)


n today's wave of economic, political, and cultural change, what the Thai People hear about and what they talk about over and over again as a daily problem is imperialism (including the compradore-capitalists and aristo-capitalists who are its underlings) and saktina. Everywhere in forums belonging to the People— whether in newspapers or discussions in such public places as the capital's central square and the provincial town halls and marketplaces, and even in other activities of the People such as demonstrations—the voices sounding the loudest are those denouncing imperialism and saktina. Surely this broad movement of the Thai People which opposes and denounces imperialism and saktina is an auspicious sign revealing that the Thai People of today are now fully awake. They have been able to identify clearly the enemies who plunder them and skin them alive and suck the very marrow from their bones. Such lifeexperiences as poverty, starvation, and the astronomical cost of living mean that the lives of workers whose labor is forcibly exploited amount to no more than a vicious circle of "work to eat and eat to work." Moreover, the workers are faced with the problem of unemployment. The capitalists at the national level are forced into bankruptcy, and the national economy is all the while declining and falling into decay. The peasant who tills the fields and plants the rice—who is praised as the backbone of the nation—ends up with no rice to eat. Whether in the economic sphere where rents and interest are sky-high and the ragged peasant, drowned in a sea of debt, has become economically ruined and landless, a hired farm laborer, someone who in the end sells his labor; or in the political sphere where we find corruption, fraud, and utter ruin in government circles, the wielding of legitimate power by important people and the grabbing for power among themselves, oppression of the People through unjust use of the law, and exploitation through heavy taxation; or in the cultural sphere where we find inequities between the classes in society, widening moral deterioration because of Western influence, and the monopolization of literature and the arts in the hands of a small group;—all these experiences taken together teach the Thai People to see that the root cause lies in imperialism (including its underlings, the compradore-capitalists and aristo-capitalists) and saktina. The evidence which confirms that the Thai People really recognize the dangers of imperialism is the People's movement calling on the government to withdraw from the sito treaty [Southeast Asia Treaty Organization], a pact whose purpose is to invade and wage war and which imperialism employs as an instrument for maintaining its own profits. Concurrently, the People call upon the government to pursue a policy of neu-



Thai Radical Discourse

trality and independence, and to establish economic, political, and cultural relations with countries in every camp, without favor for political ideology. The evidence which shows that the Thai People recognize clearly the dangers of saktina is the movement calling for land reform, rent and interest control, and the industrialization of the country in order to escape the backward saktina agrarian order. Moreover, the Thai People also now realize that their exploitation and oppression by imperialism and saktina consist of joint exploitation (COLLECTIVE EXPLOITATION), meaning that both stand to gain from this joint exploitation. Imperialism profits from banking, industrial, and commercial exploitation by means of its monopolies. The saktina profit from agricultural exploitation by means of their lands, rents, and usury, and nowadays they have also banded together to become the compradores for the monopoly capitalists of foreign imperialism. At a fundamental level, the reality is that both imperialism and the saktina have collaborated to grind down the People as slaves, so that together they can continue to cooperate in exploiting the People as they please. One example in which the People can plainly see this collaboration to oppress the People and exploit them is in Egypt, where before the military revolution in 1952 the foreign imperialists supported the saktina as their agents and as a vanguard for the oppression of the People. In Vietnam the French imperialists did their utmost to prop up the saktina Bao Dai, but they were in the end defeated by the American imperialists who turned around and supported the warlord Ngo Dinh Diem. A very recent incident occurred this last April 1957 when a joint action of the American imperialists and the saktina in Jordan swept up and eliminated all the socialist People's forces. These incidents have caused the Thai People to see clearly the policy of joint exploitation (COLLECTIVE EXPLOITATION) on the part of the imperialists and saktina. Thus the voices coming from the Thai People resound again and again: the principal enemies that must be driven away with all urgency are the imperialists without and the saktina within. What is imperialism? The simple answer is that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism (MONOPOLY CAPITALISM). Monopolies are created so that the capitalist can seek the greatest profit (MAXIMUM PROFIT), every last penny of it, and this is because owing to free competition, ordinary capitalism without monopoly (NONMONOPOLY CAPITALISM) is unable to obtain maximum profit. It is able to obtain only a mean profit (AVERAGE PROFIT). Furthermore, monopoly at the imperialist level is a joint monopoly of banking capital and industrial capital, a monopoly in the hands of a mere clique of capitalists and financiers (FINANCIAL OLIGARCHY). The most important function of this level of monopoly is to create monopoly between countries, i.e. not in one country alone. Moreover, the monopoly created between countries will be especially profitable when capital is exported from one country to another. And there is no doubt that the ultimate, inescapable means at the disposal of this group is war among themselves over monopolizing markets. Such is "imperialism." And now we come to saktina. What is saktina? Are the saktina those who wear old-fashioned Thai dress? Are the saktina the ones who chew betel or who have small feet or royally conferred ranks? Are they the ones with reactionary thinking? Are the saktina those who look down contemptuously on the People, on women and children? Are the saktina royalty? These rather dubious answers to the question are likely to be on the tip of everyone's tongue, because nowadays it is common to accuse others of being saktina by pointing to their dress or the size of their feet. In actual fact, such descriptions are not really wrong, but they are not entirely correct either. This is because those with tiny little feet who are descended from "people of refinement who hobble when they walk shoeless on their tender feet"—those who from ancient times have never worked,

The Real Face of Saktina


whose feet have never trod the ground—may become capitalists or commoners as a result of economic ruin, or they may become the ones who are pitilessly exploited. Many saktina today do not wear old-fashioned dress. Lots of lords, even those who were lords of the land such as the High-Lord LOUIS-PHILIPPE of France in the midnineteenth century, were not saktina. On the contrary. They were representatives of the bourgeoisie and especially of the capitalists and financiers! To identify the saktina by looking at their birth status or the size of their feet is therefore misleading. If this is the case, what are we to look for in determining who is and who is not saktina? The answer is that we must look at "the relations of production" (PRODUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP). That is to say, we look at someone in the act of production or joining in the act of production, and ask what relationship exists with others in the sphere of production. Suppose that nobleman Bamrung Ratcharitpracha makes his living working the fields and woman Si works the fields. Nobleman Bamrung stands in a particular relationship to woman Si, as he is her husband. Is he then a saktina or not? The question is unanswerable, because we have not determined the relationship precisely. In so far as nobleman Bamrung is the husband of woman Si, it is a private relationship between one individual and another (PRIVATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS). What we must be precise about and get to the heart of is their relationship in the sphere of production, i.e. we must examine how nobleman Bamrung is related to woman Si when he is in the act of production or making his living. Who is the labor boss and who is the laborer? Who owns the land and the other means of production, and who rents the land and the means of production? Whose labor works the fields? If, when production is in progress, nobleman Bamrung is the owner of the land and lies around the house wiggling his feet—be they tiny or big—and woman Si rents the land, tills the field, plants the rice, harvests the rice, and gives nobleman Bamrung half of it as rent according to the half-share rent system, we can identify our nobleman as a saktina Land-Lord and woman Si as a poor peasant. The relationship between nobleman Bamrung and woman Si is then one between Land-Lord and poor peasant! This is simply one example, and not a particularly fitting one, but even so, it is enough for us to place people in various classes by looking at relationships in terms of production, and it is enough for us to see in rough terms that whoever owns land and can hire it out for others to work is a saktina. This is not enough to settle the matter conclusively, however, for we have reached the point where we know only about some saktina as individuals. We have not learned about the actual saktina production system. The saktina production system is an economic system in society. In order to understand this system fully we must examine all relationships of production in society (PRODUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP OF SOCIETY AS A WHOLE). Surely we must examine this in terms of economic, political, and cultural relationships, all three of which, taken together, constitute a certain type of society. In that case, what is the saktina production system? The Saktina Production System as a Whole A. The Meaning of the Term Saktina "Saktina" literally means "power in controlling the fields," and if we expand on this meaning to clarify the term we can say that saktina means "power over the land which was the crucial factor in agriculture, and agriculture in that age was the principal


Thai Radical Discourse

livelihood of the People/' By explaining the term in this way we are able to see roughly that the saktina system was a system bound up with "land." According to economic science, "land" is considered one of the factors in production (MEANS OF PRODUCTION) or, to put it simply, land is one of the tools humankind uses to make its living. In human society before the capitalist age when the machine emerged as a tool for making a living, the principal tool human beings had to make their living was land. This is because human livelihood depended basically on food production, which is termed agriculture. Whether or not humans were happy with this situation depended on whether or not they had land and how much they had. Those who had a lot of land were happy, and those with less were correspondingly less happy. Those with none were confronted with a struggle for their livelihood because they were forced to rent land in order to make a living. They paid rent; and they paid a share of the produce or had to serve as laborers in the fields of the Land-Lord. These are what we call agricultural slaves (SERF). In old Thai society they were called "phrai" or "lek." If we compare this with the capitalist system, those with a great deal of land correspond to the big capitalists who have many factories and much of the commerce in their clutches. This is the group which enjoys happiness and wealth and has merit. Those with little land correspond to the middle-level or small capitalists whose happiness is correspondingly less. Those with no land at all correspond to those with no factories and no commerce. They are forced to sell their labor and hire themselves out in order to sustain themselves day by day according to the "the merit and misfortunes of sentient beings." Aside from human happiness being necessarily conditioned by the tools of livelihood or the means of production, likewise the power of human beings was also contingent on the size and number of tools used for their livelihood. As surely as night follows day, the big Land-Lords who had many phrai and lek or others working under their command wielded much power and influence, because they held the fate of many lives in their hands. Whether those who labored under the sway of the big Land-Lord ate their fill or starved, were happy or suffered, depended decisively on the whims of the Land-Lord. In light of the above, saktina cannot be understood simply by what the term means literally—"power in controlling the fields as the principal means of livelihood"—but actually extends further to mean "the power and influence of human beings as determined by the size and number of landholdings which are the principal means of livelihood." Moreover, the Land-Lords, who had the most power in society, endeavored to train the phrai and lek to accept them as superior, as masters of their lives. The phrai and lek should emulate, imitate, and praise their customs, their way of life in such matters as speech and etiquette, their entertainments and pleasures such as singing, instrumental music, dancing, literature, and so forth. All of this was designed to stimulate the phrai and lek to admire them and forever to accept their institutions as correct and just. What this means is that since those who had power over land had the power to determine a way of life, the problem has a cultural aspect to it as well. Thus, aside from the economic meaning of "power in controlling the fields as the principal means of livelihood," and aside from the political meaning of "the power and influence of human beings as determined by the size and number of landholdings which are the principal means of livelihood," the term saktina also embraces the cultural meaning of "the power to determine a way of life which in turn depends on landed power as the principal means of livelihood." This economic, political, and cultural power which stems from and is bound up with the land is the real and comprehensive meaning of "saktina."

The Real Face of Saktina


Perhaps this can be made even clearer if we spell it out and emphasize that "saktina" is a social system, and this social system typically includes three elements: the economic, the political, and the cultural. Furthermore, in determining the characteristics of this social system we must also be precise about the principal tools for making a living, the society's means of production. Then, having done that, we can take the further step of examining the impact of the ownership of the means of production as it is reflected economically, politically and culturally. B. The Economic Characteristics of the Saktina System. The economic characteristics of the saktina system were as follows: 1. Ownership of the means of production and the use of those means to extract profit. The principal means of production were the land and various necessary tools such as oxen and water buffalo, rice, and so forth. For the most part, these belonged to a small group known as the "ruling masters" (FEUDAL LORDS) or to the "Land-Lords" (LANDLORDS). When the principal means of production fell into the hands of a small group like this, the vast majority of the People, the principal productive force in society, were downgraded to become laborers tilling the lands of the ruling masters who had the right to own private property. But these laborers were obliged to work a plot of land from which they could not move, because the ruling masters traveled around surveying the land to register these people under their jurisdiction. When the plot of land was transferred from one ruling master to another, agricultural workers known as "agricultural slaves" (SERF) who were bound to the land were transferred with it. In Muang Thai these agricultural slaves were called "lek" or "phrai." As a rule, what the lek produced had to be handed over as tax in kind [suai] to the ruling masters who fixed the rate as they pleased. This could be 50, 60, 70, or 80% of the entire yield, according to the conditions agreed upon. This was one group of people. A second group was the freemen or thay who had to rent land from Land-Lords in order to make their living. This group had to give a share of the produce to the Land-Lord as rent fixed at eight or ten bushels per rai. Sometimes the rent was fixed at 30% of the entire yield from the land. One widely used rental rate was 50% of the produce, known as the "half-shareof-the-field" system. The conditions of this group were not all that different from those of the lek or the phrai, the difference being only that unlike the lek or the phrai they were free to migrate; there were no restrictions binding them to the land. A third group consisted of those who held small plots which they worked on their own (i.e. independent peasants). This group was obligated to give to the ruling masters a portion of the yield as revenue or land tax—perhaps one bushel, perhaps six—depending on what the ruling class, comprised of the big Land-Lords, determined. 2. The Forced Labor System In addition to the rents and taxes the peasants were forced to pay, they were also obligated on an annual basis to assist in plowing and tilling the fields and to perform other chores for the ruling masters. This amounted to three months or as much as six months per year. In some areas the peasants were required to provide their own oxen and water buffalo and implements to help in tilling the lands of the ruling masters where the latter provided capital only in the form of land and rice seed. Aside from tilling the ruling masters' lands, the peasantry were also required to contribute labor


Thai Radical Discourse

for public works, both for the saktina state and for the ruling masters in their districts. This is the "forced labor" system (CORVEE), which in Czarist Russia was called OTRABOTKI or BARSHCHINA. This system of forced labor was viewed as a legitimate system which no person could avoid, because it reciprocated the generosity of the ruling master who had willingly given his valuable time in order to rule the peasantry and who had been pleased to "give" land to be worked for food to eat, water in the canals to drink, and air to breathe. 3. The Technology and Form of Production Humankind in the saktina age possessed an agricultural technology [theknik] which was superior to that in the past (i.e. in the slave age). This was because human beings were now familiar with more advanced tools, especially iron ones which were far more developed in this period, resulting in production of greater volume and precision. The use of draft animals for heavy labor chores, a development which humankind had made at the end of the slave period preceding the saktina age, became so widespread that it became the principal means of production of that age. Production during the saktina age, especially in agriculture, thus improved and attained a higher level of productivity. In manufacturing, human beings became skilled in handicrafts and learned how to make a more advanced loom for weaving textiles. Iron working, the weaving of cloth and baskets, and the crafting of wooden utensils and other articles became more widespread and possessed greater technical precision. Most of the peasantry were no longer engaged solely in farming but complemented this work with handicrafts. The saktina age was thus one which generally linked together agriculture and handicrafts within the household. A system of independent production, in which the peasants owned a modest quantity of their own resources and at the same time expended their labor without being subjected to excessive exploitation of their labor by others, began to have a role in society during the saktina age. 4. The Purpose of Production Both agricultural and handicraft production on the part of the peasants in this age was, on the whole, for subsistence and to meet basic needs. There was no particular intention to produce for trade. Even the share of the produce extracted by the ruling masters and Land-Lords in the form of suai, rents, and taxes was, for the most part, a share extracted for their own consumption. Although there was some exchange of produce through trade, this was mostly surplus produce, in excess of what could be consumed, and exchanged to meet mutual needs. Though a commercial system for substantial profits was beginning to emerge, it did not yet really have a crucial function in society as a whole. 5. The Trade Monopoly System of the Ruling Masters A system of trading exchanges and commerce for sizeable profits arose during the saktina age after a sufficiently lengthy development of the saktina economy had taken place. Large-scale trade in commerce, in which the profit was considerable, now began to take place at the initiative of the ruling masters and big Land-Lords. Trade in this age was characterized by a trade monopoly of ruling masters. Put simply, the saktina ruling class monopolized trade in its own hands. The exploited peasants and the People had no independent or free role whatsoever in this trade.

The Real Face of Saktina


The cause of the saktina's trade monopoly system can be traced to a reality previously discussed. When the ruling masters—the kshatriya, members of the royal family or nobles in official service—had extracted a share of the excess yield (SURPLUS PRODUCTS) from the independent peasants, the phrai and the lek, there was some left over after the surplus had been privately consumed and used to feed armies and retainers. The ruling masters could then exchange these surplus products for weapons and other materiel which arrived on foreign trading ships. Or they could exchange them for overseas trade goods they fancied. As the risks of maritime travel declined, the exchange and buying and selling of goods improved accordingly. The allurements of exotic trade goods from far-away lands as well as strange and expensive adornments such as precious gems stimulated the ruling masters to extract agricultural and forest products from independent peasants, phrai and lek, on an even greater scale for purposes of exchange. And in exchanging these for overseas trade goods, the ruling masters reserved the right to be the first to purchase these products in advance. In order to assure themselves of the principal role in this exchange—in order to get the maritime merchants to appease them and depend on their beneficence on the one hand, and in order to extract the maximum from the People on the other—the ruling masters forbade the People to trade directly with the merchants. If they wanted to conduct such trade, the People had to pass through the ruling masters who acted as middlemen. The end result was the emergence of a trading system monopolized by the saktina. The principal ruling masters alone monopolized the construction of trading ships which ventured forth to foreign lands to trade. During the saktina age the phrai, the lek, the tenant peasants, the independent peasantry, and the People at large thus began to be increasingly exploited in three stages. From the very beginning of the saktina system, the first stage saw the extraction of labor, conscripted labor, taxes in kind, and various kinds of levies. Along with usury, these arose because the peasants had been squeezed to the point where they could not get enough to eat and were forced to borrow. The second stage saw a sharp increase in the percentage extracted from the phrai through the forced payment of taxes in kind and of tribute so that the ruling masters could engage in foreign trade with these surplus products. The third stage was the exploitation which stemmed from the trade monopolies of all the big saktina. 6. The Destruction of the Saktina Trade Monopoly System When the saktina trade monopoly system evolved to its most advanced stage— i.e. both internal and external monopoly—a new conflict arose in that artisans or independent craftsmen as well as large and small merchants began to feel that the saktina trade monopoly system was an oppressive system closing off avenues of livelihood which should have been opening for them. As a consequence, these groups established occupational and merchant associations called GUILD as institutions which would protect their own interests and struggle against the saktina trade monopoly system. These groups constituted a new social class known as the mid-level class (MIDDLE CLASS) or kadumphi (BOURGEOISIE), whose power steadily expanded. The conflict between the middle class and the saktina proceeded with a vengeance until it reached the critical stage (ANTAGONISM) and gave birth to revolutions that toppled the saktina system, the greatest of which was the French revolution of A.D. 1789. Towards the end of the saktina age the independent craftsmen attempted to improve their tools of production to a more advanced level, and when the power of this


Thai Radical Discourse

group had broadened and made it the middle class, its intellectuals succeeded in creating machines. The production of handicrafts was transformed into industry. This was Europe's big revolution in industry (INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION) which began at the end of the eighteenth century and lasted into the nineteenth. At this point the saktina trade monopoly system, a monopoly on agriculture and handicrafts whose tools of production were antiquated and backward, tumbled down with a thunderous roar, opening the way for the new commercial system called seriniyom (LIBERALISM) or thelongest-reach-gets-the-goods (LAISSEZ FAIRE) of the middle class. This class then became the naithun (CAPITALIST) class and ultimately established the production system of thunniyom (CAPITALISM). This spelled an end to handicrafts in the saktina system, and to the trade monopolies which had reached their final stage of development in the saktina economy. 7. The Conditions of Production in the Final Stage of the Saktina System are Agricultural Backwardness and Ruin of the Peasantry. The peasantry's tools of production in the saktina system, which had already evolved through one stage, developed to their limit and then abruptly ceased to do so. The use of the iron-tipped plowshare represented the most advanced form of plow. The next stage of development would have been the machine-driven plow, but this was beyond the capabilities of the saktina production system. Fertilizer, which the peasants knew how to use, did not develop beyond the use of natural fertilizer. Scientific fertilizer, based on the researches of middle class intellectuals, was beyond their capabilities. Draft animals for plowing and harrowing marked the most advanced development of auxiliary labor in the saktina production system. Working the fields by relying on rainfall or by digging canals and letting nature flood the fields was the most advanced development of the saktina system in terms of irrigation, and so forth. Thus the most advanced stage which the saktina system reached as it grew and developed was the use of iron tools, natural fertilizer, draft animals, cultivation by means of seasonal rainfall or by excavated irrigation, and so forth. At this point the production system abruptly ceased to develop; it was not to undergo further development. Simply put, the saktina production system brought about its own demise in the same way other production systems did, so that when industry and machines came into being, the peasants' agricultural system was abandoned in its backward condition. In one other respect, the three stages of burdensome exploitation by the saktina Land-Lords and the ruling masters (as outlined in part 5 above) caused the peasants to produce an amount insufficient for their own consumption because they were exploited so severely. Whenever they set about to increase production or to develop the tools used in working their own fields they were unable to do so or to make the purchases because they had no capital to invest. For this reason, their condition became impoverished, and as they could not avoid borrowing money, they fell into debt and were exploited to an even greater degree. Ragged with debt and drowned in usurious payments, they lost their land to creditors. The independent peasants became economically ruined. The tenant peasants had to confront the same problems of hunger, poverty, and enslavement to usurious debts. The lek, the phrai, and the slaves who were emancipated at a later stage also faced the same suffering and economic ruin. Ultimately these groups abandoned their homes and lands and came into the industrial cities to look for work by selling their labor to the industrial capitalists. In this way the peasantry was economically ruined and eventually became the laboring class of capitalist society. This final stage of development marked a decline in conditions and the

The Real Face of Saktina


termination of the agricultural production system of the saktina economy. From an initial stage in the saktina system, the saktina economy evolved into a fully developed saktina system and then into a saktina system in conflict and decline, at which point it crumbled and was overthrown. This objective law is inevitable in an economic system based on exploitation between classes, whatever that system may be. C. The Political Characteristics of the Saktina System The political characteristics of the saktina system—in other words, the nature of the struggle between classes in order to secure the rights to the means of production and in order to allocate the profits obtained from the means of production of the saktina period—are set out as follows. 1. The Class Struggle between the Saktina Class (the Ruling Masters and the LandLords) and the Peasant Class (the Phrai, the Lek, and the Independent Peasants). Because the principal means of production—namely land—was not property held collectively in society but had become the possession of a tiny group, and because this one small group relied on its power to control land as a device for the oppression and exploitation of the masses which were the larger group, saktina society divided people into two categories in the same way as other exploiting societies: the class of exploiters (EXPLOITING CLASS) and the class of those exploited (EXPLOITED CLASS). In saktina society where land was the principal means of production the class of exploiters perforce consisted of those owning the largest tracts of land. It consisted of the LandLords and ruling masters, known as the Land-Lord or saktina class. The class of those exploited consisted of all those who had no rights to land, known as the agricultural slave class, or phrai class, or peasant class, including the independent peasants who worked their own land on a very small scale. Out of the struggle between these two classes, the Land-Lords emerged victorious and enjoyed political power, because the Land-Lord class had absolute rights to power over land, i.e. rights to economic power. When this class held economic life in its grip in this way, it was tantamount to holding the lives of all agricultural slaves in its clutches, and by holding the fate of the agricultural slave class in its clutches like this, the Land-Lord class had the absolute right to power in determining what rights and duties the agricultural slave class ought to have in society. Simply put, the Land-Lord class expanded its power to become the ruling class, while the agricultural slave class was forced down to become the ruled. More precisely, it was pushed down and tyrannized. This is what resulted from class struggle, and it is the political form which saktina society takes. Make no mistake about it. All saktina political institutions were characterized by the fact that they were institutions of the saktina, and it was down through these institutions that the saktina would exercise their power for the purpose of determining what rights and duties with respect to themselves the agricultural slave class ought to have. In a word, these were institutions which took charge of profits, i.e., which acquired and safeguarded the profits of the Land-Lord class alone. The saktina ruling group was thus a committee directly charged with safeguarding the profits of the Land-Lord class. The chairman of this committee safeguarding the profits of the Land-Lord class was typically the one who had the most landed power, and if this person was not the


Thai Radical Discourse

chairman then it was a representative of the owners of the most gigantic quantities of land. We say "kshatriya" or "lord of the land" [phrachao phaendin] to designate the position of this committee chairman. If we translate the word "kshatriya" literally it means "one with land" or "one who rules land." The root of this word lies in term "ksetr," meaning arable land. "Khattiya" comes from the root "khett" which has the same meaning. Even the Thai term "lord of the land" signifies "the high person who is lord of all the land," and because the kshatriya is the one holding the People's fate in his grasp in economic, political, and cultural terms, he is also called lord of life, meaning lord of the People's lives. This is how we refer to the position of the committee chairman who safeguards the profits of the Land-Lord class! The fact that the committee chairman was owner of the land, as explained above, meant that decrees were issued transferring all the land to the committee chairman alone, i.e. all the land belonged to the lord of the land who gave it to people to live off. The lord of the land had the right to confiscate the land at any time (confiscate it = take it back). Thus the state in saktina society was called "the lord-raja's domain" [phrarajanakhet], meaning the lord-raja's landholdings. The English language, which terms the lord-raja KING, uses KINGDOM (the lord-raja's domain) to refer to his territory, while French, which terms the kshatriya ROI, refers to his territory in saktina times as ROYAUME, and this too means the lord-raja's domain. Another side to this is that the kshatriya, by having such power over the land and the lives of the masses, is the one who grants them life. Thus the masses are allowed to live. The kshatriya can take back that life—by execution—at any time. For this reason the saktina state is called something else: "the land under the lord-raja's juggernaut" [phrarajanacakra], meaning "the lands in the domain over which the wheel of the lordraja's power rolls" (ana is Pali, identical with Sanskrit ajnya or anya). Because of the way in which power was amassed, as described above, the form of government which ruled saktina society was "raja-rule" (the lord-raja held power) or "absolute raja-rule" (the lord-raja held absolute rights and powers). Only by means of this form of rule could the Land-Lord class be assured that repression was permanent and that it could extract labor and various kinds of profits as it pleased. 2. Conflict and Struggle within the Saktina Class Itself In the absolute raja-rule system of government (ABSOLUTE MONARCHY) the ruling class consisted of the extended families and lineages of the big and small Land-Lords, together with all the loyal retainers (underlings) who held faithfully to the motto: "offer yourself to the lord till death, serve the master with all your strength." All the kshatriyas and their kin relations, the ruling masters who had special privileges over the People, typically had dispositions insatiable for rights to power and profit. Each of the ruling masters wielded power over a large tract of land. In order to collaborate as a committee for the purpose of safeguarding their power and profits, an arrangement to share power in proportion to the number and size of their lands was essential. This was the only arrangement which enabled the ruling masters to agree peaceably among themselves. If and when an arrangement or its implementation became disproportionate, the ruling masters who lost their profits would bend their efforts to struggle against and overthrow the incumbent committee which had dealt with them unjustly. Or, to put it simply, they would rise up and struggle against the incumbent committee which had failed to provide them with properly proportional rights to exploit the People. This kind of conflict and struggle within the saktina class maintained the system by which the saktina shared power using the size and number of their landholdings as

The Real Face of Saktina


a yardstick. The power of the ruling masters was great or small depending on the plot of land ruled by each, and the stipulations which determined this remained standard until the saktina system collapsed. At the beginning of the saktina age the conflict and struggle within the saktina class was still at a violent level. The kshatriya or committee chairman could not yet consolidate power in his own grasp and was forced to grant the ruling masters complete rights and powers over their own lands. These ruling masters in descending hierarchy down from the kshatriya were called "subordinate rajas" or "regional chiefs" (VASSALS) and held sway under the kshatriya's aegis. For him to be able to order them to do anything at all, he had to consult with them first. If they did not agree with him, he found it difficult to have his orders carried out. The more powerful ruling masters were always defying his authority, as can be plainly seen at the beginning of the English saktina age in the time of King William of Normandy. In a word, the kshatriya's rights and powers came to an end, leaving only the subordinate rajas or vassals. No matter how many dependent states the subordinate rajas or vassals acquired, no matter how they exploited and oppressed the People, no matter whether they issued legal codes or currency, etc.—that was their affair. The kshatriya could not interfere. The actual power of the kshatriya which really mattered extended only to those large and small states directly under his authority. Thus it was that the final stage of the struggle within the class was the kshatriya's effort to destroy the subordinate rajas and vassals and set up his own agents to watch over the smaller states that had been under the sway of the subordinate rajas or vassals. This device gave him confidence that his [new] subordinate rajas or vassals would not betray him as the previous ones had. The destruction of the Sukhodaya polity at the beginning of the Ayudhya period, the destruction of the Chiangmai polity in the Fifth Reign [1868-1910], the destruction of the lord of Phrae's state, and so forth, were all designed to grab power. Another kind of device—and this one represented power grabbing at its peak— was the kshatriya's seizure and transfer of all lands to himself, the removal of the previous ruling masters, and the installation of a new group of ruling masters. As a rule, he chose the new group to be installed from among his extended family and lineage, as well as their saktina branches and offshoots, or else he chose them from among the officials and retainers who had loyally served his own royal family line, sending them out as governors [khaluang] to be his eyes and ears and to watch over the first, second, third, and fourth class muang centers. This new group of nobles was directly under the kshatriya. In Muang Thai they were called "muang lords" [chaomuang] or "muang governors" [phuwa ratchakan muang]. When such nobles found favor with the kshatriya because of their skilled or loyal service, he might reward them by bestowing on them some of his power in the form of power over land. The amount of this land varied, but it could not exceed the amount specified in law. This is what we call "saktina." By these means, the ruling masters who lived off their muang by virtue of inherited right were eventually eliminated. Nevertheless, those who now lived off their muang by virtue of their installation by the kshatriya came from the lineages and families of the ruling masters, because it was this group alone which had been educated and trained and which had the opportunity to present itself for service to the kshatriya. The saktina form of rule was thus one which began by dispersing power (DECENTRALIZATION) and ended by amassing power (CENTRALIZATION). 3. The Struggle of the Agricultural Slave Class and the Independent Peasantry The fundamental conflict in saktina society was the conflict between the saktina class and the entire peasant class. Despite the fact that the struggle between the two


Thai Radical Discourse

classes would end with the victory of the saktina Land-Lords, the peasants, who were the ones experiencing extreme adversity, did not abandon their efforts to rise up and overthrow the political power of the Land-Lord class. The fundamental objective behind the peasants' struggle was the possession of their land, the principal means of production, as their property. As a consequence of this fundamental objective, one reality became apparent: the struggle or revolution to overthrow the saktina production system would be successful only if the peasantry had disciplined organization and great strength. The overthrow of the saktina production system by the middle class, involving the seizure of commercial and industrial power, did not really destroy the saktina system, which is a system of agricultural exploitation. In the saktina age the struggle of the peasant class was manifest in the form of revolts or the flaring up of peasant disturbances. But time and again the peasant struggle met with defeat: defeat at the hands of the law which was the instrument for safeguarding the profits of the Land-Lord class and defeat at the hands of the repressive powers of the Land-Lord class which was firmly and systematically entrenched. The cause of the defeats of the peasant class lay in its economic condition. The system of independent production kept individuals scattered here and there, each living off his own plot, and this prevented the peasants from developing habits which would allow them to organize themselves systematically and unify their power. This was one factor. Another was the philosophy of life propounded by the saktina class to delude the peasants into believing that human beings could not thwart the destiny their merit decreed. Life was subject to merit, karma, and fate, and this aroused in the majority of peasants, who had no capital to fall back on, feelings of dejection, apathy, and despair. Thus the peasant struggles which erupted took the form of disturbances (MOB) which lacked tenacity, preparation, and organization, and which even lacked proper leadership. Such circumstances inevitably doomed these struggles to defeat. This lack of organization and leadership introduced a new factor into the peasant struggle, namely, following the lead of other classes. Early in the saktina age when the middle class did not yet have a role, the Land-Lord class, in conflict with the former ruling power, used the peasant disturbances for its own purposes. The Land-Lords, who were engaged in conflicts among themselves, used their experience to appropriate peasant power for themselves by contriving suitable lures to give the peasants hope, to wit: "The old kshatriya no longer observes the ten royal virtues. Let us join together in support of a new one who has merit and the ten royal virtues," or something along these lines, which brought results because it induced the peasants to turn to them in the hope of a better life. This meant that the peasants counted on the happiness which derived from personalized gifts. They did not yet realize the power of their own class. Another device employed by the saktina class to harness peasant power for its own purposes was to infiltrate peasant movements and disturbances and then gradually to seize back all political power into its own grasp. We must agree that the ultimate beneficiary of the peasant disturbances was the saktina class itself. In saktina society throughout history the secret key for changing rulers or dynasties lay precisely in the realities described here. Once the development of saktina society reached the stage when the capitalist mode of production had emerged and the middle class had risen up to struggle against the saktina class, the peasant class usually followed the middle class's leadership. The peasant struggle at this time joined with the middle class struggle in the cities, and the middle class always took advantage of the peasant disturbances for its purposes. One clear indication of the attitude of the middle class was compromise, i.e., the compromise it made with the Land-Lords once it had been victorious in its struggle. The reason for this was that once it had established its liberal trade-and-industrial system, its

The Real Face of Saktina


fundamental conflict with the saktina over the means of production was eliminated. This enabled people in the two classes to join forces for a further period, and thus it was that the saktina class could continue its exploitation of the peasantry as of old. Those who gained from these peasant disturbances therefore were not the peasants themselves but the middle class which was engaged in establishing the capitalist system of production. From the above, we can see that the peasant disturbances did no more than serve as a ladder to political power for other classes to step on. The most that the peasants obtained from these disturbances was only a temporary loosening of the throttling noose of exploitation. In no way can the saktina yoke really be removed until the establishment of the peasant state is made possible. Nevertheless, all that we have said to this point does not mean that the peasantry's struggle can never be in its own interest. Although peasant disturbances are usually compelled to proceed under the leadership of other classes, social conditions in the capitalist period, when the power of the worker class is increasing and its organization expanding, means that the struggle of the peasants under worker leadership typically advances the true interests of the peasant class. Because the worker leadership has considerable foresight and a high level of political consciousness and because it is uncompromising in its attitude, the peasantry will be able to destroy completely the decayed remnants of the saktina which have continued to exploit it, and thus make true gains from their own revolutionary struggle. This happens because the newly established worker state is not made up of exploiters whose purpose is to exploit other classes. Rather, it is made up of the mass of the exploited, and its purpose is to eliminate the exploiters once and for all and to take control of political institutions as instruments for safeguarding and collectively redistributing the profits to the masses who are the owners of the means of production. Only under these economic conditions in the workers' state are the peasants able to upgrade an economic system of individual cultivation to a system of agricultural cooperatives. By this means the peasants will be able to consolidate themselves into units, to organize themselves systematically, and genuinely to destroy the decayed remnants of the saktina! 4. The Class Struggle between the Saktina and the Middle Class We have already described in economic terms how, at the end of the saktina age, a new contest arose in the form of a competition for profits between the saktina trade monopoly system and the free trade system of the middle class. Experience with struggle led the saktina to intensify their oppression of the middle class, while at the same time experience with struggle led the middle class to realize more and more that only by overthrowing the political power of the saktina and establishing its own political power could it destroy the saktina trade monopoly system. Although the organization of the middle class was loose, yet it did come into existence for the purpose of an unflinching struggle against saktina political power. Those in the middle class struggling against the saktina class did not do so alone but in alliance with the brutally repressed and exploited agricultural slave class. This gave the middle class tremendous power, and eventually with the support of the People as a whole it destroyed saktina political power and established a middle class state in its place. This was the end of saktina political power. The greatest example of this struggle and overthrow of the saktina system is the middle class revolution in France in 1789. We should observe, nonetheless, that this demise of the saktina system effected by the middle class was in terms of political power alone. In terms of production in agriculture, decayed remnants of the saktina continue to be fully exploitative and repres-


Thai Radical Discourse

sive. As no land reform has taken place, land—the means of production—remains completely in the hands of the saktina class as before. What the saktina class has lost, therefore, is no more than an institution, the committee allocating and looking after its profits. The decayed remnants of the saktina continue in a prolonged and stubborn struggle for power through political institutions. Thus the class struggle between the saktina and the bourgeoisie or middle class has not ended with a democratic revolution of the bourgeoisie (BOURGEOIS-DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION), and there can be no doubt that all peasants today continue to be exploited by the Land-Lord class. Although the form of this exploitation will change and not be so relentless as before, the peasants are in a state as desperate and ruinous as ever. The one way for the peasant class to achieve victory in its struggle and enable itself to throw the saktina yoke from its shoulders is to join the workers' struggle and accept their disciplined leadership. Joining the struggle of the middle class, which will end up by betraying the movement and compromising with the saktina class, is not the way. D. The Cultural Characteristics of the Saktina System The cultural characteristics of saktina society—the shape of the People's lives, in other words—are as follows. 1. The relationships between people in society were unequal and differentiated according to birth and landed power. The saktina system grew out of the slave system and was its immediate successor. Succession or descent passing from one group of slave masters to the next now became succession or descent from one group of Land-Lords to the next. In the saktina age the practice of honoring and respecting human beings on the grounds of birth reached its fullest development. Those in the Land-Lord class were honored—rather, forced the People to honor them—as "deities/7 "lords of heaven/7 "gods," "Enlightened Ones," "Sons of Heaven," and so forth. To sum it up, we can say that they were deities who had come down to be born on earth or that they were Enlightened Ones who were reborn. The families and lineages of this class were thus tendered respect, and they had power to oppress the phrai in proportion to the prominence of their line. The respect and honor accorded the saktina were always linked to landholdings. Saktina who had been ruined economically would become "aristocrats fallen on hard times," after which they would become "aristocrats sullied by manual labor," and then "aristocrats hobbling on their bare and tender feet" who were "so feeble they could walk on chicken shit without squashing it." They ended up finally as commoners. The institutions of this group could be maintained only by means of the landed power in its possession. New Land-Lords, who had just acquired land, would begin to acquire power as "the ones with merit," "the ones with slaves and retainers," and ultimately they became the aristocrats. The common people without land, or those with only a little land on which they made a precarious living, were held in contempt as the lowest kind of phrai, as those believing in false doctrines. They were forced to accept their demeritorious fate as members of a base class on whom the lords and deities did not deign to bestow favor. Association between the two classes was effected only with difficulty. If it did take place, the phrai class lost out and played the lackey. Marriage between the two classes occurred only rarely. If the husband was an aristocrat and took a phrai or slave as a wife, she was held in contempt as a phrai wife. In Muang Thai she was called a klang thasi

The Real Face of Saktina


wife. But marriage between a woman who was an aristocrat and a phrai man was a virtual impossibility. A child born of such a marriage would be forced to accept the fate of the iniquitous and do the lowest work of menials and phrai because its mother had broken with her class! 2. The slave system continued. Apart from the phrai, the lek, and the commoners who formed the bottom class, decayed remnants of the slave system persisted in saktina society. These slaves were debt slaves who had sold themselves at a cheap price, or they were redeemable slaves or domestic slaves—things which were bought and sold outright. Human beings were still in the condition of beasts to be bought and sold like fish meal. The most fundamental of human rights—standing as a person—did not exist in saktina society. The Land-Lord class continued to torture and brutalize domestic slaves at its whim. Even though the slaves were freed toward the end of the saktina period, they continued to be oppressed because they were landless. Slaves freed during the saktina period in both Muang Thai and in Russia all shared the same condition: they were landless. And ultimately it was these people who were to become such a potent force in the development of the capitalist system, because they were transformed into workers who sold their labor. 3. Contempt for nationalities. Nationalities which the saktina considered inferior or minority nationalities on "the land under the lord-raja's juggernaut" were to be treated contemptuously as human scum, as the bottom class, as the enemy. Egalitarian feelings between nationalities or feelings of camaraderie between the People of different nationalities did not exist in saktina society because the land of all these peoples had completely fallen into the hands of the big kshatriya. Those who lived on his land were like slaves, slaves of the subordinate and vassal states, devoid of any goodness or worth. 4. Women and children treated with contempt. Women in saktina society were treated contemptuously and oppressed as human beings inferior to men. A woman's sarong was something dirty and polluted, taboo for men to touch. Furthermore, all the Land-Lords fed their pleasure by using women as objects in which to release their desire. A woman's condition was thus that of a female animal waiting to receive the Land-Lord's lust. The institution of the harem [harem], the heavenly beauties who served in the ruler's inner quarters and the households of the aristocrats, was widespread. Unnatural confinement meant that lesbianism (HOMOSEXUAL) among the women in the inner quarters and in harems in the households of the nobility was to be found everywhere. The sex life of the ruling masters became more and more perverted, for example satisfying their desires by sodomy. Children in saktina society had low standing, because instead of being conceived by the ruling masters intentionally, they were simply byproducts of carnal desire. Children had no worth. Another point is that the ruling masters sought to bring children under their control from an early age in order to ensure the permanency of their institutions. For this reason children were extremely oppressed and abused. 5. Customs and traditions. These were bound up with the land, because the majority of the People were involved in working on the land. Be that as it may, these customs and traditions were despised as vulgar because they originated amongst the lowest form of phrai. If any of these customs and traditions connected with the land won any praise or prominence, it was only because they served saktina purposes. For example, if you, peasant, work my land for your living you are necessarily obligated to me, your Lord, for the sustenance I provide. The more the slaves worked on behalf of their master and ate his rice, the more they were obligated to him for the coarsely milled rice and steaming curry he provided. And we do not have to talk about what the


Thai Radical Discourse

slave did in return. This is just one example. In any event, the customs and traditions considered to be correct and superior were those of the ruler's residence and the households of the aristocracy. All customs and traditions centered on the ruler's residence from which they were passed down to the households of the aristocracy, which in turn passed them down to underlings who passed them down yet again to the lowest form of phrai. Phrai who had no class consciousness and wanted to fit themselves inconspicuously into society had to follow the customs and traditions of the upper crust. Those who had big feet from laboring in the fields had to be sure to bind their feet to make them small and give them a blood-congested reddish hue, the sign of aristocrats who did not work. Toward the end of the saktina period when the capitalist production system—in other words the mercantilist system (MERCANTILISM)—evolved to the point where the middle class began to have a role in safeguarding its own profits, the saktina's customs and traditions became shackles which severely restricted the lives of those in the middle class. The middle class was constantly sneered at and ridiculed by aristocrats as "toads in sedan chairs" and "lizards who've struck it rich" whom "you've never met or seen before." In France these people were called NOUVEAU RICHE. At this stage the middle class tried its utmost to overthrow the saktina's customs and traditions. Drawing upon its financial might as a new source of economic power, it gained new prominence in the social sphere. The saktina's ruin helped the middle class to establish its own new liberal customs. Still, the compromising attitudes of the middle class made it adopt some of the saktina's customs. The more the middle class purchased political offices with its wealth, the more extensively it tried to assume the saktina's customs. The influence of the saktina's customs and traditions thus persisted in capitalist society and never completely vanished. 6. Art and Literature. Art in saktina society consisted of the People's art and the art of the court and households of the aristocracy. The People's art was scorned as vulgar. Only the art of the court, which served the saktina class, was promoted and extolled as a model. Likewise for literature in saktina society: it served the saktina class. In sum, both art and literature were monopolized by the saktina class alone. The art and literature of saktina society developed in the early period under the rubric "art for life," meaning for the life of the saktina class alone! The People had no freedom to produce art which would serve their own lives. The rigid framework of custom and tradition as well as political and economic life forced all artists to confine themselves to art for the life of the saktina class. This circumstance frustrated the younger artists of the middle class at the end of the saktina period who were struggling for the liberal economic system. For a time their art and literature was to serve them in their struggle. But, once they obtained victory, the art and literature of the middle class went to pot under the rubric "art for art's sake." This was liberalism's philosophy of art which required a fanciful detachment from any kind of real life in society. When the art for art's sake rubric of the middle class came into existence the art for life rubric of the saktina class came to an end. 7. Education. Once economic and political power and even the power to determine the way of life in other respects fell into the hands of the saktina class like this, education could not fail to fall into the saktina's hands and proceed to serve the interests of the saktina class. In order to promote the merit and munificence of their own class, the saktina seized for themselves the right to interpret history. The saktina's sages established themselves as the fathers of historical studies and regarded themselves as the highest court of judgment on the nation's history. Instead of being the history of the progres-

The Real Face of Saktina


sive movement of the People, the nation's history became an account of the kshatriyas' successions and their various doings, a story relating the kshatriyas' merit and munificence with respect to their subjects. In other words, saktina history is not really history but a chronicle which tells of the families and lineages of the gods whose incarnations descend to the human world and end periods of hardship. Saktina history, as it is taught, thus indoctrinates youth to feel deeply grateful for royal generosity and to be loyal to the saktina class. In actual fact, the subject of history tells of the experience of human social struggle, and this history is like an example of the social struggle, for life in future generations. Thus the study of history is the core of the study of society's origins. It is the crucial key which will open the way to correct action. Because the saktina are fully aware of this point, they thus reach in to take hold of historical study in order to use this subject for their own class interests. Apart from the subject of history which is the focal point for exemplifying and interpreting the life-experience of the saktina class, the saktina also interfered in the teaching of other subjects—ethics, law, administration, etc. —for the purpose of serving and promoting all their own institutions. At the beginning of the period the saktina went so far as to forbid the People from studying law. What was considered to be law and what the saktina permitted to be studied—indeed required to be studied—were the texts setting out the regulations for royal pages, instructions for the royal palace which the slaves, retainers, and the People had to observe correctly. To summarize: the nature of saktina education meant a monopoly on an education in which the saktina permitted only those subjects to be taught which served their interests. Another objective of saktina education was to keep people down in ignorance and to neglect the nurturing of intelligence, for the simple reason that it is difficult to oppress and exploit intelligent people. So education in the saktina period lagged behind. Yet, at the same time, the saktina required some intelligent people whom they could conveniently use in official service (i.e. to do the business of the lord of the land). The saktina could provide themselves with their own people by having them study in the households of the aristocrats and ruling masters and in the royal quarters. Girls had to practice being "well-bred obedient women" [phaphapwai], ready and willing to submit to their husbands' lust. In a word, the subject they studied was how to serve their husbands. Boys practiced how to be "warlords," "asvinas," and "tiger-soldiers." This pattern gave rise to a widespread practice of restricting knowledge. The gurus who headed the schools were jealous of their knowledge, and as their successors they selected only the closest disciples whom they were fond of and saw were loyal. No commoners had an opportunity to study and develop their intelligence. At best they could read and write. The poets, artists, and learned people were to be found, for the most part, in the courts and the palaces of all the ruling masters. A further point is that saktina education made people "acquiesce" (ACCEPT), which is to say that the tutored were given no opportunity to think first, i.e. to believe only when they saw something to be true. On the contrary, they were taught to believe uncritically. This was to shut off any original ideas which might lead to the destruction of the saktina class. When this monopoly on education and this method of instruction which taught the people to acquiesce (ACCEPT) had reached the height of its development, it perforce collided with the liberal mentality of the middle class. The trade, industry, business activities, etc. of the middle class required that it develop people of intelligence and quick wittedness who would have original ideas and broadly based knowledge. The free and open market mentality thus collided violently with the monopoly mentality.


Thai Radical Discourse

The saktina tried its utmost to obstruct the creation of middle class educational institutions, but in the end it failed to halt the wheel of history. The educational institutions of the middle class were born. But! The stratagems and experience which the saktina had accumulated over the course of thousands of years were superior to those of the middle class, and this, together with the middle class's compromising attitude, meant that the saktina were able to penetrate the educational institutions of the middle class with jaunty ease. The decayed remnants of the saktina continued to hold the curriculum and the now corrupt goals of saktina education tightly in their grip. Historical studies remained in their grip and under the influences of saktina class interpretations. 8. Religion. At the beginning of the saktina age religion found itself in extreme conflict with the saktina. Religion, which had presided over the masses' destiny, struggled its utmost to protect its own importance. The struggle between religion and the saktina was plainly apparent in Europe and India and finally in Thailand. In Europe this occurred frequently when the sangharaja proclaimed the kshatriya ostracized (EXCOMMUNICATE), and the kshatriya proclaimed the dismissal of the sangharaja. But the fundamental truth which says that human life depends on economic power ultimately brought victory to the saktina, because the saktina seized in its grip total control of the means of production. In defeat, religion eventually became a device for enhancing the kshatriya's munificence. Religion was forced to accept the kshatriya as "chosen to be a god," "a god on earth/' "the incarnation of a god," "the Enlightened One reborn," and finally "the patron and upholder of religion." In return, the saktina distributed land to religious institutions, donated slaves to the wat, and honored the ordained as ranked nobility with insignia of rank and annual allowances, even monthly payments too. This situation was to be found everywhere, both abroad and in Thailand. At this point it became the duty of religion to indoctrinate the people to respect and fear the kshatriya, and all the ordained became gurus who tutored well-born boys and girls. It is clear that the orientation of this education followed what the saktina wanted. Moreover, religion became a tool in the political struggle among the ruling masters themselves. The ordained, the self-assumed gurus, either conspired with others to seize political power or to support the ruling masters who were their patrons. This they were able to do by spreading spells, incantations, and black magic. On occasion, when the ruling masters were engaged in a power struggle, they used religion both to incite the People to curse and revile the old regime and in turn get them to support and depend on their own munificence, as they were in the process of becoming the new lords. In the period when the capitalist form of production reached the stage where the middle class rose to struggle against the saktina, the latter used religion with increasing success. In France at the time of Napoleon III, for example, the decayed remnants of the saktina tried to adopt the guise of Republicans and appealed to Napoleon to open up education, as the state at that time controlled it. It was necessary for the saktina to do this because, if the state did not control education, the saktina would be able to use education to delude the People as it pleased, especially in the academies, all of which were run by phra. For Napoleon I, a brutal warlord of the first order, had taken education away from the wat and put it under the control of the state. Once the saktina in the time of Napoleon III had disguised themselves as Republicans and called for education to be opened up so that schools could be run by individuals, Napoleon III found himself in a spot. As soon as he announced that individuals could operate schools, the phra, in order to enhance the power of the decayed remnants of the saktina, immediately opened schools and academies offering instruction. The phra aided the saktina

The Real Face of Saktina


because the saktina paid for their upkeep through monthly and annual grants, and because the phra had a chance to play politics. But Napoleon Ill's new system and the Republican system were systems which completely separated religion from politics. Ordination and disrobing were not matters of state but of individual choice. The state neither supported nor destroyed religion, and for this reason the phra as a rule did not like the state. In the following period the phra conspired to consolidate their power so that the French saktina could undertake a determined and prolonged struggle for many years. In some countries where the middle class had learned its lesson on this score, the attitude of religious institutions would change, because the middle class poured funds into religion to buy its loyalty, thus producing a number of ordained who were well disposed toward it. But other factions continued to uphold the old code of conduct, maintained their loyalty to the saktina, and went on supporting it. There was thus no escaping the conflict in the sphere of religion which arose in the transition between the saktina and capitalist periods. Nevertheless, religion on the whole was where the decayed remnants of the saktina were protected for the longest time, because in most religions all the principles have been adapted to serve the saktina class. All that has been said up to this point has concerned the general characteristics of the saktina system in its economic, political, and cultural aspects, and this in summary and sketchy form serves as a foundation for the analysis of Thai saktina society which is to follow. In addition, it is practically impossible to understand clearly the saktina system and its function in history without understanding its origins in the slave system. What we ought now to look at briefly, therefore, is the origins of the saktina system in general. The Origins of the Saktina System in General The saktina system (FEUDAL SYSTEM) was the system of production in society which succeeded the slave system (SLAVE SYSTEM). During the period of the slave system human beings made their livelihood by raising animals, hunting, and engaging in agriculture and handicrafts. Humankind's principal means of production were primarily slaves (SLAVE) and secondarily, land. It can be said that slaves were the primary means of production because the slave masters constituted a group which did not participate directly in production. Only slaves were producers, which is to say that only they worked on the land. More importantly, slaves were wholly the property of the slave master. The slave master had property rights in the slave just as he had in the land and the other means of production. The slave's standing was that of one kind of tool for making a livelihood, i.e., the slave was a tool which could speak (TALKING TOOL). The slave's standing in life was not that of a human being but of a means of production just like the plow, the harrow, and the domestic animal. The condition of being a slave did not arise from sale as in the saktina period but because those in power could so determine it. That is to say, when one clan or tribe went off to fight another clan or tribe in a grab for economic gain, the winning side pressed all war captives it acquired into slavery as the spoils of victory. (This characteristic feature of the slave system represented an advance over the execution of war captives which had been the practice at the end of the primitive period.) The captives pressed into slavery were now the tools which the victors used to make their livelihood. Never again would the slaves be free. Newly born children, male and female, became the property of the slave master just like the offspring of his oxen and water buffalo. The slave master had every right to do what he wished with the slave, even if this meant


Thai Radical Discourse

selling or killing it. The condition of being a slave was thus class-based and inherited, and could never be changed. With respect to production, absolutely all the fruit of the slaves' labor on the land went to the slave masters. The slave masters would set up quarters to feed the slaves regular meals just as they did for domestic animals. Or the slave masters handed out only enough rice and fish to the slaves to sustain life. Aside from their right to eat enough to work, slaves had no rights. Similarly, slaves could not own even the most trivial item of personal property. In society during the slave period human beings were divided into two classes: the class of slave masters (SLAVE MASTER) and the class of slave (SLAVE). Slave master society was ostentatious and extravagant and was ablaze with lust, because these people really did not have to do anything. The slave masters had all the time in the world to write khlong and klon verse, to dispute philosophical problems, and so forth. The advancement of man's intellect had its roots in the slaves' suffering and toil, like that of oxen and water buffalo, and this was another way in which the slave system contributed to the advancement of human society. During the Golden Age (GOLDEN AGE) of Greece about one hundred years before the Christian Era a freeman in Athens had an average of eighteen slaves working under his control. Corinth (CORINTH), Aegina (AEGINA) and other Greek cities had about this same average number of slaves.1 If we consider that ancient Greece was made up of large families and lineages and if we suppose that each one contained about ten men, then the average number of slaves was 180. So a Greek lineage with political power certainly had thousands of slaves! Rome before the Christian Era was dense with slaves, and these slaves did all the work on behalf of the slave masters, from toil in the fields, handicrafts, and domestic work, to dancing and combat with sword and cudgel, fighting with a gaur until the animal gored the slave and spilled his guts out for the master to watch, etc. Slave masters of rank had at least 200 slaves, and whenever they went out they ordered their slaves to accompany them in procession in order to show off their power and prestige to each other. 2 When one of the nobles went out he had twelve guards to protect him, and these guards carried a bundle of rods as a sign of their absolute right to flog anyone obstructing the way. If the slave master left the capital, the guards carried an ax bound with the rods as a sign of their absolute right to execute anyone. This bundle of rods was called a FASCES (the symbol as well as the root term of Mussolini's FASCISM during World War II). We can see, from what has been said up to this point, that exploitation in slave society was of the absolute kind in the sense that the slave master had complete ownership of the slave's person as well as what the slave produced. The slave master let the slave have nothing in the way of personal possessions, not even the slave's own person. Certainly, therefore, the chief conflict (CONTRADICTION) in slave society was the conflict between the slave master and the slave. And, certainly . . . The saktina system arose out of this conflict between the slave master and the slave, a conflict which reached the critical stage (ANTAGONISM) at the end of the slave society period! As slave society came to an end, this conflict reached its greatest intensity. The slave masters grew ever bolder in their exploitation of the slaves. The labor of massive numbers of slaves was forcibly mobilized and ordered into the service of a few slave masters. In addition to serving their own slave masters, the slaves also had to serve the big slave master, the head of state—in other words, the chairman of the executive committee—who supervised and allocated the profits of the slave masters. Whether it be the greater or lesser Egyptian pyramids which were tombs for the big slave masters

The Real Face of Saktina


(kshatriyas); or the hanging gardens of Babylon (THE HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON) built some 600 years before the Christian Era by High-Lord Nebuchadnessar (NEBUCHADNEZZAR) on the roof of his immense palace to win the heart of his queen (AMYTIS); or the stone sanctuary at Angkor Wat, built in the twelfth century A.D. as the mausoleum (FUNERAL TEMPLE) or part-shrine, part-tomb of High-Lord Suryavarman II of Kambuja; or the many other monuments counted as wonders of the world—all these were the handiwork of slaves who were forced to work to the whoosh and snap of the lash and leather whips wielded by the overseers. "The best thing in a slave's life was life itself. Rome was nothing but the blood, the sweat, and the terrible pain of slaves."3 At the end of the slave period, moreover, the slave masters engaged in large-scale warfare among themselves over slaves, with the slaves all the while experiencing increasing distress. The nomadic Aryans, who had used their tribal democracy to attack the slave state of dark-skinned peoples (IBERIAN) on the Greek and Balkan peninsulas, attacked the states of dark-skinned peoples belonging to Persia and India. Once victorious, they pressed all the blacks into slavery. Wealthy Aryans of ancient India had "eighty-four thousand" retainers, some of them probably women. These female retainers were, in fact, slaves. The final phase of the slave system, which saw the outbreak of warfare for the possession of slaves, was thus the most brutal, just like the final phase of the imperialist period when the imperialists go to war among themselves over monopolizing markets. Once the exploitative conditions had progressed to their limit, all the slaves who had labored together as a unit consolidated their power to struggle for their own liberation. The slaves' basic goal was to liberate themselves from the condition of "talking tools" and become "human beings" with the right to work to support themselves with their own tools, to liberate themselves from a condition of having no individual property rights to one in which they owned property and land as the means of production. Let us note that land was the secondary means of production in slave society, land being the factor which would advance society to saktina society when human beings were free and in possession of land as the means of production. If a comparison is needed it will be found with the industrial and trade monopoly—the secondary means of production—of saktina society, the factor which would advance society to the industrial and commercial liberalism of the capitalist system. This consolidation of forces struggling against the slave masters was a sign indicating that the fundamental conflict (MAIN CONTRADICTION) of slave society had developed to its limit and reached the critical stage (ANTAGONISM). This stage was the beginning of the end of the slave system. Still, the struggle of the slaves met defeat time and again because it lacked disciplined organization and resolute, correct leadership. Most of the slaves remained trapped as before, entrusting their lives to others. The slave class's greatest liberation movement in history was the Roman slave uprising under the leadership of the great slave Spartacus about 100 years before the Christian Era (about 2,000 years ago). Spartacus consolidated the strength of some 70,000 runaway slaves4 (some sources say 90,000, some 100,000). The slaves' goal in their struggle was "a new world without slaves and without slave masters in which the People would live together in peace and brotherhood. A city with no need for walls . . . no more war, no more hardship, and no more suffering."5 They wanted to build a society by adhering to a new ethic: what is correct is what is good for the People; what is wrong is what harms the People.6 The Spartacus uprising has long been of interest to leaders of the workers' revolution. Karl Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels in 1861, "In the evening I relaxed by reading a history of the civil war in Rome written by APPIAN. It turns out that Spartacus was the


Thai Radical Discourse

most extraordinary individual in the entire ancient period. He was a great commander (not a Garibaldi'7) with outstanding attributes as a genuine representative of the workers in ancient times." Very recently a Soviet historical encyclopedia referred to the Spartacus uprising as an important event, as can be seen from the review in 'The Transition from the Ancient World to the Middle Ages" (based on the July 1949 issue of VOPROSSY ISTORII).8

Another factor which brought about the destruction of slave society was the nomadic Aryans who invaded Greece and India, introducing their system of tribal democracy to replace the raja system. The Romans likewise used democracy to get rid of the raja system at one time. The fact that independent peoples of Greece, Rome, and India made use of democracy to rule their own kind like this led the slaves to aspire to independence even more intensely, because in the democratic system of the independent slave masters mentioned above, slaves had none of the political rights their slave masters enjoyed. So the slaves persisted in seeking a way to liberate themselves. The prolonged and violent class struggle between the slave masters and the slaves forced the slave masters to reduce their exploitation. The old system of production under which slaves could not hold personal property was somewhat reformed: slaves could now hold some personal property. Yet another factor was that production in the slave system developed to its apogee and then abruptly came to a halt. This was because the slaves had no motive to produce or to improve the technology of production. The slaves saw that any effort on their part to improve technology was a wasted effort with no return for them. All they would get would be blood and suffering as before. Thus the slave masters began to seek ways to improve the situation, their objectives being to: 1. Relieve the anger of slaves. Trick them and indulge them into forgetting their struggle. 2. Get the slaves to improve their production and raise it to a higher level to earn the slave masters even more profits than before. As a means of improving the situation, the slave masters began to distribute rewards in the form of land and other means of production to slaves who worked particularly well. And concurrently, the slave masters emancipated slaves and made them freemen, i.e., independent persons. But there was a condition: the slaves had to remain on this land and were forbidden to move. They were required to be registered under their former master. What the slaves produced was now their property, but in return they were regularly required to pay their former master tax-in-kind or a portion of whatever they earned, at a rate of 40% to 80% as mutually agreed. And when the slave master had special labor chores, the slave was required to help with his labor. Thus the relationship of production changed from what it had been, in that independent persons were now working independently for themselves, though they paid taxin-kind as land rent to the ruling masters who owned the means of production (i.e. land). This was the phrai and lek system. As land became the prominent means of production, the independent producers and the slave masters were bound to one another in a relationship in which land formed the tie between them. Their relationship was not a personalized one as it had been in the past. The saktina relationship of production was thus born at the end of the slave system. Once the independent producers controlled their own plots of land for some time these plots ceased to be the property of the slave masters and became the property of the independent producers themselves (by

The Real Face of Saktina


one means or another). A system of independent peasant production thus emerged, which led ultimately to the saktina production system. The final cause of the collapse of the slave system was the large-scale German and Scandinavian invasions ca. A.D. 1000, known as the barbarian invasions. The invasion of these peoples halted the expanding power of all the European slave states and eventually destroyed these states forever. Some slave masters were killed, while others fled. The slave state crumbled so easily because the slave masters, who comprised the ruling and warring class, so reveled in and were so obsessed by lust and extravagant and dissolute life that their fighting strength was sapped. The freemen who could bear arms to fight for and defend the slave state were few.9 The slaves had no enthusiasm for defending the slave masters' state, for in defending it they would be preserving their own exploitation and retaining the heavy yoke on their shoulders. Surely this is exactly what happened when the Kambuja empire was destroyed in B.E. 1895 (A.D. 1352) because of attacks by Thai armies. Historians believe that the smashing of the city of Angkor Thorn, surrounded by an imposing wall four kilometers on each side which enclosed an inner area of sixteen square kilometers, was not just the handiwork of Thai armies but also the handiwork of slaves and the Khmer People who had been oppressed by the ruling class for a very long time and who desired to throw off their yoke. And we can be certain that the Thai armies employed psychological warfare by proclaiming that "the Khmer and Thai people are really siblings" or "the Thai lord is kinder than the Khmer lord" or "the Thai have come to help their Khmer siblings throw off the yoke." We did this kind of thing during the Indochina conflict, and the Japanese did it when they invaded Thailand, announcing "Japan is helping the Thai to free Asia from the British yoke," or something of the sort. When the slave state had been destroyed, the slaves became freemen and could work on the plots of land which came into their possession. Having relied on barbarian slave power, these freemen now set about ridding themselves of barbarian influence. In just this way the Khmer People, having relied on Thai armies to bring down the tyrannical state, then set about ridding themselves of continued Thai influence. We can see this at the time of Somdet Phra Ramesvara's attack on the city of Angkor Thorn in B.E. 1936 (A.D. 1393) when he captured the Front Palace prince who was the son of the Khmer lord of the land, thus ending the power of the Khmer lord-masters who had brutalized the Khmer People. But the Thai set up Phraya Chainarong to look after their profits there. The Khmer People now faced a new exploiter, and they continuously looked for an opportunity to liberate themselves. The moment the Vietnamese sent their armies in, the Khmer collectively took advantage of the conflict between the Vietnamese and the Thai by forging an alliance with the Vietnamese and freeing themselves from Thai exploitation. Phraya Chainarong could no longer maintain his position, and eventually Ayudhya ordered him to abandon the Khmer capital. Later on, during the reign of Phra Paramaraja II, the Thai kshatriya was about to send off his armies to take the city of Angkor Thorn again (B.E. 1975) [A.D. 1432], but his son Indraraja, who had gone to rule the Khmer muang as the victor and new exploiter, realized that these armies would eventually be secretly undermined by the Khmer. The European freemen who sought to rid themselves of barbarian influence and defend themselves against it failed to unite and create a polity or state on a systematic basis. Thus their defenses were ineffective, and their solution—because they still believed firmly in the practice of depending on others—was to turn to those with wealth and power who had secure walled fortresses (CHATEAU FORT). The freemen did not yet think of relying on their own collective power like the workers in the capitalist period!


Thai Radical Discourse

Once the freemen turned to depend on the protective umbrella of the lord-master who had the walled fortress, a new relationship was created; the freemen now had to send their produce to the lord-master as tax in kind. They were required to labor for the lord-master in constructing his walled fortress and in cultivating his fields (i.e. the corvee system). This was to reciprocate the lord-master's beneficence in guaranteeing their safety. Actually, of course, the lord-master did not really guarantee their safety because when confronted by an invasion, he conscripted those same freemen to defend him. In the case of Woman Si's village being invaded, for example, the lordmaster conscripted a force of others in her village under his protection to help in defending her. The lord-master who owned the walled fortress provided leadership, nothing more. In particular places where the lord-master's walled fortress was large, the freemen would simply move everyone inside to escape danger if a large-scale war broke out. Such was the practice in the saktina period of moving everyone into the muang during wartime. In this way, the freemen who worked the lands around the walled fortress became persons under the jurisdiction of the fortress's owner, and when the fortress changed ownership the freemen acquired a new master. Their obligation to send tax-in-kind to the lord-master in the walled fortress continued as before. The condition of these freemen thus changed: they now worked plots of land under the lord-master's control, i.e. they were in the condition of agricultural slaves or lek (SERF), required to be registered under someone's jurisdiction. They could not move out of this jurisdiction; they could not move elsewhere to make their living. The exploitation was now between the lordmaster, i.e. the ruling master, and the agricultural slaves or lek. Even though the lek were heavily exploited, they were nonetheless free in their person: the ruling master could not sell, kill, or mistreat them as had been the case in the slave period. This can be considered one kind of social progress, progress brought about by the newlyformed saktina system. The lek were unlike the slaves, moreover, in that they could possess their own tools for earning their livelihood. They were able to accumulate produce, thus encouraging them to produce more. Both production and technology consequently advanced to the next stage, as described above in the section on the characteristics of the saktina economy. The expansion of territory belonging to the ruling masters brought about the creation of a new kind of peasant, one with his/her own land who was independent and who paid tax to the ruling master in the form of produce. Some tracts of land belonging to the ruling masters were subdivided and leased to tenants who worked the land and paid rent at an agreed rate. The saktina production system thus reached its fullest development, complete with lek, independent peasants (working their own land), and peasants who were tenants. In addition, there remained another category of landless freemen who, as hired peasant laborers, hired out their labor to work the land. These ruling masters of the saktina system were what we call FEUDAL LORDS. As they were of moderate size, they had to depend on the protective umbrella of ruling masters bigger than themselves. These big ruling masters had to depend, in turn, on even bigger ruling masters on the tier above them. Depend on, in this context, did not mean that life was easy and that they sought this dependence casually. On the contrary, dependence was necessary because they were frightened that if they remained unconcerned, a ruling master stronger than themselves would attack them. We can say that some of them were attacked directly by the powerful, while others were intimidated into frightened submission merely by the proximity of the big feet of the powerful. In the end they were forced to join with the biggest ruling masters: the rajas or the kshatriyas.

The Real Face of Saktina


At first the ruling masters were obstructive, aggressive, and not very inclined to kowtow and submit to the raja, because they were all big landlords in their own right. Any action the raja took which interfered with their profits was challenged or disregarded. In the end, the raja consolidated his power by seizing their land for himself and presenting them with one of his officials or a ruling master close and loyal to him to govern them. This gave rise to a new group of ruling masters who, having been the recipients of land grants, had to obey the raja and follow his orders unconditionally. One example of a person who employed these means was the lord ruler William the Conqueror of Normandy (WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR). The land given by the raja to someone else to rule over was called the FIEF or FEUD. The root of this term lies in the Late Latin word FEUDUM, meaning a tract given to be cultivated in exchange for rent. Here is the origin of the English word FEE, meaning "rent," and here is the origin of the word FEUDALISM, the term for the English saktina system, or FEODALISME in French.10 Early in the period of the saktina system in Europe the land granted to the lesser ruling masters to look after and cultivate for their livelihood was called a BENEFICE, meaning "royal benefaction" or "profit extracted from land," but at a later stage when that land came to be inherited by the grantee's descendants it acquired a new name, FIEF or FEUD, as explained above. Those ruling masters receiving the land were called VASSAL, i.e. tributary rulers, or FEUDAL LORDS, i.e. ruling masters. The big lord who granted the land was called SUZERAIN, meaning "adhiraja." Some of the land received by the tributary rulers or VASSAL was reserved for the slaves, the decayed remnants of slave society, so they could cultivate it and send all the profits to their masters. Some of the land was given to freemen to rent and work for their livelihood, and some was then granted to freeman held in special favor to work for their livelihood as independent peasants. Independent peasants who were economically ruined by debt had to sell themselves as slaves and perhaps sell their land to other independent peasants. Eventually, those independent peasants who bought land or who forced the purchase of land became Land-Lords (LANDLORD). As a consequence of the bankruptcies and losses of the independent peasantry, the size of the Land-Lord class grew, and at the same time the landholdings of the tributary rulers were all the while being subdivided into small plots and broken up. As a matter of fact, the break-up of the tributary rulers' landholdings and the rise of medium-sized Land-Lords can be seen plainly in Brazil. In the sixteenth century (A.D. 1534) when the Portuguese used the principle of colonialism to penetrate the country and rule it, Brazil was divided up into only thirteen large tracts belonging to tributary rulers, each one bordering the Atlantic Ocean for an average distance of 200 miles. The rulers of these tracts were ruling masters, called DONATARIOS in Portuguese,11 but as time went on these tracts were subdivided and broken up, though they were still vast and grand. Each Portuguese Land-Lord ruled over a tract of land even larger than Portugal itself. By the eighteenth century the land had been broken up into moderately sized tracts, and the numbers of large and mediumsize Land-Lords increased. RIO GRANDE DO SUL alone, for example, one of the state's most important provinces, had 539 landlords ruling over tracts of land from 18,000 to 90,000 acres.12 In the French Canadian colony of ST. LAWRENCE and elsewhere similar examples of this phenomenon could be cited.13 At a later stage, this fragmentation of the landholdings transformed the tributary rulers (VASSAL) into lesser noblemen who, with less land under their control, were not so vain and arrogant in the exercise of their power as they had been at first. A tributary ruler transformed into a lesser nobleman was called a LIEGEMAN, meaning "one who is


Thai Radical Discourse

loyal" or "one who serves his master." The corresponding term for the kshatriya, called SUZERAIN (adhiraja), was LIEGELORD, meaning "the big lord-master." There were two ceremonies for the granting and receiving of land. The first ceremony was called INVESTITURE, meaning "granting the right of control over property." In this ceremony, performed by the kshatriya to grant land to the tributary rulers for their livelihood, the kshatriya pledged to protect them forever. The other ceremony called HOMAGE,14 meaning "to show respect and deference to one acknowledged as master," was performed by the tributary ruler (VASSAL) before the kshatriya. In this ceremony the kshatriya convened a gathering of his retainers to witness the tributary ruler receiving the land. The latter, surrounded by these retainers, was required to kneel, place his clasped hands on the kshatriya7s hands, and pledge an oath to be loyal to the kshatriya henceforth. The kshatriya would then present him with a standard, a scepter of absolute power, and a land charter or sometimes a wooden branch or a chunk of earth—important symbols showing the tributary ruler's rights over the property given by the kshatriya. This ceremony is comparable to the one in Muang Thai where the royal servants and muang lords drank the oath of allegiance. In the lands of the Thai, the Khmer, and the Lao, a sword, called the phrasen anasiddhi (revived in the Fifth Reign [1868-1910] when regional viceroys were established), was used as the scepter of absolute power. In ancient times the sword presented was called "phrasen kharrgajayasri," which nowadays has come to be associated with the munificence of the kshatriya alone. This problem will be discussed in detail in a later section. There was one more function of the kshatriya with respect to the tributary rulers, namely, the administration of justice for them when disputes arose. When they could not agree, they came before the kshatriya's court, which was the highest court (dika). The tributary rulers, for their part, were required to serve the kshatriya in all internal and external affairs, including fighting his wars. Sometimes they had to pay out gold and silver to help in special circumstances: 1. If the kshatriya was captured in battle the tributary rulers had to collect a sum to ransom him. 2. When the kshatriya's grown sons were made as vinas (KNIGHT) the tributary rulers had to make monetary contributions. 3. They also had to make monetary contributions when the kshatriya's grown daughters married. The saktina period saw the appearance of a new code, the asvina code (CHIVALERY),15 the purpose of which was to train people to be loyal and able warriors of the kshatriya. Every asvina (KNIGHT) had to train from an early age to be brave, tough, loyal, disciplined, and ready to die for his "lord of life." In the case of Japan this code for asvinas was called the "bushido code," and the Japanese asvinas were called "samurai."16 Muang Thai had "the code of the warlords" or "code of the tigersoldiers," a problem which will be discussed below in the section on the Thai saktina. We come now to the conditions of the agricultural slaves—or the lek and the phrai—of the saktina in Europe. As explained from the outset, these people received increasing freedoms, yet they continued all the while to be more and more heavily exploited. Let us take as an example the agricultural slaves in France who were, as a rule, forced to be the money slaves of the saktina class, i.e., they were so ragged with debt, so thrown into confusion by usurious interest rates, that they could not discharge

The Real Face of Saktina


their debts. On top of this, they had to pay a direct tax (TAILLE) and an indirect tax (such as the CABELLE or salt tax), both of which went to the state, and in addition to paying taxes to the state they also had to pay their ruling masters taxes called CENS (a capitation tax sent as annual tribute), CHAMPART (a share of their agricultural produce), and many other trivial taxes. Next came the land tax (BANALITÉS), paid for the right to use the lordmaster's mill and other tools. Each time ownership of the land changed hands they had to pay transfer-of-ownership fees (LCDS ET VENTES), and on top of that they had to pay a petty tax called the TAINE. And finally, they had to pay money for the upkeep of the wat (called TITHES). In sum, it can be calculated that of every 100 francs earned by the peasant, 53 had to be paid to the state, 14 to the ruling master, and another 14 to the wat, leaving the peasant with a mere 19 francs! These were the taxes that the French agricultural slaves had to pay the state, the ruling masters, and the wat before the democratic revolution of the middle class in 1789! As if this were not enough, the agricultural slaves and peasants also had to allow the hunting dogs, falcons [lit. pigeons], and hunting parties of the ruling masters to trample indiscriminately on the plots they were cultivating and developing, ruining them here and there, this part and that. Did agricultural slaves suffer all over the country or not? We can estimate that two-thirds of all the land in France was now in the possession of the ruling masters; only one-third belonged to the independent peasants who could make a living on their own small plots. According to a survey by ARTHUR YOUNG before the 1789 revolution, two out of three French People suffered in this way, and this was a situation much improved because previously there had been an extremely small minority of peasants tilling their own land.17 These were the conditions in Europe. In Asia the conditions of agricultural slaves were absolutely identical, as these were universal to the saktina system. Let us take an example in Japan about A.D. 1600 which marked the beginning of the saktina period. In this period the shogun, a very influential nobleman, allocated land to ruling masters and retainers from which they could earn their livelihood. "The civilian population at this time was forced down into a very servile state. All the land in each of the city-states, including the land under the lord-raja's juggernaut, was the sole property of the shogun and the daimyo.18 The peasants or those outside the towns had to request land to rent from the daimyo and had to pay a heavy tax in kind on the produce extracted from the rented lands. The populations in the towns— the artisans and merchants—were in an even more servile state. Yet peasants inside and outside the towns were not slaves of anyone. It is simply that they earned very little, had only a modicum of justice, and almost no independence."19 What has been said so far in this rather lengthy discussion should provide a sufficient basis for understanding the origins of the saktina system, a brief sketch of the conditions that prevailed in it, the ways in which it advanced and benefited production and human existence, and finally, how its stagnation in backwardness was detrimental to welfare and production in human society. In studying the saktina system it is necessary to realize and grasp firmly that: 1. At the beginning of the period the saktina system emancipated the slaves and made them freemen. Even though the bottommost class consisted of freemen of the lek and phrai type, still this was an advance over the slave system. 2. The height of its development saw more advances in production than in the past, leading to a more advanced and precise technology of production,


Thai Radical Discourse

cooperative labor within the household in both agriculture and handicrafts, a system of independent production which increased the level of society's productivity, and the development of those handicrafts and trade exchanges which marked the transition to the capitalist system. 3. The final stage of development in the saktina system brought stagnation in production and backwardness in agriculture, and class exploitation caused loss and suffering to the People's welfare. By firmly establishing these three points, analysis of the saktina system will be complete. An analysis which only examines the ways in which the saktina system was beneficial, or only the ways in which it was detrimental, is incorrect. And if analysis of the saktina system is pursued in such a way it will never be complete! The Origins of the Saktina System in Thailand Just when the Thai saktina system began is shrouded in obscurity, because we have no extant historical records predating the Sukhodaya period (ca. B.E. 1800) [A.D. 1257]. Even for the Sukhodaya period itself, the records that have survived contain minimal evidence for the history of the People's Movement. Almost all the epigraphy from Sukhodaya times merely tells us about either the kshatriya's affairs or the construction of wat. Yet some students of the subject believe that the Thai saktina had made its appearance by the time of the Nanchao state (ca. B.E. 1200-1500) [A.D. 657-957],20 since there are Chinese documents which report that the Nanchao kshatriya granted 40 song21 of rice land to each of the highest ranking nobles and 30 song to each noble on the tier below, while still lower ranking nobles received proportionately smaller royal grants of rice land. In terms of production in general, the state distributed rice lands to the People to cultivate, and having cultivated their fields, they had to send a portion of their produce—i.e. rice—to the lord of the land as a rice-land tax. Each person had to send this rice-land tax to the kshatriya at the rate of 2 pails (thang) of rice per year.22 This relationship of production, in which exploitation occurred by means of land, is precisely the relationship of production of the saktina system. But! One point worth thinking about is that nowadays historians and anthropologists everywhere doubt that the Nanchao state was a state of the Thai People! For newly examined evidence requires us to accept that Nanchao was a state of the "Lolo" nationality of the Sino-Tibetan family, a nationality which once flourished in the past. The Lolo developed to the point where they had a pictograph (IDEOGRAPH) writing system of the Chinese type. (Today the Lolo are a minority people within the People's Republic of China.) This view and the newly examined evidence have now become accepted to some degree among students of the history of the Thai. For this reason, an analysis of the systems of production in Thai society which begins with the Nanchao state is fraught with speculation and must be considered very risky. And if Nanchao really did belong to the Lolo, then any inquiry which places the Thai saktina system in Nanchao will inevitably collapse. The analysis here into the origins of the Thai saktina system will, therefore, dispense with the Nanchao period altogether and begin with the Sukhodaya period where there are inscriptions which provide reliable evidence.

The Real Face of Saktina


Thai Society and the Slave System In an investigation of the origins of the Thai saktina system, the fundamental point which must be understood at the outset is that the Thai saktina system grew up from a foundation in the slave system. Put simply, the Thai People first had a society with a slave system which then later developed into the saktina system. Why? The reason we have to analyze and understand this problem first is that the saktina historians have persisted for years in trying to prove that Thai society from early times up to the Sukhodaya period did not have a slave system. According to the interpretation of these saktina historians, it appears that the Thai never had a slave system. They cite the name for the nationality, "thai," to prove to us that the people were free (thay) from way back. The saktina system, according to these historians, pops up without evolving through the stage of slavery! Thai slave labor makes its appearance in the saktina age only when the Thai encounter the Khmer in the Chao Phraya River basin where they see it as something worthwhile and adopt it as the latest thing—just like that!23 All the epigones of the fathers of Thai history have everywhere tried to follow these injunctions, to the point of propagating in the schools and universities the idea that in the Sukhodaya period there were no slaves! The saktina system is not a system which springs up by itself without fanfare. The saktina system is not a system which some kshatriya thought up for fun because he thought it was a good idea. On the contrary, the saktina system arises out of the development by stages of production in society. If this evolution of the stages of production has not taken place, the saktina system cannot appear. This is an unalterable law of objective reality. That the saktina system would never have emerged had the slave system not first provided a foundation for it is absolutely certain. In the early commune age (PRIMITIVE COMMUNE) every man was free. Each helped the other to work and eat. The head of the clan was the leader of the group, with each group containing between fifty and one hundred people depending on the size of the lineage or clan. There were many of these groups, perhaps hundreds or thousands. And then who was it, we wonder, who would have had the power to mass all these groups together in a heap at his feet, to usurp the land and the means of production of these groups and make them his own, and having set up the saktina system, to divide up the land and give it to his followers to rule and live off? Did Indra really bring down his forces in their thousands and tens of thousands to subjugate these clans and then establish the saktina system? Or what? Contrary to what has been supposed, a single clan with only a handful of power was incapable of calmly marching around to seize the lands of hundreds and thousands of other clans, setting up the saktina system, and degrading the people of those other clans as lek and phrai. Only development in production determines the conditions for change in society's system of production. As a first step, clans in the early communes had to fight one another over a long period of time to seize food and the plots cultivated by each. When one clan triumphed over another it killed everyone in order to eliminate any resistance [lit. splinters and thorns]. Later on it occurred to the victors to take war captives and put them to work as producers in place of themselves. Thus killing prisoners of war ceased: the prisoners became slaves. They became tools or the principal means of production. Thus the classes of slave masters and slaves were born. For another long period slave master fought slave master in a grab for the places which provided their


Thai Radical Discourse

livelihood and for slaves. This in turn gave rise to big slave masters, groups of slave masters, and the slave state, all of whose slaves were determined to become lek in the saktina age once the slave state had been destroyed. If there were no slaves to begin with, where did the "lek" of the saktina come from? Did the god Indra really bestow them from on high just like that? If, in analyzing human society, one does not take the means of production or the tools for making a livelihood as fundamental, if one does not hold firmly to developments in production as one's guideline, the unsurprising result is social systems springing up out of nowhere, as the saktina's scholars would have it. What we have said up to this point is simply that, according to the law of objective reality for production, the saktina system had to emerge by evolving out of slave society. Historians in the saktina group are likely to wonder what evidence there is which demonstrates that the Thai ever had a slave system and what solid evidence there really is of slaves in the Sukhodaya period. This skepticism may be disposed of without difficulty. The evidence which will demonstrate that we had slavery in the Sukhodaya period is the inscription of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng. One part of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription explains inheritance practice this way: "when a commoner [phraifa nasai] or person of rank [lukchao lukkhun]" dies, the father's property—be it houses, elephants, elephant hooks, wives, children, granaries, or "phraifa khathai and groves of areca and betel"—is bequeathed in its entirety to his children. Let us take a close look here at the term "phraifa khathai" "Phraifa" in this context most certainly does not mean "the People" as we understand it in today's language. The inscription boasts that when a father dies his "phraifa" are inherited by his children. In what way would it be possible for a father to possess "the People" as property? Phraifa here refers to phraisom, phrailuang, or tattooed lek whose labor is under the father's control. When the father dies, the "lek" are transferred to the control of the children according to custom. Let us observe too that this inscription uses the term phraifa in just this sense. Additional evidence is the part of the inscription which tells of the fighting between Sam Chon, the lord of Muang Chot, and Pokhun Sri Indraditya. Here the inscription says that Sam Chon, the lord of Muang Chot, attacked Muang Tak: "My father attacked Sam Chon on the left (surrounded him on the left flank). Sam Chon drove towards us on the right; and Sam Chon divided his forces and attacked (split up his forces in order to encircle us). My father fled, and the phraifa nasai were defeated and routed (fled in confusion)." In this instance the phraifa nasai are the phrailuang or soldiers in the saktina system! The term cannot mean the People as it does in contemporary Thai. In the law on abduction of the Ayudhya period (B.E. 1899) [A.D. 1356] this group of people is sometimes called "phraifa khaluang" or sometimes "phraifa kha khong luang,"24 meaning the phrai and lek who were tattooed on the wrist and put into the service of the state which was usually under the control of the ruling masters. The interpretation of the term phraifa presented here is linguistic proof which will attest to Sukhodaya's saktina system. It has nothing to do with the question of evidence for slaves as the saktina's historical scholars would have it. Evidence for slavery is found in the word "khathai" Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng boasts that when a father dies his "phraifa khathai" must be given to his children. Who are these khathai? The phraifa are the phrai who belong to those on high, and surely the khathai are the kha who belong to the thai. They are the slaves! The khathai are the slaves of the freemen. Proving that the kha are slaves by this means alone may not be enough to satisfy the saktina chroniclers, so let us put forward another piece of evidence, namely the

The Real Face of Saktina


epigraphic record of the law on theft in Sukhodaya times, thought to have been written in B.E. 1916 [A.D. 1373]. One section of this law speaks about the misappropriation of "k\ia," so let us quote this passage and examine it. "Having learned towards evening that the slave arrived at his place that day and failing to return the slave . . . he does not hasten to give it back (= return it) to the Officer of Slaves early the next morning, then the Officer of Slaves, happening to learn of this, (pursues it), finds it (the slave), and returns it to its owner. If anyone violates this and holds the slave longer than three days . . . that person shall be fined 11,000 cowries per day..." 2 5 According to what is revealed in this law, there can be no doubt that kha means slave. The cha kha are those whose duties concern the control and supervision of slaves, and "chao kha" are the slave owners. This section of the law concerns the violation of property, i.e. the actual misappropriation of slaves. Experience to date suggests that when this evidence is invoked, the saktina's chroniclers retort that this law belongs to the late Sukhodaya period. The slaves it refers to may well indicate that the practice of slavery was taken from Ayudhya's example. The chroniclers really do argue this way. In such a situation let us prove the point once again, and the record from which the proof will come is a recently discovered Sukhodaya inscription written in B.E. 1935 [A.D. 1392]. It says in one place, "Phi (= even though) the phrai, thai, elephants, horses, kha ... (lacuna)/'26 Although this sentence is incomplete, it still tells us that Sukhodaya had two categories, phrai and kha, as well as a third category of thai (freemen). These phrai must be different from kha. If the phrai are lek, as we have already succeeded in demonstrating, then the kha must be slaves. It cannot be otherwise. Actually, this source does indeed date from the end of the Sukhodaya period. Naturally, the saktina can counter as usual by saying that Sukhodaya took the kha or slave system from Ayudhya. But what we have to prove to the saktina chroniclers so that they can see it with their own eyes is that the language in Sukhodaya times most certainly distinguishes between phrai and kha. Ramkhamhaeng's inscription, written at the beginning of the Sukhodaya period, refers to both phrai and kha, and it is indisputable that these terms must signify lek and slaves, according to the meanings of these terms at that time. Thus it is undeniable that Muang Sukhodaya at the time of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription had slaves. Without question, Muang Sukhodaya, in which the saktina scholars boast there were only thai, had slaves. The kha were slaves, and the slaves were kha. Kha is a Thai word, that [dasa] a Pali one. Nowadays we still refer to "khathat boriphan," slaves and retainers. Pronouns for us Thai come in pairs, i.e. kha (= I) and chao (— you). The speaker refers to himself as "kha" in order to humble himself as a that, a slave, an inferior, and at the same time by the use of "chao" meaning master, or lord of [this] slave [i.e. the speaker], he elevates the person addressed. We are most reluctant to speak to each other fraternally as ku, I-familiar, addressing mung, you-familiar, as we are never [initially] certain about who the other person is. If the speakers know for sure that they both belong to the slave class it's of no importance if they buffet each other with the terms ku and mung. The terms of assent—chaokha, phrachaokha (which have now become kha, chaokha, and pha-ya-kha)—also mean "my master," as in the phrase "I won't eat anything, chaokha," which is equivalent to "I won't eat anything, master" (the same as I DON'T EAT, MY LORD). The term chaokha is used in the law on abduction (B.E. 1899) [A.D. 1356] in the identical sense of chaothat (chao of slaves). In the language of the Lao People the situation is the same. The Lao call slaves khoi: for example, "then the khoi took the chao's goods and fled."27 Khoi here is slave, and chao


Thai Radical Discourse

is slave master. When the Lao People speak they prefer to use khoi for first person, and chao for second person. If we are to include the Khmer language as well, the Khmer use khayom for first person, meaning slave. To say that khayom means slave is not fanciful invention. The Khmer today still use this term for slaves. Even inscriptions dating from the slave society period more than 1,000 years ago use this term for slaves. The vestiges of the social system discussed here are preserved linguistically in the form of rules for speaking which have definitely come down to us from the slave period, no question about it. If the Thai had not passed through the slave system, these pronouns would not exist. The proof attempted here so far should be sufficient, at the very least, to wipe out every last argument of the saktina historians and show that slaves definitely existed in the Sukhodaya period! Now to evidence for the slave system in Thai society apart from the matter of pronouns. Looking back into history to the time we Thai settled the Shan [lit. Big Thai] areas, we find the Thai governing themselves in nineteen tiny states. Each state had a chief called a "chaofa." These nineteen states were joined together in a single state, like a federation, called 'The Nineteen Chaofa/' The type of federation which held these states together was the same type of rule as the "slave masters' democracy" which was employed all over Europe, for example in the slave states of the Romans, the Greeks, and even the Aryans in India. In the region of "the Twelve Thai Lords" certain features point to an identical slave masters' democracy. According to the chronicles, Phokhun Bulom (a term dragged off to the wat and made into borom [parama], superior), the ancestor of the Thai and the Lao, sent off each of his seven sons in different directions to settle down and found muang, meaning that the sons used groups of slaves to establish new and separate clans in a manner characteristic of a clan system which had survived from the end of the early commune period into the slave period. That men were sent out to establish new clans may be considered a positive step, because the use of men to establish clans seems to show that Thai society was already evolving rapidly and completely beyond the principle of granting preeminence to women (MOTHER RIGHT). In the Khmer muang when people were sent out to found or expand clans during the slave period (about the fifteenth Buddhist century) [A.D. 857-957], the Khmer were still dispatching women to do this. This system of granting preeminence to women was to be found at the beginning of the early commune period when everyone still copulated indiscriminately.28 Further evidence for the slave system in Thai society is a passage in Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription which says, "when he captures enemy slaves or warriors he does not kill or beat them/' The inscription from the Mango Grove Monastery praises the kindness and generosity of Phya Luthai (the grandson of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng), by saying that "when he captures enemy slaves and warriors he does not kill or beat them. He provides for them so that they are not destroyed."24 The extravagant boasting here is not for a custom they thought up by themselves. The practice of not killing war captives began in the transition between the end of the primitive commune age and the age of slavery. If we consider that various customs are the product of man's life-experiences in the sphere of production, we must conclude that the custom of providing for prisoners of war and feeding them so they are spared death and destruction while in custody must have begun during the period of Thai slave society. The main purpose of endeavoring to search for evidence on this question of slavery, and of presenting it at some length, has been to demolish beliefs current in contemporary Thai educational circles which, deriving from the saktina historians, hold that no slaves existed in the Sukhodaya period, and that the Thai never passed through the

The Real Face of Saktina


slave system. These beliefs do not rest on a foundation of the objective laws of social development. When the saktina scholars base their argument on a single point—namely, that thai means independent, and therefore the Thai never had a slave system until a later period after they had contact with the Khmer—can the scholars of the saktina chronicles, in the face of such overwhelming historical and linguistic evidence as presented here in point after point, continue to remain immobile like one-legged rabbits? From the First Thai Communal System to the Slave System In our discussion of the term "phraifa" our analysis showed that the phraifa consisted of the lek and the phrai groups, both phrai som and phrai luang as well as lek tattooed for corvee. This is one of the characteristics of the political configuration in the saktina system, thus leading to the conclusion that the saktina system was already in existence in the Sukhodaya period. But when we consider the traces of the slave system in the states of the Nineteen Chaofa, the Twelve Thai Lords, and Khun Bulom as outlined above, it is conceivable that the saktina system did not make its appearance until some time before the Sukhodaya period, in view of the fact that these states had their existence not very long before the Sukhodaya period (about 400 years). It might help to clarify the analysis of the unfolding of Thai society's systems of production that we are here trying to investigate and comprehend if we look at societies of Thai nationality in other regions. As a first step, we should examine the Thai society found in Tonkin before the partition of Vietnam into two, which is to say not many decades ago. The relations of production within the society of the Thai group living in the mountains of Tonkin were as follows. "Whoever was the kwanchao30 was the owner of all land in the domain over which he had the power to rule. The peasants thus did not own the plots they worked, they had no rights to transfer these plots to anyone else, and when they moved away from their village they were forced to return their plots to the kwanban31 so that he could redistribute them among the remaining villagers/'32 In addition to this group was a cluster of Thai people called "Muang" who lived in the southwestern mountains of Tonkin. The relations of production of this group were such that the "kwanlang" or "ihoti," the chief, "considered himself the owner of every plot of land in his domain, the plots farmed by cultivators as well as uncleared and uninhabited jungle. If commoners were permitted to settle land it was only by the grace of the chief."33 The kwanchao did not hold rights of possession over the land in order to acquire profits from the land as did the Land-Lords of the saktina system, but was simply the chief leadership figure and the one who distributed land of varying amounts to the People in proportion to the positions and powers that had been given them. In the communes of the Thai nationalities living in the Tonkin mountains the kwanchao would first select for himself the largest tract of land and then grant the next largest tracts (which were still fairly large) to the chao-ong or the thoe lai who were his assistants in the administration of the community and who ranked in second place after him. Having completed this part of the process, the kwanchao then distributed the next largest plots of land to all the village nai, and following that, he distributed land to all the elders [thao] in descending order proportionate to their station and dignities. This type of system appears rather similar to the saktina system, but it was not the same in fact, since the village nai, who were called "kwanban," were heads of villages, and they subdivided the land yet again and, without demanding rent, gave it to various households to make their livelihood. When a villager moved out of the village and went


Thai Radical Discourse

elsewhere, he was forced to return his plot of land to the village nai (the kwanban) who, upon receiving it, reallocated the land among the remaining inhabitants. A reallocation of the land also took place if newcomers arrived and increased the number of the people. The White Thai living in the Red River basin (within the Democratic Republic of Vietnam—North Vietnam) used to have a custom whereby a reallocation of land among the households took place once every three years. The number of people in each household was used as a measure to calculate the size of each share of land a household was to receive. (This custom died out long ago.) The White Thai method of distribution was to divide the land into plots, and then each household came to cast lots. After the three years the land was brought together as a single unit and lots were cast again. In this distribution of land the village nai generally reserved land for those in administrative positions within the village, a privilege which compensated such individuals for their administrative work, and the villagers were conscripted to cultivate their land for them.M The conscription of villager labor to cultivate the lands of village administrators resembles the saktina system's corvee, but it was not the same thing, because administrators were not ruling masters who held absolute rights to land for the purpose of acquiring profit, and the villagers were not lek and phrai as in the saktina system. In having characteristics of an agricultural collective system, the production system of the communal groups of Thai peoples just described resembles that of the clans at the end of the early commune age (PRIMITIVE COMMUNE), which is regarded as an ancient communist system [rabop khommiwnit]. The clan system at the end of the early commune age would have a paramount clan chief, comparable to the "kwanchao," who would distribute land to the heads of households from which they made their livelihood for a specified period of time. Redistribution took place at regular specified intervals. At first, the clan chief probably cultivated his own land, but towards the end of the period those who had the duty of providing security for the community and the paramount clan chiefs would be concerned solely with their administrative duties, and so members of the clan would lend a hand to cultivate their fields for them. As this practice was not established on an exploitative basis, it would be wrong to call it a corvee system like that of the saktina. In their capacity as allocators of land, the clan chiefs and village heads began to have the privilege of first choice of land, and it is exactly this characteristic which is found in the Thai communes of Tonkin. Over a long period of time, this kind of land allocation gave rise to habitual control and permanent control; and ultimately the practice of inheriting land began, which gave rise to individual ownership of property. The turning point in the transition to the period in which land was owned as private property may be seen in the commune of Thai people living in the Huaphan region of Laos. In this region a method of land distribution continued to be used, but it did not always take place at regular intervals as it did with the White Thai. Rather, distribution occurred as circumstances arose—for example, when family members split off to establish new families, or when newcomers entered the group, or in the event of villagers complaining that the land they were working yielded insufficient returns. This is what gave rise to ownership of land over extended, indefinite periods of time. The "Muang" people mentioned above had [a type of] land allocation in which those who were kwanlang and thao received the privilege of first choice of land. The land remaining was then apportioned to families in greater or lesser amounts according to each family's productive capacity and needs. Yet the distribution did not take place at regular, specified intervals but along the same lines as that in the Huaphan area of Laos. Thus a single family might control arable land for the lifetime of the father, and when the father died, control of the land passed to the children. Such are the origins of private property and inheritance. Nevertheless, redistribution did take place in the event that

The Real Face of Saktina


the number of families changed; and in such a redistribution, as a rule, not all the arable land was combined before allocation. Instead, the method used was to assign only some pieces of land for distribution. This examination of all the features of control over land among the communes of Thai peoples discussed above shows that the power to control land tended to become prolonged, with land changing hands very infrequently. Villagers began to feel in a small way that they had rights of ownership over land. At this point it ought to be noted that the land surrendered for redistribution was of one kind only, arable land. Plots used for housing and family gardens did not, for the most part, have to be surrendered for redistribution. A plot of land with a house on it was thus held in permanent ownership and passed to the owner's descendants. In some groups such a plot could be bought and sold as well. As for uncleared jungle, the chief had the privilege of seizing it for himself. Anyone who cleared it would have absolute rights to control, but he had to pay a tax to the chief. Finally, in the later stages even the arable land was hardly ever distributed, and the system of distribution faded away, as it has already done among the White Thai. Once in a very long while distribution would take place. This generally occurred when a family's labor power diminished, rendering it unable to cultivate fully all of its share of the arable land, or when a family simply ceased to exist. Vacant land thus became available and was distributed to those households which had a great deal of power (or productive force). At such times, families of influence tended to exploit this opportunity by seizing the vacant land as their own and using slave or hired labor to cultivate it.35 This marked the transition between the early commune and slave society. What characterized those Thai Peoples' communes, in which the system of distributing arable land was disappearing and the system of ownership of private property was emerging, was the disintegration of the ''agricultural collective," the final form which the early commune took. From this point on, when war broke out between clans or collectives, war captives would be spared and forced down as slaves for production in the fields of each family. Following this, the large families, which had exerted their influence in order to expand their lands as described above, would now enlarge their domains either by grabbing land and driving away the people, thus bringing the land under their own control,36 or by invading other collectives, or by sending slaves to clear jungle land, thus laying claim to it. As to whether or not the earliest collectives of Thai peoples had the characteristics of agricultural collectives at the end of the early commune period or those of ancient communism, Doctor [doktoe] R. Lingat, lecturer in the history of Thai law in the Master's Degree program, has offered his view in "A History of Thai Law" as follows: "One should note that the system of land tenure of the Thai People has characteristics closely approximating those of communism which holds that cultivated land should be owned in common. In groups where the chief did not interfere in land allocation by making favorites of individuals, but saw to it that the distribution took place in an orderly way, land virtually belonged to the People collectively. In addition, and in view of the fact that peasants jointly cultivated their fields, shared domestic animals and tools with each other, and transplanted and harvested together, some students of tradition have said that the Thai peoples' communes practiced socialism [sosialit]. . . . " From the study of facts concerning these Thai People, who were as yet backward in these ways, we are led to conclude that when the Thai all split up and set off owing to Chinese attacks, they probably broke up to form agricultural collectives, a system of


Thai Radical Discourse

communes divided into large clans whose form of rule was the father-family (PATRIACAL FAMILY), characteristic of the end of the primitive commune age. Those groups which split off to the west poured into the Shan areas and set up collectives. They had to struggle against the indigenous peoples and against the ruling power of the Burmans and Mons. Thus the slave system was born and appeared in the form of a slave masters' democracy known as "the Nineteen Chaofa." Following this, the Thai broke away from the Nineteen Chaofa and headed for the Assam area, where they became the Thai Ahom and developed their production system into a saktina system with characteristics resembling the Thai saktina of the Ayudhya period.37 Those groups which scattered to the east ended up in the Tonkin region where they took refuge in the mountains. It does not appear that they went to war against the ruling powers which already occupied the area. So the slave system did not emerge, and they continued to develop their system of agricultural collectives until class and exploitative features appeared within the collectives, a condition which would lead to the slave system, as discussed earlier. Those groups pouring in along the Mekong reached the Lanna region and had to fight fiercely with the indigenous peoples. Simultaneously, they had to fight against the Khmer slave state which extended as far as Vientiane.38 Conditions thus opened the way for the emergence of the slave system and the slave state called "the Twelve Thai Lords," characteristic of the slave masters' democracy, which culminated at a later date in the saktina state of the Lanna kingdom (srisatanaganahuta).* At this point we come to the Thai groups which wandered down into the Ping River basin, i.e. the area around Lanna, and the Chao Phraya River basin, i.e. the area around Ayudhya. Those Thai groups which came down these routes had to clash with many indigenous peoples such as the Lawa, who battled the Thai relentlessly for a period, only to be driven into the jungle. Moreover, the Thai had to clash with the Mon ruling powers in Lamphun (Haribhunjaya). This was the Mon group which transmitted to the Thai the "thammasat" [dharmasastra] law which served as the principal legal model at that time. Besides the Mon, the other power with which we Thai had to struggle relentlessly through an endless series of defeats and victories was the Khmer. Over and over again the Khmer attacked with their armies and rounded up large numbers of Mon and Thai and took them back as slaves to be used in the construction of their large and small stone shrines. The Thai groups which came down to settle in the Mon areas and were oppressed there were probably swept up in countless numbers as captured slaves of the Khmer. The assertion that the Khmer went around waging war for slaves to build those stone shrines is not stubborn speculation. For the construction of their stone sanctuaries the Khmer actually used massive numbers of captured slaves from various parts. For instance one of Jayavarman VII's inscriptions says that as many as 306,372 male and female captured slaves from Champa, Yuan [Vietnam], Pagan, and the Mon country were used in the construction of the Prah Khan stone sanctuary, built in his reign (B.E. 1724-after 1744) [A.D. 1181-after 1201] to the north of the Angkor Thorn muang.39 Thai groups from the Mon areas would also be included among these oppressed "builders of heaven." Once Champa had established itself it raided the Khmer for slaves. It was war for slaves between slave states. So once again all the captured Thai slaves were rounded up for public works in the construction of stone shrines, this time in Champa. This part is not conjecture, for evidence can be cited, i.e. a Cham inscription referring to the donation of slaves to serve in Cham wat (the newly * According to legend, the name of the naga which led the Thai into northern Laos. Lanna is probably a typographical error for Lanchang. [Trans.]

The Real Face of Saktina


built stone shrines), which specifies that there were "Sayam" slaves (this word is actually used).40 These "Sayam" slaves held by the Cham were not only carried off in slave raids, but were also acquired as war captives. The reason for this—and there is evidence for it too—is that "Sayam" people were conscripted into armies to help the Khmer fight. Anyone who takes an excursion to Angkor Wat will see the scenes sculpted in relief (BAS RELIEF) on the walls of the courtyard at Angkor Wat (a courtyard like the one at the Thai Wat Phra Kaeo). One section depicts the progress of the army of High-Lord Suryavarman II (B.E. 1657-1688) [A.D. 1114-1145], the builder of Angkor Wat. In that military procession the vanguard force, the ordinary foot soldiers who will be the first to die, is comprised of "Sayam." Inscribed texts in two places identify this scene. Furthermore, next in line behind them are those who will follow them in death, a unit of civilian phrai from the "Lavo" muang. An epigraphic text describes this part of the scene as well.41 The conditions of existence which led either to the struggle against the indigenous people for territory so the Thai could make their livelihood, or to the struggle for slaves between the Thai and the Khmer slave state, provided the circumstances which would make Thai society's production system evolve into a fully developed slave system. Victory over the indigenous land owners or over other clans meant that cooperative production of the kind found in the agricultural collectives during the early commune age was no longer necessary, because each family or lineage had a production force of captured slaves. Separate, autonomous production thus arose, based on the exploitation of slave labor. Nonetheless, although a slave state would come into being, features of the fatherfamily (PATRIACAL FAMILY) form of rule practiced by these Thai since the early commune age did not immediately rot away. These Thai still referred to their chiefs as "Pho" [father], as can be seen from what was passed down to Sukhodaya times. In the Sukhodaya state we still called the chief of the state "phokun," and we used a corresponding term, "lukkhun" [offspring], to refer to slaves working for the state. Here are traces of the early commune system lasting into slave society, and they finally disappeared only when society was fully transformed into the saktina system. And it was here in the slave age that our pronouns ku [I] and mung [you] began to be disliked, and the linguistic basis for class came into existence. Ku and mung could be used especially between equals, or by an important person speaking to a lesser person. In the case of slaves speaking to a slave master, or kha speaking to a kha master, the slaves had to refer to themselves as "kha" and the master as "chao" and when they responded they had to say "chaokha." They could no longer use the former, egalitarian term "oe" As a result of the substantial evidence supporting the hypotheses presented here, we are led to the firm conviction that Thai society did pass through a slave period at one time, lasting at least four hundred years, and that Thai society began to inch its way toward the saktina system about the time of Sukhodaya or not many years beforehand. The Thai Pass from the Slave to the Saktina System At what point did the Thai move out of the slave system and enter the saktina system? We can only speculate about this problem subjectively because of the lack of evidence. The best guess is that the turning point at which the Thai moved out of the slave system and entered the saktina system occurred just before the Sukhodaya state was founded. Prior to this turning point the Thai slave state had been forced down as a dependent muang of the Khmer slave state, as discussed above. Of course the rulers of the


Thai Radical Discourse

Thai slave state at that time put up a determined struggle against the Khmer slave state. The Thai slave state probably recovered its independent power once again when the Khmer state was invaded by the Chams in B.E. 1720 [A.D. 1177]. On that occasion Cham forces crushed the Khmer capital, destroying it in what amounted to a sack and leaving the Khmer slave state broken, dismembered, and powerless for more than ten years. During these ten years all the Thai were probably able to liberate themselves from the Khmer yoke. The Thai slave masters united and successfully organized themselves into several states, though it was the fate of all these Thai slave states not to last long. At the end of this ten-year period the Khmer recovered their autonomy from the Chams. The individual responsible for establishing this autonomy was Jayavarman VII (B.E. 1724-after 1744) [A.D. 1181-after 1201], an extraordinarily powerful kshatriya of the Khmer slave state who invaded the Cham capital, where he replaced the Cham king with his own puppet. He then turned to strike against the various Thai slave states. He invaded and seized Lopburi, removed the Thai slave master, and installed his own son as slave master. The name of this son was Indravarman.42 Jayavarman VII drove northward as far as Sukhodaya and installed Khlon Lamphang as ruler.43 Then he advanced to the state of Pagan. The Thai slave states were thus crushed into pieces. Even the Thai communes in the north (i.e. the Chaiyaprakan state, at that time under Thao Mahaphrom) were invaded by the Mons and dispersed as far south as Muang Paep (in Kamphaengphet). By B.E. 1731 [A.D. 1188] the Thai slave states had been thrown into disarray and utterly destroyed. When all the slave masters had been captured, killed, or deposed by Khmer handiwork, the slaves freed themselves and clustered together in various places, just as they had in Europe at the time of the barbarian invasions. These freemen individually became subordinate to whomever had power over them, and they were gathered into groups. It was at this point that the saktina form of relations probably first appeared in Thai society, a form identical to what had already appeared in Europe, as described at the outset. These Thai communal groups were forced to submit to oppression and invasion by the Khmers who arbitrarily demanded taxes from them. The fundamental conflict in society at that time was between the Khmer slave masters and the Thai communal groups who had emerged destitute from the slave system. The Khmer slave kshatriya had at one point helped to emancipate the Thai People from the slave system, but the new slavery from which the Thai now had to liberate themselves was Khmer slave mastery. The well-known movement of all the Thai People to liberate themselves in this period was their liberation under the leadership of "Master Ruang," son of "Master Khongkhrao," the head of the Thai communal group at the Lopburi muang. The Thai communal group in Lopburi at this time was compelled by the Khmer slave masters to send an unusual kind of tribute, i.e. the "water tribute/' This water tribute is no lie, it is a fact. We can say it is a fact because the group of big slave masters from the Khmer muang tried their utmost to exalt themselves as gods. In the Khmer muang of that period this belief that they were gods was known as the devaraja cult (GOD KING-CULT). The small and moderate-sized groups of slave masters were all obsessed with this cult, every one of them.44 So whatever was done always had to manifest the supernatural powers of the gods. For bathing and drinking water, for example, a bathing pool had to be made in the form of a sacred lake of milk (i.e. the ocean of milk) in the middle of which was an image of the nagaraja on whose coils Vishnu reclines. An image of the god Vishnu rested on top, all this executed according to Brahmanic texts which stated that Vishnu slept on the back of a naga in the center of the sacred lake of milk! Now, when a bath was to take place in a rite, sacred water was required, namely, water from

The Real Face of Saktina


the Jupasara Lake [Arrowdip Lake] where it was believed Vishnu had descended to dip his arrows to give them supernatural power. As the Jupasara Lake was in Lopburi, every year the big slave masters conscripted all the Thai slaves to transport water. This ritual bathing took place in the fourth month.45 The Thai communal group thus had to help by transporting the water in large earthen jars on carts to the Khmer muang. The outbound trip took some months, and the return trip lasted another month. The slaves were forced down and brutally oppressed under the yoke of the Khmer slave state. This account of cruelty in the transportation of water may seem somewhat exaggerated, but if anything it is understated. Once the various Thai states had been crushed flat as a drum head in that age of Jayavarman VII, Khmer lords, Khmer military masters, or Thai slave masters loyal to the Khmer were set up as slave lords to rule the muang. Jayavarman VII had an extraordinary device for ensuring the loyalties of the new slave masters he had installed. He had a large number of Buddha images cast whose visages bore his own likeness.46 These images were then sent out to all the slave lords to be placed and worshiped in the centers of their muang. In the fourth lunar month [March-April] a ritual bath would take place to drive away the misfortunes of the old year (not to greet the new year). Jayavarman VII held this big rite at the Phra Khan stone sanctuary (in those days called Nakhon Chaisi) to the north of Angkor Thorn. In addition to requisitioning the bathing water from the Jupasara Lake in Lopburi for this ritual bath, he also compelled the slave and muang lords to bring those extraordinary Buddha images in procession to Angkor Thorn for inclusion in this bathing rite. Distant muang such as Phimai, Phetburi, Ratburi, Lopburi, Suphannaphum (Uthong), Singburi (the Sing muang in Kanchanaburi), and so forth 47 had to mobilize all their slaves to transport Jayavarman VII's images in procession to Angkor Thorn. If they failed to send the procession they were charged with rebellion. Thus the Thai in the Chao Phraya basin were treated with great cruelty by the Khmer slave lords. For almost the whole year, their time was taken up solely with the procession of images to and fro. This cruel oppression which the Khmer visited upon the Thai brought the conflict to the critical stage, and the Thai communal groups joined together to shake off the Khmer yoke. It was at this point that "Master Ruang," the intelligent son of "Master Khongkhrao," who headed the unit providing the water tribute, saw a way of relieving the cruelty by inventing a container woven of bamboo and caulked with dammar and resin. This container, which held the water without leaking, is the very one still used by the Thai in the north and the northeast and called "khu." The khu invented by Master Ruang was a device novel for the time, unconceived by, and unknown to, the Khmers themselves. The creation of the khu greatly reduced the labor of transporting water. The invention of a new tool during the slave age was a phenomenon which must be considered as remarkable in the extreme for that age, because it represented another step forward in the development of [the People's] way of life. The People then spread the word about this remarkable occurrence, saying that Master Ruang had words of such power that a fruit basket could dip up water. News of Master Ruang's invention of the "khu" spread to Thai communal groups everywhere. Groups of freemen who had dispersed when the slave states crumbled now joined together under Master Ruang's leadership. In the Khmer muang, Jayavarman VII's son, Indravarman II (after B.E. 1744-1786) [A.D. 1201-1243], learning of Master Ruang's invention of the khu and the alliance of the ruling masters and the Thai freemen, had a terrible fright.48 He sent a suppression force, but at this moment the Khmer had to fight on two fronts, i.e. they were forced to turn to face the Chams who had rebelled again in 1763 [A.D. 1220], but the Chams could not be subjugated. In the Khmer muang itself the slaves had endured


Thai Radical Discourse

all they could from the slave masters, so the internal stability of the Khmer state, not the suppression of the Thai, was the most urgent task for the Khmer kshatriya. Thus the Khmer force, counterattacked by the Thai, was sent into scattered retreat. From the chronicle, it sounds as if Master Ruang's attack penetrated Angkor Thorn, but somehow it succumbed to Indravarman II's marvelous trickery which upset the plans. Master Ruang agreed to respect the Khmer kshatriya and not kill him. It is not possible to believe the chronicle on this particular point, as it has often been said that the end of the chronicle tends to exaggerate everything. But Indravarman II's trickery is definitely there in the "strategy of political marriages" (POLITIQUE DE MARIAGES). According to the available evidence, Jayavarman VII was the first to use this strategy,49 and his son Indravarman II inherited it and made full use of it. This strategy consisted of giving a daughter to Thai muang lords who were rebellious. One Thai muang lord, "Phokhun Phamuang" who was the lord in Muang Rat,50 was acting much too fearlessly, so Indravarman II gave Phamuang one of his daughters. We do not know if this daughter was beautiful, but she had a lovely sounding name, "Phranang Sikhommahathewi." With the presentation of a daughter in marriage he combined the conferral of rank at the level of phraya with gold pedestal tray as well, raising the Thai lord to be a "kamratenan sri indrapatindraditya/' In addition the lord was presented with the right-to-power sword called the "phrakharrgajayasri."51 This meant that Phokhun Phamuang would be tempted to lose himself in rapturous love for the Khmer and continue the oppression of the Thai himself,52 and it meant that Khun Phamuang would be made into a black sheep of the Thai ruling masters who had just achieved unity among themselves. But the Khmer were disappointed. The consciousness of the Thai People was so high that the Khmer could not buy them off. Phokhun Phamuang led his force of all the Thai freemen from Muang Rat and joined the People's force in Muang Bangyang under the leadership of Phokhun Bangklangthao. The People from both muangs joined together and succeeded in throwing off the heavy Khmer yoke, driving out the Khmer slave master from Sukhodaya, i.e. "Khlon Lamphang" mentioned above. The Thai People's Master Ruang disappeared, ker-plunk. Perhaps he ran up against some of the Khmer slave lord's superior cunning, it is impossible to say. But the old chronicles state that Master Ruang later became lord of Sukhodaya and was called "Phra Ruang" or "Phya Ruang." Thai chronicle experts thus jump to conclusions and make Phra Ruang the same person as Phokhun Bangklangthao, the lord of Muang Bangyang. Whether or not to believe such a conclusion is uncertain. Once the Thai People from Muang Rat and Muang Bangyang together with the Thai People in Muang Sukhodaya had joined forces and successfully driven off the Khmer slave master, Phokhun Phamuang raised up his own comrade as kshatriya. A coronation ceremony took place, and he even gave Phokhun Bangklangthao the royal name he had received from the lord of the Khmer muang. And so Phokhun Bangklangthao became kshatriya with the name "Phokhun Sri Indrapatindraditya," shortened later to simply "Sri Indraditya." Simultaneously with the Sukhodaya state, groups of the Thai People in many places such as the Chiangmai state (Phya Mengrai), Phayao state (Phya Ngammuang), Chot state (Khun Samchon), Suphannaphum state (Uthong), Ichan state (in the Ichan jungle south of Nakhon Ratchasima and Surin Provinces),53 and so forth, rose up and shook off Khmer power. All these Thai states were characterized by big Land-Lords who had secure walled fortresses of the same kind as the big fortresses belonging to the ruling masters of Europe. Each state thus was a central place for gathering together the freemen and the minor ruling masters. Society was characterized by conditions no different from those in Europe in the period when the saktina system was in its early stages.

The Real Face of Saktina


The evidence which shows the reality of these conditions is the inscription of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng. One part of that inscription says: "If anyone comes riding on an elephant to place his muang under [the phokhun's] protection, he is offered succor and support (i.e. he is assisted, supported, rehabilitated). If he has no elephants, no horses, no young men, no women of rank, no argent (silver), no gold, he is given some to help him tuang (establish) a muang." What is characteristic of riding the elephant to find protection for the muang is that it is typical of the ruling masters who submit themselves to the big Land-Lords, asking to be their dependents. As for offers of assistance in the form of elephants, horses, male and female phrai, silver, and gold to help establish a muang, this is characteristic of the assistance the big Land-Lords give to the lesser Land-Lords who come to request dependence on their merit, a characteristic which had already been present in Europe as described at the outset. If we examine Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription throughout we can see another clue to convince us that the Sukhodaya period was a transition from the slave system which was crumbling away and the saktina system which was emerging to replace it. This clue appears where the inscription boasts that "coconut groves are abundant in this muang, lang groves are abundant in this muang (lang = jackfruit), mango groves are abundant in this muang, tamarind groves are abundant in this muang. Whoever plants them gets them for himself." The need to boast that "whoever plants them gets them for himself" makes us realize that before this time circumstances were different, i.e. "whoever planted them did not get them for himself." To say that he did not get them for himself means that they went to someone else slaves planted them for the slave lords! That is to say, before that period the slaves could not possess private property. Whatever they had or made became the possession of the slave lords. Slaves began to have ownership rights in private property as a result of their own labor when the end of the slave age gave way to the saktina age and slaves were becoming lek. This change in ownership rights was an enormous change in society, so the inscription could not fail to refer to this development and boast about it for everyone to hear. If it had been common coin from time immemorial, why was it necessary to single it out and boast about it? We may observe that this big Land-Lord or Phokhun of Sukhodaya was a new arrival. As yet there were not very many large-sized landholdings.54 The smaller ruling masters continued to enjoy full powers, and they were forever refusing to obey Sukhodaya and seizing its lands and profits. We can see that once the state of Sukhodaya was founded, the state of Chot under Khun Samchon sent its forces to invade Sukhodaya by way of Muang Tak. Khun Chang (whose state cannot be identified)55 along with Thao Ichan invaded Muang Rat, but the big Land-Lord of Sukhodaya made a persistent effort to struggle and consolidate power—economic in the form of land as well as political—in his own grasp. The big Sukhodaya Land-Lord did not waste any time waiting for voluntary submission from any quarter but set off to wage war and seize land by force alone, as can be seen where Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng boasts in his inscription that "when I went to tho (attack) a village or muang and acquired elephants, slaves, women of rank, silver, and gold, I turned them all over to my father." Nevertheless, Sukhodaya probably did not extend its territory very far, because most of the various Thai states were about as strong as Sukhodaya. So the big Land-Lords of such states as Phya Mengrai's Chiangmai, Phya Ngammuang's Phayao, Phya Yiba's Haribhunjaya (Lamphun) consorted with Sukhodaya as if in sworn friendship. The territorial extent of Sukhodaya thus ended abruptly at the boundaries of these states. If we examine the way the muang system worked we can see clearly the limited extent of landholdings owned by Sukhodaya Land-Lords. That is to say, the muang


Thai Radical Discourse

around Sukhodaya in the four cardinal directions (the muang with princes as overlords), located close to the city of Sukhodaya—Sawankhalok (Satchanalai) to the north, Phitsanulok (Songkhwae) to the east, Phichit (Saluang) to the south, and Kamphaengphet (Chakangrao) to the west—were all within a two-day march from Sukhodaya. Only the muang within this radius fell under the direct control of Sukhodaya. All the other muang apart from these, such as Hongsaowadi, Luang Phrabang, Suphannaphum (Uthong), Phetburi, and Nakhon Sithammarat, were simply tribute muang and subordinate states (VASSAL) which retained a great deal of their power. Sukhodaya never really completely consolidated its power over the lands of these states and muang. Whenever profits from the land gave rise to conflict, the large and small states always fought for their share, and it happened that the state that asserted itself successfully and with jaunty ease was the Suphannaphum state of Lord Uthong, which was later relocated on a firm basis at the Ayudhya krung. We cannot establish clearly how the saktina production system of Thai society in its early stages—i.e. just before the Sukhodaya period began or in the first years of its founding—distributed land, because of the lack of evidence. We know only that in the Sukhodaya period an orderly system of distributing rice land according to the sakdi of each person was already in existence. That is to say, Land-Lords who were descendants of the phokhun received a great deal, while those who were mere officials and royal servants received less. We do not know the actual scale that prescribed the distribution. The law on theft of the Sukhodaya krung, issued around 1916 [A.D. 1373], contains references to fines levied according to "sakdi/'56 i.e. according to the sakdina of each person, just like the levying of fines in the Ayudhya period when the method of calculation was described in the "krommasak" law (or phra ayakan phrommasak). Be that as it may and despite the existence of an orderly distribution of land, the saktina system in the Sukhodaya period was still in its early stages of development. We can go so far as to say this because at the beginning of the Sukhodaya era the various rajas still had the characteristics of "phokhun." Political relations were as follows: royal servants were lukkhun; all big and little muang lords, such as Khun Samchon,57 were khun; and the big rajas or kshatriya were phokhun. Although the various phokhun did attempt to set themselves up as big kshatriyas, the villagers and people of the muang continued to call them phokhun as they had been accustomed to doing. They did not suddenly alter the form of address. The development of the Sukhodaya saktina system took place rapidly, nevertheless, as we can observe that only two or three of the kshatriya in the Sukhodaya period were phokhun, namely, Phokhun Phamuang, Phokhun Sri Indraditya, and Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng. The next stage was when the kshatriya became "phya," for example Phya Luthai. Phya grew to be "chaophya," and then a Khmer word was borrowed to adorn the term, "somdet chaophraya."58 Finally, it became "phrachao phaendin," as in the law on theft cited above. This evolution of the kshatriya's status is evidence which demonstrates that the efforts of the Sukhodaya kshatriyas to consolidate their power over land, efforts which began as early as the reign of Phokhun Sri Indraditya, succeeded quickly in a little over one hundred years. The Sukhodaya kshatriyas seem to have succeeded in consolidating their power over the land and setting themselves up as "lords of the land" [phrachao phaendin} in line with saktina ideology just as rapidly and securely as the kshatriya from Ayudhya. Following this development, the Sukhodaya saktina had their lands seized by the Ayudhya saktina. Ultimately, by the year B.E. 1981 [A.D. 1438], all Sukhodaya lands had fallen utterly and completely into the hands of the Ayudhyan "lords of the land" meaning that the saktina system of the Sukhodaya state had evolved as an independent entity for no more than two hundred years.

The Real Face of Saktina


At this point we come to the Thai saktina system to the south, i.e. Ayudhya. The Sri Ayudhya krung was first established as a central muang only in B.E. 1893 [A.D. 1350] when the Thai People under the leadership of Lord Uthong, fleeing an epidemic caused by a shortage of water (the waterway had changed its course), migrated southward and collectively established their muang, clearing the land to make rice fields. Before that date, the Thai People had congregated together solidly in a wellordered manner with their base at Muang Uthong (in Suphanburi). The Thai communal group in the Uthong region, before its migration to Ayudhya, had for a period been ruled as a tributary muang by the Sukhodaya state, as revealed by the reference in Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription to "Suphannaphum." There can be no doubt about it. The production system of the Thai People in the Suphannaphum or Uthong region was the saktina production system which had now assumed a systematic form. The kshatriya's status in this region was more exalted than at Sukhodaya, because from the Khmers the practice had been adopted of regarding the kshatriya as a "deva." The lord of Uthong thus created a title for himself with full honors like that of the Khmer kshatriya: "phrabatsomdet phrachao ramathibodi siwisuttiwong ongkhaburisodom borommachakkraphat rachathirat triphuwanathibet borombophit phraphutthachao,"59 meaning The Lord Ramadhipati, one born of the highest family, a superior man, a Chakravartin, i.e. one surrounded by subordinate muang, the raja of all rajas, a Buddha seated above the heads of a subject population. Rule in the Suphannaphum or Uthong region was fully systematic and ordered, so far as the surviving documentation—namely, the "Comprehensive Law" on judicial decisions pertaining to land—testifies. This law was issued in B.E. 1886 [A.D. 1343], eight years before Ayudhya was established. Another document is the "Law on Slaves" issued in B.E. 1890 [A.D. 1347], four years before Ayudhya was established.60 The position of the kshatriya with respect to land in the Suphannaphum region is not apparent, but once families had migrated down to the Sri Ayudhya krung, we can learn exactly what his hold over the land was, namely, "he is the lord of all land in the realm." This can be seen in the words of the Comprehensive Law, part two of which is the law on land, issued by Lord Uthong in B.E. 1903 [A.D. 1360] ten years after the Sri Ayudhya krung was built. One passage says: "Then the high lord issued an edict bearing his dreaded command. He told all his lords and ministers that in the vicinity of the krung of the deva, the great Sri Ayudhya nagara, the great and magnificent royal base of the nine gems, the pleasurable puri, all the land belonged to the high lord. If he should permit his subjects, the slaves of the land, to settle on it, yet it did not belong to them." The sense of this is that the proclamation of the kshatriya's position at the beginning of Ayudhya resounded loudly without fear of anyone else: the kshatriya was lord of land and he deigned to make gifts of land so the people could make their living. Of course when all land belonged to the kshatriya the People typically had no rights to it. We say this because of evidence showing clearly that the People could buy and sell land only in the confines of the central muang. Outside the muang land was owned absolutely by the kshatriya and it could not be sold or bought. This evidence is the passage in Article 1 of the Comprehensive Law, part two (Supplement), which explains this. This article says: "as for the land outside the central muang in the vicinity of the Sri Ayudhya krung, subjects may not buy and sell it." This article means that the property rights in land which the People could enjoy were confined to the central muang itself. The People living outside the central muang all the way to the territorial limits of the Sri Ayudhyan realm had no chance of becom-


Thai Radical Discourse

ing owners of land, not a single square inch of it. This condition is characteristic of the land monopoly of the big Land-Lord, i.e. the kshatriya. It was the duty of the People to live on His land, and it was their duty to pay heavy taxes in return for living on His land. Their lot was just the same as it had been vis-á-vis the big saktina in Laos during the ancient period, as discussed by Father Buralet [Bourlet] who said that in all six of the Huaphan muang "villagers knew no property rights in land. The territory belonged to the Luang Phrabang Lord of Life, or Lord of Land. The People were mere gatherers and producers. Before the French arrived to rule this country, the land tax which the villagers paid annually seems to have been paid as a fee to occupy the Lord of Life's land/'61 When all land was held by a single individual—the kshatriya—like this, to what kind of position would the People in their vast numbers be consigned? At the beginning of the Ayudhyan saktina system the position of the People was as follows. They were laborers on the land, sending their tribute and taxes to the LandLord. Laboring on these plots of land without property rights slowed their labor and made it less productive than it should have been, because incentive was lacking. The kshatriya, the one who owned the land, as well as those who enjoyed the profits, thus had to issue laws ordering that land everywhere in the state "should not be left unoccupied. Let heads of households and heads of districts and regions as well as tax officials settle people on the land/' And in order to motivate the People to produce, the very same law also directed that "furthermore, if land outside the muang has been untended for a long time let someone mark it off as a rice field or orchard. If this person plants trees and many things of value (= edible things) in that place, let that person's tax be reduced for one year. After this period the tax belongs to the state." This means the tax was reduced to give the people an incentive to clear and prepare land. In addition, another clause in the law also provided incentives for those doing the work: "a jungle plot developed by an owner who dies belongs to his descendants." This clause is in the same vein as the boast in Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng's inscription that "whoever plants" areca and betel groves "gets them for himself," and when he does, the father "leaves them all to his children." But do not be pleased just yet. When the Ayudhyan saktina law specified that "descendants inherit on the death of that person" it does not mean that descendants had property rights in land but only property rights in what was extracted from such plots of land. If these plots of land were abandoned for nine or ten years, the law directed the local officials to relocate those without land as new occupants. Trees or any other kind of gain left on the land would be suitable payment for those who had relocated. "Such land could not be sold and bought" (Comprehensive Law, Supplement), i.e., the People had no absolute rights over the land on which they made their livelihood. It remained the property of the kshatriya. The People had rights only in their position as occupants who were to make the land productive and share its yield with the kshatriya. The kshatriya retained absolute rights over the land. He could confiscate or transfer any of it, as can be seen from the Comprehensive Law (Supplement, Article 12) which specifies that the kshatriya had full rights to give away the land to anyone, even plots of land which already had occupiers making their living from it. They could not object to or contest the rights of the person receiving the royal grant, and if they did contest or object they disobeyed royal orders. The People could use their rights of occupation to confront each other, but they were forbidden to confront the kshatriya. We can summarize by saying that the relationship connecting human beings to the land at the beginning of the Ayudhya period was as follows:

The Real Face of Saktina


1. The kshatriya was the big Land-Lord, the single individual who had absolute rights of ownership over all land in the realm. 2. The People in their vast numbers had no property rights in land. To make their livelihood they had to live on land belonging to the kshatriya and pay a tax, which constituted direct exploitation of all freemen by the kshatriya. 3. Individual rights over the land existed only in the central muang within whose confines land could be sold and bought, rented, pawned, and mortgaged (Comprehensive Law, Supplement). Exploitation in the central muang thus consisted of exploitation that the entire Land-Lord class visited on the phrai living on the land and on the freemen renting it. 4. The system of distributing land to favorites in royal service was clearly present. Land, elephants, horses, oxen, water buffalo, and the people within the plots all came under the control of anyone receiving a royal grant (Comprehensive Law, Supplement). Exploitation of the lek and phrai by the Land-Lord class, especially the ruling masters, was to be found everywhere. 5. Occupation of land both within the domain of the central muang and without was based on clearing the land, and this occurred voluntarily as well as at the urgent insistence of heads of households. Each person had right of occupation only while actually making the land productive. Property rights over land were thus reduced to nothing. When Lord Uthong proclaimed loudly that all the land belonged to him alone, the implementation of this proclamation had consequences only for the phrai. For those who were already ruling masters, this proclamation carried little weight. It is true that Lord Uthong completely consolidated his power over land within the boundaries of the Ayudhyan state, but Lord Uthong exercised very little power over the smaller states belonging to the ruling masters who were themselves big Land-Lords, as exemplified by the large and powerful Suphannaphum state of Khun Luang Phangua. Following Lord Uthong's migration southwards, Khun Luang Phangua set himself up as the lord controlling the land, thus replacing Lord Uthong. When the latter died, Khun Luang Phangua revolted and easily seized the Ayudhyan throne. Aside from the Suphannaphum state, Ayudhya was forced to confront the obstinacy of the ruling masters of many other states and to spend dozens of years subjugating them. Ultimately it attempted to consolidate its power over the lands of Sukhodaya, persevering in this effort for a very long time. It went to war many times and was finally victorious. But Ayudhya still could not exercise property rights over the land in the Sukhodaya realm. As tributary lord, Sukhodaya remained strong enough to maintain power over its own lands. In such circumstances the big Ayudhya Land-Lord had to employ the effective strategy known as "divide, then rule" (DIVIDED AND RULE).62 The method was to incite Phya Banmuang (the elder brother) and Phya Ramkhamhaeng (the younger brother), who were sons of the lord of the Sukhodaya krung, to quarrel with each other and grab each other's profits. In a struggle for the throne, the two of them fought a civil war in which a great many people died. When they had finished fighting, the big Ayudhya Land-Lord stepped in and divided up the territory into eastern Sukhodaya and west-


Thai Radical Discourse

ern Sukhodaya for the two sides to rule. The east was given to Phya Banmuang to control; Phitsanulok became the central muang. Phya Ramkhamhaeng was given western Sukhodaya to control, and Kamphaengphet became its capital. 63 This was the first phase. Then in B.E. 1981 [A.D. 1438] Phya Banmuang, who ruled Phitsanulok, died, and the big Ayudhya Land-Lord announced the destruction of the Sukhodaya realm. He calmly confiscated for himself all the lands over which Phya Banmuang and Ramkhamhaeng had held property rights. Striking back at this strategy of divide and rule, Sukhodaya did not react swiftly enough and was forced to submit to Ayudhya. But all the Sukhodaya ruling masters continued to look for ways to rid themselves of the big Ayudhya Land-Lord. Thus some of them turned to the power of Thao Lok (Lord Tilokkarat), the Chiangmai saktina, for help in throwing the Ayudhyan yoke from their shoulders, but Ayudhya's power was substantial by this time, so the efforts of these ruling masters failed. All the lands formerly belonging to the Sukhodaya state fell straight into the hands of the big Ayudhya Land-Lord. This meant that the Thai saktina system began to have a genuinely secure existence after this consolidation of Sukhodaya's lands had taken place. The final step taken by the big Ayudhya Land-Lords to secure the saktina system was to issue in B.E. 1998 [A.D. 1455] a saktina law known as "The Law on the Military and Civil Hierarchy." It was this very law which served as the principal instrument for upholding and preserving the institutions of the Thai saktina class until its political power was overthrown in the middle class revolution of B.E. 2475 [A.D. 1932]. All the points discussed in this section on "The Origins of the Saktina System in Thailand" are no more than subjective hypotheses which hold to the evolutionary path of human society. Those who study and cite this section should please take this fact to heart and remember it. THE SAKTINA SYSTEM IN THAILAND A. Economic Characteristics 1. Ownership of the Means of Production The means of production in Thai saktina society were identical to the means of production in the saktina societies of other countries, i.e., it was land. This principal means of production had fallen into the hands of a small group of people known as the saktina class consisting of the Land-Lords and the ruling masters. The big move by the Thai saktina class to amass power over land and give itself absolute rights to it was led by Phra Borommatrailokkanat in B.E. 1998 [A.D. 1455]. After struggling relentlessly against the various ruling-masters—in Sukhodaya, Suwannaphum, Nakhon Sawan, Chachoengsao (Muang Saengchera in the chronicles), and so forth—until it had absorbed them, the Ayudhyan saktina class achieved the ultimate victory, i.e., it decreed that all lands in the empire be transferred to a single individual, the kshatriya. Once he had seized all power over land, the big Ayudhya saktina apportioned the lands on a grand scale. Did the big saktina of the Ayudhya krung apportion the land completely—that is, make royal grants to this person and that throughout the empire—because he was overflowing with compassionate feelings? With profuse apologies, this question must be answered No! The causes which forced the big saktina to distribute land were as follows. (1) Economic Competition within the Saktina Class. Each of the ruling masters

The Real Face of Saktina


who had joined hands with the kshatriya in expanding territories and amassing power over land at the expense of other ruling masters hoped to profit from this land. Each of them wanted to control land which was the principal means of production. Not one of the ruling masters who swore by the motto "offer yourself to the lord till death, serve the master with all your strength" was actually willing to follow this motto if they did not profit from it. If the kshatriya did not divide up the land and give it to the ruling masters so they could profit from it there would be endless disturbances, revolts, coups, and dynastic upheavals. The most effective tie that the kshatriya could use to bind all the ruling masters to him was the distribution of land so they would get their profits, though this distribution carried with it a stipulation to which they agreed, namely, that recipients of shares were required to send tribute and taxes to the kshatriya in exchange for his protective beneficence. (2) Political Competition within the Saktina Class. In reality, an unalterable law existed: the amount of political power held by the ruling masters varied according to the extent of their economic power. Those who had substantial ownership of the means of production had a great deal of political power. Allowing the ruling masters to control unbounded tracts of land provided them with political power which expanded without limit as surely as night follows day, and this situation imperiled the security of the big saktina. The proclamation of laws which limited the size of the means of production— i.e. land—was the only reliable and effective way to limit the bases of the ruling masters' political power. For this reason, the royal land grant laws had to carry with them specific upper limits on the amount of land each ruling master could possess. Moreover, by granting land to royal servants and despatching these people to replace the former ruling masters, the kshatriya had a way of guaranteeing himself a more loyal corps of ruling masters. This kind of measure was designed to concentrate power effectively at the center. (3) The Objective Law of the Evolution of the Production System. The production system of the slave age had completely disintegrated. Slaves who had been the property of the big saktina became free, and he no longer had slaves as tools to earn his livelihood. All the big saktina had was land, and the one way for him to pursue profit was to distribute land to the freemen and ruling masters so they could extract from all this land a yield and share it with him in the form of tribute and taxes. Thus the exploitative system of the exploiting class was forced to change according to the ever-changing realities of production in society. The distribution of land was thus a necessary measure and the only solution for the exploiting class of saktina society in every country. Because of these three (at the minimum) fundamental factors, the big saktina in the Sri Ayudhya krung was forced in B.E. 1998 [A.D. 1455] to carry out a large-scale allocation of land. The strongman carrying out the proportional allocation and limiting the size of the tracts at that time was the "khun wang," who was in charge of providing security for the royal palace (where the kshatriya's lineage resided) and who adjudicated legal cases in the center. At this point we must also understand that according to Thai rule in ancient times, the "khun wang" was the person with the broadest powers in giving orders to royal servants. He had the power to establish courts which adjudicated cases involving those individuals under the control of the royal palace and the various ministerial departments subordinate to it. He also had the largest number of departments under his aegis. Whoever held this position in royal service had to possess special abilities over and above those of royal servants in other departments and ministries.64 For these reasons the khun wang was a valuable strongman, and in recognition of his contribution once the allocation had been made, he was appointed "chaophraya thammathibodi sirat-


Thai Radical Discourse

tanamonthianban" with the position of "Senabodi of the Palace," making him one senabodi among only four others. He also received 10,000 rai as his share of land, the largest amount that any royal servant could be given. The results of this particular allocation of land and the limits on landholdings were finally proclaimed in the "Law on the Military and Civil Hierarchy," proclaimed in B.E. 1998 [A.D. 1455] by Borommatrailokkanat. In this law, the kshatriya—i.e. Borommatrailokkanat—proclaimed in the most haughty manner that he controlled all land everywhere in the realm. This law declared the kshatriya to be "Phrabatsomdet Phraborommatrailokkanat, the Supreme Lord of the Earth, of all Mándala in the Universal Empire, etc., etc." Once this had been accomplished, the kshatriya took the next step of magnanimously granting land to his own extended and extensive family and to the royal servants, so they could make their living. The allotments of land and the scale limiting the amounts of land were stated in the law cited above as follows: (1) Hierarchy of the Royal Family or the Kshatriya's Kin, as well as Royal Servants of the Inner Palace:

The Kshatriya's younger brother or son, who is Supreme Head of the Royal Household holding the Rank of Maha Upparat Younger brothers (princes of the blood) who have a krom Sons (princes of the blood) who have a krom Younger brothers (princes of the blood) who do not yet have a krom Sons (princes of the blood) who do not yet have a krom Younger brothers (princes of lesser wives) who have a krom Sons (princes of lesser wives) who have a krom Grandsons who have a krom Lesser grandsons who have a krom Younger brothers (princes of lesser wives) who do not yet have a krom Sons (princes of lesser wives) who do not yet have krom Grandsons who do not yet have a krom Lesser grandsons who do not yet have a krom Third generation princes [momchao] Fourth generation princes [momratchawong]



» " " " " " » » " " a " " " "

100,000 50,000 40,000 20,000 15,000 15,000 15,000 15,000 11,000 7,000 6,000 6,000 4,000 1,500 500

"To have a krom" refers to lord-masters who had their own krom; in other words, those who were old enough to command civilian phrai were given permission to set up departments [krom] under their control. These departments had a chief, a deputy, and a registrar to perform the work of the krom, which consisted of travelling around to survey the people living on the landholdings of that particular lord-master, registering for service every able-bodied man within that territory. Registration meant entering the names on long scrolls rather like long-tailed kites, which therefore came to be called kite-tail lists, and then tattooing in ink on the man's wrist or arm the numbers designating his unit [mu krom kong] in order to identify him and prevent his escape. Those people who had been registered and tattooed were called "lekh" or "lek" and were forced to do their turn laboring for their ruling masters, as will be discussed below.


The Real Face of Saktina

The above sakdina scale was only for the most important lords [chao]. In addition, there were many more lord-masters [chaonai] who held sakdina titles (these were called titled lords) and who performed royal service in various capacities by riding elephants and horses to display the kshatriya's dignity and munificence and by providing the forces which protected his personal water buffalo herds. For example, Chao Phitheharat, Chao Thewathirat, Chao Thotsathep, and so forth had sakdina of 1,000, 800, and 500 rai respectively. Altogether, there were twenty ranks in this group of lords. At this point we come to the kshatriya's lesser wives, i.e. the heavenly beauties and female attendants who both served in the household and carried out family duties. The scale for this group was as follows:

Somdet foster sister (rank of Thao Worachan) Four first-class concubines [phra sanomek] (i.e. Thao Intharasuren, Thao Sisudachan,65 Thao Intharathewi, Thao Sichulalak66) Wives with children [maechao maenang] Four senior ladies-in-waiting (i.e. Thao Somsak, Thao Sopha, Thao Sisatcha, Thao Intharasuriya) Ordinary concubines and attendants Attendants who made special utensils (i.e. eating utensils) Concubines and foster sisters of the kshatriya's younger brothers, and sons and daughters of the blood Concubines and foster sisters of the kshatriya's other children and grandchildren Female servants assigned to krom

Sakdina "


" "

1,000 1,000

" n

1,000 800 600






200 100


Aside from those listed above, there were a great many more tiers and ranks. We can conclude that those women who were in the palace doing royal service, whether or not they were wives, all received a fixed amount of land. (2) Hierarchy of all Royal Servants both in the Krung and in the Outlying Muang The allocation and maximum amount for royal servants was only 10,000 rai, which was deemed to be a rather sizeable portion as even some of the lords received less than 10,000. All those who received this allocation and maximum amount of 10,000 rai held the title of phraya, so they were called "phraya with rice fields of 10,000."

The Ranks of Royal Servants Holding Sakdina of 10,000 Rai A. Special Rank Chaophraya Great Upparat Royal Adviser B. Civilian Ranks Chaophraya Chakkri Siongkharak Chief Senabodi, Head of the Samuhanayok (civilian affairs concentrated here) Phraya Yommarat Senabodi for the Krom Nakhonban (Pillar of the Muang) Phraya Thammathibodi Senabodi for the Krom Thammathikon (Pillar of the Palace)


Thai Radical Discourse Phraya Sithammathirat Phraya Phonlathep Phra Maharatchakhru Phrakhru Mahithon Phra Maharatchakhru Phraratchakhru

Phraya Phrasadetsurentharathibodi C. Military Ranks Chaophraya Mahasenabodi Phraya Siharatdechochai Phraya Thainam Chaophraya Sura si Chaophraya Sithammarat Phraya Kasetsongkhram Phraya Ramronnarong Phraya Sithammasokkarat Phraya Phetcharattanasongkhram Phraya Chaiyathibodi

Senabodi for the Krom Phra Kosathibodi (Pillar of the Treasury) Senabodi for the Krom Phra Kasetrathibodi (Pillar of the Rice Fields) Head of Royal Rites (brahmans and astrologers) Head of the Legal Counsellors (brahmans and purohitas) Both of the above were also in charge of judicial proceedings. Head of Religious Affairs (Krom Thammakan) Chief Senabodi, Head of the Samuhaphrakralahom (military affairs concentrated here) Based at the krung Based at the krung Lived off Phitsaunulok, a First Class Muang Lived off Nakhonsithammarat, a First Class Muang Lived off Sawankhalok, a Second Class Muang Lived off Kamphaengphet, a Second Class Muang Lived off Sukhodaya, a Second Class Muang Lived off Phetchabun, a Second Class Muang Lived off Tanawasi [Tennaserim], a Second Class Muang

Each of these phraya with rice fields of 10,000 had a great number of royal servants under their command who ranked below them, with sakdina ranging from 50 rai all the way to 5,000 rai. If they were phraya of important centers and lived off first or second class muang, they had an assistant whose rank was palat (comparable to the Great Upparat in the krung), a yokkrabat who acted as personal adviser (comparable to the Chaophraya Great Upparat in the central muang), a satsadi who controlled the military levies of civilian phrai (comparable to the Samuhaphrakalahom), and a mahatthai who took charge of affairs regarding the civilian population (comparable to the Samuhanayok). Apart from these, there was a full complement of departments for the muang, palace, treasury, and rice fields modeled on the administrative hierarchy in the krung. In the event that the phraya was very important and claimed to be lord by descent, as in the case of Nakhonsithammarat, there were, in addition, departments of pages, astrologers, palace guards, and so forth, and even a department of scribes and one for daughters.67 Moreover, each muang had lesser muang subordinate to it. All these royal servants had sakdina as determined by a rigidly fixed scale. In addition to these phraya with rice fields of 10,000 who were sent out to live off the eight muang as related above, a great many phraya, phra, and luang were sent to live off third and fourth class muang. This group had sakdina of 5,000 and below, but to reproduce the sakdina here would be unnecessary.

The Real Face of Saktina


Each of the wives of all the phraya, phra, and luang received the following allocation of land and sakdina:

Wives who were royal gifts and chief wives All minor wives Slave wives who had children

sakdina " "

half the husband's half the chief wife's same as minor wives

(3) Hierarchy for Monks and Ordained Men The ruler's extended and extensive family, and royal servants—those yet to rid themselves of defilements—were not the only ones who received an allocation of rice land and a fixed limit on landholdings. All monks and ordained men also received, according to the following scale, a share of the profit from land:

Phmkhru versed in Dharma Phrakhru not versed in Dharma Monks versed in Dharma Monks not versed in Dharma Novices versed in Dharma Novices not versed in Dharma Brahmans versed in the Arts [silpasastra] Brahmans of median accomplishment White-robed ascetics versed in Dharma White-robed ascetics not versed in Dharma

Equivalent in rice land " " " " " " " " " "

Rai 2^400 1,000 600 400 300 200 400 200 200 100

(4) Scale for the Phrai, i.e. the People The Comprehensive Law (Supplement), in force from the time of Uthong Ramathibodi I (B.E. 1903) [A.D. 1360], contains an edict which states explicitly that: "In the vicinity of the krung of the deva, the great Sri Ayudhya nagara, the great and magnificent royal base of the nine gems, the pleasurable puri, all the land belongs to the high lord. If he should permit his subjects, the slaves of the land, to settle on it, yet it does not belong to them." The subjects—the slaves of the land who occupied his land—did not, therefore, have any rights or recourse whatsoever. They were compelled to accept what had been allocated for them:

Phrai hua ngan Phrai mi khrua Phrai rap Phrai lew Yachok (the Poor) Waniphok (beggars) Slaves and slave children

Sakdina " " " " 1!



Rai ~25~ 20 15 10 5 5 5


Thai Radical Discourse

Phrai hua ngan were phrai who were foremen in service to the kshatriya and the ruling masters. Phrai mi khrua were phrai who had refugee families under their supervision. Phrai rap were common phrai—constituting the entire population—who were ordinary workers. Phrai lew were the lowest phrai, the ones who served others. Their status was better than slaves in the sense that they were independent, better than the yachok (the poor), who ate irregularly, in the sense that they had a master to feed them, and better than the waniphok (beggars) in the sense that they did not have to beg for food. Such was the real status of all phrai. The saktina chronicle experts, such as M.R. W. Songsutcharit Nawarat in Part I of "Siam: the Revolutionary State" and Prince Damrong in "The Nature of Rule in Siam from Ancient Times," constantly twist this when they refer to it, by saying that common people had 25 rai of rice land. But the evidence from the Law on the Military and Civilian Hierarchy issued in B.E. 1998 [A.D. 1455] discloses the real truth that ordinary people could have a maximum of merely 15 rai of rice land, as shown in the scale for phrai with flat land [rap]. Impoverished people, who constituted the majority of the population, had only 5 rai, the same as slaves. At best, by offering themselves as lew (those in service) of the ruling masters, they obtained a mere 10 rai of rice land! Another distortion attempted by all the saktina chronicle experts is their explanation that ancient sakdina amounts do not signify the quantity of rai which the royal servants received in royal grants according to their sakdina grade. Instead, these were the quantities of rice land in rai which they were entitled to purchase.68 Or the saktina chronicle experts temptingly assert the original reason for creating the sakdina lists: "the original basis was probably the desire merely to prevent people hoarding more rice land than they had the manpower to make productive."69 This explanation unquestionably distorts history in order to conceal the reality of exploitation by the saktina class. The saktina class was privileged. It had many more rights to control rice land than all the phrai, from whom it kept the land for its own distribution and pursuit of profit, so that in every corner of the land people were forced to become phrai lew, lek, and slaves. If we look into the past and retrace the histories of other countries, whether in Europe or in Asia, we can see clearly that this system of apportioning land during the saktina period was not created casually or for show but purposefully and out of necessity. As described at the beginning of this work, this necessity was the consequence of: 1) the economic competition within the saktina class; 2) the political competition within the saktina class; and 3) the unalterable law of evolution in the production system. Let us repeat, nevertheless, that it was necessary for Borommatrailokkanat to carry out this redistribution of land for real in order to utilize the profits from land to secure the loyalty of the royal servants and retainers who had rallied to him. By this means he prevented such incidents as revolts, disturbances, and usurpations and installed a new group of ruling masters which came from among those royal servants and retainers whom he perceived to be trustworthy and loyal. He did all this to eliminate the power of the previous ruling masters, each of whom extolled himself as the big Land-Lord. Simultaneously he tightly restricted the amount of land belonging to the new group of ruling masters in order to limit the group's political power at its foundations. That is to say, he limited political power through the control of economic power. Another important reason lying at the core [of this strategy] was that Borommatrailokkanat did not have enormous numbers of slaves for production tools as did the kshatriya in the slave period. The only way he could extract profit from land was to distribute land to free-

The Real Face of Saktina


men and royal slaves and retainers to make it productive. They then returned a portion to him in the form of tribute and taxes. Aside from these measures, the kshatriya in saktina society was unable to extract even the smallest profit from the land . . . because he would not work the rice land himself! Should the saktina continue to insist that saktina law is empty and that actually there was no allocation of land, we would have to rejoin by saying that Borommatrailokkanat had money to spend and rice to eat because he had enormous numbers of slaves to work the land, i.e. he was a kshatriya of the slave period. He invented the saktina law as a pretence to console the slaves. If we countered the saktina with this explanation they would surely scream in protest again, because this would be even more hateful. When we identify Borommatrailokkanat as a big saktina who distributed land to obtain profit, they do not agree, yet when we shift him back and make him the big slave master they reject this too. In such circumstances, is the only way the saktina will be satisfied if we declare that Borommatrailokkanat was a democratic kshatriya? The reason that the saktina argue that saktina law was empty and that there was no real distribution of land is because at a later stage when the practice arose of inheriting land, a royal land grant did not have to be returned to the kshatriya for redistribution upon the recipient's departure from royal service or death. Individually owned land greatly increased and the tracts grew large, while uncleared land diminished. When land did become available, the kshatriya would seize it and control it himself or share it all out among his descendents. Thus the royal servants received only their sakdina grade, insignia of office, and allotments of land, which they had to seek out for themselves. As they had to look hard to do so, they used their power to persecute and oppress the phrai, and the phrai luang, phrai rap, and phrai lew were made more and more poverty-stricken through exploitation by the Land-Lords and the state. Land mortgaging and indebtedness thus came into existence. Ultimately the land slipped from their fingers and into the possession of the ruling masters who had money and power. Throughout Europe and the other countries of Asia inheritance of land and the insatiable greed for land occurred along the same lines. For this reason saktina law in subsequent stages did not distribute land to those holding the dignities of office and sakdina grades. Instead, it controlled the amount of land belonging to the phrai, and it gave to the ruling masters the opportunity to control and exploit land as they pleased. Although at a later stage the nobles did not have royal land grants, the majority of them had inherited land as capital, because most of them, being nobles by blood, had been born into the saktina class. This situation existed because only this group had the opportunity to become educated and present themselves for royal service. For the most part, the phrai studied in the wat schools or they were ordained as monks to get an education. Yet when they had disrobed, they were never wanted for royal service. There is no question that the society of the saktina functioned to safeguard the profits of the saktina class under saktina control. The various positions in royal service were reserved for the descendants of the saktina families. The number of phrai and people from the wat who could advance themselves was minuscule, a mere handful. Though they might have been "more experienced in ministerial matters than the aristocrats who were nobles by birth, very few of them received noble titles/'70 and the only opportunity for some of them to raise themselves up to be nobles occurred when the saktina class fell on bad times and was ruined, thus giving them entry. Evidence that positions in royal service were reserved for saktina families comes from the "Decree on Monks Disrobing to Enter Royal Service" of the Fourth Reign [1851-1868], proclaimed in B.E. 2397 [A.D. 1854], which contains the following passage:


Thai Radical Discourse

"'At this time some high-ranking monks and phrakhru, their retainers, and Pali degree holders who are disposed to greed (i.e. who are greedy by nature—Ed.) and who are hungry only for offerings of homage and dignities of office, seek out and attach themselves to royalty and nobility. These operators get into the krom for Internal Affairs, Military Affairs, and External and Maritime Affairs, thinking that royalty and nobility, being men of merit, will support their petitions to disrobe and become nobles with positions in one of those krom. But high-ranking monks, their retainers, and Pali degree holders who contemplate this will not see their wishes fulfilled. Do not consider doing it. It is futile, because we want only sons of noble families in these krom. We do not want people from the wat to be phraya, phra, luang, khun, and mun in the Krom for Internal Affairs and the other krom/'71

In actual fact, this situation enabled the saktina class to exploit on a secure and lasting basis. Having land as inherited capital, the saktina had no reason to be disturbed about not actually receiving the land prescribed by the law for their positions. Furthermore, even if in the subsequent stages the saktina did not actually have land, they did have many other prerogatives, for example in terms of the annual allowances which accrued to them, the grading of fines, and the legal counsel that could represent them in court (sakdina 400 and above could hire counsel on their behalf).72 Thus even if saktina law in the time of Borommatrailokkanat is taken as an empty law in the way the saktina of later stages have claimed, the saktina class was not really disturbed, and evidently it was actually more pleased with such a situation than if it had been required to return its land for redistribution at every change of reign. Be that as it may, the kshatriya in every reign still held power as the lord and owner of all land. He had the right to claim it and to give portions to anyone he wished, as is evident in the following "Royal Autograph Decreeing a Gift for the Royal Sons" of B.E. 2404 [A.D. 1861] during the Fourth Reign: "I, Most Exalted Indra Maha Mongkut, Highest Lord of the Siam Krung, Lord of the Fourth Reign of the present dynasty, do hereby proclaim to all who need to be informed of this decree that the land bordering the newly excavated canal from Bang Khwang all the way to Bang Ngiew in Muang Nonburi and Muang Nakhon Chaisi was previously overgrown with jungle and unused. It had no owner. Once the canal excavation was completed, I ordered Chaophraya Rawiwongsa Maha Kosathibodi, who heads the treasury and who was in charge of the excavation, to secure the uncultivated area as rice land. In Muang Nonburi the area amounts to 1,620 rai on the north bank, and in Muang Nakhon Chaisi the area amounts to 9,396 rai on the north bank and 5,184 rai on the south bank for a total of 16,200 rai. It is divided into 50 lots of 324 rai per lot, 60 sen long and 5 sen 8 wa wide. As this rice land previously had no owner, I have laid claim to it, and I hereby grant these lots to my sons, one or two lots to each of them, so that they have land for phrai to cultivate or for others to rent from them. With this printed document to certify each lot, I hereby grant to ......... (name of child). This printed document is to be regarded as the certificate and Phraya Rawiwongsa Maha Kosathibodi is to take the commissioner to survey the land and to affix the red seal authenticating the certificate according to the customs of the land."73 This is evidence that the saktina cannot refute by saying that the saktina class never laid claim to rice land and allocated it among themselves within their own class, just as they wished. The saktina class secured this particular allocation by declaring that in excavating the canal, it had discovered some unused land and thus laid its claim. In reality, it already knew that the land was overgrown and unclaimed, so it dispatched

The Real Face of Saktina


the head of the work crew to excavate the canal. Yet the purpose of this excavation was not to provide irrigation for the People who worked the rest of the rice land, but to irrigate that very land which was jungle—to make it valuable and arable. When the excavation was finished, the phrai had no chance to lay claim to it, and the saktina class rushed to announce its claims and allocations! Everything was done to serve the saktina class, especially the kshatriya's extended and extensive family! We conclude that all good irrigated land ended up belonging to the saktina class, with none left for the people as a whole. That same decree even goes so far as to say that the rice land given to the sons was newly claimed and was thus protected from the tax on rice land. So long as this rice land remained in the possession of the sons and they did not sell it, " . . . (name of son), the owner of the rice land, is exempt from payment of the tax on rice land/' The tax on the rice land would be collected only when purchase of the land was affixed with the red seal (the deed to the land) and it changed hands!!! Another instance in Thai history when a hugh allocation of land was made to royal servants and retainers to control so they could extract profit from it occurred when the territory of Muangs Phrabong [Battambang] and Siamrat [Siemreap] was given to Chaophraya Aphaiphubet (Baen) in B.E. 2337 [A.D. 1784] during the First Reign: "At that point the kshatriya gave thought to the fact that Chaophraya Aphaiphubet (Baen) had ruled Krung Kambuja for a long time and, unlike Nak Ong-eng, the newly enthroned lord of Kambuja, had earned a reward. So a royal order granted the territory of Muang Phratabong and Muang Siamrat to Chaophraya Aphaiphubet (Baen) who was to act as the kshatriya's representative and be directly subordinate to Krungthep. Nak Ong-eng was pleased (??) with this and turned over the territory as the kshatriya wished. Chaophraya Aphaiphubet (Baen) thus became the kshatriya's representative in Muang Phratabong and founded the lineage of Chaophraya Aphaiphubet (Chum) which served as the kshatriya's representative in Phratabong from that time on."74 This is only some of the evidence which can be found in our fragmented documents, and because so few documents have survived, we are unable to discern very clearly just how much land was really granted in a given period. And sometimes we cannot even see how the land was transferred. Still, if we turn to look at the history of other countries where complete records have been preserved, we will be able to see clearly the system of land distribution, for example the land distribution in various countries of South America during the period (the sixteenth century of the Christian Era) when Spanish colonialism's influence was expanding. In that period, once Spain had crushed the Red Indians and achieved control over vast territories in South America, the Spanish kshatriya who was the big Land-Lord (SUZERAIN) allocated land to his favorite warlords to rule for profit, portions of which they sent back to him. Khotet (CORTES) received twenty-two muang which covered about 2,500 square miles; attached to this land and under his control were 115,000 Red Indians. This constituted one subordinate state (VASSAL). Pitsaro (PIZARRO) received land on the same scale and a sakdina title—MARQUES DE LA CONQUISTA—as well. The number of Red Indians attached as lek to Pitsaro's land was 100,000. All the other CONQUISTADORS (conquerors)75 also received shares of land and sakdina titles. The average size of these tracts, which came with lek and slaves, was between 5,000 and 10,000 square miles. The RIO DE LA PLATA region, consisting today of the countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil, was given to sixty-four big Land-Lords who extracted profit from it.76 The same conditions that prevailed for Spain at that time existed in Thailand at the beginning of the Ayudhya period, i.e. when the empire was being expanded. Land was seized from the Khmer who had controlled it from of old. The many muang of the


Thai Radical Discourse

Khmer in Isan [the Northeast]—such as Phimai, Phanomrung, Muang Tarn, Muang Ichan (in the Ichan jungle in the southern parts of Surin and Khorat), Muang Petchabun, and so forth—had to be abandoned, undoubtedly because of their seizure by Thai ruling masters. Without question, what was distributed to these ruling masters as rewards and favors was land, and naturally the native peoples were forced to be slaves of each ruling master, as laborers on public works or as slave-attendants. Previously these ruling masters probably held vast tracts of land in proportion to their capacity to beat and kill the native peoples, and this continued until Borommatrailokkanat's time when the danger posed by their unlimited power over the land was first perceived. So he himself promulgated a law on grants of land, both as a mark of his beneficence and as a device to limit the power of the ruling masters. As it appears from the registers that the kshatriya granted a great quantity of land, doubt may arise as to where he acquired such an alarming amount of land to allocate as grants. In order to satisfy this doubt we have to turn back in time and note the number of people and the amount of land that actually existed. For the Borommatrailokkanat period there are no statistics for the number of People, but we can make some comparison by looking back one hundred years ago to B.E. 2393 [A.D. 1850] when Thailand was much larger than in Borommatrailokkanat's time, and the population was only a few million. According to the credible estimate of Sir John Bowring, there were only four and a half million people, or if we take the estimate of Sangharaja Pallegoix there were at most six million people, of whom one and a half million were Chinese. Even in B.E. 2454 [A.D. 1911] when the Fifth Reign had ended there were only a little more than eight million people (8.3 million).77 As late as B. E. 2475 [A.D. 1932] we had a population of only eleven million people.78 From these facts, we have a rough idea that the population in Borommatrailokkanat's time was only a few million. Cultivated rice land throughout Thailand amounted to tens of millions of rai. As those debased as phrai had only 15, 10, or 5 rai of rice land—or none at all if they were economically ruined lek— rice land was available in abundance for allocation among the saktina in the thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of mi. The problem Borommatrailokkanat faced was not that he lacked rice land to give out but that he had no one to cultivate it, so it had to be left unutilized! What alarmed him was that he had land alone but not enough people to cultivate it as rice land, thus resulting in only a little profit for him. This particular fact is evident from the Law on Rebellion, issued by the kshatriya in B.E. 1997 [A.D. 1454], which reads, "Furthermore, anyone who induces people to settle uninhabited, uncultivated jungle—to make their livelihood and send tribute and taxes to the central treasury—shall be rewarded modestly (i.e. be given a small reward)." We can see that he tried to have his proclamation on persuading people to cultivate rice land circulated far and wide, to the point of even offering a reward to those who induced people to settle and make their livelihood. If we look back to the Comprehensive Law in the time of Lord Uthong, we find there was much uncultivated land. The law directed heads of villages to settle people to work the land for gain, which shows that there was always land available for distribution to everyone. In wars during the saktina period battles ended every time with the families of the enemy being rounded up and taken away. Not all these families were pressed into slavery as in the slave period. Instead, they were brought back and used as a productive force, and for this reason they were given land in various places once they had been removed en masse. Areas of Nakhon Sawan, Prachinburi, Saraburi, Nakhon Nayok, and the muang in the south were all places for locating the families that had been uprooted and herded

The Real Face of Saktina


together. The chronicles are forever saying that if it was not the Khmer it was the Burmese who crept in and furtively rounded up Thai families. This was characteristic of the pursuit and seizure of the forces of production. Because these families made the land productive and had to send a share to the central treasury, kshatriyas were much pleased with them. The evidence and conclusions presented here should be sufficient to overturn the distorted explanations of the saktina chronicle experts. Borommatrailokkanat did not promulgate the saktina law as a lark. The law had a real function, and the kshatriya actually made land grants. In addition to acquiring land, the nobles acquired the people on that land as well. Wherever people were already working land, they had to send a share of the yield to the nobles, and wherever land was as yet unutilized, the nobles went around commandeering people to work it. This type of empressment actually had the sanction of law! Even at a later stage when real land grants were no longer made, the sakdina [register] was still one of the devices used by the saktina class to limit the size and quantity of plots belonging to the phrai, and it afforded a legal means for that class to amass property rights in land. The big Land-Lords "had slaves and freemen to serve and pamper them." One way or the other, this law was definitely not empty. As saktina law was not an empty law, in B.E. 2423 [A.D. 1880] of the Bangkok period, i.e. during the Fifth Reign, a new sakdina hierarchy was promulgated as law. This law, called the Royal Edict on the Sakdina Hierarchy for the Royal Family, amassed as the prerogative of the kshatriya's kith and kin many times more landed power than had been the case in the Ayudhya period. The new sakdina amounts in the Fifth Reign were specified as follows: "The son of the kshatriya with somdet honorific and supreme title has sakdina of 100,000; great-grandfathers of the kshatriya, grandfathers, those in senior lineages, and brothers with somdet honorific who are full-blooded royalty have sakdina of 50,000 if they hold krom office, 30,000 if they do not; sons of the kshatriya with somdet honorific have sakdina of 40,000 if they hold krom office, 20,000 if they do not; senior lineages and brothers and sons of the kshatriya who are full-blooded royalty have sakdina of 30,000 if they hold krom office, 15,000 if they do not; great-grandfathers, grandfathers, senior lineages, younger brothers, grandmothers and senior female relatives, and younger sisters of the kshatriya have sakdina of 15,000 if they hold krom office, 7,000 if they do not; daughters of the kshatriya have sakdina of 15,000 if they hold krom office, 6,000 if they do not; wives of the kshatriya have sakdina of 20,000 if they hold krom office, 15,000 if they do not; grandchildren, and nieces and nephews of the kshatriya with somdet honorific who are full-blooded royalty have sakdina of 15,000 if they hold krom office, 6,000 if they do not; grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and senior lineages of the kshatriya have sakdina of 11,000 if they hold krom office, 4,000 if they do not; lesser lineages of the kshatriya have sakdina of 11,000 if they hold krom office, 3,000 if they do not; a lesser lineage has 2,000. Officials of lesser or greater importance have sakdina of 25 to 5,000m/."79 This evidence as well as the realities of the allocation and arrogation of the prerogative to amass land in the saktina class alone have made some saktina intellectuals realize that concealing the truth is useless, so they have happily accepted the existence of the land allocation and monopoly. With great delight they then proceed to a distorted explanation of saktina characteristics in order to save face and lure people into believing in saktina magnanimity and generosity. Here is an explanation of the principles of the saktina system by one of the new saktina intellectuals:


Thai Radical Discourse "All land belonged to the Lord of the Land. Every person who had reached adulthood was entitled to land to cultivate for his livelihood. The people were permitted by the kshatriya to look after their land and, at the same time, to live under the protection of the Lord of the Land. In return for these privileges, every person who looked after land had to send to the Lord of the Land a tax or tribute in the form of money or goods, or he had to give his labor to the service of the state whose chief was the kshatriya. The quantity of land each person looked after was based on responsibilities that person undertook for the state."30

Reading this explanation by this modern saktina intellectual provides us with a favorable view of the magnanimity of the kshatriya who was so afraid of the People's starving to death that he tried to distribute land to every adult. Yet a shred of doubt remains: if we note that everyone should have land sufficient to sustain life, why did he give the poor a mere five rai per person, an amount which cannot sustain life? (This is derived from the statistics of Dr Khatsebao B.E. 2495 [A.D. 1952] which show that cultivators working fewer than six rai are forced to find other sources of income in order to cover their expenses.)81 And what is so laughable is that he characterizes the People's occupation of land to make their livelihood, in exchange for which they had to send tribute to the kshatriya, as a privilege! So much for privilege in the eyes of the saktina. If privilege existed, it was, on the contrary, that of the saktina class which greedily consumed vast tracts of land. As for the privilege enjoyed by the People who everywhere were impoverished, it was the privilege of being poor and starving! Another laughable point is the explanation that the amount of land a single individual possessed was proportional to the service he or she rendered to the state. If that were really the case, it would have had to be the People who controlled land in the tens of thousands of rai rather than the phraya of the 10,000 rice fields. These saktina are really good at looking over the heads of the phrai plowing the rice fields on their behalf while they are forever lying around dangling their feet and grabbing what they want! But even so, even if they do regard being an official as more important than plowing the fields, and even if these officials do render a more considerable service to the state than the phrai, thereby entitling them to higher sakdina, we are still a little bit skeptical about what duties of state are performed by the hundreds of heavenly beauties and female attendants in the kshatriya7 s harem. And what service to the state is rendered by all the minor wives of the nobility that they should have more sakdina than any of the phrai? We know that without the phrai society would collapse with a thunderous roar for want of producers. Throughout the land there would be no rice to eat. Yet without concubines and queens and minor wives, the state would be none the worse off. On the contrary, it would be less debauched and dissolute, and it might even progress! Thus the assertion of the saktina scholars that the amount of land a person possesses was proportional to duty and service for the state is absolutely beyond belief. Correctly put, what should be said is that the amount of land was proportional to how intimately, how splendidly, and how satisfying to the kshatriya a person performed that service! Wats and Missions—Big Land-Lords The allocation of the means of production to the saktina class took place not only within the kshatriya's extended and extensive family and the nobility but in another sphere as well, which received the largest shares of land. This was the religious sphere. All over the country wat were given royal land grants as usufruct, and land surrounding the wat served as a source of profit to maintain them and feed the phra [monks]. We

The Real Face of Saktina


can see from the Law on Rice Land Disposition that phra and ordained men did not actually receive land to control in personal allotments, but only the profit equivalent to what the nobility received from their lands. For this reason, the term "equivalent in rice fields" was used. A phrakhru versed in the Dhamma, for example, received the equivalent of 2,500 raí in rice fields. This kind of profit was called "niccabhatra" [permanent food supply], i.e. rice and fish given on a regular basis. Where did this rice and fish come from? The answer is that it came from the yield of the land given to wat. All monks and ordained men in wat thus reaped collectively the produce from these tracts of land, receiving a share in proportion to the size of the sakdina grade which the royal palace invariably conferred on them. Granting land as property belonging to wat or transferring it to the control of wat was a common practice that arose in every country around the world. The most famous instance of this was in ancient France. At that time the phra—or the wat—controlled vast tracts of land, collecting rents and yield from the People who lived on this "sangha land" [dharani sangha] and rented it. The rent was termed TITHE (in the form of a 10% levy). In England too there were huge tracts of this sangha land. Conflicts over the proceeds from these lands caused endless quarrels and wrangles between the kshatriyas in France and England and the wat and sangharaja. High-Lord Henry VIII, for example, quarreled with the Holy Father of the Vatican, the kshatriya for the phra in the Roman Catholic order, in a dispute which resounded throughout the history of the first part of the sixteenth century in the Christian Era. The Lord abolished phra; the phra abolished the Lord, and their mutual attacks created a great fuss. History records that their quarrel was simply over the Pope's refusal to allow Henry VIII to divorce his wife and acquire a new one, but the real cause was the conflict over proceeds from land. Henry VIII only wanted a pretext to seize the vast tracts of wat land along with the treasure on that land and return them to the English saktina class, and the real reason this Pope fellow went so far as to banish or excommunicate the High-Lord Henry VIII was precisely because he lost such huge profits. The custom of giving land and lek to wat was inherited from the slave age when almost all the rajas gave large amounts of both land and slaves to wat. Almost all the high rajas in the Khmer muang donated slaves, or khaphra, to till the land and provide rice and fish for wat, keep them well swept and cared for, and sing, dance, and make music day and night. Most of these people raised pigs, cattle, water buffalo, elephants, and horses which were butchered and cooked as food for the phra or which were used for transport and as beasts of burden. During the period they were entrenched at Angkor Thorn (referred to as the Angkor Imperial Period, B.E. 1445-1975 [A.D. 902-1432]), the kshatriyas moved about giving land and slaves to the various wat throughout the empire. The Phrakan Court in Lopburi had previously been a wat which had lands and slaves serving it.82 In the Khmer muang this custom was observed even by the nobility and the royal slaves who had means and wealth. People competed with each other to donate large amounts of land and slaves to wat and then boasted about it in lengthy inscriptions. The name of each slave was included, resulting in a long string of slave names. The clearest example of giving land and slaves to wat as property and as tools for the extraction of profit is the kanlapana practice of High-Lord Jayavarman VII, to whom we have already referred (B.E. 1724-after 1744 [A.D. 1181-after 1201]). This kshatriya was really obsessed with building wat, and he constructed a great many of them, 514 sanctuary towers in all. For all the wat he built he allocated as profit the entire yield from 8,176 villages located in the vicinity of those wat. At the same time, he gave slaves in the form of khaphra to look after the wat and to undertake production, the yield from which supplied the phra. The number of these slaves was 208,532, including a


Thai Radical Discourse

total of 1,622 dancers to entertain the phra and the images!83 It is these donations of land, people, and profit that are called "phra kanlapana," wherein lies the origin of the kanlapana practice in Muang Thai. At this point we turn to examine the practice of "kanlapana" or the giving of "kanlapana" in Muang Thai. We have followed this practice since the slave age when slaves were donated to wat, hence the term "khaphra," i.e. "slaves serving the phra" Later on, in the saktina period, these slaves were transformed into "lek" and so were called "lekwat," although generally they continued to be called khaphra as previously. An example of giving land and profit to wat occurred during Phra Phetracha's time, in B.E. 2242 [A.D. 1699], in Muang Phatthalung and the muang subordinate to it. The total land area given to wat on this occasion is not known, but we do know that 290 wat were involved. Apart from land given to wat, all phrai living in the vicinity as well as northerners who had been uprooted and herded into the south were also given over as wat property. The entire yield which they produced became the property of the wat in order to supply the resident phra and to keep the wat in repair. These people who became the property of wat were called "lekwat," as their condition was identical to the lek belonging to the ruling masters. Sometimes they were called "khaphra," or else "yomsong." Or the terms were combined to be "khaphra yomsong" Because their entire yield went to supply the wat, all these people received complete exemption from taxation.84 Another well-known instance in Muang Thai of giving land, lek, and profit to wat occurred at the Buddha's Footprint at Saraburi during the time of High-Lord Songtham (B.E. 2163-2171) [A.D. 1620-1638]. It was at that time that the holy man Ta Phran discovered traces of the Buddha's Footprint, and High-Lord Songtham, after constructing a wat and worship hall to shelter it, "donated as homage to the Buddha's Footprint one yojana of land (i.e., 16 kilometers—ed.) surrounding the site, as well as that share of the kanlapana proceeds belonging to him which were now to be spent in maintaining the great relic monument at the Buddha's Footprint. He exempted from royal service all able-bodied men who had settled within the boundaries of the land grant and made them exclusively into khunkhlon to protect the footprint. The donated area was named Muang Prantapa, though it is known familiarly as Phra Phutthabat [the Budhha's Footprint]."85 These "khunkhlon" were "khaphra," or "lek belonging to the Buddha's Footprint." They were under the control of four individuals—the Mun Phrom, Phan Thot, Phan Thong, and Phan Kham—whose duties were "to see to it that the khaphra yomsong threshed, milled, and presented, on a regular basis, thirty bowls of rice to every phra resident during the Rains on the hill in the Buddha's Footprint district."86 The number of khaphra at the Buddha's Footprint was quite large. When High-Lord Borommakot was at civil war with the kshatriya's son, Lord Aphai, 100 khaphra under the direction of khunkhlon were sent to help fight. Once hostilities had ended, they were given substantial supplementary benefits, and money was paid out to redeem and return to the Buddha's Footprint khaphra who had been degraded to become slaves in other muang. As a consequence, khaphra at the Buddha's Footprint increased to some 600 families of able-bodied people (statistics of B.E. 2327 [A.D. 1784]).87 Apart from being "khaphra tilling the ruler's fields and giving [the yield] to the Sangha," the khaphra at the Buddha's Footprint were also forced to pay a tax to their wat (identical in the form of the TITHE of Europe). The rate of this tax for Wat Phraphutthabat was as follows. The field tax rate was calculated according to the number of cattle used in plowing at 10 salung per pair; sugar cane at one baht per rar, rubber at 2 salung per year; wood cut with a machete and borne on the shoulder at one fuang per year; and

The Real Face of Saktina


large wooden poles at 2 salung per year. Rattan cutters who "tear up bamboo into strips and peels for all kinds of cordage" paid a tax of one salung per year if they were men and one fuang per year if they were women. Shops in the market each paid 2 salung and Jiawkers^ne fuang per double-basket.88 Anoth'er large-scale donation of these kanlapana—land and people who thus became assets and profit for wat—occurred in the time of Phra Ethathotsarot (midAyudhya period), though no evidence survives of the details. We assume that there were many more kanlapana made by kshatriyas which the chronicles do not record in any concrete way. There were probably some made in almost every reign, as is evident from the laws issued by the saktina class. One senses that the kanlapana arrangement dates from the beginning of the Ayudhya krung. In the State Criminal Code, issued in the time of the High-Lord Uthong Ramathibodi I who was the first kshatriya of Ayudhya (nineteenth-twentieth centuries, Buddhist Era [second half of fourteenth century A.D.]), one article prohibits the buying and selling of kanlapana land and people: "Article One. Neither the ruler's phrai, nor phrai who have become khaphra through kanlapana gifts, nor fields and orchards of which shares belong to the Sangha are to be bought and sold. Should anyone learn of the ruler's phrai or donated phrai being forced to suffer in any way, or of any interference with the fields and orchards from which shares go to the Sangha, that person should inform the kshatriya so that the High Lord may deign to offer his protection. If a person sells the ruler's phrai, or fields and orchards of which shares belong to the Sangha, those engaged in the transaction are condemned. The ruler's phrai, the phrai donated as kanlapana, and the fields and orchards are to remain in royal service. The assets used in transacting the sale are to be remitted to the state." (State Criminal Code, 138.) Let us also note that there were two forms of making royal grants to wat as kanlapana. One was the permanent grant, unlike the grants to individuals which could be recovered. In the time of Narai, the Great Raja, the land around the Lopburi palace had been made into kanlapana wat so that officials who would have been ensnared, captured, and killed by Phraphetracha and Phrachaosua could be ordained when Narai died. The kshatriya in the Fourth Reign [A.D. 1851-1868], wishing to recover these palace grounds for the enjoyment and pleasure of his Lords, had to locate another large tract in exchange for it. This is disclosed in the "Proclamation of the Royal Grant in Exchange for Religious Usufructuary Land in Muang Lopburi," dated Tuesday, the thirteenth day of the waning moon, in the twelfth month, Year of the Cock, fourth year of the decade, 1224 in the Lesser Era (B.E. 2405) [18-19 November 1862]. "A royal order is hereby issued to officials in the principal agricultural krom to purchase a tract of rice land in one of the sub-districts which is larger than the royal palace grounds and larger than the grounds around Chaophraya Wichayen's home, as it is noted that the Sangha at one time took over Chaophraya Wichayen's home for the wat ... This purchased land is then to be placed in the Buddha's domain for the Sangha, in all four cardinal directions, in exchange for the palace grounds and Chaophraya Wichayen's home which are to be returned to the royal domain."89 The Sangha, which controlled this rice land given by the Fourth Reign ruler as kanlapana in exchange for the return of the palace grounds, leased it to the People to culti-


Thai Radical Discourse

vate and collected the annual proceeds. The same document continues: "I have heard that the rent is 10 tamlung, 2 baht, 2 salung (42 baht 50 satang). Every year the phra in Muang Lopburi collect it to fill their bowls with food . . . so that the land tax is not collected by the state." The statement that the land tax was not collected by the state means that the kshatriya gave the land wholly to the wat and also did not collect land tax from the wat. The wat land, completely independent of the kshatriya power as if it floated free, "was specifically donated by the kshatriya as a portion of usufruct land detached from the royal territories."90 The sense of this is that the wat acquired full property rights in the yield it collected and was not required to forward any shares of that yield to the state in the form of land tax as happened in Europe. The same proclamation explained that: "the kshatriya donated it to the Sangha, made the Sangha its owner, and also let the Sangha consume the field tax as phra kanlapana. Just as the people who rent rice land to cultivate from someone else must pay rent to the owner as well as field tax on behalf of the owner, so those who cultivate that rice land belonging to the Sangha must pay rent as well as land tax, both of which belong to the Sangha." What is described here is a special kind of kanlapana donation which became wholly the property of the Sangha. The state did not collect any land tax whatsoever from it. But this was only one kind of donation. Another kind was the ordinary form in which the wat collected rent only, and the kshatriya collected the land tax. The tenant paid the rent to the wat and the land tax to the state. In short, the two forms differed only in who received the payments: in both cases the tenant paid the two levels of tax. However much this profit amounted to, the phra in the wat divided it into three parts once it had been collected. One part was used to care for the Buddha, i.e. it was used to purchase flowers, incense, and candles. Some of it was used for oil [burned] in homage to the Buddha, some of it for repairs to the images and sanctuaries. But this portion did not consume a great amount. Lamp oil for homage to the Buddha, for example, was provided by the kshatriya if the wat belonged to the state (Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign). The second portion was used for the preservation of the Dhamma, i.e. for the copying of the Buddhist canon and the commentaries, for the construction of cabinets to hold the scriptures, and so forth. The third portion was used for the care of the phra, allocated according to their sakdina rank. The Law on the Civil Hierarchy specified the sakdina rank for ordained men on a scale ranging from rice land of 2,400 sakdina down to rice land of 100. The Law used the term "equivalent in rice land" for the sakdina allocations to ordained men, as in "a phrakhru not versed in the Dhamma has the rice land equivalent of 1,000," meaning that a phrakhru not versed in the Dhamma was given profit and a sakdina title equal to a noble who had sakdina of 1,000. It was necessary to formulate it this way because the kshatriya did not distribute land to phra or ordained men as personal allotments. Instead, he distributed it to wat. It was the wat which extracted the profit and then proceeded to distribute it among the phra. As a result of these conditions, most wat in the Buddhist religion were transformed into "big Land-Lords." The saktina ruling class had to take on the task of supporting and directing the lekwat—or khaphra—by making them the responsibility of the Department of Scribes whose sakdina ranked it as one of the largest departments [krom]. Subsequently the lekwat were transferred and became the responsibility of the "Department of the Palace." As far as can be ascertained, the number involved was quite large, i.e. khaphra from twelve monasteries at the outset, with the Department of

The Real Face of Saktina


the Palace acquiring jurisdiction over additional khaphra in wat everywhere as time went on.91 The custom of giving kanlapana land to wat was not confined to the kshatriya alone. All the wealthy and influential lords [chaophraya] of the more important nagara also observed this practice. In the past there was a "Department for Khaphra" in Nakhon Sithammarat, for example, as part of the system of muang rule.92 Although this ancient custom of kanlapana donations to wat has nowadays ceased to exist, a practice similar to it continues to be observed. That is to say, royal grants of usufruct land are still made to various wat which use them to build sanctuaries and halls for Pali study and to lease in lots to the People for the purpose of collecting an income to support the wat. Phra who have sakdina ranks and who are versed in the Dhamma receive a monthly salary in the form of a nityabhatra [niccabhatra] stipend (food stipend) in place of the rice and fish which in the past they received from the lekwat. According to the statistics of the Department of Public Relations for 2497 [A.D. 1954], the total number of Buddhist wat throughout the country was 20,944. Statistics are not available (especially for the period in which this is being written) for the number included in this figure which received royal grants of usufruct land. But, as far as can be ascertained, the total number of wat receiving royal grants of usufruct land in B.E. 2489 [A.D. 1946] was 195, and the total area of such land was about 108,218,640 square meters (a little more than 67,637 rai).93 This figure should provide a rough idea of the magnitude of land controlled by wat throughout the country for the extraction of profit. In addition to wat in the Buddhist religion, Christian wat of the French missionaries also received royal permission to purchase land for the purposes of cultivation and the extraction of profit to serve as capital for the propagation of their religion. This is evident from the agreement reached between the Thai saktina government and the French imperialist government in the Treaty of Trade Relations and Maritime Transport, dated Friday, the fourteenth day of the waxing moon in the ninth month, Year of the Dragon, B.E. 2399 (in the Fourth Reign), equivalent to 15 August 1856 A.D. This land from which the farang wat or mitsang [missions] were permitted to extract a profit was limited to a maximum of 3,000 rai per muang, not including the land area of the wat itself. All the same, exceptions to this limit were made here and there, such as in Muang Chonburi where the land area was allowed to reach 14,000 rai, Muang Ratburi where it was 13,000 rai, and Muang Chachoengsao where it was 9,000 rai. On the day the Royal Decree on Missions was issued, the names of the muang and the land belonging to the wat of French missionaries were as follows: Rai

1. Krungthep Circle

2. Prachinburi Circle

Krungthep Nakhon Khuankhan (Phrapradaeng) Samutprakan Thonburi Minburi Total for the Circle Chachoengsao Prachinburi Nakhonnayok Chonburi Total for the Circle

402 35 40 100 500 1,077 1,775* 1,325 295 12,377# 22,772


Thai Radical Discourse

3. Nakhon Chaisi Circle

4. Ayudhya Circle

5. Ratburi Circle

6. Nakhon Sawan Circle 7 Chanthaburi Circle

Nakhon Chaisi Suphanburi Samutsakhon Total for the Circle Ayudhya Saraburi Singburi Total for the Circle Ratburi Kanchanaburi t Samutsongkhram Total for the Circle Nakhon Sawan Chanthaburi Grand Total

1,970 370 150 2,470 1,299 160 164 1,623 11,617(5) 50 834 12,501 12 215 40,670

* Increased later to 9,000 mi. # Increased later to 14,000 mi. («^Increased later to 13,000 mi.

We can summarize this section by saying that in the Thai saktina system those holding property rights in the means of production were: 1. the kshatriya and his lineage, including his children and wives; 2. the nobles, the officials and retainers, and the Land-Lord class in general; 3. the wat in the Buddhist religion and other religions. That is to say, in Thai society during the saktina age all three of these groups were big Land-Lords. The Phrai and Property Rights to Land At this point we come to the phrai: what kind of property rights to land did they have? When the large-scale distribution of land took place during Borommatrailokkanat's time, each and every phrai received a share of land. As a rule they received a mere 5 rai of rice land per person, because the majority of them were former slaves who had only recently been freed. Most, having yet to establish themselves on a firm footing, were in a poverty-stricken state which put them in levies or in the ranks of the poor, the beggars, the slaves, and the slave children. Some phrai, assigned to be the "lew" of the ruling masters, labored for the lordmasters as phrai lew, and as they were considered fortunate to be slaves of the lordmasters, they received shares of 10 rai of land per person. On the next level up were the phrai rap, a higher level of phrai whose standing was better than that of the phrai lew and who were independent in their persons. They did not have to beg anyone for their food, nor were they dependent on anyone else. This group had 15 rai per person. These were the maximum personal entitlements for those with the status either of People-of-the-Siamese-empire or that of slaves-of-the-realm. Above this point on the scale were two higher allocations, i.e. 30 rai for phrai with families, not in the sense of phrai with families of their own but phrai who had control

The Real Face of Saktina


over migrant families. To cite one example, Thit-to controlled Lao families from Vientiane. He had a group of Lao under his direction, perhaps 20 or 30 or even 50. Thit-to was thus a phrai with families and received a share of 20 rai as a reward for his having persuaded those people to come and cultivate the ruler's rice fields. An allocation of 25 rai went to phrai hua ngan, i.e. to those appointed as heads of labor gangs in various places. If Thit-to who brought the families down from Laos became head of a public works labor gang building a road through or around the royal palace grounds, he would have to supervise and expedite the work, oversee people to prevent them from fleeing, and so forth. Such a person received a share of 25 rai as a special reward. Best of all, if Thit-to was appointed a ''hua sip," i.e. a head of 10 households of People, he received an additional of 5 rai—30 rai in all—and in such a circumstance, he became a royal servant and ceased to be an ordinary commoner. At the beginning of the saktina system, when the large-scale emancipation of slaves occurred, each and every slave received a share—or "royal grant"—of land, 5 rai per person, as did the yachok (the poor) and the waniphok (beggars). But the slaves as well as the yachok and waniphok who received these grants of land were not given absolute property rights in land but merely rights to manage the land for cultivation and gain, as explained at the outset. Let us suppose now that 300 slaves, slave children, beggars, and poor were given a total area of 1,500 rai of land (5 x 300) in Samrong district to manage. Did these people not become genuinely free? Not yet! At that very moment Phraya Yommarat, the Minister of the Muang, received a royal grant of 10,000 rai of land which also contained the 1,500 rai belonging to those people newly freed. Thus all 300, each of whom was producing on 5 rai of land, was forced under the jurisdiction of Phraya Yommarat who proceeded to issue a directive within his territory requiring those people to help cultivate the rice land on his behalf and to pay him tribute as well. The rate of payment varied, depending on the agreement. At the end of each year Phraya Yommarat took a census of the people under his control and tattooed a numerical code on their wrists or arms. All those tattooed were forced to labor for their master for the rest of their lives. There was no way to escape, should they want to, because the black ink was indelible. So until death they were obliged to be slaves of the ruling masters, and it was exceedingly difficult to find the time to cultivate their own land. At this point, after a very short time of subsistence cultivation, all the phrai, each one with a mere 5 rai of rice land—or to put it correctly, with the right to subsistence cultivation on that mere 5 rai—realized that cultivating a plot of 5 rai did not provide sufficient food. If they wanted to increase their plots through the purchase of additional land, they had no cash, and if they did acquire the cash, the laws prevented them from buying and selling land outside the ruler's muang. Even in the event that the laws allowed the purchase of land, they could not buy any, because the laws of the saktina class limited them to the control of only 5 rai of land for their own gain. Once they were faced with the problem of insufficient food, they were forced into debt at 37.50% interest per month (= 1 fuang per month for every tamlung). If they could not pay they mortgaged their land (as was permitted by law), and when their capacity to pay off the debt was exhausted the creditor confiscated the land, as the law allowed him to do, and the land slipped through their fingers. Those people whose land slipped away from them were still not free from debt, and were then forced to set a price on their persons and sell themselves as slaves. At this point the indolent and contented purchasers used such slaves to plow the fields. Actually, when Borommatrailokkanat divided up the land and gave out 5 rai per person, the slaves of the ruling masters could not suddenly begin cultivating their own


Thai Radical Discourse

rice land. The ruling masters still had claims on their persons. Those with rice fields continued in possession of their rice fields, and those who were slaves continued to be enslaved. (It was characteristic of the saktina system's slavery that slaves could have rights in private property.) When they acquired the cash to redeem themselves and gain their freedom, they went off to cultivate their own rice land, and as they set foot in their own fields they were forced to revert and become, in the next stage of the process, the lek of whoever ruled over that particular tract of land. But for the most part, those slaves who endeavored to struggle and escape to their freedom could not, in the end, work themselves loose from the snares of the saktina class. Almost all of them were ruined and had to sell their persons back into slavery, or else they sold their children and wives into slavery. Such was the nature of property rights to the means of production held by the phrai, the majority of the people in society. 2. Exploitation by the Saktina Class, or the Extraction of Profit from the Means of Production Exploitation by the saktina class of all phrai assumed many forms, such as taxes extracted from the land, rent, interest, and the monopolization of taxes. Let us describe these briefly in order to see roughly how this exploitation worked. Rents and Interest 1. Rents. As the extent of evidence of rent exploitation by Land-Lords in the saktina era from ancient times to the present day is insubstantial, it is difficult for us to know what rate for land rent was imposed, but according to surviving practice, the rule for renting rice land was 30% of the yield. In later periods this practice was, and nowadays still is, widespread. For one rai of rice land—the best rice land, yielding between 3040 thang—approximately 10 thang had to be sent as rent, or 6 thang if the Land-Lord was softhearted. Even in the Royal Decree Controlling Rice Land Rents of B.E. 2493 [A.D. 1950], issued on 13 October B.E. 2493, the rent rates were stipulated as follows: 1. One rai of rice land yielding 40 thang of husked rice or more, rent not to exceed 10 thang per rai. 2. One rai of rice land yielding 30 thang of husked rice or more, rent not to exceed 6 thang per rai. 3. One rai of rice land yielding 20 thang of husked rice or more, rent not to exceed 3 thang per rai. 4. One rai of rice land yielding less than 20 thang of husked rice, rent not to exceed 1 thang per rai. This rental rate on rice land prevails, moreover, in the capitalist age when the strength of the saktina class has weakened. But the most widespread rental rate, in use everywhere, was 50% of yield. This was "half-share-of-the-yield," a system of rent practiced in many other saktina countries as well, for example in China prior to its liberation.

The Real Face of Saktina


In the saktina era rents on the People's rice land was a principal source of income for the saktina class, because this class had grasped control of almost all the good rice land in its own hands, especially in the central region in the vicinity of the Chaophraya River basin. Once the saktina class had dug irrigation canals, it cornered almost all land for itself. "In the vast expanses of the Rangsit area . . . most of the land is not the property of the cultivators. The cultivators have to rent, and they rent a quantity of rice land which they themselves have the strength to work, because if they insist on renting more than they can work, they must, without exception, pay rent to the owner of the rice land on each mi, whether or not they actually work i t . . . This is owing to the fact that most of the rice land in the Rangsit area belongs to individuals who are not cultivators. In some provinces of the Rangsit area such as Pathumthani, an average of 72.51% of cultivators do not own their own land, and most of these do not own even a single mi of land for themselves. They are forced to rent every square inch."94 During the saktina era the law helped to protect the profits of the Land-Lord class very effectively, because if the tenant could not produce the rent as stipulated in the agreement, the law directed that such an individual be seized and fined an amount twice the rent. From that amount, the actual rent owed was paid to the Land-Lord, and of the remainder, the government claimed half as its fee (ngoen phinai). The other half represented a fine (sinmai) which was paid to the Land-Lord. (Comprehensive Law, Supplement, Article 7). In the saktina period payment of rent on rice land was made as a rule at the end of the year. Now if the owner of the rice land observed that a tenant appeared to be unproductive, insufficiently strong to till the land, and unable to bring him the rent at the year's end, the owner had the right immediately to heap that plot of land onto another tenant. The owner was prevented from doing this only when the tenant had made an advance monetary payment. (Comprehensive Law, Supplement, Article 6.) The position of the tenant-farmer during the saktina period was one which constantly risked economic ruin, bankruptcy, and sale into slavery. And it is the same nowadays too in our society which still retains semi-saktina features, i.e. peasants are forced to risk economic ruin and must become slave workers who hurry into the krung in an unending stream to sell their labor. (2) Interest. The heavy exploitation that peasants had to face forced almost all families into debt. Even today peasants still endure these conditions. Towards the end of the saktina system—in other words in the final period of the era when the saktina held political power—someone made a survey of the indebtedness of Thai peasants. In B.E. 2473-74 [A.D. 1930-31] peasants had the following average debt:

Central Plains Northeast North South

190 baht average debt per family 14 " " " " " 30 " " " " " 10 " " " " "


Thai Radical Discou rse

The rate of interest that Thai cultivators were forced to pay moneylenders between B.E. 2473-74 [A.D. 1930-31] during the saktina era was: Central Plains Northeast North South

4% minimum interest, 120% maximum " 13% " " 50% " 2% " " 38% " 12% " " 240%

The average number of cultivators forced into debt: Central Plains Northeast North South

49.17% 10.75% 17.83% 18.25%

(These statistics come from the article by Dr. Sawaeng Kunthongkham in Setthasan [Economic Review] vol. 2, no. 23, pt. 9, first section, 1 May 2497 [A.D. 1954].) As is revealed by Article 9 of the laws on debt, the interest rate during saktina times up to the Fifth Reign [1868-1910] of the Bangkok period was 1 fuang per month for each tamlung, i.e. 12 satang in interest per month had to be paid for a loan of 4 baht, which amounts to 37.50%! La Loubére stated that during the reign of Somdet Phra Narai no law existed which fixed a maximum interest rate, and there was no limit to the high interest that moneylenders could demand. "But on this point, Article 68 of the laws on debt proclaimed that if an interest rate, mutually agreed upon, exceeded the prevailing rate, such a rate could only be enforced for a single month. After this period, the rate had to be reduced to 1 fuang per tamlung, which contradicts la Loubére's statement. Because la Loubére's text for the most part carries much weight and credibility as a historical source, we can suppose either that the clause in Article 68 which prohibits the interest rate from exceeding this figure was issued after the reign of Somdet Phra Narai, or that it had ceased to be implemented and was not observed in practice. And actually we can see that later, right up to the Bangkok period—i.e. when Article 68 was still law—creditors did not comply with it and often demanded interest at rates exceeding what the law stipulated . . . Because of this high rate of interest, debtors who did not pay the interest on time fell into a dire condition in which the interest rapidly piled up. The unpaid amount accumulated to the point where the debtor was unable to discharge the debt and had exhausted all avenues of recovery short of degrading submission to slavery/'95 In the first year of the Fifth Reign a law was decreed for the purpose of demonstrating a willingness to help debt slaves (promulgated on Tuesday, the third month, seventh day of the waning moon, 3 February 2411 [A.D. 3 February 1869]). But it was an extraordinary law in the sense that in the first stage it assisted debt slaves by requiring them to repay the principal only. They were not required to pay any further interest, although the past interest due, for however many years, did have to be paid. And the law stated specifically that if a debt slave did not have the money to pay the interest due, the moneylender in compensation for the interest could flog the debtor three strokes for each tamlungl Such was the nature of criminal punishment!

The Real Face of Saktina


"How long the laws sanctioned a monthly interest of 37.50% is not known, but from the evidence available there was a substantial decrease in interest on money lent aboveboard. In the Fourth Reign [1851-1869] the rate fell to 15% per year,96 and it continued to fall. In the Fifth Reign it was 1 baht per chang [1 chang = 80 baht], although the moneylenders were always fraudulently raising it to 5 baht per chang." (R. Lingat) Whether the interest and rent rates were high or low, they constituted by their very nature the basis of an exploitative system which the entire saktina class imposed on the phrai during that era. In particular, interest was a crucial tool to which the Land-Lord class resorted in order to expropriate for itself the goods and land of the phrai, and even their wives and children: "In compensation for a debt, a person's children, slaves, elephants, horses, water buffalo, housing, orchards, gardens, rice fields, and land are recoverable to pay a creditor/' (Moneylending, 50.) This was one factor. Another factor was that interest was a tool used to enslave people, i.e. a person was sold for a price which discharged the debt: "If a freeman incurs a debt and chamnian (after a long time) has hard times (falls upon hard times) and becomes your slave, have the debtor come, set a price on his person, and sell him wholly to his creditor." (Moneylending, 51.) These were the deadly dangers of usury during saktina times, and even in the semi-saktina age of today it is scarcely less deadly. Taxes In terms of taxes, the profit of the saktina class, particularly of the saktina rulers, took four forms: 1) suai; 2) rucha; 3) changkop; 4) akon. We will select, stress, and arrange in order of importance only those matters which are essential and critical. (1) Suai Suai signifies the money or goods which the saktina government ordered to be exacted from the People and from those persons under its control. Collection of suai did not represent a deduction from any yields or earnings but was rather an arbitrary confiscation. Whoever lives on my lands, breathes my air, and drinks the water from my irrigation system must pay me in return whatever money or goods I demand. To clarify the point: suai was the fee for leasing land and air, or for leasing land, air, fire, and water from the kshatriya. Or if not that, it was just the usual gratuity. There were four types of suai: a. Tribute was suai which the lords of subordinate states and neighboring rajas (VASSALS) were required to send on a regular basis, either annually or triennially. The goods sent as suai—as tribute—were local items difficult to find in the saktina ruler's residence in Muang Thai. The Yuan [Vietnamese] state, for example, had good quality satin, while the Lao state had rare jungle products. What was essential to send along with these goods, however, was a gold tree and a silver tree to pay homage to the Buddha image of the big Lord of the Land in the krung. The extraction of this sw0/-tribute was exploitation of one saktina class by another, exploitation which rested further, at bottom, on exploitation of the People. b. Badhya was the confiscation of individual assets and making them the property of kshatriya. At the time of Phra Narai la Loubére stated that a portion of a deceased person's estate was confiscated if the saktina regime thought that it exceeded the heir's sakdina rank. It was said that the assets of heirs had to be "badhya-ed." Badhya literally


Thai Radical Discourse

means killing, execution. Thus badhya assets referred not only to inherited assets which the saktina regime confiscated from individuals who underwent the death penalty. If we consult the old law for the Ayudhya period and the Rattanakosin [Bangkok] period up to the Fifth Reign we find in almost every clause the punishments of decapitation, confiscation of dwelling place, and rajapadva confiscation. Those who had their heads cut off and their dwellings confiscated had been forcibly "badhya-ed." As soon as the neck was severed from the torso all the dwellings, orchards, gardens, and rice lands belonging to the person were forcibly confiscated as badhya and appropriated as the property of the royal authority. If rajapadva confiscation occurred it meant the seizure of persons—all wives, children, slaves, and phrai—and their registration as the property of the kshatriya. All this really describes a robber plundering property, but this robber simply plunders property through use of his own law as an instrument for determining what is just. Consequently, decapitation, confiscation of dwelling place, or rajapadva confiscation were punishments commonly used everywhere, particularly in what seems to be virtually every clause of the criminal code issued by the royal authority. Some clauses laid down punishments which are almost comic: "Clause 1: Anyone who is extremely grasping and acts above his/her sakdi, places himself superior to your own sakdi, and is not mindful of his standing with the High Lord (i.e. does not heed how theHigh Lord is disposed towards him), who uses certain words he ought not to use with the raja-language (i.e. misuses the raja-language, mixing it up with phrai speech), who adorns his person with articles which are inappropriate (equating himself to a lord!), and you deem that person arrogant and bold, you are entitled to levy eight kinds of punishment: Dcut off his head and confiscate his dwelling; 2) stuff a ripe coconut in his mouth; 3) confiscate his rajapatra [rajapadva] and send him to work in the elephant stables; 4) mulct (fine) him fourfold and remove him from royal service; 5) mulct him twofold; 6) flog him 50 times with hide whips, or 25 times and put him in prison; 7) imprison him and degrade him to phrai level; 8) release him with a reprimand—these are the eight kinds." (Central Criminal Code, B.E. 1985 [A.D. 1352], First Reign Revised Edition [A.D. 1805], Clause 1.) Apart from the foregoing, both the wealth which invading armies pillaged and plundered from their enemies as well as captured persons and property belonging to the People comprised "badhya" confiscation, i.e. goods expropriated through murder and through execution. An example of someone forcibly badhya-ed—i.e. had his head cut off and his dwellings as well as children, wives, and slaves confiscated—is "Khun Kraiphonphai," the father of Khun Phaen in one of our historically based literary works. In this instance Khun Krai was sent out to direct the round-up of water buffalo for the royal authority's herds. The water buffalo bolted, chasing and goring people. Khun Krai thought human life was more important than water buffalo and speared to death many of the beasts, which sent the rest fleeing into the jungle. This angered Somdet Phraphanwasa, who felt more for water buffalo than for people, so he brought charges against Khun Krai and gave orders to his officials: "Quickly there, executioner! Cut off his head; he is no longer worth keeping alive. Impale his body—mount it on the executioner's scaffold. Hurry and seize his goods and his slaves." Struck by this turn of events, Khun Krai's head fell from his body, and his children whimpered and suffered. Aside from losing her beloved husband, his wife, Nang Thongprasi, was, moreover, "subjected utterly to confiscation."97

The Real Face of Saktina


This is what is right for the saktina, this is saktina expropriation! c. Kenchalia was the compulsory periodic supply of money or labor to support the kshatriyas' various activities. For example, the kshatriyas like to offer coconut oil to the wat to light the lamps honoring the Buddha images, so they would issue kenchalia directives for the supply of coconuts or coconut oil from the owners of the groves. Or if they were hosting foreign visitors they kenchalia-ed the People to send stipulated amounts of silver and gold, and other goods. Sometimes forced labor was used to build walled fortifications around the palace, or the phrai were conscripted to round up elephants. This kenchalia was not permanently fixed but varied according to the kshatriyas' periodic needs. We can say that if the kshatriyas required something or wanted to do something they were always turning suddenly on the People, compelling them to supply their share of money and labor. d. Suai substituted for labor. This took the form of money or goods commandeered by the kshatriya from the People everywhere who did not actually contribute their labor for the work required by the saktina regime. We should understand from the outset that in the saktina age all males whose bodies were endowed with the full complement of thirty-two attributes were deemed to be able-bodied and were forcibly conscripted into the service of the raja. This service to the raja consisted of giving their labor for work ordered by the saktina class—plowing the fields, transplanting, warfare, whatever was required. This was stipulated at six months per year. It was referred to as doing compulsory service (and it really was compelled by their fate!), and all men from 18 years of age to 60 were required to do it. When these people were conscripted, sometimes only the strongest were selected, sometimes the not-so-strong, but the number required had to be supplied (as in military conscription). Those who were left over, whose labor was not required, were permitted to go on making their living but were forced to send money for the royal authority's use. If those conscripted did not care to serve the lord-masters they could, alternatively, send money so that the royal authority could hire others to take their place in the conscripted group, and this money too had to be paid until the age of sixty. This money was termed suai substituted for labor, and the rate that had to be paid was fixed at 12 baht per year (the rate in Phra Narai's time). The royal authority explained that the collection of this 12 baht was for hiring replacements to do the work at a cost of 1 baht per month—6 baht for six months—and to provide a stipend of I baht per month for living costs, for a total of 12 baht. But in actual fact, no one was hired. The royal authority merely collected the money and quietly put it in its treasury. As far as the cost of hiring replacements for service to the raja or the payment of money as suai substituted for labor is concerned, it seems the scale was not fixed, according to the Old Royal Directives [phraratchakamnot kao], Article 48 of B.E. 2291 [A.D. 1748] (the end of the Ayudhya period). That is, sometimes the rate was 3 baht per month, or sometimes 4 (18-24 per year). If the men were conscripted to round up elephants or capture pirates or bandits, those who did not go had to pay money at a rate of 5, 6, or 7 baht or perhaps 8 baht per month: "We can calculate that the phrai units must pay an annual hiring fee of 4 tamlung 2 baht (18 baht), or in some cases 6 or 7 tarnlung (24-28 baht)." "There is one point, concerning the requirement referred to here that ablebodied men had to do compulsory service, which people are unaware of or which is generally misunderstood, and we ought to interject at this point a word of explanation. Namely, in the middle of the Ayudhya period the government needed cash


Thai Radical Discourse for expenditure more than it needed people for compulsory service, so it was prepared to let phrai not needed for service pay a raja service tax/ which amounted to hiring a replacement. By the time of the First Reign of the Bangkok krung [17821809] 18 baht per year had to be paid as the raja service tax, and it was now common for people to pay this tax voluntarily instead of doing compulsory service/'98

This raja service tax was collected up into the Fifth Reign. When the Royal Decree on Military Conscription was issued, the collection of the "raja service tax" underwent further adjustment with the Royal Decree on the Collection of the Raja Service Tax of R.S. 120 (B.E. 2444 [A.D. 1901]). At this point in the collection of the money there was an attempt to change the old name—"labor tax in lieu of conscription"—to "raja service tax" and to implement a new scale, i.e. 6 baht per year from all those exempt from military conscription. This sum was collected from age 18 until age 60. "Later on, in B.E. 2462 [A.D. 1919] (the Sixth Reign), the royal observation was made that the collection of money according to the Royal Decree on the Collection of the Raja Service Tax was based on the suai collection of the past. Thus there were great numbers of individuals in many categories who received exemptions from paying the money. This would have to be rectified by requiring all ablebodied men to pay the money on a more equitable basis and by instituting a tight system of surveillance. So by royal proclamation the Royal Decree on the Collection of the Rajja-upakara Tax of B.E. 2462' was issued . . . "" Issued out of concern that the People were not all paying the money—or to put it properly, "giving their raja service tax" equitably, this new royal decree on the collection of the money came into existence in B.E. 2462 [A.D. 1919], at which point the term for this money was changed to "rajja-upakara," i.e. "for the benefit of the state" or "for the benefit of the kshatriya." This royal decree provided a definition of the term: "The term 'rajja-upakara' should be understood to mean all monies which individuals were required to render to the royal authorities as stipulated in this decree." In this instance the rate collected was the same as previously, i.e. 6 baht per year from age 18 until age 60. But the new decree was different in that it eliminated the exemptions of some individuals. The only exemptions retained were: 1) ordained men (only some orders and only under certain conditions); 2) non-commissioned soldiers and police in the Reserves, Category 1; 3) village and circle headmen, police inspectors, and subdistrict physicians; 4) disabled and infirm people; 5) certain groups of people exempted in particular places. This adjustment in the payment of the rajja-upakara tax in the name of uniformity was something the saktina thought so admirable that one writer praised the Sixth Reign ruler by saying "Even Himself was willing to pay the rajja-upakara tax of 6 baht per year just like everyone else."100 One doesn't know what one is supposed to make of this, because even if he reached into the royal pocket for a million baht, it was still rajja-upakara for (the benefit of the phra-raja) himself! Then in B.E. 2468 [A.D. 1925] (the Seventh Reign) the initial age of those required to pay the rajja-upakara tax was raised from 18 to 20, though the rate remained unchanged and the tax still had to be paid until age 60 as before. The tax was finally abolished in B.E. 2475 [A.D. 1932] following the democratic revolution of the middle class.

The Real Face of Saktina


At this point a further matter arises. What happened if people did not have the cash to pay rajja-upakara? According to Article 10 of the Royal Decree on the Rajjaupakara Tax of B.E. 2468 [A.D. 1925], a warrant was to be issued for the arrest of such people for investigation, and they should be required to post a bond equivalent in value to the amount of unpaid rajja-upakara tax, with a proviso compelling payment within 15 days. Otherwise, as explained in Clause 3 of Article 10, action would be taken "in accordance with the Royal Decree on the Procedures for Prosecuting Civil Cases, R.S. 127 [A.D. 1908], to seize the assets of anyone whose rajja-upakara is overdue and sell it on the open market to realize the rajja-upakara tax as well as fees and costs." If it was not possible to follow this course, it was necessary to take the next step, i.e. as stated in Clause 4 (subsection, as revised and expanded in B.E. 2473 [A.D. 1930]): "The district officer is empowered to order any such person to labor on public works for the royal authority according to the number of years the rajja-upakara tax is overdue, at 15 days per year but not exceeding 30 days. In the course of laboring on these public works, the person whose rajja-upakara tax is unpaid must be placed under the control of officials and be confined to a particular location as stipulated by the chief [senabodi] of the interior ministry. Such persons are to be fed out of central expenditure." The point that we cannot overlook is that the official who supervised the collection of the money received a proportion not exceeding 5% of the sum collected! (Article 13, Royal Decree on the Collection of the Rajja-upakara Tax of B.E. 2462.) Foreigners living in Muang Thai, most of whom were Chinese, were also forced to labor or pay the suai as required once every three years. Most of them preferred to pay the suai. Once they had paid it, a wax-seal was tied to their wrist as proof, hence the term money-for-fastening-the-wax seal. The method of collection was as follows: "All Chinese who are not tattooed and who are not included on the kite-tail registers in the Registrar's Department are required to do one month's labor on public works. If they do not do this work, they must pay 1 tamlung per person as well as 1 salung per person in summons costs. If any Chinese fails to have the wax seal tied to his wrist he is to be summoned and required to pay half a tamlung in raja service fees and 2 salung for the summons fee."101 This meant that, as a rule, a Chinese was forced to pay 4.25 baht in suai every three years. If he refused to have the wax seal dangling from his wrist he was forced to pay an additional 6.5 baht, a higher rate than during the Second Reign [A.D. 1809-1824]. According to John Crawfurd, 50 satang per year was extracted from each Chinese during the Second Reign, the same as from slave workers. An amount of 1.5 baht was collected once every three years. Later on, when the royal decree on the rajja-upakara tax was issued, all foreigners in Thailand were forced to pay the same amount of rajja-upakara tax as Thai people, and special exemptions were no longer given. At the time of this writing, the only figure for the rajja-upakara tax that could be found was for the Sixth Reign (B.E. 2464 [A.D. 1921]) when 7,749,233 baht was collected. The type of suai described above was in the form of cash. Another type of suai was in the form of goods which the kshatriya's government had need of, and phrai were directed to forward these goods as suai in lieu of their own labor for raja service. This kind of suai usually came from remote muang, such as the muang of Phraya Mahanakhon. In such places, "normally not as many phrai were needed for the routine raja ser-


Thai Radical Discourse

vice as at the royal base. The government therefore devised a way of having this suai sent in lieu of doing compulsory service, because these muang centers had jungles and mountains which contained, or which were sources of, goods in demand for the country's raja-service/'102 "For example, people who had settled on the fringes of the Phraya Fai jungle (nowadays, Phraya Yen) were allowed to collect bat droppings in the mountain caves of that jungle and to boil the droppings for saltpeter which was then sent to the center to be made into gunpowder. Another example was allowing the people of Muang Thalang to collect the abundant tin on the island (Phuket Island) and to send it to the state to be made into firearms in lieu of their labor in raja service. The suai quota demanded was determined by the cost of hiring replacements for raja service/'103 If the phrai were unable to provide the state with suai in kind according to the annual quota, they had to pay cash to the state to make up the difference, or if they could not provide any goods at all they had to pay the entire amount in cash. An example may be cited of the gold suai from Muang Pakthongchai (what is nowadays Pakthongchai district in Nakhon Ratchasima Province). In the Third Reign [A.D. 18241851] the lek or phrai conscripted as lek to supply gold suai were forced to sift out 2 salung of gold per person.104 But it appears they could never supply the amount demanded and had to pay cash instead. In B.E. 2385 [A.D. 1842] gold weighing 3 chang 8 tamlung 3 baht (= 41.25 kilograms) came from Muang Pakthongchai as suai (including the suai overdue), while in addition, 10 chang 7 tamlung 3 baht had to be sent in cash, the value of the [missing] gold.105 As for the tin suai from Muang Thalang (Phuket), 10 baht per person had to be paid in compensation if the tin could not be procured and sent, 5 baht per person in the case of phrai lew (menial slaves). If the sappanwood suai could not be sent, 7.5 baht per person had to be paid in compensation, 3.75 baht in the case of phrai lew (menial slaves). If hay to feed the royal elephants was not cut for the elephant-hay suai (by the phrai unit of elephant-hay cutters), 9 baht per person had to be paid (Old Raja-Edicts, Section 48). What we should also understand here is that the saktina chroniclers try to argue that the suai were commodities required for raja-service in lieu of labor, e.g. saltpeter to make gunpowder or tin to make firearms.106 In fact this explanation is superficial and one-sided, because the other side of it was that the suai were goods which the kshatriya urgently endeavored to commandeer for himself in order to load up junks for overseas trade. Maritime trade—or junk trade, conducted by the harbor bureau—was a trade monopoly of the kshatriya from ancient times, a trade entirely in suai goods. If the supply of suai was insufficient the goods were purchased, although the kshatriya preferred to trade in suai rather than purchased goods as the former did not require any investment of capital!!107 The amount of income which the saktina government derived from the suai was enormous. According to the account of Sangharaja Pallegoix, the kshatriya's income from suai payments during the Fourth Reign was as follows: Labor fees in lieu of royal service (annually) Chinese wrist-stamped money (triennially) Gold mine concessions in Bangtaphan [in Prachuap] Profit sent from the northern muang Profit sent from the southern muang Total

12,000,000 baht 2,000,000 " 10,000 " 50,000 " 40,000 " 14,100,000 "

The Real Face of Saktina


All this does not include the large quantity of goods shipped annually on junks. The various muang did not usually send in their suai on time, thus throwing the kshatriya into a rage. The officials rushed to punish the phrai and lek: "In demanding money, it was common to apprehend debtors and order them to produce payment. They were kept under detention in jail. It was necessary to make them suffer to a greater or lesser degree/'108 In fact, of course, almost everyone everywhere had to suffer a great deal. If the ruling masters and officials rushed to torment the phrai in various ways to extract the suai, the phrai had to endure this punishment. They requested postponement of the payment as they were all impoverished. By the Fifth Reign, the overdue suai had piled up to such an extent that the accounts could not be unraveled, so the Fifth Reign ruler established two departments for suai payments, one in the kalahom ministry and one in the interior ministry, in order to coerce the muang centers to send their payments to the central treasury. But the saktina knew well that however coercive they were, the payments would not be made, and they would stir up anger and resentment. So they employed a lure by reducing the amount, i.e. if someone paid the full amount one half would be deducted. Those with overdue payments saw an opportunity to discharge their debts and avoid punishment by incarceration, and streamed in to pay the suai. In the northern muang alone, halving the amount due resulted in 200,000 baht. " Banknotes were not yet in use at that time, and the money was paid in specie. I had to arrange to send a boat so the specie could be delivered to Kromphra Nara (then senabodi of the central treasury— ed.) who was delighted." (Prince Damrong, Thesaphiban, p. 89.) In the later reigns at the krung of the Bejeweled Indra the amount of this money in lieu of labor—or in its modified form, raja-service fee or rajja-upakara—decreased because the charge was lowered to a mere 6 baht, although the revenue this money earned still ranked second after the rice-land tax. In B.E. 2464 [A.D. 1921] the saktina government collected more than 7 million baht in rice-land tax, while the money collected in rajja-upakara reached 7,749,233 baht. If we compare this amount to 85,595,842, the total revenue of the saktina government in B.E. 2464, we can see that the rajja-upakara money was a substantial 9% of the total revenue of the committee which organized and controlled the profits of the saktina class. In the Fourth Reign the proportion was even greater. According to the account of Sangharaja Pallegoix, an average 26,964,100 baht was earned in total revenue during the Fourth Reign, of which 14,000,000 baht was money in lieu of conscription and the stamped-on tax (but not including other forms of suai). In percentage terms, the revenue from expropriated money amounted to about 56% of the total! (2) Rucha Rucha was money from fees, such as court fees, exacted from the people for various matters which involved the state. Whatever fine the loser had to pay the winner in a legal dispute, the state took one-half as judicial fees. If the case was one in which a raja-edict directed a judge to determine the facts, the plaintiff was compelled to pay innumerable petty fees, such as fees for edicts, security bonds, charges for interrogating witnesses, fees for tests, daily food stipends, charges for transcripts, and so forth —23 baht in all. The defendant was forced to pay 19 baht (i.e. the same minus the 4 baht edict-fee). Now if the defendant was punished with imprisonment he/she also had to contend with this misfortune by paying a great many different fees: "The guard, Naiphra Thamrong, demanded a 1 baht fee for loosening the wooden shackle,


Thai Radical Discourse

2 salung for oil, 2 salung for putting on the chains and 1 baht 2 salung for taking them off, 2 salung for an inspection, for a total of 1 tamlung [4 baht}." (Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, pt. 1.) During the saktina period there was a host of petty fees. We can say that one could hardly move without being hit with a fee. Those conscripted for compulsory raja-service to labor for the kshatriya, for example, received a personal document proving they had done the compulsory service once it had been completed and were not compelled to pay certain taxes or suai money in lieu of labor as others were. This document was called the "certificate of exemption," but it was not a certificate given for nothing. The following innumerable petty fees had to be paid: Paper fee Printing fee Scribe fee Elephant Seal fee Lion Seal fee Central Treasury fee Inspection fee paid to head of labor unit Paid to Mahatthai Paid to Kalahom Paid to palace attendants (not clear why this should be paid) Fee for the labor head's list Scribe (paid twice now) Kalahom clerk's seal Troop commander in Mahatthai Central Treasury clerk's seal Lord Mun Sisoralak of palace attendants

25 satang 12 " 6 tt11 6 6 11** 6 11 6 11 6 11 6 6 11•i 25 25 25 25 25 25 «109 »»




The sum total paid out before the certificate could be acquired was "9 salung 1 fuang" (2.37 baht). In short, phrai whose labor was conscripted had to work for the ruling masters for free. They received no monthly wage, and they had to provide their own rice and fish. They came to work for the master one month and returned to till their own fields the next, all year every year until aged 60. Moreover, they were compelled to pay 9 salung \ fuang in cash to the center to convince it that this debtor had done his work for the Lord of the Land. How remarkable! And what has been described here represents only the fees the state insisted on levying. Most of the time "the work lords and labor masters demanded excessive fees." (Same decree.) The fees—or rucha—of the saktina government existed in such profusion and on such an extensive scale that they cannot all be itemized, because they multiplied absolutely everywhere. Even the saktina class itself was beset with charges heaped upon it. A person appointed as a muang lord, for example, was compelled to pay a fee of 96 baht for his seal of appointment in addition to seals of appointment for his deputy, his armed force, and the officials of the muang, palace, lands, and interior, as well as the registrar of the muang. The amount the kshatriya exacted in seal-charges when appointing a new muang lord and his officials totaled 15 chang (1,200 ba/zf)!110 The profusion and extensiveness of these charges stemmed from the fact that in the period preceding the Fifth Reign the entire saktina ruling class received no salaries. The kshatriya deposited all taxes he collected into the central treasury and, after disbursing some of them to the front palace treasury and some to lord-masters with great influence, he kept the sums quietly to himself. The officials, none of whom received a salary, were compelled to support themselves by exacting fees from the People. Those who were cunning, deceptive, or who wielded the power to exact large

The Real Face of Saktina


quantities of fees, profited greatly. They ate steaming rice, slept late, and had lots of wives. The practice of giving the nobility free rein to consume fees like this led to an enormous increase in official embezzlement, but it was embezzlement which the People did not really comprehend, and as everyone engaged in such embezzlement, eventually it became sanctioned by law. On top of that, the nobility who held various positions typically did their work quickly or slowly, well or poorly, depending on the opportunities available to exact fees. To use today's term, it was tea money! The nobles in the judicial division, for example—the luk khun—found a hundred and one ways to slow down litigation. If they didn't receive their fees, they didn't proceed with the case: "Among the chief officials who directed the work of that ministry, there were scarcely any who would attend to the business of litigation if there was no advantage to them to make their efforts worthwhile. Nothing could compare to sitting around watching over revenue."111 In this department, furthermore, the yield was less than in other departments. "There were hardly any good people. The only people available were profit-seekers who, because they had no access to other opportunities, turned to these means to enrich themselves." Those who happened to work in the Harbor Bureau concerned with the import and export trade, were like rats who had tumbled into a bucketful of unhusked rice. They sat around and consumed fees, took bribes, swindled, and embezzled. The same was true for those working in the treasury who took lavish bribes and fees for bids. Such seems to have been the normal practice, (pp. 40-41.) Those in the Department of Rice Lands lay around consuming fees for issuing land and orchard titledeeds as well as claims certificates, but even this was not enough. "There were two other duties they had to perform which they did most willingly, i.e. the purchase of rice for granaries and the disbursement of rice for all rajaprojects, thus providing them with opportunities to take in a little more here and there. They also appointed the land-commissioners who went out to collect the land tax. These commissioners made no effort to monitor or investigate the collection of the land tax to see how scrupulously it had been collected but merely acted as transmitters of payments to the treasury. This was easier than being accountable for the revenue, as they did not have to take responsibility for the amounts of money that had been stipulated. Because the land-commissioners did not take part in overseeing the bids as the other tax farmers did, the Department of Rice Lands had almost no responsibility for what happened in its own domain. And the Department's work was not heavy; it simply profited more than all the other departments." (p. 12.) As for the unlucky Muang Department, it obtained very few fees, and thus was compelled "to scramble and compete for profits with other departments. This was the usual order of things. But when it sought something in a straightforward way, it could not meet its deadlines and was forced to do business any way it could, thus necessitating dishonest measures." (pp. 9-10.) The saktina are always boasting that in the saktina period there was no corruption [khorapchan]. There was, in fact, a labyrinth of corruption, but it was corruption written into the law. In sum, in the saktina system the rucha—or fees—represented another level of exploitation of the phrai. After the various taxes and revenues, including confiscations of money, it amounted to a second or third level of exploitation. The kshatriya and the nobles joined together in this exploitation at the rucha level. That is to say, of the fees exacted, a portion—such as the paper and printing fees— went into the royal treasury, while the other portion went into the pockets of the


Thai Radkal Discourse

nobility. Almost all the People in the saktina period were thus wretchedly impoverished, all but the handful in the saktina class. From the statistics available, the income earned by the saktina government from rucha in the Fourth Reign amounted to 15,000 baht in litigation fees alone. We do not know the magnitude of the various and sundry other fees which went into the central treasury, nor how many times that amount went into the saktina nobles' pockets! (3) Changkop This was levied as a proportion of the goods when they were transported for import or export or when they were being sold. It was, in short, a trade tax, differing from akon in that the latter was a duty levied at the source of production. Changkop was levied both on land and sea, whether it was a matter of water buffaloes being rounded up for sale [internally] or for junk trade. The form of changkop was "one for ten/7 i.e. one part out of ten or 10 percent was taken. As the State Criminal Code explained, "Changkop is to be levied on large as well as small junks. When the goods are brought overland—by oxcart or by road—to the inland customs-house, you are to count the goods in units of ten and take out one part in ten as changkop. You are not to collect the changkop on amounts which exceed units of ten/' Another device for levying changkop, combined with the commodity changkop, was by means of monetary payments on a scale according to the size of the vessels transporting the goods. In the time of Phra Narai, for instance, changkop was levied according to ship size, i.e. one baht per fathom of the ship's length, and an additional charge was made as well: if the breadth of the ship's deck was 6 sok, changkop of 6 baht was collected, even if the length did not reach 6 fathoms. This meant that merchants were forced to pay twice, i.e. they paid a deck tax as well as a tax on the cargo. The commodity changkop was levied on imports and exports as well as on inland trade. The import rate was not the same as the export rate, and it did not remain constant. In The Testimony of the Ayudhyans, for example, it was said (p. 261) that if the muang was one with good relations between the rajas and with which trade had been uninterrupted, the import tariff was levied at a rate of 3% of the cargo's value. Twelve baht per fathom was levied on ships whose decks measured 4 fathoms or more in breadth. For commodities from other muang the tariff was 5%, plus a deck tax of 20 baht per fathom irrespective of the ship's dimensions. If the imports were goods desired by the kshatriya no import tariff was levied, only the deck tax. "When the government set up its own trade office and began to trade by itself no tariff was levied on that proportion of imports which it selected for its own purchase. (Collected Chronicles, part 40, p. 33.) Similarly, no tariff was levied on that proportion of exports which the government itself was selling." (Phraya Anuman Rajadhon, A History of Customs Collection, p. 51.) During the Third Reign John Crawfurd noted that a tariff of 8% ad valorem was levied on imports, while a varying rate was applied for the deck tax depending on the ship's nationality and its muang destination. Bowring noted that from 8 to 40 baht per fathom was levied on sailing ships and 80 to 200 baht per fathom on large junks. When the trade treaty with England was completed in B.E. 2399 [A.D. 1856] it stipulated that each three-masted merchant ship had to pay 80 baht per fathom of the ship's breadth, while two-masted ships paid only half this. The import tariff was calculated at 8 percent. The export tariff was levied at a fixed rate according to the

The Real Face of Saktina


nature of the merchandise. Sugar, for example, was 2 salung per hap [60 kg.].* Furthermore, in the Third Reign the means of calculating the tariff was adjusted so that the levy was based on the ship's size only, i.e. 1,700 baht per fathom were collected from ships importing goods, while 1,500 baht per fathom were collected from empty ships arriving to purchase goods with no additional changkop tax required. Also, no fees were demanded from those who came to trade with the British as had previously been the case. The saktina government's income as it derived from changkop (or customs duties) is a lengthy matter, and it is closely bound up with the saktina's trade monopoly system. Let us therefore defer discussion of it until the section on the saktina's trade monopoly system. Here let us simply be clear that changkop were customs duties levied on [the goods of] ordinary petty traders inland on up to imports and exports. Now in what way were the People forcibly exploited? The exploitation imposed on them by the saktina regime occurred when they climbed up their coconut trees at home and the coconut akon was collected as a land tax. That is, the orchard akon was paid first. When the coconut oil was about to be boiled out they had to tell the tax farmer for coconut oil: I'm boiling out the coconut oil now; let me have the certificate of authority. The tax farmer then issued the certificate of authority and demanded a fee (rucha) according to custom, the size of which depended on the look of the person making the request. If the person seemed to be very stupid the fee was very high. Once he had the certificate of authority, he proceeded to boil out the oil and load it on a boat. With squeaking oars he rowed down to the customs house where the customs lord demanded one part in ten. The tax farmer for coconut oil who had issued the certificate of authority was also lying in wait there alongside the customs house, and when the boat came by he collected yet another tax on the merchandise. Only then could it be marketed. If the tax farmer had set himself up some distance away they were forced to call in first at the tax-shed landing, otherwise they would be charged with evading the tax and reduced to financial ruin by fines. The places where the changkop was collected were called tariff stations or customs houses. These were sited both on land and along the waterways to intercept traffic on various routes leading into and out of the muang. The place where the tax farmer's taxes were collected was called a tax-shed. For the most part, the tax farmers acted as capitalists and monopolist compradores, i.e. they compelled the sale to themselves alone of all goods on which they collected the tariff. Everyone was forced to sell to the tax farmer, who then resold the goods at whatever profit he wished. We will take up this point next when we discuss akon and customs monopoly. (4) Akon This refers, on the one hand, to the extraction of a portion of the yield produced by people in various forms of labor, for example in the cultivation of wet rice [na], dry rice [raí], and gardens. On the other hand, akon fees were demanded in exchange for mo* Jit's account in this paragraph of the Bowring Treaty does not accord with the treaty's provisions which fixed a flat 3 percent on imports in the British trade and abolished all deck charges; also, I cannot find charges on two-and-three-masted ships in any treaties of the period. John Crawford's mission (previous paragraph) occurred at the end of the Second Reign, though his account was published in 1828 during the Third Reign. The tariffs discussed in the following paragraph are based on the Burney Treaty of 1826, just after the beginning of the Third Reign. [Trans.]


Thai Radical Discourse

nopoly concession rights granted to the People for various things such as the collection of jungle products, fish trapping (the water akon), distillation of spirits, gaming houses (gambling), brothels, and so forth. The collection of akon took the following forms. The wet-rice-land akon. The wet-rice-land akon was levied directly on the peasant. The peasant who rented rice land from the Land-Lord was forced to expend his yield at two junctures: first, rent to the owner of the rice land; second, akon on the rice-land rental to the state (i.e. to the kshatriya). The payment to the state of this rice-land akon was regarded as payment of the rice-land tax on behalf of the owner of the rice land, i.e. the owner of the rice land was not required to pay the land tax to the kshatriya. The peasants—the phrai—paid this tax for him. The Fourth Reign ruler attested to the truth of this point when he said, "Subjects who rent rice land from others must pay rent to the owner of the rice land as well as the rice-land tax on his behalf/'112 LandLords who commandeered their phrai retainers and lek to cultivate their rice land were required to pay the rice-land akon, which constituted the only payment. They paid nothing for the cost of this phrai or lek labor. Moreover, the lek and the phrai were even forced to bring their own plows, harrows, and water buffalo to cultivate the fields of the ruling masters. Thus the Land-Lords during the saktina age gobbled up all the profit. In earlier times this rice-land akon was levied in the form of unhusked rice. Every year the People were forced to transport their unhusked rice to the royal granaries. Rice so levied was called "paddy" [hang khao], and the People were compelled to use their own implements and their own strength to transport it to the royal granaries. All the granary officials had to do was sit in one place dangling their feet and keeping accounts of the paddy as it arrived. Moreover, they even used the power of their big feet to take yet another share from the People, as it was in line with saktina culture to hold the People in contempt. The state granaries to which the People were required to transport their paddy were located in the krung and in the main muang. There was no regulation specifying which granary a person was to use—it depended on the whimsical commands of the commissioners. The suffering experienced by the People is documented with evidence, as in one of the Fourth Reign decrees: "Subjects are required to transport their rice to the granaries in the krung and in the main muang as directed by the officials. Subjects experience hardship, some more so than others, and those who do, complain and blame the land-commissioners as well as the various officials. Someone is needed to settle the steady stream of disputes." (Decree in the Year of the Rat, B.E. 2407 [A.D. 1864].) We have been unable to discover how many buckets of rice per rai were levied as paddy akon in earlier times, although later on the levy was collected in money rather than rice. In the reign of Somdet Phra Narai 25 satang per rai was collected everywhere, without exception. In early times too the rice-land akon—the unhusked paddy—was levied only on cultivated rice land which had produced a yield. Uncultivated rice land was exempt from the levy, although this exception from akon for unproductive rice land was of no benefit whatsoever for phrai, the People. This was because wherever the People—the phrai— had an amount of land limited to a mere 5, 10, or 15 rai, they each had to cultivate the rice land with their own hands. They were unable to lay claim to rice land, to consume as their own property rice land which exceeded their sakdina allocation. It was only the Land-Lords with their huge sakdina who benefited from a form of taxation which demanded levies only on cultivated rice land. All ruling masters who had swal-

The Real Face of Saktina


lowed up a great deal of land, who had a small amount of slave labor, who could not round up by command and conscription a phrai force sufficient to cultivate all the land every year—some years all was cultivated, some years only a part—and yet who had to pay akon tax on the total number of rai according to the amounts registered in the land certificates, these people felt aggrieved. The reduction in the rice land akon granted by the kshatriya thus had its basis in a conflict over profit within the saktina class itself. If the phrai—i.e. the People—received any benefit at all from this reduction it was only arbitrarily and very rarely. As a consequence of the reduction in akon granted the Land-Lords, the kshatriya had to appoint royal land-commissioners to go out and "tour the rice fields," i.e. conduct a survey for the purposes of registering accurately how many rai of a particular ruling master were under cultivation and how much land was actually planted in rice. There were several ways to refer to this tour of the rice fields. Sometimes it was called measuring the rice fields, sometimes assessing them. Officials from the Rice-Land Department would make their surveys or tour the rice fields every year before levying the rice-land akon, but in later times a great many conflicts arose and they toured the rice fields only once or twice a reign. Thus the ruling masters obtained profit to their heart's content more than ever before, because they seized newly cleared land in the intervals between surveys for which they did not need to pay akon to the kshatriya. They consumed great fistfuls of profits as they pleased. The kshatriya in the time of Phrai Narai copied the extravagant and sumptuous court of Louis XIV of France, his beloved comrade, for his own court life, to the extent of building up the Lopburi muang as a summer residence modeled on the raja's palace of Louis XIV at Versailles. Because specie at the court was consequently in short supply, levy of the paddy akon was changed to a total monetary levy of 1 salung per rai. This was collected on uncultivated as well as cultivated rice land, using as a basis the entire area of rice land held [by a person]. Calculating this levy of 1 salung per rai in terms of the rice price prevailing at that time—10-12 baht per kwian or 10-12 satang per thang— means that Phra Narai's akon levy of 25 satang per rai amounted to 2 thang per rai of unhusked rice, the same rate used until the Bangkok period (cultivation of I rai yielded a maximum of 20, 30, or 40 thang). Phra Narai's levy at a rate of 1 salung per rai was not more exorbitantly exploitative than before, but it was collected on a stricter basis, i.e. both on uncultivated as well as cultivated rice land. Those with a great deal of rice land paid a lot. The reason for putting this [system] in place was to encourage the owners to persist and persevere in cultivating their rice land to the fullest. But most of the Land-Lords were in disagreement and were dissatisfied, so the levy was collected only in selected parts of the country, i.e. only in those muang over which Phra Narai had complete power to compel collection (la Loubére's DU ROYAUME DE SIAM). A large-scale conflict with the saktina class—in which some of the People, the phrai, who were also being forced to pay out their proceeds, joined—compelled the kshatriya to reform the method of levying the rice-land akon, and this resulted in two new types of akon collection: one was called khukho rice fields and one was called fangloi or rain-fed fangloi rice fields. Khukho rice fields were those from which the kshatriya demanded the akon levy according to the area held in property rights. But a levy assessed in terms of the total area in rai under their control hardly pleased the ruling masters who controlled huge quantities, so the two sides agreed to a change in the system whereby the number of oxen or water buffalo used in plowing the rice fields was counted, and an estimate then made of the annual productive capacity of pairs of oxen or water buffalo. The cal-


Thai Radical Discourse

culation of the akon was thus based on oxen and water buffalo [on that land]. The Land-Lords could accept the stipulations of this method, because when they actually cultivated their rice fields they commandeered oxen and water buffalo belonging to lek and phrai to help them in cultivation. The yield realized in this way was surplus on which they did not have to pay akon, so the amount they swallowed up so effortlessly every year was not modest. When the royal land-commissioners went out touring the rice fields to survey this type of land they issued a certificate affixed with a red seal to certify payment of the akon. This was called "the red seal" or "the red-seal certificate." In mentioning this "certificate," we should explain further that the term certificate in those days did not signify a vital document attesting to property rights in land, but rather a vital document detailing the quantity of land and the amount of akon which had to be paid on that land. Royal land-commissioners from the Rice-Land Department gave this document to the person cultivating the rice land and requested to see it whenever they came to levy the akon so they could collect accordingly. Wherever this certificate specifying the land and the amount of akon could not be produced, the person controlling the land was accused of clearing land under his own authority without informing the state and of trying to avoid the akon levy, thus depriving the state of its profit. This was a punishable offence. Peasants who wanted to clear new land were forced to act promptly in informing officials from the outset: "I want to cultivate this land, please issue the certificate specifying the quantity of land and the amount of akon that has to be paid. When the royal land-commissioner comes to survey my rice fields I will have this vital document proving to him that I am prepared to pay the tax. I have no intention of evading it." At this point we should realize that in earlier times the People's cultivation of rice land did not require any vital documents. Peasants simply cultivated their fields, and the ruling masters exploited them. Later on, when the People could no longer endure this exploitation, they sought to avoid the akon tax by alleging that they had cleared a particular plot only one or two years before and that the law exempted from akon those engaged in clearing land ("Comprehensive Law," when the Ayudhya krung was being founded). Wherever the royal land-commissioners went to levy the rice-land akon they encountered such statements. This led to arguments and prevented the akon from being collected. Subsequently one of the kshatriyas, Phra Paramarajadhiraja II, issued a decree in B.E. 1976 [A.D. 1433] compelling those who cleared new rice lands to inform the commissioners and requiring them to hold certificates specifying the quantity of land and akon. Those not holding certificates would be charged with avoiding and obstructing the akon and would be punished severely. The decree stated: "If it is not the royal wish to kill him you are to inflict six kinds of punishment. Disgrace him publicly by posting the withheld akon around his neck for three days, then fine him fourfold (four times the akon amount)." (State Criminal Code, Article 47.) The six kinds of punishment mentioned here took various forms: decapitation, then confiscating his dwelling place; imprisonment, rajapadva confiscation, then putting the person in with the elephant-hay (i.e. the person had to cut hay for the state elephants, the most menial form of labor owing to cuts from the hay, snake bites, the stench of elephants' dung and urine, and so forth); fifty lashes with the rawhide whip; one month's imprisonment, then reducing the person to phrai level; a fourfold fine (four times the amount); and a twofold fine (two times the amount). The ruler could choose any one of these six punishments (State Criminal Code, 27). This very severe punishment of the kind meted out for theft (confiscation of dwelling place, rajapadva confiscation) or for rebellion (decapitation) forced the People to come forward promptly and request certificates. "Thus we can see clearly that the prac-

The Real Face of Saktina


tice of requiring these certificates in order to prevent avoidance of the akon tax was not aimed in any way at securing for the owner proof of his rights. Issue of the certificates was for the benefit of the treasury, not for the benefit of the owner/'113 Issue of this kind of certificate was urgently tightened up everywhere once again during High-Lord Borommakot's time114 at the end of the Ayudhya period, and this form of the certificate served as a vital document in the collection of the tax until the Rattanakosin [Bangkok] period. A new form of the certificate only began to be issued on 15 September B.E. 2445 [A.D. 1902] (Fifth Reign).115 When the new certificates began to be issued at that time, three tasks were involved: 1. agricultural commissioners were appointed to survey and inspect the evidence of all owners in every district; 2. a registry was established for keeping the new certificates; 3. all the old documents were declared void and new ones were issued in their place. Then in B.E. 2451 [A.D. 1908] the "Royal Decree on the Issue of Land Certificates of R.S. 127" (6 March 1908) was promulgated. Only from that date did the People thereby begin to acquire property rights in land. Fangloi rice fields were upland fields above the floodline and thus dependent on rainfall alone. If no rain fell these fields were dry and could not be cultivated, unlike the good quality khukho fields which could be irrigated by means of norias that scooped up water into the fields to permit cultivation without having to wait for rain. These upland rice fields were thus referred to as rain-fed fields. When the commissioner came to survey the rice field he sought to ascertain how much of a particular field was under cultivation by noting the straw stubble and using it as a basis. He then mecisured the area and levied the akon accordingly. Almost all rice fields of this kind belonged to phrai; sometimes they produced a yield, sometimes not. The kshatriya's Rice-Land Department issued only a temporary "certificate of claim/' If the fields were not prcductive in three consecutive years the Rice-Land Department charged [the cultivators with] laziness and repossessed the rice fields for the state. Life for those phrai who had fangloi or rain-fed rice fields thus fluctuated according to rainfall. As survival depended on rainfall, the custom arose everywhere among the communities of phrai who cultivated rice fields of beseeching the heavens for rain by taking around a rain-making female cat. The kshatriya's agents merely had the duty of ascertaining whether or not the phrai had cultivated their rice fields. If not, they assumed that the People were lazy, and their rice fields were repossessed. The assistance given to peasants by the saktina was limited simply to inducing them to perform rain-making rites. The kshatriya would manifest his compassion by sending to the various muang centers on rain-making occasions a Buddha image—called the Gandhararatha image—which would be brought out for the performance of the rain-making rite. This rite was called the Varuna-sastra. In years of drought when the fields could :iot be cultivated, the People were accused of failing to perform the Varuna-sastra extensively enough, thus reducing their favor with the deities. The fault could not lie with the kshatriya who failed to dig canals and provide irrigation and water supply. In this way the People were deluded into entrusting their lives to the deities of Heaven and Earth. If rain did not fall, it was as if Heaven and Earth withheld their favor because of bad merit in the People themselves. The blame could not be placed on others!


Thai Radical Discourse

"It was the custom in this country that whenever rain was lacking or in short supply, the Gandhararatha image was requested and set in place in the district and a pavilion erected where Pali verses were chanted in supplication for rain. It was not possible to perform this ritual in every district of the raja's territory, because in most of the districts and muang centers there were no Gandhararatha images for the rain-making rite. This year (B.E. 2468, ed.) [A.D. 1925] the raja has given permission to have eighty Gandhararatha images cast, 33 centimeters in height. These are to be dispatched and placed in all districts and muang centers, so that whenever a rain crisis arises, the Varuna-sastra rite can be performed immediately/'116 As a rule, this was the only form of assistance which the saktina extended to the People. The rain-making—or Varuna-sastra—rite has been performed since Sukhodaya times. In those days, the Fifth Reign ruler has said, the rite was "rather clumsy and crude."117 It was performed annually on a large-scale in both Buddhist and Brahmanic forms, and there was in addition another rite of verbal supplication performed in the belief that: "if rain had not fallen and the supplication was taken out and read, rain would indeed fall. This supplication . . . quite possibly had its origins in the reign of Borommakot [A.D. 1732-1758], because from Phra Chao Songtham's reign on [A.D. 1620-1628], ruinous superstitions and beliefs invoking this and countering that proliferated. These became ever more damaging as time went on."118 Yet in spite of the fact that they regarded these practices as clumsy and crude as well as ruinously superstitious, the saktina continued to encourage the rites, as this was the only means they had to delude the People and effectively to shift the blame from themselves. From the evidence available, the kshatriya extended a helping hand to the People on very rare occasions, yet for a long time after he had given his help he invariably reminded them of the reciprocity they owed. Let us cite one example from the Fourth Reign when, in B.E. 2407 [A.D. 1864], there was a drought. "Furthermore, in the eleventh month of this year His Majesty traveled up to the Old Krung [Ayudhya] to inspect the water supply and saw how little there was. His Majesty issued a command directing the officials to go out and dam up the water (i.e. make dams to prevent water loss—editor). He then disbursed from his raja-treasure both money and rice to those who did the work—one baht per person—and he distributed provisions in the form of 10 coconut-shell measures of rice per person. He also promptly bought up wood to supplement the wood that had been ordered cut. To the limit of his strength, he spent more than 50 chang in his compassion to do something for his subjects' rice fields in the Old Krung, Lopburi, and Angthong. This was his munificence on behalf of his subjects, and they should be mindful of it. Let there be no difficulties."119 This is a decree of the Fourth Reign ruler, written in his own hand. The request that the people be mindful of his munificence and that there be no difficulties refers to the difficulties the kshatriya faced in collecting the akon paddy tax. As a consequence of the drought and the rice fields' lack of productivity, the People in their great distress cried out that the levy of the rice-land akon was excessively heavy. The statement that he was willing to pay out of his "raja-treasure" more than 50 chang (over 4,000 baht) to make dikes for shutting in the water makes it seem that the sum was so large that it was necessary for him to insist on reciprocity. Yet if we compare this to some of the profits, we can see that in the Old Krung, Lopburi, and Angthong

The Real Face of Saktina


where he provided assistance in damming the water, "the rice fields amounted to more than 320,000 rai... with the rice-land tax on those 320,000 rai earning 1,500 chang per annum when figured at 1 salung 1 fuang per rai, or 1,000 chang if 1 salung per rai was charged" (from the same decree), bringing in an annual revenue of 1,000 to 1,500 chang (80,000 to 120,000 baht) regularly year after year. When on one occasion he paid out the cost of damming up the water, it seems he was muttering a complaint and insisting on reciprocity, despite the fact that the damming of the water in this instance was of direct benefit to the saktina class. That is, if rice could be cultivated, that class obtained paddy, and the actual money invested to dam up the water—a mere 4,000 baht—came out of the 1 salung or 1 salung 1 fuang per rai of rice-land akon levied on the People. The big saktina knew very well in his own mind that such money came out of the akon tax. When the lord-masters cheated on the tax that they should have been collecting and sending to the state or when they used muscle and influence on behalf of their followers to swell the ranks and get themselves exempted from the tax, the Fourth Reign ruler complained that the incoming money was not sufficient to pay the annual allowances of the lord-masters, and he had to reduce the annual payments. He actually said that: " The money I give annually as allowances to officials does not come from external sources in other states. It comes from akon taxes!' But when he turns to speak to the phrai—the peasants—he changes tack and refers to the money from his "personal treasure." It was necessary "to spend more than 50 chang in my compassion to do something for the people's rice fields . . . to the limit of my strength. This is my munificence on behalf of the people, and the people should be mindful of this munificence. Let there be no serious difficulties (in collecting the akon taxi)." This was the saktina's practice of demanding reciprocity for coarsely milled rice and steaming curry. We may well wonder who, in fact, was obliged to reciprocate to whom. As a consequence of the kshatriya's unwillingness to assist the People and his reluctance to part with his own treasure, rice fields were parched and ruined throughout the saktina period. The condition we refer to as "scarce rice and expensive betel" thus arose all the time. If we examine the old documents we always find this condition of scarce rice and expensive betel. For example: Year of the Tiger, C.S. 1120 (B.E. 2301) [A.D. 1758]: in this year the price of rice rose to 12 tamlung per kwian. (As a rule the rice price was 3, 5, or 6 tamlung per kwian.) Year of the Snake, C.S. 1147 (B.E. 2328) [A.D. 1785]: too much water; the price of rice rose to 1 chang per kwian. Year of the Snake, C.S. 1183 (B.E. 2364) [A.D. 1821]: rice was 7 tamlung per kwian; husked rice was 3 salung 1 fuang per thang. In this year aquatic snakes bit people and caused many deaths. Year of the Horse, C.S. 1184 (B.E. 2365) [A.D. 1822]: rice was 11 tamlung per kwian. Year of the Rabbit, C.S. 1193 (B.E. 2374) [A.D. 1831]: floods this year; the rice price rose to 8 tamlung per kwian.


Thai Radical Discourse Year of the Snake, C.S. 1195 (B.E. 2376) [A.D. 1833]: drought in the eighth month; the rice price rose to 7 tamlung 2 baht per kwian. Year of the Rabbit, C.S. 1205 (B.E. 2386) [A.D. 1843]: the price of rice was high this year from the twelfth month to the fourth; husked rice was 1 baht per thang; many people died from fever, and insufficient water meant rice fields could not be cultivated. (Taken from the Collected Chronicles, pt. 8.)

We return now to the rice-land akon and continue our discussion of it. Apart from appropriation by levy of 2 thang per rai of paddy without offering reciprocal assistance of any kind, exploitation by the saktina consisted of the forced sale of another 2 thang per rai at the state price of 6 satang per thang. This forced sale cost the phrai more than anyone else, because the general selling price was 10 to 12 satang per thang, and the price imposed by the state cut this by half. Those phrai who rented rice fields to cultivate had thus to pay out at three junctures: 1) the rice-land akon paid to the state (kshatriya); 2) the rent paid to the Land-Lord; 3) further loss through forced sale! The Land-Lords who had land to rent suffered nothing; they continued to gain as always. Those who had their p/zraz-attendants cultivate their rice fields or who commandeered lek to cultivate their fields for free did not suffer anything by having to pay out a little paddy. It seems that the Land-Lords and the ruling masters stood only to gain throughout the year. The collection of paddy at 2 thang per rai for the royal granaries and the forced sale of two thang of rice at 6 satang per thang continued until the Third Reign when the profit became inadequate to pay for official affairs, meaning those of the Lord of the Land.120 The war policies of the Third Reign ruler brought about "wars which required larger sums of money than previously for official business/'121 The Third Reign ruler thus changed the way the akon tax was collected by levying akon of 1 salung per rai in cash instead of in paddy. This form of collection eliminated the need for the People to transport their rice to the royal granaries. But do not assume that the People were better off. Because the 1 fuang per rai in cash for transportation costs was still collected even though the rice no longer had to be sent to the royal granaries, the total amount was 1 salung 1 fuang or 37 satang, even more than in the time of Phra Narai, and it was collected indiscriminately on both khukho as well as fangloi rice fields. Phrai cultivating fangloi fields consequently suffered wherever they were, to the point where they began to cry out in distress. Those with khukho fields also cried out, as they were forced to pay akon according to the total number of rai, without exemption, whether they tilled the land or not. "Those royal phrai who were oarsmen and their kin placed their names on petitions to Krungthep... Sometimes the ruler gave exemptions or reductions to those royal phrai doing official service in the Corps of Boatmen. In some instances the ruler demanded [payment] only on cultivated land, or he reduced for one year the amount by 1 fuang per rai!' (Fourth Reign decree, cited above.) In such circumstances special privileges arose: the royal phrai who were oarsmen easily slipped out of the obligation, while the impoverished common phrai and the lowest phrai were forced to go on bending under the exploitation. Then in the Fourth Reign the total akon levy of 1 salung 1 fuang per rai led all the khukho rice-field holders to cry out once again that they were worse off than those with fangloi rice fields, because they were forced to pay the akon on fields they had left fallow, while those with fangloi fields paid only on fields cultivated in any one year. The cries of the khukho field holders grew loud and unruly as a result of incitement and backing from Land-Lords, whose own profits had been affected. It seems that a People's move-

The Real Face of Saktina


ment of khukho rice-field holders already underway was seized upon by Land-Lords who used it as they pleased for their own ends. The Fourth Reign ruler, seeing that struggle against the joint strength of the People and the Land-Lords would be futile, agreed to reduce the rice-land tax for the khukho field holders, so in B.E. 2398 [A.D. 1855] it was lowered to 1 salung per rai. Some time later in B.E. 2407 [A.D. 1864]—ten years afterwards—another drought descended, and the khukho field owners cried out that they could not contend with the akon. The Fourth Reign ruler countered that he had already agreed to lower the amount to 1 salung per rai. The rice fields in the Old Krung, Angthong, Lopburi, and Suphanburi amounted to more than 320,000 rai. With a reduction of 1 fuang per rai, the annual cost to him was 500 chang (40,000 baht). People could think about it: by agreeing to the reduction for the past ten years, the state had lost some 5,000 chang (400,000 baht). 'The people have gained more than the state for the past nine or ten years now/' Therefore, "surely in this drought year it is not impossible to demand the 1 salung per rai according to past practice." And he even suggested that "if anyone still feels that he cannot withstand the rice-land tax, he is welcome to return the fields to the Rice-Land Department and they will revert to the state." Struck with this club, the Land-Lords fell silent, while the phrai had to swallow their disappointment bitterly. But wait. These were not the only deceptions in the levying of the rice-land akon. There is still more to the story. In any one year (such as B.E. 2407) the water supply was insufficient, any of the people who were poverty-stricken could petition for relief from payment of the rice-land akon on those fields which had been cultivated and harvested, and the petition would be granted. But this did not mean that uncultivated fields were exempt from the akon, only that the amount owing was deferred until the following year, when interest of 1 fuang (12 satang) had to be paid in addition to the principal of 1 salung per rai for a total of 1 salung 1 fuang. This meant that those compelled to defer payment to the state of the rice-land tax were forced to pay interest of 48 or 50 percent per annum!!! (interest of 1 fuang on a principal of 1 salung). Let us note too that the fangloi or rain-fed fields in the uplands appeared to be quiet. There were no noisy cries as there were from the khukho fields in the lowlands which were of good quality. This was because the voices of the poverty-stricken peasants who tilled 5 or 10 rai in the uplands were not heard, however much they cried out. It was like a fiddle to a water buffalo's ears. The reason for this was that the ruling masters and big Land-Lords had no rice fields in such arid regions, so the peasants' voices were suppressed and forgotten. In the lowland areas (khukho rice fields) almost all the big land owners controlled large tracts of land, and when poverty-stricken peasants cried out, the big land owners used guile to harness this peasant initiative for their own advantage. The impoverished peasants, for their part, were attached to the habit of depending on the protective power of an individual above. As each believed he had the backing of a ruling master with the power to watch over him, large numbers of peasants fearlessly demanded action. It was characteristic of these moves that the peasants overestimated their own strength, thinking that the kshatriya would have to relent because of their connections up top, the ruling masters who backed them. So they allowed the seizure of their own vast strength by the Land-Lords and the ruling masters who used it for themselves as they pleased. The rice-field akon was a vital akon which served as the life-blood of the saktina class. For this reason, it received careful attention. It was watched closely, the rate increased, and the method of collection was constantly adjusted, until in the Sixth Reign [A.D. 1910-1925] the rice-field akon was calculated as follows:


Thai Radical Discourse

First grade rice fields " " Second " " " " Third Fourth " " " " Fifth " "

Khukho Rice Fields 1.00 baht per mi .80 " " " .60 " " " .40 " " " .30 " " "

Fangloi Rice Fields 1.20 baht per mi 1.00 " " " .80 " " " .60 " " " .40 " " "

In the Fourth Reign the revenue of the saktina regime from the rice-land akon amounted to two million baht, and in the Sixth Reign it rose to seven million baht. For the Sixth Reign alone, the revenue from all land taxes amounted to 9,700,000 baht (statistics from 2464 [A.D. 1921]). The akon suan was generally called the large akon suan and referred to orchards. It was another form of land akon and complemented the rice-land akon on paddy. The method of levying this orchard akon was identical to that for rice land, i.e. the kshatriya dispatched officials—commissioners—to survey the various orchards. This was called "touring the orchards" (comparable to touring the rice fields), a Krom task which fell to the Department of Orchard Revenues. These orchard tours involved the performance of magical rites evoking supernatural powers, and vows were made to such deities as Phra Rama and Mother Kali. The commissioners would go out to survey and measure the land and issue certificates (the vital documents for collecting the akon) just as when they toured the rice fields. At the same time they drew up a list of the various species of trees on the basis of which taxes would have to be paid. If, when the commissioners toured a particular orchard, the owner did not come forward in person to meet the officials—busying himself elsewhere with the cremation of an aged relative—the orchard was deemed to be abandoned, and it reverted to the possession of the royal authority. The official had the absolute right to order its sale or disposition to someone else. The orchard tours were undertaken once at the beginning of each reign, which then served for the remainder of that reign. Whether or not trees died or were newly planted during that time was irrelevant. But in some reigns the orchard tours took place two or three times, during the Fifth Reign for example. The orchard akon was levied according to the [type of] tree. La Loubére noted that in the reign of Phra Narai the akon for durian was 2 salung per tree, for the betel vine it was 1 baht per stake, for the areca palm it was 3 nuts per tree, for coconuts 2 salung per tree, and for oranges, mangoes, mangosteens, and peppers it was 1 baht per tree. Evidence of orchard tours to levy the fruit akon is extremely difficult to uncover. The limited evidence for the Third Reign is that orchard tours took place in B.E. 2372 [A.D. 1829] and again in B.E. 2375 [A.D. 1832]. In the Fourth Reign they went out on orchard tours in B.E. 2396 [A.D. 1853]. Heads of survey units were appointed with eight people in each unit, six nobles from the Central Palace accompanied by two nobles from the Front Palace. This was because the akon had to be shared between the two palaces. In those days three survey units for orchard tours were established, one for inspecting the orchards in the north, one for the south, and one for orchards in the districts of Phetburi, Ratburi, Samutsongkhram, Nakhon Chaisi, and Sakhonburi (Samutsakhon). The akon rate was as follows: Areca Palms First grade trees Second grade trees

3-4 wa in height, 50 cowries per tree; 3 sailing 200 cowries per 100 trees. 5-6 wa in height, 40 cowries per tree; 2 salung I fuang 600 cowries per 100 trees.

The Real Face of Saktina

Third grade trees Mak phakarai Mak karok Coconuts Small trees with a least 1 sok of growth Large trees at least 8 sok high


7-8 wa in height, 30 cowries per tree; 1 salung I fuang 600 cowries per 100 trees. (sparsely flowered)122 40 cowries per tree; 2 salung 1 fuang 600 cowries per 100 trees. 11 nuts per tree. 50 cowries per tree. 100 cowries per tree or 1 fuang per 8 trees.

Munlasi, nalike, hongsipbat coconut trees—reserved for the kshatriya so no akon levied! Betel Vine Betel vine on thonglang stakes (vine stakes made of thonglang wood) at least 7-8 sok high—1 fuang per 4 stakes or 3 baht 1 fuang per 100 stakes Durian and Mangoes The tree was assessable if the base was 3 sok high and if, while standing, one could encircle it at eye-level with open arms plus three fists. Durians were 1 baht per tree, mangoes 1 fuang per tree. Mangosteens, Langsat The tree was assessable if the base was 1 sok 1 span high and if, while squatting, one could encircle it at eye-level with open arms plus two fists. 1 fuang per tree was exacted. Marian Plum The tree was assessable if the base was 3 sok high and if, while standing, one could encircle it at eye-level with open arms plus three fists. 2 fuang per tree was exacted. Trees which had not yet attained these sizes were exempt from the akon for one year, but it was levied in the following years. Apart from having to pay the fruit-tree akon, the orchard owner also had to pay out an interminable number of petty and trifling sums. He had to sponsor, for example, propitious rice-offerings to the house spirits [phraphum chaothi] and to the tutelary spirits [krung phali], and he was ordered to meet the following expenses: 1 pair of pigs' heads 1 soft mat 1 piece of white cloth For the bowl holding the measuring line and for the sacred water sprinkled on the orchard Cost of sprinkling sacred water on the orchard Fee for the lead surveyor Fee for the rear surveyor Total

1.25 baht .12 " .37 " .12 .12 .25 .12

" " " "

2.35 baht


Tha i Radical Discou rse

When the orchard owner came along and saw the chaotic preparations for this ritual he was led to think that the ruler had benevolently sent someone to prepare sacred water to sprinkle on his orchard for a good yield. In his great delight he failed to realize that this person had come to collect the akon tax. The commissioners were agents who levied the akon while at the same time extolling the beneficence of the kshatriya's merit. If five inspection tours were carried out for an orchard the owner was also required to pay the commissioner the sum of 1 salung I fuang per grove as well as a stipend of 2 salung per grove, meaning the orchard was hit with an additional 3 salung 1 fuang. There was yet another sum which the People who were orchard owners had to pay. When the commissioners came to inspect the orchard the owners were required to produce the old certificate so it could be confirmed, whereupon they received a new one. For this they had to pay an additional certificate fee of 1 baht 2 salung. Finally, there was the monopoly purchase of three kinds of heartwood: the maklua tree, which is a black wood; the lamut sida tree, which is a fine-grained red wood; and the chan tree, a fine-grained light wood. When the owner wanted to fell these trees or cut from them he had to inform the commissioner and then cart the wood to the ruler. Once a tree was felled, the owner was under orders to replant. There was one other method of levying the akon, i.e. by measuring the area in rai. A grove of ñipa palm, for example, paid an akon of 1 fuang per rai. As with the other kinds of orchards, officials periodically made inspection tours to measure the amount of land. We can conclude that 5,545,000 baht was levied in orchard akon during the Fourth Reign. The water akon was levied on fishing in rivers, canals, swamps, and lakes—freshwater as well as salt water. The method of levying the water akon was usually to grant certain individuals monopolies to collect the tax. The kshatriya issued laws setting the akon taxation rates at various levels according to the kinds of equipment used to make a livelihood. Fresh-water phongphang traps, for example, were 12 baht per trap, boats with phan nets were 10 baht per boat, boats with phong nets were 6 baht per boat, and boats with casting nets were 1 baht per boat. A tax was levied on each kind of equipment listed on a lengthy register, including prawn and fish dipnets at 12 satang per person, spears at 12 satang per person, line hooks at 50 satang per person, and ordinary hooks at 50 satang per 100. Those seeking to secure the tax monopoly would bid for the concession, and whoever offered the most would get it. In the Fourth Reign, for instance, Phra Sichaiban sought the tax monopoly for Krungthep as well as the 37 muang centers and 8 subdistricts by bidding 370 chang (29,600 baht) per annum, and he offered this bid by pledging to send money to various ruling masters as follows: 314 chang 20 " 30 " 1 chang 10 tamlung 1 chang 1 " 10 tamlung 1 chang 10 tamlung 10 tamlung

1 . To the Royal Treasury 2. To the Old Treasury (personal) 3. To the Front Palace 4. To Krom Somdet Phra Dechadison 5. To Krom Phra Phiphitthaphokphuben 6. To Krom Phra Phithakthewet 7. To Krommaluang Phuwanetnarinthararit 8. To Krommaluang Wongsathiratsanit 9. To Krommakhun Sanraphasinpricha 10. To Phrachaolukyathoe Phra-ongchao Nopphawong


370 chang

The Real Face of Saktina


(The water akon was subsequently increased to 70,000 baht.) When all the bids had been made and when all the arrangements for giving the money to the most important group within the saktina class had been completed, those who had a share in the resulting profit and those who wielded power in the land conferred together. Ultimately, they "advised t h a t . . . as the people were destroying life to make a profit and sustain themselves by sinful means without having to pay the water akon and as this makes it look as if we are happy with their taking life, we are delighted that Phra Sichaiban has notified us that he will collect the water akon . . . "123 This means that when the People baited hooks to catch fish for eating they violated the precept on the killing of sentient beings, the taking of life. If the akon tax was not collected there would be complicity with those who earned their living sinfully, so it was essential to levy the akon tax to teach them a lesson!!! Here is an instance of how religious doctrines were employed as an instrument of exploitation by the saktina class! The issue of the water akon is a lark. During the Third Reign the water akon levied by means of monopolies brought in more than 700 chang (56,000 baht) per annum. Later on, as a consequence of all kinds of other taxes being increased, the water akon was reduced to 400 chang (32,000 baht). Eventually it was completely abolished and ceased to be collected. The reason for this was not a desire to help the people by lightening the tax yoke on their shoulders, but because the Third Reign ruler was rather pious and felt that fishing was a sinful livelihood—it was the destruction of life—and so did not levy the tax. Then in the Fourth Reign it was necessary to reduce the rice-land tax as explained above, and this set off an aggressive search for a new form of akon tax which ultimately ended in the water akon levy. They estimated that more than 400 chang per annum would be collected, but according to the findings of Sangharaja Pallegoix, the actual income earned from the water akon in the Fourth Reign amounted to 70,000 baht. They were apprehensive that it would be unreasonable if the levy was summarily announced. People would gossip among themselves that taxes were collected from them, but not the slightest thing was ever done to benefit the People. So the Fourth Reign ruler issued a decree recalling that the abolition of the water akon by the Third Reign ruler "had been of no value whatsoever to animal life as he had wished, it had resulted in no value or gain to Buddhism in any way at all, and it had been of no value to the realm/' (Collected Decrees, Fourth Reign, part 3, promulgated in B.E. 2399 [A.D. 1856].) And he went on to say that "those who fished and profited through exemption from the akon tax which they ought to have been paying at an annual rate of more than 700 chang . . . in no way acknowledged that they were gratefully beholden for royal power and benevolence by coming forward to do some conspicuous royal service in homage to that power and beneficence." Therefore, "we advise that the abolition of the water akon by Phrabatsomdet Chaoyuhua [the Third Reign ruler] was of no benefit whatsoever to beasts, and it had no value in promoting Buddhism . . . " If the akon was not collected it would be tantamount to being sinful and countenancing those who acted wrongly by destroying life, so it was necessary to levy the water akon again in that reign, and for this reason Phra Sichaiban was appointed tax farmer! At this point the person who held a tax monopoly, called the "tax farmer," had the right to appoint as his representative "akon agents" to collect the akon from the fishermen in the many districts that had been allocated among them. The akon agents rushed to collect the tax, sometimes by force and sometimes in excess of the established rate. The People who fished all began to suffer as before, while the saktina class merely sat back in comfort, acquiring merit and feeding off the akon of those who earned their living sinfully.


Thai Radical Discourse

The spirits akon. Apart from the three principal akon taxes—i.e. the paddy akon on rice land, the large garden akon, and the water akon—there was a host of other akon taxes, for example the spirits akon. Since ancient times the revenue from this akon was high, the levy in Phra Narai's time being 1 baht per the. If a particular muang had no still to produce liquor under the taxation monopoly the People had to distil it on their own initiative, and the ruler exacted a lump sum liquor levy of 1 baht per person on an individual basis (from able-bodied males). In every period the revenue from the liquor akon was very high: during the Fourth Reign the liquor tax reached 500,000 baht, according to the findings of Sangharaja Pallegoix, and later on in the saktina period, before the middle class revolution of B.E. 2475 [A.D. 1932], this akon amounted to tens of millions of baht (in B.E. 2467 [A.D. 1924] it was 11,929,551 baht 62 satang). The akon on prostitution. Another very interesting akon was the one on prostitution, reported by la Loubére to have originated in the time of Phra Narai when Okya Baen was allowed to establish a brothel for prostitutes. These prostitutes must have been in existence for a very long time, but now the kshatriya, seeing their substantial incomes and numerous customers, decided to collect this income by setting up another monopoly, in brothels. In old documents referring to the districts in the Ayudhya muang it is recorded that prostitutes lived in a quarter called "Sampheng."124 And for a long time afterwards, when the krung had been moved to Krungthep, the prostitute quarter continued to be called Sampheng. (The term Sampheng in those days had an unfavorable connotation; parents would scold their daughters by saying, "you little Sampheng bitch," a phrase that derived from that way of life.) The nature of prostitution in the saktina age and the capitalist age was identical, i.e. many women who could no longer endure conditions of hunger and suffering had to sell their bodies. In periods when Europeans came to trade in the krung, their freespending habits induced an even larger number of women who could not break free of such conditions to take up this occupation. At the end of the Ayudhya period it was notorious that increasing numbers of unfortunate women were being forced to grit their teeth, shut their eyes, and sell themselves to foreigners. The saktina, for its part, did nothing to correct the situation, because it saw women's "basic nature" as being lustful. All the saktina did was wait around to collect the tax. Sometimes women who could not withstand the tax sold their bodies secretly, and when the saktina government saw how this was costing it profits, it issued a raja-directive in B.E. 2306 [A.D. 1763] which said: "Henceforth, Thai, Mon, and Lao are forbidden to have sexual intercourse in secret with Indians, French, English, Kula [?], and Malays—who are heathens (i.e. not Buddhists)—in order to protect the people from misfortune . . . If anyone fails to heed this and secretly has sexual intercourse with heathens she is to be arrested, interrogated, and punished at the maximum by execution. Parents and kinfolk, near and far, who fail to make her obey and prevent this are to be punished." (Old Edict, 55.) This meant that it was perfectly all right for prostitutes to have sexual intercourse with Thais who, because they were Buddhists, were not heathens violating the principles of the Religion! The annual proceeds which the saktina government derived from the tax on prostitution was not small. According to Sangharaja Pallegoix's account, it seems that the tax collected on prostitution during the Fourth Reign was 50,000 baht per annum. The opium akon was a new akon which originated only in B.E. 2394 [A.D. 1851]. In one year the amount of akon obtained from this tax-farming monopoly was 2,000 chang (160,000 baht). If it was a leap year (thirteen months, with a second eighth month) the tax increased by an additional 166 chang 13 tamlung I baht. According to the figures

The Real Face of Saktina


of Sangharaja Pallegoix, the opium tax in the Fourth Reign rose to 400,000 baht per annum, a huge sum for an akon tax ("History of Some Akon Taxes" in Selected Customs, part 16). The story of this opium tax is laughable. In former times opium smoking was absolutely forbidden in Muang Thai, and during the Second Reign a decree prohibiting opium smoking was issued on Saturday, in the ninth month, the fourteenth day of the waxing moon of 1173 of the Lesser Era, third year of the decade (B.E. 2354 [3 August A.D. 1811]). "Anyone caught smoking opium is to be arrested. An examination is to be conducted to establish the facts, and criminal punishment is to be levied: three separate floggings, three days' detention on land, three days7 detention on shipboard, complete rajapatra confiscation of children, wives, and property, and sending the person to cut elephant-hay. Any accomplices who do not report it are to be punished with sixty strokes." They even invented a new hell—the opium hell—with which they threatened the People: "At death people descend to the Mahadap Hell where Nai Niriyabala (i.e. the Hell-Keeper) metes out punishment and inflicts the most terrible suffering and pain. When released from the Dap Hell they are changed into ghosts with smoke and fire spouting from their mouths and noses for eternity."125 Then in the Fourth Reign the demand for money grew. As a consequence of the palaces, orchards, and rice lands that had to be established for the ruler's numerous wives and children, cash was in short supply. So feigning ignorance of the hells, ghosts, and the like that had been invoked in the law, he approved the creation of a tax on opium as a tax-farming monopoly. Eventually, in the Sixth Reign, the saktina government itself turned this into an administrative department. The cowrie gambling akon was of great antiquity. It took the form of bids tendered for the operation of gaming halls in muang centers and districts where the People could gamble freely (these were identical to the casinos of the Khuang Abhaivongse government after World War II). Each person holding a tax monopoly to operate gambling halls was given the title Khun Phattanasombat and sakdina of 400 rai. Inside the halls three kinds of games of chance were played: thua, kamtat, and phainga. At a later date these were thua, pokam, and popan. The revenue produced by the cowrie gambling akon lay close to the saktina government's heart, because neglect in the development of agricultural production had made agriculture backward and had so reduced the earnings of the People that they did not have enough to sustain life. Great numbers were forced to sell themselves into slavery, resulting inevitably in a sudden decrease in state revenue. The only way the saktina government could rectify the situation and obtain money was to open gambling halls in order to exploit the desperate and ignorant People by drawing them in to gamble away their cowries. Cowrie gambling relieved the shortage of government revenues temporarily. But the fundamental economic problems remain unaffected. The way the saktina government was content to solve these problems, however, was rather like trying to push the mass of floating weeds away from the dock. It opened gaming halls all over the country, and the resulting exploitation was burdensome and widespread. According to the statistics of B.E. 2431 [A.D. 1888], there were 403 cowrie gambling halls in Krungthep—126 large ones and 277 small—located in every district. For B.E. 2441 [A.D. 1898] statistics disclose that the number of cowrie gambling halls in muang centers were as follows: The Old Krung (Ayudhya) Circle Nakhon Chaisi Circle Nakhon Sawan Circle

71 districts 18 districts 26 districts


Thai Radical Discourse

Phitsanulok Circle Prachin Circle Nakhon Ratchasima Circle Chanthaburi Circle

15 districts 33 districts 11 districts 26 districts

Statistics are not available for Monthon Nakhon Sithammarat, Chumphon, Ratburi, Phuket, Burapha (domestic Khmers), and Udon. Since the Ayudhya period the revenue derived from the cowrie gambling akon had probably amounted to many hundreds of thousands of baht, because for three muang alone in which individuals had applied to operate the akon—Ratburi, Samuthsongkhram, and Samutprakan—29,680 baht was extracted in the year B.E. 2299 [A.D. 1756]. During the Rattanakosin period John Crawfurd, the English envoy, reported that the revenue derived from the gambling akon in B.E. 2365 [A.D. 1822] was 260,000 baht. In the Third Reign the cowrie gambling akon rose to 400,000 baht and in the Fourth Reign it increased to about 500,000 baht. Then in the Fifth Reign it grew to the point where it became one of the most substantial akon. Just at that time, however, the Fifth Reign ruler improved the method of akon tax collection, systematizing it to maximize the profit, by creating a state treasury (2418) [A.D. 1875], and he looked for a way to abolish the cowrie gambling halls as he realized that preoccupation with cowrie gambling was causing the country large profit losses in other areas. By that time the cowrie gambling halls had been steadily disappearing until only five districts in Krungthep had them. Yet these five still produced cash on the order of 6,755,276 baht per year (B.E. 2459) [A.D. 1916]. Finally in B.E. 2460 [A.D. 1917] they were abolished once and for all. The lottery akon was begun in B.E. 2378 [A.D. 1835] during the Third Reign. The reason for the creation of the lottery stemmed from famines in two successive years— B.E. 2374 [A.D. 1832] when insufficient water spoiled the rice. The saktina tried the water-dispelling rite (to lower the water level) and then they performed the Varunasastra rite (rain making). But these produced no results. The Buddhist and Brahmanic rites were both a flop. The consequence was that: "Rice was expensive, foreign rice had to be purchased and distributed for sale, but people had no money to buy it. They were forced to hire themselves out and to receive their wages in rice. Tax farmers had no money to send in and had to send to the state goods equivalent in value instead, finally, even the Chinese who wore the waxseals had no money to pay and were forced to come into the krung to work." (From an essay of the Fourth Reign ruler.) In these circumstances the saktina government became anxious. It considered various possibilities but could not figure out why it had no money, why no money was coming into the treasury. It began to wonder why "so much money engraved with the lotus, the garuda, and the sanctuary tower had all disappeared." The saktina government failed to realize that the peasants normally cultivated rice and sold it, thus obtaining cash to spend throughout the year. Sometimes, for the most part really, the amount was inadequate. And when they themselves could not produce rice, where were they to obtain cash to buy rice for their own consumption? The only solution was to abandon their rice fields and come into the krung to work. Each one arrived empty handed, bringing only another belly to fill. When they were hired they asked for their wage in rice, refusing to accept it in cash because rice was scarce, expensive, and difficult to buy. And if they accepted their wage in money it was worthless because they could not buy rice, or, if they could, it was so expensive that the amount they could afford did not sustain life. The money that had disappeared either ended up with the rice merchants who bought up the rice and hoarded it for resale, or it streamed out of the country in

The Real Face of Saktina


order to purchase rice for merchants' consumption. So where could the People be expected to obtain money? The saktina government grew extremely anxious about money not coming into the treasury, but rather than assisting the peasants to produce something of value (i.e. rice) which would provide money for everyone to spend, the peasants and itself included, the saktina government turned instead to devising financial strategems, i.e. they carefully plotted ways to seize the cash from the hands of rich merchants. Actually the saktina government was not even aware that the money had fallen into the hands of two or three merchant manipulators. On the contrary, the saktina government thought "the money is held by the people who stash a lot of it underground and do not spend it." That is, they came to the view that the people so loved their money that they buried it underground and refused to dig it up to buy rice. They preferred to die out of deep regard for their money! It was this mentality that created the lottery, which in the first year yielded 20,000 baht. The People, in suffering and distress, were lured to sages who recommended lottery numbers, hoping for great wealth. Every day they tried their luck for 1 fuang or 1 salung, and every day they gambled they became poorer. And as the People became poorer and poorer, those holding the tax monopoly for the government became correspondingly richer and richer. Those who were shameless and opportunistic befuddled the People with mystical predictions of lottery wins, until the People were ruined one by one. Gambling in the lottery became so widespread that "in the eleventh month, the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the waxing moon [in October], hundreds and thousands of people came to Krungthep. Every year they came by rail and by boat until by evening they filled the streets from the Three Ways lottery hall all the way to New Road."126 The reason they came in such numbers was to try their luck at the lottery, because the lottery was conducted only in thirty-eight subdistricts within Monthon Krungthep. (It had been run in Phetburi and Ayudhya; after impoverishing people in both muang, it finally had to be abolished.) The saktina government obtained large amounts of revenue every year from levying the lottery akon. During the Fourth Reign it obtained about 200,000 baht per annum, and during the Fifth Reign the combined revenue from both the lottery and the cowrie gambling akon was 9,170,635 baht. Later on, the combined total was as much as 6,600,000 baht (B.E. 2458) [A.D. 1915], despite the fact that many of the cowrie gambling halls were closed, and in the final year of operation the lottery akon alone yielded 3,420,000 baht (the lottery was abolished in B.E. 2459 [A.D. 1916]). Apart from the akon taxes that have been described here, there were several dozen other large and small akon, lengthy lists of them. There was, for example, a skillet tax, a kindling wood tax, a Thai-pepper tax, a buffalo-horn tax, and so forth. In sum, altogether thirty-eight new kinds of taxes were created in the Third Reign, and in the Fourth Reign additional ones brought the total to fifty-two. (For details, the interested reader may consult "History of Some Akon Taxes," part 16 in Selected Customs by Somdet Kromphraya Damrong Rajanubhab.) Tax Monopolies In more recent times both the akon levies as well as the changkop levies from trade began to grow into monopolies formed by collaboration between those in the saktina class who monopolized external commerce and those in the middle class (whose numbers were growing) who monopolized internal commerce. Exploitation thus extended from a single-level exploitation by the saktina class and was transformed into a doublelevel exploitation by means of collaboration with the middle class.


Thai Radical Discourse

Because they were not confined to merely one or two kinds, these tax monopolies caused great suffering among the People. From the Third Reign onwards, various and sundry tax monopolies were created. The Third Reign ruler was obsessed with his extensive construction of wat, and as money was something he needed, he always gladly accepted what the middle class tax monopolists proposed or required. The middle class—i.e. the monopolists—was vigilant: once it spotted the appearance of anything that could be bought and sold as a commodity, it collectively pursued the matter with friends in high places, applying for the monopoly to collect the tax for the state by bidding an annual sum. Moreover, those who undertook the job of applying for the monopolies had to be able to identify precisely the power-holders and the sleepingpartners. Once they ferreted out this information they proposed arrangements for distributing shares of profit to all the bigshots and sleeping-partners in proportion to the magnitude of their influence. (This has been explained above in the section on the water akon.) Once the saktina approved and consented to the profit arrangements, the tax farmers appointed their agents to collect the tax: "If, for the levies already in operation, they had to compete with each other in bidding large sums to be sent to the state, they looked for ways to collect more than the tax rate stipulated and ordered the people to pay them fines. This regularly caused disputes, quarrels, fistfights, and arguments which were tried in the courts. With the water akon, for example, people were sent out to collect it from households. Where traps were used to catch animals or fish, a tax was levied on each trap. This alone was not objectionable, because it conformed to what the appointment certificate stipulated. But in exacting a full levy from households which used no traps to catch aquatic animals, the agents played a trick: if householders did not catch aquatic animals they were asked if they drank water; if they answered in the affirmative it was said the waterways belonged to the state, and if they drank water they had to pay the water tax; the term speaks for itself as 'water tax/ The people, who did not understand what was going on, paid up."127 The exploitative tricks employed by the monopolist compradores were various. In operating the banana tax monopoly, for instance, they would undertake to levy the akon on clumps of bananas, but when they actually collected it, they did so indiscriminately, including single trees which had not yet sprouted and fruited. And when the owner of the plot objected, he was read out the appointment certificate stating that the levy was on a per-tree basis. If the tax farmer encountered a literate person, there would be a row right away, and if it got awkward the tax farmer would exempt the grower from the tax to buy his silence. Later on the tax monopolies led to well-organized profiteering from the right of appointment. That is to say, "The tax farmer agrees to operate the tax and then sell the concession to others who then resell it in districts located in the north and south. Yet those who purchase the concession do not exact the tax according to the official rates. They raise it and demand excessive and exorbitant amounts, thereby taking advantage of the people. The people, who are unaware of the official rates, are forced to consent to the whims of the collectors who obtained the concessions from the big tax farmers." (Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 7, p. 92.) Having made such a statement, the saktina government then published the tax rates and distributed them widely in order to prevent the tax farmers and their agents from levying more than the official rate. In this respect the saktina government tended to forget that the basic cause of this situation lay elsewhere, in the tax monopoly system. Be that as it may, in publishing and distributing the tax rates, the saktina saw itself as manifesting an example of the ruler's infinite compassion and goodness. But as reality was otherwise, how many people believed this?

The Real Face of Saktina


Reality was that in collecting the tax, each tax farmer aspired to great profit and thus used his power to apprehend people according to his whim. This led to disputes and litigation with the People, with those who were either wise to the tax farmer's tricks or who never had any money to pay. When the case came up, the tax farmer had to go to court and present his evidence, because in those days the ordinary People were not allowed to engage a lawyer to represent them. Only nobles of khun rank with sakdina of 400 rai and above were allowed to be represented in court by a lawyer. The saktina were making money in league with these monopolist compradores, so the former had to be attentive and helpful in protecting profit for the latter, because the profit was collaborative between the two of them. This was done by appointing the tax monopolists as khun nobles with sakdina of 400 ra/128 in order to provide them with the privilege of hiring legal representation. They need not waste any time and could go off to squeeze out their taxes. This shows us convincingly that the saktina class always used all its rights and privileges to serve itself. The tax farmers became naithun naina phukkhat (MONOPOLY-COMPRADOR CAPITALIST) who relied on the power of the saktina class to make profits for themselves and to exploit the People. To exemplify this let us look at'the coconut oil tax. As a rule, the price of coconuts was about 50 satang (2 salung) per hundred, or a little cheaper at 37 satang (1 salung 1 fuang). A single farmer holding the monopoly bought the coconuts by actually going to the grove and giving 62 satang (2 salung 1 fuang) per hundred. On the basis of this evidence, the tax farmer was acting in the interests of the coconut grove owner, because the latter was receiving a [good] price. But such was not the case. When the tax farmers actually went to the coconut groves to make the purchases, they bought cheap, below the stipulated price they had contracted with the kshatriya, and they even confiscated another 20 or 30 coconuts per hundred as well. If the People refused to sell, they disobeyed the tax farmers' authority, and the tax farmers "go around arresting, fining, and taking money from the people unjustly as well as justly. The people endure all kinds of suffering/' (Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 3.) The tax farmers acted as really big monopolist compradores when they stirred up trouble by buying coconuts at a price of 62 satang per hundred (which, as just explained, was not in fact the price they paid) and then selling the fruit for a profit to the coconut oil manufacturers at double the price, i.e. the selling price was 1.25 baht per hundred (5 salung). The coconut oil merchants willingly agreed to buy because, if they did not buy from the tax farmers holding the monopoly, they could not buy from anyone. The reason they agreed to buy at exorbitant cost was "because coconut oil was a principal, and very profitable, export commodity." (Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 3, same decree as referred to above.) Now the People, who had to buy coconut oil for their own use, were forced to buy at exorbitant cost, because the tax farmer had doubled the coconut price from what it had been at the grove. As for the ones who complained, it served them right for being lazy and not thinking to grow coconuts and make the oil themselves. Yet if they disobeyed and boiled out the oil themselves, they were fined 500 baht by the tax farmer! As for the ruler, he reserved the privilege of having oil set aside as suai to be sent to him for official purposes, i.e. to light Wat Phrakaeo, to distribute to all the other wat, and so forth. He suffered nothing. As always, the masses were the ones who suffered: they could not make their own oil and were forced to buy it for their entire lives at astronomical cost. This suffering because of the coconut issue spread throughout the land until finally the Fourth Reign ruler had to abolish the coconut tax monopoly in B.E. 2399 [A.D. 1856] and introduce a new kind of levy which exacted 1 salung for every three


Thai Radical Discourse

trees. One coconut tree yielded from about 30 nuts (when the trees were not productive) to a maximum of 80 nuts (when they were). As an average estimate, the coconut grove owner had to pay a tax of 25 percent! At the end of his reign, after he had set up the fourteen additional akon taxes, the Fourth Reign ruler completely abolished the coconut tax in order to wipe away the stain of his having harassed the People in the past. Tax monopolies of this kind—capitalist monopolies of commodities—operated on everything, even on phakbung [edible aquatic morning-glory], a laughable situation worth knowing about, so we would like to include it at this point. The phakbung tax originated at the end of the Ayudhya period in the reign of HighLord Ekathat when the country was in a state of complete disintegration. Those in the saktina class were totally absorbed "with playing their stringed instruments from dawn till dusk, satisfying their sensual appetites in private/' High-Lord Ekathat drank himself senseless and so debauched himself with immoral women that he caught venereal disease which blinded him in one eye. As he was spending money extravagantly, taxes were always a matter of urgent necessity, and he eventually turned to collect them on phakbung. This was because the People were so impoverished that they were eating only great quantities of phakbung. The holder of the monopoly on this tax was Nai Sang of the Royal Pages Bodyguard, who was a villager from Khu Cham and the elder brother of Chaochom Phak, one of the principal royal concubines. Moreover, his younger sister Pan was also a concubine, and because his concubine sisters protected him front and rear, he alone monopolized the purchase of phakbung. Those who had phakbung were forced to sell it to Nai Sang the tax farmer. If they smuggled it out and sold it to someone else they were fined 20 baht. Nai Sang set the purchase price as low as possible when he bought and as high as possible when he sold in the market. When the People were hit by this handiwork of the monopolist-compradore capitalist they all suffered together, as it had been great suffering in the past that had necessitated their resorting to phakbung for food. Now that they had to resort to consuming forage like oxen and water buffalo and could no longer obtain it, they collectively voiced their grievance to the big nobles, each of whom feared his neck would be severed from his torso and so hushed the matter up. Then one day when High-Lord Ekathat could not sleep and had been ill for some time he ordered a dance troupe to come and entertain him. During the course of the performance two of the People's actors—Nai Thaen and Nai Mi, who were clowns— smuggled their way into the play. One played a man, and the other a woman who was tied up to force payment of the raja-service tax (the 18 baht per year that was confiscated). Nai Mi, who played the female clown, shouted in provocation: "Where'll I get the money? I'm so poor. And even if I collect phakbung to sell, I must pay tax." The clown shouted this provocation three times, and when High-Lord Ekathat heard it he was shamed, as this all happened in front of the court. He brought charges and was going to execute Nai Sang, but after he reflected on the fact that both the elder and younger sisters of Nai Sang were his concubines, his anger subsided. He ordered the tax abolished and the money Nai Sang had forcibly extracted through fines returned to its owners.129 Both in the Ayudhya and Rattanakosin [Bangkok] periods, those monopolizing the taxes were, as a rule, Chinese. Once they had acquired the monopolies, [ranks of] mun and khun with sakdina of 400 were conferred on them so they would have the privilege of legal representation in their disputes with phrai who did not have the wit to pay the tax and had to represent themselves. When the roll of tax farmers was called out, the term Chinese came first, as in Chinese Khun Phatanasombat, who held the monopoly on the gambling akon; Chinese Phra Sichaiban, who held the monopoly on

The Real Face of Saktina


loaf sugar; Chinese Khun Sisombat, who held the monopoly on miscellaneous taxes (collected on junk cargo; this was a new development, i.e. a monopoly on changkop). In actual fact, these Chinese tax monopolists were the saktina's compradores who went out looking for profit to give to the saktina and who were the agents of the saktina's exploitation, while simultaneously operating monopolies in order to obtain private profit within their own group. The position of these Chinese was that of monopolist compradore capitalists of the saktina, or monopolist bureaucrat capitalists. Their function was similar to that of the naithun naina (COMPRADOR CAPITALIST), or semicompradore bureaucrat capitalists (BUREAUCRAT-COMPRADOR CAPITALIST) who are the agents or the underlings of today's imperialist capitalists. The burdensome exploitation on the part of the saktina class began to create among the saktina themselves a fear that one day the People would see the truth, i.e. that the real exploiter—the source of exploitation—was the saktina itself. This fear led the saktina to look for ways to deflect the People's gaze, i.e. it began to issue edicts claiming concern for the People and continually warning them to be careful: do not pay tax in excess of the rate; those wretched Chink [chek] tax farmers are swindlers who take advantage of the High-Lord's subjects; let the people take care—here we publish and give to you an accurate tax schedule taken from the state's master copy; you must read it and remember it to avoid losing out to those pigtailed Chinks. In other cases the saktina would, on very rare occasions, advise that a particular Chink had just requested yet another tax—on betel vine—but the ruler had not approved it because he foresaw how the people would suffer: these wretches are good only for exploiting and taking advantage of when collecting taxes. Henceforth it is absolutely forbidden to come forward with requests for approval to collect betel vine taxes. (Decree Prohibiting Requests for Betel Vine Taxes, Fourth Reign.) The People were squeezed terribly by akon taxes, changkop, suai, and rucha. They resented it, having endured this fate for a very long time. Now someone was available whom they could curse and who would personify their resentment. They immediately accepted this, and the accusations were true: the wretched Chinks did go around and exploit. Look at them. One day they were told there was no money to pay the tax, and the next they arrived with authority to arrest. They were leeches, and very harsh. People began to think this way till the universal prejudice arose that all the Chinese were exploiters of the Thai. Everyone had to hate and resent them. The People in the saktina period were so befuddled by the saktina that they could not see that the Chinks, whose mothers they cursed, were merely compradores of the saktina. The real culprits were over there—the saktina! From ancient times the saktina deluded the Thai people into hating "chek" [Chinks], and even poets joined in despising Chinese as in the following verse: "At the tax farmer's shed with its loud gong The important figure sits illuminated by candlelight. He's wearing his queue and displaying his fair-skinned young wife, A Chinese from somewhere else, another muang. He has no schooling and no learning, striving only to make himself influential Knowledgeable only in [the trade in] big hog-legs. Thinking about this, we Thai grow angry. We do not operate the gambling akon. We starve. How do we overcome this fate?" (Nirat Phrapathom by Maharik.)


Thai Radical Discourse

This is Thai nationalist blood starting to bubble and boil, nationalist blood of the saktina variety, and in a later period it is transformed into kadumphi nationalism (BOURGEOIS NATIONALISM). Every day the saktina propagated its hatred for Chinese in order to deflect from itself the gaze of the People. This group concentrated on inducing the Thai People to resent the Chinese: see for yourselves—the Chinese have all commerce in their grip; we can count the days until we starve to death. Yet apart from duping the People into cursing the "chek" all day, the saktina did nothing. The Fifth Reign ruler showed his pique about this: "If we consider how Thai people talk, it is comparable to what the Lao in Muang Luang Phrabang do. The chek for us are eqivalent to the kha people: without the kha to rely on the Lao would have nothing to eat. And when the kha assert themselves the Lao are really frightened. Fear and cowardice embolden the chek . . . and this causes me great irritation."130 Then in the Sixth Reign when the pungent smell of democracy began to spread everywhere the Sixth Reign ruler tried to mobilize the People and intensify their hatred of the Chinese by showing them that the poverty and troubles they experienced stemmed from the Chinese in Muang Thai, not from the saktina system. The solution was not to change from saktina to democracy but to rally together and strike out at the Chinese. So everyone lay around in bed dangling his feet and hating the Chinese! The Sixth Reign ruler's contributions in the battle to deflect the gaze of the People and delude them were his essays "Jews of the East" and "Wake up, Muang Thai," which he wrote under his pen name of "Asavabhahu." Yet we have to respect the saktina's ingenious ideas. Tricks with incantations invoked by means of supernatural powers brought gratifying results, and for a very long time the People directed their hatred at the "chek." The remnants of this idea which the saktina had implanted appeared again in the campaigns of the fascist militarists during World War II. There was, nonetheless, one large group among the People which remained steadfast and which was farsighted and correct in its outlook. It was able to see through the thick fog of this delusion and perceive that the tax farmers were compradores and agents of the saktina who were the chief instigators. Suffering in Muang Thai did not stem from the Chinese but from the collaboration between the saktina and the monopolist compradore capitalists! Even if the People could expel the Chinese tax monopolists completely and remove them from Muang Thai, the Thai people would still not be free of tax exploitation through monopolies. So long as the saktina's tax monopoly system remained in place, this kind of exploitation would continue. Even if there were no Chinese to act as monopolists, the Thai would be quite capable of it. Even the saktina themselves could operate the monopolies. In Muang Songkhla, for example, the akon on birds' nests and dried prawns was monopolized by Phraya Songkhla. In Muang Nakhon Sithammarat Phraya Nakhon monopolized them. In some muang the akon was collected directly by the state, as in Muang Pranburi where the Muang Department collected the duty on cottonseed and rolled cotton for the state while receiving a reduction of the fees for itself. If monopolies like this had been operated by Thais, Laotians, Mons, Khmers, or the white-skinned Farang the People would have suffered all the same. Suffering was not caused by Chinese, who were ordinary people and not filled with poison like cobras. What was poisonous was the saktina class's tax monopoly system! And isn't this the reality that the saktina is trying to conceal? These are the tricks by which the saktina deflect the People's gaze away from hatred for their own system of production and redirect that hatred to a nationality.

The Real Face of Saktina


Exploitation—in other words, as we have explained, the saktina's acquisition of profit through its seizure of rights to the means of production—occurred with all akon taxes. This is likely to raise questions: all states, even socialist ones, have akon taxes. Why do we single out the saktina's akon taxes as exploitative? We can dispose of this question by considering the fundamental problem. Who held rights to the means of production? Here in the saktina system the saktina class held rights to the means of production—i.e. land—and by possessing these rights the saktina class had the wherewithal to wield political power and to exact taxes on land according to its whim. The land tax was a basic tax category incorporating a great many other taxes such as the rice-land tax, the orchard tax, the fruit tax, the salt-field tax, the shophouse tax (market akon), and various miscellaneous taxes. After the land tax came suai—or rajjaupakara—which the saktina class levied and swallowed up. Apart from these, miscellaneous taxes were charged, such as the spirits tax, the water akon, and so forth. As it was the saktina class that collected all these taxes, the money it obtained went to support and serve that class, while the People were left to their fate as of old. In such circumstances the saktina's levy of akon taxes constituted the most massive exploitation (especially through land). Similarly, taxes in capitalist society constitute exploitation by the capitalist class. Only with regard to taxes in socialist society where the People collectively hold rights to the means of production is there no exploitation. When they hold these rights collectively they also wield political power collectively, and there can be no doubt that the various akon taxes provide everyone of them with happiness, comfort, and a life of fulfillment! Editor's Note This work is still unfinished. The remaining economic characteristics of saktina are the forced labor system, trade monopolies, and so forth. These will be followed by the political, social, and cultural characteristics, which will bring us to the semi-saktina semi-colonial epoch, i.e. when the Thai encountered imperialism (without) and capitalism (within). We will then come to the economic, political, and cultural role of the saktina today, and we end with the means by which the People will liberate themselves from semi-saktina semi-colonial [conditions]. The reason for printing only this much is that both time and money have been used up. In addition, the author has requested the editor to inform readers that this research was conducted in a race against the printer. Parts were rushed to the printer as they were written, so there are likely to be many errors and deficiencies. The author will be grateful for any criticisms and suggestions from readers.


2. Kromphraya Damrong Rajanubhab, 'Tales of Slaves/7 Wachirayan Wiset, vol. 5, R.S. 109 (B.E. 2433) [A. D. 1890].

3. Words of HOWARD FAST in his historical novel SPARTACUS. 4. AN EPIC REVOLT, BY DOXEY A. WILKERSON in the

monthly periodical MASSES AND MAINSTREAM, March, 1952. 5. SPARTACUS BY HOWARD FAST.


Thai Radical Discourse


7. Karibandi (GARIBALDI) was an Italian hero who helped liberate the People in many countries. Toward the end of his life he joined with Cavour to liberate Sicily and achieve the unification of Italy in the nineteenth century. 8. DOXEY A. WILKERSON, AN EPIC REVOLT, in the

monthly periodical MASSES AND MAINSTREAM, March, 1952.

9. At this point it must be understood that in slave states such as Rome only freemen could wear armor and bear arms, and arms could be borne and armor worn for battle only in the event of war. It was forbidden to bear arms in peacetime. Freemen who were soldiers constituted a special class, with each soldier allowed to hold and cultivate eight acres of land. 10. Strictly speaking, the term FEUDALISM or FEODALISME comes from the Latin word FEODALIS, an adjective derived from the noun FEODUM.

11. The term DONATARIOS, coming from the Latin word DONATARIUS which means "the recipient of something given/ 7 signifies the ruling masters who received land given to them by the kshatriya (the root is DONARE = to give, which becomes DONNER in French and DONATE in English). 12. An acre is equivalent to 4,840 sq. yds., about 62 meters per side in metric measure. 13. WILLIAM Z. FORSTER, OUTLINE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAS, INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHER, NEW YORK, 1951, P. 63.

14: The term HOMAGE comes from the word HOMME, meaning person (the same word as HUMAN in English). Performing HOMAGE before the master showed that one acknowledged someone as one's master and that one belonged to one's master. 15. CHIVALERY comes from the French word CHEVAL meaning "horse," because an asvina was a warrior mounted on horseback. In French an asvina was called CHEVALIER, meaning "horseman." In English an asvina was called a KNIGHT from the German and Dutch word KNECHT meaning "soldier." In Thai the word "asvina" means "horseman," the root being the Sanskrit word "asva" meaning "horse."

16 In Japanese an asvina is called "samurai" because the Japanese asvina fought with a specially made sword called a "samurai." One who wielded this sword expertly was called a samurai, which is how the "phraya Victorious with the Broken Sword" got his name in Thailand during the Thonburi period. The samurai code in Japan appeared about A.D. 1600, simultaneously with the emergence of the saktina system in that country. 17 This part describing the conditions of agricultural slaves in France is compiled from "Europe in the Modern Period" (A.D. 17891933) by A. E. ECCLESTONE, translated and edited by Prasert Ruangsakun in Witthayachan, vol. 54, no. 4, August 1955, p. 755. 18. The da-i-mi-o (DAIMYO) were the LandLords or ruling masters. 19. From "A Chronicle of Japan," by Hisho Saito, translated by Jupiter from the English edition of Elizabeth Lee, published at Chinnosayamwarasap Press, B.E. 2459 [A.D. 1916], vol. 2, p. 174. 20. See 'The Development of Society" by Suphat Sukhanthaphirom in the weekly news magazine Prachasak, vol. 2, no. 34, 7 May 2500 [A.D. 1957]. 21. 1 song equals 10,000 sq. ft., equivalent to 5 Chinese mow. 22. Those interested in the details of the Nanchao saktina please see "The Story of the Thai Nation/' by Phraya A n u m a n R a j a d h o n (reprinted many times). 23. See "The Nature of Rule in Siam from Ancient Times," by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Sophonphiphatthanakon edition, 2470 [A.D. 1927], pp. 16-21. 24. See the law on abduction in the Three Seals Code, Article 20. 25. "Inscription of the Law on Theft," deciphered by Cham Thongkhamwan, Warasansinlapakon, vol. 3, May 2498 [A.D. 1955]. 26. "A Thai Language Version of the Inscription," by Cham Thongkhamwan, Warasansinlapakon, vol. 3, May 2497 [A.D. 1954]. 27. Collected Thai Laws of Ancient Times, pt. 1, Mahamakut Ratchawitthayalai Press, B.E. 2482 [A.D. 1939].

The Real Face of Saktina 28. See the piece on "Kralahom," by Jit Poumisak in Aksaranuson, Freshman Issue for 2497 [A.D. 1954], unpaginated because the whole volume is unpaginated. 29. Collected Siamese Inscriptions, pt. 1, Phrachan Press, 2477 [A.D. 1934], p. 81. 30. The term kwan in "kwanchao" is master [nai], and it is used even in northern Lao. The kwanchao is the principal chief. 31. The kwanban, the master of the village, is a position subordinate to the kwanchao. The Thai poem "Yuanphai" refers to the master of the northwestern Thai village as "kwanban!' 32. E. DIGUET, ETUDE DE LA LANGUE TAI (i.e.

study of the Tai language family).


34. E. LUNETDE LA JONQUIERE, ETHNOGRAPHIE DU TONKIN SEPTENTRIONAL (an ethnographic study of northern Tonkin).

35. All evidence concerning the Thai communes discussed here comes from "A History of Thai Law/' Law on Land, by R. Lingat, published by Thammasat University, 2491 [A.D. 1948], pp. 6-11. 36. The heads of various Thai communes in Indochina being discussed here had the right to exert their power and drive people from the land in order to control it themselves or in order to relocate new families on it. See the same volume, p. 10. 37. Breaking away from the Shans, the Thai Ahom went into Assam. They penetrated in 1771 [A.D. 1228]; then in 2198 [A.D. 1655] the Thai Ahom kshatriya converted to Brahmanism. Ultimately, the entire population was absorbed by Indian culture. The Thai Ahom state lost its power to Burmese suzerainty only in the mid-twenty-third century (A.D. 1657-1757] (mid-Ayudhya period). The saktina period of the Thai Ahom is discussed briefly in "A History of Thai Law," Law on Land, by R. Lingat, pp. 6-7. 38. The ancient Khmer empire extended as far as Lan Chang, the extant evidence for this being the foundation inscription for the hospital (arogaya sala) built by the Khmer Jayavarman VII (B.E. 1724-after 1744 [A.D. 1181after 1201]) at Ban Sai on the bank of the Mekhong south of Vientiane across from Ban Wiangkhuk in what is today Nongkhai Prov-


ince. See "Kralahom," by Jit Poumisak in "Aksaranuson/' Freshman Issue for 2497 [A.D. 1954]. 39. LA STELE DU PRAH K H A N D'ANGKOR, G. COEDES, BULLETIN DE L'ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT, Vol. 41, p. 295. 40. LE ROYAUME DE COMBODGE PAR MASPERO.

41. Those who have never been to Angkor Wat and who have no intention of going, or who have been and could not read the mural captions because they were in Ancient Khmer yet who need to consult the evidence to be convinced, may do so in "LES BAS-RELIEF


the annual volume for 1911.


43. On Face 2 of a Thai language inscription, Collected Siamese Inscriptions pt. 1, this Khlon Lamphang or Lamphang is an official position which turned up later in Muang Thai as Kromphra Lamphang (in Khmer it is Phra Lamphang which Sukhodaya Thai adopted and wrote as Lamphong). 44. For details see POUR MIEUX COMPRENDRE ANGKOR, PAR G. COEDES, PARIS 1947.

45. See "Phimai from its Epigraphy/' by Jit Poumisak, Wongwannakhadi, February, 2496 [A.D. 1953]. 46. One of these Buddha images is located in the Bangkok National Museum. It is made of stone and is larger than life-size, with Khmer features and Brahmanic queue. It came from Phimai. The villagers call it Thao Brahmadata, so it seems that Thai villagers are not so foolish as to let Jayavarman dupe them into believing it is a Buddha image. 47. For details see LA STELE DU PRAH KHAN D'ANGKOR, G. COEDES, BULLETIN DE L'ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT, TOME XLI, 1941, PP. 255-301.

48. In their legends the Thai refer to this High Lord Indravarman II as High Lord Prathumsuriyawong. 49. As disclosed in the Phra Khan inscription, LA STELE DU PRAH KHAN D'ANGKOR, BEFEO, XLI, 1941, P. 256.


Thai Radical Discourse

50. Same say this Muang Rat is in Phetchabun, some say in Lopburi, and some say in the abandoned muang of Khorat in Nakhon Ratchasima province. 51. See the Thai inscription from Wat Sichum in Collected Inscriptions, pt. 1. 52. For the next hundred years the Khmer continued to make use of this strategy. Thao Fangum, the Luang Phrabang kshatriya, was given a daughter whose name was "Yot kaeo." 53. The state of Ichan appears in the Wat Sichum inscription, Collected Inscriptions, pt. 1. Subsequently it quarreled with the state of Muang Rat and large-scale war broke out. 54. The chronicle experts usually surmise that Sukhodaya's territory extended as far as Johore! This is really too far. Actually, only the state of the Phraya Nakhon Sithammarat was under Sukhodaya hegemony. The inscription specifies that the territory to the south of Nakhon Sithammarat extended as far as the "thale samut," meaning Songkhla's salt lake. 55. See the Wat Sichum inscription in the Collected Inscriptions, pt. 1. 56. The inscribed law on theft of the Sukhodaya period, deciphered by Cham Thongkhamwan, in Warasansinlapakon, vol. 3, May 2498 [A.D. 1955], p. 102. 57. Khun Samchon was lord of Muang Chot, another large Thai commune in Mae Sot district. It was later absorbed by the Sukhodaya empire. 58. This evolution of the kshatriya7s standing from phokhun, to phya, to chaophya, to somdet chaophya, to phrachao phaendin can be drawn from the Sukhodaya period inscriptions, both those discovered some time ago (in Collected Inscriptions, pt. 1) and recently discovered ones (published occasionally in Warasansinlapakon). 59. From the comprehensive law issued eight years before the founding of Ayudhya, Collected Laws of the First Reign, Thammasat University edition, vol. 2, p. 200. 60. See "Report on Calendrical Reckoning/' by Dhanit Yupho, Warasansinlapakon, vol. 5, pt. 3, October 1951, p. 59. Prince Damrong misdated both these laws to the end of the Ayudhya period!


taken from "A History of Thai Law/7 Law on Land, by R. Lingat, p. 8.

62. Humankind was familiar with this strategy from the slave period. It is not, as some people think, a strategy peculiar to imperialism. 63. This Phya Banmuang and this Phya Ramkhamhaeng are not the same as the wellknown Phokhun Banmuang and Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng but are the great-grandsons of Phokhun Ramkhamhaeng. They acquired the names of Banmuang and Ramkhamhaeng according to the custom of naming with ancestral names. These two fought each other in 1962 [A.D. 1419]. The big Ayudhya LandLord who intervened on this occasion was Somdet Phranakharintharathirat. 64. King Chulalongkorn's Speech Explaining Reform of the Kingdom's Government, edition published by the Seventh Ruler, Sophonphiphatthanakon Press, B.E. 2470 [A.D. 1927], pp. 10-11. 65. This was the same rank as that of Chaomae Sisudachan, the lover of Khun Worawongsathirat. 66. This was the rank of the woman Siprat fell in love with, thus causing his exile. 67. See Prince Damrong's Royal Rattanakosin Chronicle of the Second Reign, p. 270. 68. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, On the Royal Chronicle, Royal Autograph Edition, p. 463. 69. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, The Nature of Rule in Siamfrom Ancient Times, p. 33. 70. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Thesaphiban, Khlang Witthaya Press, 2495 [A.D. 1922], p. 25. 71. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 2; Vajiranana Library Edition, Sophonphiphatthanakon Press, 2495 [A.D. 1952], pp. 2-3. 72. Prince Damrong, The Nature of Rule in Siam from Ancient Times, p. 43; and the same author's Thesaphiban, pp. 51-52. 73. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 5; Sophonphiphatthanakon Press, pp. 135-36. 74. Royal Rattanakosin Chronicle, Second Reign, written by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Fine

The Real Face of Saktina Arts Department Edition, B.E. 2498 [A.D. 1955], pp. 119-20. 75. CONQUISTADOR is a Spanish word meaning conqueror and refers to the Spanish conquerors who robbed the Indians of their land in Mexico and Peru during the sixteenth century. 76. WILLIAM Z. FORSTER, OUTLINE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAS, P. 61.


86. "The Khunkhlon's Oral Account of the Buddha's Footprint," Collected Chronicles, part 7, p. 58. 87. Ibid., p. 66. 88. Ibid., p. 64. 89. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 6, p. 58. 90. Ibid., p. 55.



78. Luang Pradit Manutham, Economic Plan, S. Sinlapanon Press, 2491 [A.D. 1948], p. 18. 79. A passage from the Royal Chronicle of the Fifth Reign. 80. M.R.W. Khukrit Pramot, THE SOCIAL ORDER OF ANCIENT THAILAND (rabiap sangkhom khong thai nai samai boran), THOUGHT AND WORD, VOL. 1, NO. 2, FEBRUARY 1955, PP. 12-13.

81. Minutes of the Provincial Governors' Conference, B.E. 2497 [A.D. 1954], vol. 3, p. 113. 82. See Collected Siamese Inscriptions, part 2, edited and translated by Professor George Coedes. 83. These figures are taken from an inscription found in the Prah Khan sanctuary north of Angkor Thorn in Cambodia. For details see G. COEDES, "LA STELE DU PRAH KHAN D'ANGKOR/' Journal of the French Society in the Far East (BEFEO [Bulletin de I'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient]), vol. 41, A.D. 1941, pp. 255-301; or the essay "High-Lord Jayavarman VII and the Origins of the Term Nagara Jayasri," by Prince Dhani Nivat in the Journal of the Thailand Research Society, Thai-Language Edition, vol. 2, May 2485 [A.D. 1942], p. 109. 84. For details, see "Historical Documents: On Kanlapana Wat, Phatthalung Province, B.E. 2242 [A.D. 1699]" deciphered from the old script by Cham Thongkhamwan in the Fine Arts Review, vol. 7, parts 5-6 and vol. 8, parts 2, 3, 4, 5. 85. A passage from the essay by Krasaesin, "The Thasai Naga," in the fortnightly magazine Parichat, vol. 2, part 1, first fortnight, January, 2493 [A.D. 1950], p. 9.

91. King Chulalongkorn's Speech Explaining Reform of the Kingdom's Government, published by the [Seventh] Reign ruler, Sophonphiphatthanakon Press, 2470 [A.D. 1927], pp. 24, 36. 92. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Royal Rattanakosin Chronicle, Second Reign, p. 270. 93. Calculated from the Proclamation of the Gift of Usufruct Land, 1 February, B.E. 2489 [A.D. 1946], Annual Collection of Laws, vol. 59, p. 63. 94. Dr. Sawaeng Kunlathongkham, "Results of the Economic State of Thai Agriculture," Setthasan, vol. 2, part 20, issue 6, second fortnight, 16 March 2496 [A.D. 1953]. 95. R. Lingat, The History of Thai Law: Contracts, Thammasat University Edition, pp. 25-26. 96. Writings of King Phrachomklao, 2nd edition, Thai Press, 2464 [A.D. 1921]. 97. In the Fifth Reign, Phra Yot of Muang Khwang, one of the People's heroes who fought against the French at Muang Khammuan, was convicted by a state prosecutor and beheaded, his belongings confiscated. 98. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, The Nature of Rule in Siamfrom Ancient Times, p. 30. 99. Taken from "Prince Chanthaburi (when he was Minister for the Treasury)," p. 236. 100. Prince Damrong, The Nature of Rule ... , p. 31. 101. Collected Royal Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 4, p. 6. 102. Prince Damrong, The Nature of Rule . .. , p. 32.


Thai Radical Discourse

103. Prince Damrong, Selected Customs, part 16, p. 2.

117. Royal Festivals of the Twelve Months, written by the Fifth Reign ruler, p. 543.

104. Dispatch to Muang Nakhonratchasima, Documents on Muang Nakhonratchasima, published in B.E. 2497 [A.D. 1954], p. 36.

118. Royal Festivals of the Twelve Months, written by the Fifth Reign ruler, p. 557.

105. Dispatch to Muang Nakhonratchasima, "On Sending the Gold Suai," Documents on Muang Nakhonratchasima, published in B.E. 2497 [A.D. 1954], p. 34.

119. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 6, issued on Wednesday, second month, first day of the waxing moon, Year of the Rat, sixth year of the decade, C.S. 1226, equivalent to 28 December 2407 [A.D. 1864].

106. See Prince Damrong, Selected Customs, part 16, p. 2.

120. The words of Prince Damrong in The Nature of Rule in Siamfrom Ancient Times, p. 28.

107. King Chula's Speech as cited above, pp. 38-39.

121. Prince Damrong, Selected Customs, part 16, "An Account of Some Akon Taxes," p. 11.

108. Prince Damrong, Thesaphiban, p. 86.

122. Mak phakarai is Khmer for sparsely flowered.

109. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 4, p. 24.

111. King Chula7s Speech Explaining Reform of the Kingdom's Government, p. 33.

123. Decreed on Saturday, the eleventh month, eleventh day of the waning moon, Year of the Rat, fourth year of the decade, C.S. 1214 (B.E. 2395 [A.D. 1852]), in Prince Damrong's Selected Customs, part 16, "An Account of Some Akon Taxes," p. 12.

112. Collected Decrees of the Fourth Reign, part 6, p. 49.

124. Sampheng is Khmer for a woman who is a prostitute.

113. R. Lingat, History of Thai Law, Law on Land, p. 36.

125. Prince Damrong, The Rattanakosin Chronicle, Second Reign, p. 83.

114. See the Old Royal Edicts, Number 44, issued on Friday, seventh month, eleventh day of the waning moon, C.S. 1110, Year of the Dragon, tenth year of the decade, equivalent to 21 June B.E. 2291 [A.D. 1748].

126. Prince Damrong, Collected Chronicles, part 17, "On the Abolition of Cowrie Gambling and the Lottery," p. 76.

110. Old Edicts, Number 33.

115. History of Thai Law, Law on Land, by R. Lingat, p. 45. 116. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab's introduction to Proclamations on the Fertility and Ploughing Ceremonies, Sophonphiphathanakon Press, 2468, [A.D. 1925].

127. Phya Anuman Rajadhon, A History of Customs, pp. 42-43. 128. Prince Damrong, Thesaphiban, pp. 5152. 129. A rereading of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab's account, On the Inao Tale, Thai Press, 2464 [A.D. 1921], pp. 96-97. 130. Letter to Chaophraya Yommarat of 1 June R.S. 129 [A.D. 1910].



it Poumisak's history ends unfinished with an analysis of the premodern tax system. With his arrest in October 1958 and the government ban on works of this kind for the next fifteen years or so, Jit's project of analyzing the saktina system was perforce suspended. The promise in the Editor's Note of further work on other economic features as well as the political, social, and cultural characteristics of the saktina system remained unfulfilled until after the irruptions of 14 October 1973, when another generation of economic historians resumed socioanalysis of Thai society past and present. Even the Communist Party of Thailand, forced underground by Sarit's 1958 coup even more decisively than by the 1952 Peace Revolt, was limited in the extent it could mobilize the work for its own purposes. The "semi-saktina, semicolonial" reference in the Editor's Note affiliated the analysis with the type of social formation that had been virtually codified by the CPT for Thai society, yet the body of the text of The Real Face failed to mention "semi-saktina, semi-colonial." As a rebel intellectual, Jit was drawn close to the Party but he always kept—or kept himself by his own fiercely independent imagination—at a distance. Whatever the radical credentials The Real Face gained in the youth movement of the 1970s and among university scholars, it never received endorsement by the CPT as a party interpretation of Thai history. While it is possible to point to any number of works in Thai language that have revised or supplemented Jit's analysis, the text has yet to enter European-language— and specifically English-language—discourse in any meaningful way. A few studies in English in what might be called a radical spirit cite The Real Face but in such a tangential and superficial manner that it has never been positioned in the English-language historiography on Thailand (Anderson 1978; Turton et al. 1978). One recent study takes the work seriously but buries the discussion in a long footnote (Girling 1981:271-72). And recent general histories of Thailand, distinctly non-revisionist in their approach to the Thai past, simply ignore the work (Terwiel 1983) or dismiss it out of hand as a "somewhat naive Marxist critique" (Wyatt 1984:271). It is characteristic of Western studies of most Asian societies that "feudal" is rejected as a useful category of analysis, and this is no less the case with Thailand (Reynolds 1985; Takashi 1980:111; Jacobs 1971:chap. 1). One of the few exceptions to this generalization, as it applies to Thailand, would be Georges Condominas, who uses feudal in studying early Thai state formations (Condominas 1978). "As a concept for analysis," says a recent writer who finds the term inadequate, "it tends to blur what needs differentiation" (Han ten Brummelhuis 1983). And "feudal" is seen to be an inaccurate translation of the Thai term saktina (Batson 1984:25 n. 46), despite the fact that Thai speakers found saktina to be the Thai equivalent of European feudal and translated it as such! Yet a reading of Jit's text that refuses the applicability of the feudal tro peon the grounds that it is imprecise, anachronistic, or overdetermined in Marxist analysis will not have taken into account the milieu in which The Real Face was produced, will not have measured it against the historiography it attacked, and will not


Thai Radical Discourse

have considered the historic moment of 1973-1976 that rediscovered it and restated its applicability. The Real Face marks a seismic change in the semantic code by which Thai society is understood in both Thai and European historiography. It helped to put in place a characterization of Thai society that unsettles the foundations of rule in Thailand. In a state whose legitimacy continues to derive from the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood the saktina - feudal sign can, under certain circumstances, be deemed a danger. I want now to chart the pathways by which the feudal trope acquired these grave and seditious implications. METAPHOR AND PROPER MEANING Since the late 1940s the Thai term for feudalism, saktina, has become common in radical discourse to characterize past society and its present-day remnants, a discourse in which the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) and the urban intelligentsia have participated. A particularly interesting example of a non-communist radical treatise, entitled Nine Reigns of the Chakkri Dynasty, appeared in 1982, the year of the Bangkok bicentennial celebrations (Raktham n.d.). In its arrangement of events in regnal sequence from 1782 to the present-day (the incumbent monarch is the ninth in the line), the format of this history was patterned after "proper" history, but in fact this book is a counter-history, and counter to the brouhaha over Chakkri accomplishments celebrated during 1982. It is filled with refutations of Chakkri claims and achievements, and it candidly discusses one of the most taboo subjects of modern Thai history, the 1946 death of the eighth ruler that figured so vividly in Jit's diary the year after it happened. Legitimate authority responded to this counter-history of 1982. After visiting the National Archives to try to determine the identities of readers who had consulted documents cited in the work, the political police arrested some people presumed to be involved in its publication on charges of lese majesty (Nation Review). The first sentence of the work slights royal accomplishments by configuring the Thai monarchy in a feudal past: "Thailand was ruled by the saktina system for many centuries. The saktina lord ruled the land, establishing himself as the owner of all land, though he himself had expended no labor to clear it." (Raktham n.d.:7) This mention of saktina did not itself provoke the arrests, but the sentence illustrates how the term saktina now belongs to a discourse aimed at subverting the proper meanings of such legitimizing institutions as the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood. Those who aspire to positions of proper authority must take care to signal in a public way that they will continue to endow these institutions with the same proper meanings, or their actions might have seditious implications. As rebel Thai army tanks roll through Bangkok streets in a coup attempt, their armor plating is adorned with portraits of members of the royal family—an assurance, in effect, that their argument with authority is contained within the armed forces and does not question the monarchy's place in Thai society. The front cover of the 1982 counter-history bears a stamp declaring the work to be approved for the study of Thai history by the Fine Arts Department's Division of Archaeology in the National Library, though no such division exists, and printed on the inside back cover is what appears to be the official logo of the Bangkok bicentennial year. These signs undo the fixed, legitimate, proper meanings of absolute authority by stating that one thing (the irreverent, scandal-ridden history that follows) is something quite different (an officially approved text). As metaphors, these signs make an improper analogy and imply the possibility of transformation and change, questioning the absoluteness of legitimate authority and proper meaning and thus of law. In

Feudalism in the Thai Past


Michael Ryan's words, "Metaphors lead astray. . . . Metaphors arouse passion by inciting feelings that may not be compatible with a political institution whose laws require a rational acceptance of unequivocal definitions of words" (Ryan 1982:4). There is a direct connection between the unsanctioned transfer of meaning and resistance to sovereign authority, and Ryan goes on to show how metaphor—"characterized by transformation, alteration, relationality, displacement, substitution, errancy, equivocation, plurality, impropriety, or nonownership"—is related to sedition. Improper meaning is a material force, says Ryan. Writers such as novelists, poets, and essayists are often in trouble with authoritarian governments because they play with the proper meanings: what is seditious is the meanings that writers construe in their figurations of the world. In the following discussion of why there should be contention over the proper meanings of saktina I want to trace the activity of translating European feudalism as Thai saktina, particularly in The Real Face and works that appeared in the years following its publication. After 1958 there was a distinct reaction against the saktina = feudalism equation, a reaction which signalled a conflict about the nature of political authority. This reaction constituted a "war of interpretations"— not an academic debate, but a political war whose stakes were the terms in which reality was to be defined and indeed constructed (Ryan 1982:49). It was not the historical materialist analysis in The Real Face as such that disturbed authority but the errancy of metaphor, that is, the potential loss of control over proper meanings that were undergoing refinement particularly in the Sarit period after 1958 and through the 1960s. HISTORY OF THE TERM SAKTINA While saktina has been used commonly in Thai historical studies for the past dozen years or so, it is also found in the speech of educated people, not necessarily radical or anti-royalist. I have heard it used in a conversation between a banker and his client to describe another person, a woman not present, who had a "saktina manner," that is, a haughty, aristocratic air. The semantic range in spoken and written Thai includes: oldfashioned ideas and reactionary thinking; archaic institutions that linger on (the monarchy, the Buddhist monkhood); the perquisites and corruptions of clientship; and corruption in the bureaucracy. For uneducated, low-income Thai speakers saktina might indicate a sense of class difference: they (the saktina with wealth, power, rank) vs. us (poor, powerless, low status). The derogatory, pejorative connotation is no more than thirty or forty years old. Indeed, the term used to have auspicious connotations. A young Thai historian, born in 1954, whose father named him Saktina out of the best of intentions, told me ruefully that he is probably the last person in Thailand so named. He is the butt of much teasing from his university friends who have grown up with the ironic usages of the term in their speech. Saktina Rama, a witty novel published in 1980 by a doctor at Bangkok's Ramathibodi Hospital, pokes fun at the favoritism and status climbing of staff and patients (Phunphit 1980). Even the name of the hospital in the novel, Ramathipatai (combining Rama with the term "sovereign" that occurs in the Thai word for democracy), is wordplay, tweaking the social pretensions of the novel's characters. An anesthetist sees his noble rank raised after he assists in the successful treatment of one of the royal white elephants, an auspicious beast which itself holds noble rank. If the anesthetist had demonstrated similar skills in healing a pauper there would be no cause for celebration. Part of the joke here is that the monarch's power to confer noble ranks was abolished in the 1932 coup that ended the absolute monarchy. In the novel the referents of saktina/feudal are not only royal approval and prerogative but also the injustices and inequalities that derive from class differences.


Thai Radical Discourse

In academic discourse today saktina refers to a social formation, the saktina system: the political, economic, social, and cultural order that characterized Thai society for some five hundred years. By no means do all historians and social scientists use "the saktina system" to signify past Thai society. Some emphasize patron-client relations, the corvee system, and monarchy, and reserve saktina for its ancient, technical meaning: rank quantified in terms of land or labor. But for historians who do use the term saktina it is part of a discourse that stands in critical relation to the present order and may even aim to displace it, particularly such saktina remnants as the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood. The modern meanings for saktina, as outlined above, arise out of an Old Thai term, sakdina, found in the Thai civil and administrative code of the fifteenth century. There the term refers to positions in a socio-political hierarchy underpinned by economic relations. The positions were differentiated by amounts of land allocated, e.g., from 100,000 units for the highest-ranking prince, to 10,000 units for a noble, and down to 25 units for a commoner and 5 for a slave. The Old Thai term is a Sanskrit-Thai hybrid: Skt. sakti (power, the power of the god) bound to Thai na (rice field). In the twentieth century there has been an ongoing debate about whether the units refer to actual plots, rather like fiefs, or whether they refer to units of manpower (e.g., one unit = one person), with some historians arguing that the social system evolved from one in which power was quantified in terms of land to one in which power was quantified in terms of people. Although the two terms are written and pronounced the same in Thai language, in English I transcribe the Old Thai term as sakdina and the Modern Thai term as saktina to distinguish between them and to emphasize the new meanings created in the past thirty or forty years. There is no evidence to my knowledge that the social system of premodern Siam was called feudal/saktina until the twentieth century, and in its earliest appearances, in 1935, for example, the trope was simply a loanword (fiwdalit), glossed as something like "a system of dispersed centers of power" (Nakkharin 1982:24). The objectification of past society as saktina society or the saktina system would seem to be a post-World War II development. As late as 1942-1943, the Thai word proposed for feudal was a Sanskritic neologism, phakdina, and the author, mulling over the problem of equivalent terms, concluded that "we have never had feudalism as the Europeans understand it, so we do not have an exact word for it" (Wanwaithayakon 1951:129-30). The sentence might well be reversed: "Since we do not have a word for it, we have never experienced feudalism." There is some evidence that the term saktina with its modern, ironic meaning was spoken in Leftist circles before the end of World War II. One of the early union organizers has left a vivid account of a conversation at lunch in the publishing house where he worked. Kulap Saipradit, a prominent socialist author of the time, leaned over the table and jokingly called Prince Sakon, known as the Red Prince in the royal family because of his socialist sympathies, a saktina, and the Red Prince took the opportunity to explain the term as a graded register of rights to exploit (Sangkhommasat 1982:22526). Such exploitation as existed in the mid-1940s, the Red Prince argued, derived directly from the rights to exploit exercised by the saktina of old. Even as the feudal = saktina equivalence was entering the language, many speakers and writers of Thai resisted feudalism as a meaningful term for Thai history. Writing in 1952, just before the Peace Revolt when the military government moved against its critics on the Left, Direk Chayanam, a Western-educated diplomat who had served as the country's Foreign Minister in the post-war Pridi cabinet, expounded at length on European feudalism as a major evolutionary stage in European society. He gave no

Feudalism in the Thai Past


indication that such an evolutionary stage might apply to Thailand, and he used the English term as a loanword in Thai (fiwdan) as if to underscore feudalism's alien home (Direk 1974:151-55). And of course many users of the language today continue to deny the applicability of the term for Thai society. But in the decade or so following World War II the Old Thai term sakdina gradually became fixed as a translation for European feudal. Mahachon, the newspaper of the CPT, contributed to the semantic shift by translating "feudalism'' in the MarxistLeninist corpus as "saktina"; its articles in 1947-1948 sought to educate Thai readers about the concept of social formations. At that time, the CPT's social formation analysis adhered to a rigid unilinear schema that had its origins in prevailing Sino-Soviet theory. This unilinear sequence of social formations—primitive commune, slave society, feudal society, capitalism, socialism—omitted the very form that Marx and Engels in scattered references had used to incorporate non-Western societies into their general history: the Asiatic mode of production or "Oriental Society." In the Soviet Union the Asiatic mode had been expunged from the schema following a vigorous debate in the late 1920s and early 1930s. As Stalinist historiography took hold, it became important both to minimize the "Asiatic" features of Russian society and to deny the crucial role of Western-based capitalism in the evolution out of Asiatic society implied by Marx's Asiatic mode. For these reasons, Thai thinkers just after the war knew nothing of the Asiatic mode of production. Not till much later did they have access to Marx's longunpublished Grundrisse. They labored under an orthodoxy made all the more imposing by the fact that China had not yet distanced itself from the Russian revolutionary model; the Sino-Soviet dispute was to begin only toward the end of the 1950s (Reynolds and Hong 1983:79-80). Like their Chinese counterparts writing in the 1920s and '30s, they had great difficulties in explaining for Thailand the transition from feudalism to capitalism, a point where The Real Face falters in its analysis (Dirlik 1978). In 1950, in a work which departed slightly from the unilinear schema made orthodoxy by Stalin in 1938 and which remained the centerpiece of CPT theory until the late 1970s, a CPT historian labeled Thailand's social formation "semicolonial, semifeudal" along the lines of Mao's "The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party" of 1939 (Udom 1979). The author of this 1950 work was Udom Sisuwan, the journalist and literary critic who was later imprisoned with Jit in the aftermath of Sarit's 1958 coup. Udom portrayed pre-1855 Thailand as a feudal society, characterized by a subsistence agricultural economy in which external trade was thwarted by the monopolies and the exaction of customs duties under the saktina system. The ruling class of saktina society consisted of the monarch, royalty, and nobility, and all land was owned by the monarch or kshatriya. The ruled class consisted of phrai (agricultural slaves/serfs), who were bound individually to the members of the ruling class, who were bought and sold at whim, and who were forced to labor three to six months of the year for their masters in cultivating the fields. "Serf" was translated as "agricultural slave" (that kasikon) and posited as equivalent to the Thai phrai. The phrai could not move away from their landholdings; they possessed no political, economic, cultural, or nationality rights; and their conflict with the saktina class led to struggles that always ended in brutal suppression because they lacked correct and forceful leadership. In the nineteenth century, when European imperialists asserted their interests in Asia, the saktina class was unable to withstand the pressure and was forced to concede to demands, especially from the British, for trading and extraterritorial rights (Udom 1979:27-28, 53-55). From 1855, the date of the treaty with the British, the penetration of foreign capital altered the relations of production, and Thailand became a semicolony. At the same time, the saktina system "which previously had been independent was forced to


Thai Radical Discourse

become a semisaktina system under imperialist influence" (Udom 1979:94). There were now two distinct kinds of exploitation: saktina exploitation of peasants by landlords and usurers; and semisaktina exploitation by rich peasants of hired peasant laborers, and by the landlord class, rich peasants, and capitalists of the mass of impoverished peasants (Udom 1979:96). The reforms of the fifth Bangkok monarch (18681910) led to some improvements in the living conditions of the people, but the reforms did not create conditions for the development of indigenous capitalism. In fact, the monarch had to rely on foreign loans to finance capital-intensive projects in the reform program, thereby pushing the country even further into the imperialists' clutches (Udom 1979:99-103). In Udom's analysis, the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932 succeeded because of tactical factors and not because of popular support. 'The power to rule fell into the hands of the petty capitalist class, midlevel capitalists, and the Land-Lord class/' which had once wielded power on its own (Udom 1979:124). The coup leaders vacillated in destroying the saktina class, so that the latter retained vast economic influence even though it found its political rights restricted. The imperialist economic structure was also left intact by the 1932 change in the political system (Udom 1979:133). When it came to the post-World War II period, Udom turned to the international situation: the rise of Soviet power following the war; the expansion of American commerce into markets previously dominated by the Axis powers; and the division of the world into two camps. The interpretation of postwar international relations rested on The International Situation, the publication of Andrei Zhdanov's September 1947 speech outlining a new Soviet foreign-policy position and announcing the two-camp doctrine, which called for rebellions in the East to create "People's Democracies" (Udom 1979:chap. 5). Thus Udom brought his history of Thailand up to his own time, positioning himself, with the assistance of the CPT, as the maker of a new future for the country in light of superpower realities: Thailand would be one of the new People's democracies. Such a characterization of the history of Thai society—saktina, followed by semisaktina, semicolonial—cannot be tied only to CPT proselytizing. Udom was simply one of a number of intellectuals of the time, some close to the CPT and some not, who sought to undermine the periodization of the Thai past according to conventional historiography. One writer, in a work published the same year as The Real Face, pointed out that the term did not refer simply to conferred rank—Australian jockeys could be lords and sirs, and Russian communists wore medals—but to arrogance and haughtiness on the part of those "intoxicated with power" (mao amnat) (Luán 1957:53-55). In fact, in the decade after World War II the term was used by members of the Coup Group itself to denigrate the aristocracy. Police General Phao Siyanon was said to use "saktina" to insult such rivals as Khuang Abhaivongse, and to have been the first to use the new sign when he contemplated overthrowing the constitutional monarchy (Tuan 1957:58; Seni 1969:178)! The unilinear sequence of social formations recurs as a motif—almost an identifying signature—in the works of the time. More often than not, the sequence of social formations, parroting party formulations in some of its incarnations, appeared in outline form noticeably devoid of any specifics or data that would connect it to Thai conditions. Such was the case with an essay published at Thammasat University in 1956, the year before The Real Face appeared (Nitisat 1956). The outline seemed to be an invitation to an author to fill it out with Thai content. Thus Udom's analysis and Jit's The Real Face exist intertextually with this and all other analyses of Thai social formations written before and after them. Indeed, Jit Poumisak's The Real Face might be read as an

Feudalism in the Thai Past


attempt to outdo Udom's analysis, to fill in the blanks in the ubiquitous outline, and it succeeded more than any other text, including Udom's, in creating new meanings for Old Thai sakdina. THE REAL FACE OF THAI SAKTINA TODAY Udom's Thailand, A Semicolony dealt with premodern Thailand only cursorily. His analysis focused on Western imperialism and the impingement on Thai society of twentieth-century international economic conditions rather than on the pre-1855, precapitalist social formation, which occupied a mere fifty-five pages. In his preface Udom conceded that "although Thailand's saktina system at least has had a very long history, it has not been definitely established whether this system first appeared in Thai society during the Sukhothai period or during the Ayutthaya period." At the time Udom was writing, saktina/feudal was rather like a shell as yet unfilled with Thai content. It is this earlier history—the origins of the saktina system and the changes in it to the midnineteenth century—that Jit Poumisak investigates in The Real Face. Moreover, the two works complement each other. Whereas Udom looks "outward" to show how saktina and semisaktina society were dominated by extrinsic economic interests, Jit looks "inward" and "backward" in time to show when and how the saktina mode of production had come to dominate Thai society. What remains today are "saktina remnants" in consciousness: the monarchy and the Buddhist religion which are deemed essential to Thai identity and indispensable to proper authority. The Real Face draws on several different kinds of sources which, for the purposes of discussion, I would classify into three sets: French Orientalist scholarship on the early history of the T'ai peoples and of Cambodian society; Thai-language material, including chronicles, legal codes, epigraphy, and accounts of premodern Thai society by court historians; and a ragbag of socialist and communist writers, including the long-time head of the CPUSA, William Z. Foster, and the American novelist Howard Fast, once a member of the CPUSA and recipient of the Stalin International Peace Prize in 1954 who was pursued by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, though he later repudiated communism following Khruschchev's denunciation of Stalin (Charnvit 1979a:135). Conspicuously missing from these sources, unacknowledged yet bound intertextually to them, are all the Thai-language "progressive" texts—such as Udom's Thailand, A Semicolony—that were current in the decade after World War II. These texts also structure history with the sequence of social formations that marks Jit's study. In many cases the works referenced are not so much sources as coordinates on a map that charts the space occupied by The Real Face. The page reference in the first footnote—to William Z. Foster's Outline Political History of the Americas (1951)—does indeed have information on slave holding in ancient Greece, but the chapter title is "The Indian Peoples of the Americas," and the information is buried in a small-print note. Foster's Outline is far from an authority on slave society. Rather, it is a sign of the compass of The Real Face: French orientalism; Thai-language evidence; and socialist historical writing. Foster also wrote a History of the Communist Party of the United States whose first sentences recall the ringing cadences at the beginning of The Real Face: The history of the Communist Party of the United States is the history of the vanguard party of the American working class. It is the story and analysis of the origin, growth, and development of a working class political party of a new type, called into existence by the epoch of a new type, called into existence by the epoch of imperialism, the last stage of capitalism, and by the emergence of a new social system—Socialism. (Foster 1968:15.)


Thai Radical Discourse

In contrast to Foster's history of the CPUSA, Jit's history is most definitely not a party history; it was written without the sanction of the CPT, though the CPT would later try to utilize it. Yet the uncited Thailand, A Semicolony by Udom, which became the key CPT statement on theory, is as manifest in Jit's work as the visibly cited Outline by Foster: The Real Face is traced or inscribed by all such texts, while distinct from any one of them. Still another uncited text that acts as a coordinate on Jit's map—uncited here, though he does cite it in one of his essays in literary criticism—is S. A. Dange's India: From Primitive Communism to Slavery, a study of social formations in India also castigated in its homeland, but in circumstances quite different from those that account for the reception of Jit's text (Dange 1949). A Thai-language source that falls between the first two sets is the work of a French scholar of classical Indian and Southeast Asian law, Robert Lingat, who for many years advised Thai officials on legal judicial reform. Lingat edited the modern edition of the premodern Thai legal code, and his History of Thai Law, prepared in the 1930s for the Thammasat University Faculty of Law curriculum, was one of Jit Poumisak's principal authorities on the early social organization of the T'ai peoples. The few references in The Real Face to Lingat's History of Thai Law belie the importance of the work to Jit's text, and it may well be that Jit became acquainted with French studies by Bourlet, Diguet, and Robequain through Lingat's citation of them. In his section on the laws concerning land Lingat proposes that the Thai peoples held land in common in a kind of primitive commune (Lingat 1983,1:303). Jit discusses this early form of social organization in the beginning pages of his study. Of particular interest in the way it is handled in The Real Face is the Thai-language evidence from the court, both the primary materials such as chronicles and laws as well as the secondary works by court historians such as Damrong and Chulalongkorn. In the most important essay to date that positions Jit in Thai historiography, Charnvit Kasetsiri has emphasized a developmental line for Thai historical writing (Charnvit 1979). Conceived and first drafted before the 6 October 1976 coup, Charnvit's essay bears the imprint of the youth movement's reassessment of Thai historiography and is another document contributing to the construction of "Jit Poumisak." According to Charnvit, Thai historical writing evolves from primarily religious concerns until the middle of the seventeenth century when it is superseded by dynastic history. Dynastic history lasts until the second half of the nineteenth century, when it declines in favor of what Charnvit calls "modern history writing," which in turn develops from court writing (Damrong) through to nationalist writing (Wichit Watthakan) and Marxist history (Jit Poumisak). This developmental sequence of historical writing, sketched out in such broad strokes, conceals the extent to which each paradigm bears traces of the others in its lineage. Jit's Marxist history, as a text subversive of authority's historiography, is implicated in court historiography that must establish itself against the Other that would displace it. In other words, court historiography establishes itself against that which would disrupt it, containing within itself elements that would displace its domination. Similarly, any careful reading of The Real Face would have to note how authority's historiography is inscribed within Jit's text, how the text works from within established historiographic paradigms: religious, dynastic, court, and nationalist. The speaking subject in The Real Face never denounces either Chulalongkorn, the fifth king of the dynasty, or Damrong, his son and the nominal historian of the Thai monarchy. In fact, their modernist bias in attempting to reform the old order works to Jit's advantage, for their writings were critical of premodern society even as they were descriptive of it. And the court chronicles and documents disclose indispensable information on the tax

Feudalism in the Thai Past


system and the deployment of labor power in an economy that the trade treaties of 1855 had altered and that the court in the second half of the nineteenth century was trying to work to its advantage. On one important topic, Thai slavery, The Real Face takes issue with the way court historiography interpreted the evidence. Damrong, in seeking to deny that slavery was an integral part of the Thai social system, understood it to be a "custom" (phrapheni) acquired from Cambodia, a kind of Khmer contamination (Damrong 1975). Using linguistic and epigraphic evidence, Jit argues that Sukhothai society had slaves, and he goes to great lengths to show that Thai society passed through a slave stage. It is the problem of slavery that draws in the reference to Howard Fast's 1952 novel, Spartacus. The issue of Thai slavery has always been a contentious one. Thai (free) and that (slave) roll from the tongue in an alliterative dyad in Thai language, and the outcome of a debate on the pervasiveness of slavery in Thai history has a bearing on modern Thai notions of freedom and colonialism. Given these circumstances, it is unlikely that the question will ever be resolved, for in the vortex of the debate are fundamental disagreements about whether Thai society—and the Thai state—should be understood as exploitative and conflict-ridden or benign and integrating. When a key Sukhothai inscription was translated into English in 1971 it sparked controversy on whether or not the Thai terms for slave/retainer/dependent had been properly translated. Interestingly enough, one party in the exchange, which conspicuously omitted Jit's name and his extensive discussion of Thai slavery, was Khachorn Sukkhapanij, who had stood by silently, much to Bill Gedney's consternation, in the yonbok incident (see chapter one). He now took the more critical position, feeling that the Griswold-Prasert translation had softened and muffled the evidence for slavery at Sukhothai (Khachorn 1971). Jit Poumisak used court scholarship against itself in other ways, reworking the evidence into an analysis of Thailand's social formations. He employs a standard fourpoint outline of the tax system used, for example, in Damrong's account of premodern taxes (Damrong 1963) and sketched briefly in the "The Nature of Rule in Siam from Ancient Times" (Damrong 1975). The same outline serves the nationalist historian Luang Wichit Watthakan in his extensive discussion (ca. 1950) of the tax system, an uncited text that is, like Udom's, inscribed in The Real Face (Wichit 1962). Essentially, Jit is redeploying an account of the tax system which would be acceptable in this form to all historians be they royalist, nationalist, or Marxist, in an analysis of Thai social formations. The most comprehensive study of the nineteenth-century Thai economy to date certainly employs the same scheme (Chai 1979). Jit exploits the polysemy of the primary evidence in Thai language and repositions the economic data so as to expose exploitative aspects of the premodern Thai social formation. Since the mid-1970s, Thai political economists have gone far beyond Jit's analysis in their investigations of Thailand's social formations, but the 1957 work is still powerful not simply because of the way it reinscribes the tax system but because of the way this reinscription assists in configuring saktina/feudalism in consciousness. More than any other text of the period, it created new meanings for Old Thai sakdina, and the activity of creating these meanings is visible in writing. The text demonstrates how and why the term comes to mean "backward agrarian order," "authoritarian rule," and "exploitative relations of production," transforming the Old Thai term in contemporary consciousness. By a process of substitution and displacement, Old Thai sakdina becomes Modern Thai saktina, an improper transfer of meaning that had seditious implications. The Real Face became but one of many signs of an insurgent consciousness that alarmed proper authority and led to Jit's imprisonment for six years beginning in 1958.


Thai Radical Discourse Early in the text the following definition is given for saktina: "saktina" literally means "power in controlling the fields/7 and if we expand on this meaning to clarify the term we can say that saktina means "power over the land which was the crucial factor in agriculture, and agriculture in that age was the principal livelihood of the People/' By explaining the term in this way we are able to see roughly that the saktina system was a system bound up with "land."

This definition occurs in the first third of the work, the section that sets out the universal evolutionary schema, the structure of the social order, and the socio-economic transformations that propel society forward. In this early section the term does not mean graded ranks (sakdina) in the hierarchy. It means power. The words for power here are amnat or kamlang, i.e., physical strength, the power to command, a pushingshoving kind of power that lies behind the light, heat, ceremony, ornate clothing, and, as Jit might have put it in some of his writing, the Sanskrit mumbo-jumbo of royal rituals. The text simultaneously anchors the term in ancient texts and shakes it loose from its moorings in them. A number of devices accomplish this loosening of the term, such as assertion of a backward agrarian order and the naming of this order the saktina system, a social system that rests on landed power. The saktina is a class of Land-Lords (chaothidin), lords of the land who wielded political, juridical, and cultural power and did not simply collect rents. The text juxtaposes features of this backward agrarian order against categories in the Marxian lexicon which are given in English, in román typeface. These features are thus "hooked" onto Marxian correspondences, wrenching sakdina away from its Old Thai moorings. The text subverts the Thai language by refusing to use royal language that standard Thai—that is, proper discourse—prescribes for the ruler and his immediate family. The text manages to avoid the requirement to use royal language with the names of kings by using shorthand forms and by using such generic terms as kshatriya or committee chairman. Proper Thai language for the ruler separates and isolates him, consigning him to the category of which there is (almost) only one: himself. The ruler is not to be touched by ordinary language and is thereby made pure and sacred. By defying linguistic convention and refusing to use royal language, Jit's text is able to recast "king" as "the committee chairman" who safeguards the profits of the saktina class. The text mocks the behavior and habits of the saktina class and attributes to this idle class the motivation not to create beauty or enhance culture but to satisfy its appetites. During modern times the appetites of Thai rulers for power, wealth, or sensual pleasure must be modulated and suppressed in proper discourse. Here they are brought to the surface and exposed. The effect the text strives for is not unlike that in another indictment of absolute rule, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The Autumn of the Patriarch, in which Authority is portrayed as perverted, randy, and reprobate, as well as arbitrary and brutal. Finally—and this deployment of language is particularly important in the remaking of Old Thai sakdina—the saktina system is hooked onto European FEUDALISM. The Old Thai term is taken from its ancient context and identified with European feudalism by pairing: "The saktina system (FEUDAL SYSTEM) was the system of production in society that succeeded the that system (SLAVE SYSTEM)." On the face of it, such an identification of Thai society and European or ancient or South American society is preposterous. Yet it is by insisting throughout on a foreign signified that the text seeks to make saktina identical to FEUDAL and attaches the evolution of Thai society to a sequence of

Feudalism in the Thai Past


social formations that transcends the individualized experience of any one society anywhere on the globe. The foreign signifiers paired with saktina make saktina an essential stage in the evolution of human society everywhere, not just Thai society. The Thai terms and examples hook onto the foreign term FEUDAL and pull it into the language. Simultaneously, the foreign term clasps the Thai term and pulls it away from its Old Thai moorings. This capacity of the text to create new signifieds for both saktina and feudalism is exemplified in the statement, "Here is the origin of the word FEUDALISM, the term for the English saktina system, or FEUDALISMS in French/7 The way this sentence of Jit's represents the issue, only language makes saktina and FEUDALISM different. Yet far from eliding the differences between the two signs and underscoring equivalence, the typography actually heightens the alienation inherent in the pairing of them. Moreover, the denotation of FEUDALISM as "the term for the English saktina system" is the reverse of "saktina is the term for the Thai feudal system/7 which is what we might expect. Such phrasing consolidates Thailand, rather than Europe, as the sovereign self and makes Europe the Other. The stuff of cultural borrowing is labeling, naming, and renaming, but appearances to the contrary, this labeling does not create semantic identity. Although such pairs as saktina (FEUDALISM) in the text give the impression of identity through substitutibility, the real relationship between saktina and feudal is metaphoric rather than one of identity. With Thai signifieds constantly intruding and driving a wedge between the Thai term and the European term, a space is created for metaphor to play in and beget more metaphor. The alternate privileging of FEUDALISM and saktina creates the play of difference, thus denying fixed meanings to either term, despite the efforts of the narrator, the writing subject, to control and fix those meanings. By means of this metaphoric play saktina springs free of its moorings in the ancient texts and acquires a kind of motility. Because the phonological container is the same for sakdina and saktina, the new meanings created are rooted deep in Thai history. And Old Thai sakdina now becomes but a residual element, one of many manifestations of Modern Thai saktina, the backward agrarian order, vestiges of which persist to the present day. In other words, the text takes the supernatural stuff out of sakti and realizes the term's real economic content. The attribution of extensive economic power to the monarch creates a centralizing motif in the text which conflicts with the centrifugal, fissiparous tendencies often understood to be typical of feudal states, and which conventional historiography would take to be historically more accurate for the pre-modern period in Thailand. In fact, in Western historiography as well, this latter characterization of feudalism lies side by side with the centralizing, centripetal one, two of many foci for feudalism—in this case, mutually opposing ones—which bedevil use of the term (Ward 1985:44-45). In The Real Face the figure of the monarch, the kshatriya, the big Land-Lord, "the single individual who had absolute rights of ownership over all land in the realm" and who employed measures "designed to concentrate power effectively at the center" is so all-powerful and aggrandizing that it approaches the universalizing, centralizing features of the bourgeoisie as Marx saw them, thus contradicting the Western definition of feudalism as fissiparous and centripetal. Marx applies the rhetoric of concentration, accumulation, and intensification to the bourgeoisie—"it has agglomerated population, centralized means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands"—most dramatically in his "Manifesto of the Communist Party," but also in other works. The Real Face transfers this rhetoric from the bourgeoisie, to whom Marx applied it, to the Thai monarch in pre-modern society, another way of divesting sakdina of old meanings and investing saktina with new ones. From the perspective of Western history


Thai Radical Discourse

such a characterization is ahistorical; in Jit's text the characterization works to dismantle the dominant Thai historiographic paradigm. Jit Poumisak's 1957 text did not itself create the new sign saktina. Any number of previous writers referred to saktina society, and Udom's 1950 work, Thailand, A Semicolony, went a long way toward configuring new signifieds for Old Thai sakdina in its treatment of large blocks of Thai history. What I claim for Jit's text is that the mechanics of creating the new sign, if I may put it that way, are observable: the "play" with the term in writing, the mocking sarcastic wit, violation of the norms of formal discourse, the discovery and attribution of economic content, the application and misapplication of Marxian terms, and the loosening of sakdina from its Old Thai signifieds are all visible. The high language appropriate to sacral kingship is subverted by folksy idioms and ironic asides. The substitutions and displacements serve to push aside proper discourse. The metaphoric play that the text creates between sakdina and saktina marks an epistemological break and a change in the semantic code. This change involved no less than the construction by Jit and his confreres of a new sociology—a new classificatory knowledge that conflicted with the one upheld by such people as Luang Wichit Watthakan (1898-1962), for many years director-general of the Fine Arts Department of Thailand and a prolific essayist and historian. The classificatory knowledge that Luang Wichit popularized made a place for the monarchy, which survived the events of 1932 transformed, and for the "new men" represented by Wichit himself. The son of Chinese traders and a temple-boy during his early school years, Luang Wichit rose through the foreign affairs establishment to become a key adviser to two military governments (Thak 1979:179-86). Like Jit, Wichit was as much sociologist and economist as historian (see Wichit 1962). The classificatory knowledge that he propounded went hand in hand with a particular historiography, a particular construction of the Thai past, which is also a target in The Real Face. Until the works of progressive historians began to tamper with the semantic code after World War II this confluence of a classificatory knowledge and the historiography that sustains it remained unexamined. Even today the interdependence of the two successfully evades discussion in Englishlanguage historical writing on Thailand, as two recent histories make clear. Neither is conscious of itself as a construction in time and place, in English, and neither explores the intimate connection between configuring the Thai past and endorsing a sociology of Thai society (Terwiel 1983; Wyatt 1984). Wichit was instrumental in explaining the 1932 coup that ended the absolute monarchy. Drawing on the writings of the sixth Bangkok king, Wachirawut (r. 1910-1925), who had endlessly affirmed the identity of dynasty and nation, Wichit assigned the proper meanings to 1932 that are with us today by braiding together the plot of dynasty and the plot of nation-state (Reynolds 1984). One of the ways he achieved this was by exploiting the tougher, more muscular, more authoritarian motif of Thai government from Ayutthayan history and celebrating the warrior-king hero who liberated the homeland (ku banmuang) from foreign rule or defended it from foreign incursions. So omnipresent is this motif that even the Sukhothai ruler Ramkhamhaeng is included as a national liberation hero, though the evidence for this from early Thai epigraphy is scant indeed (Wichit 1930:60, 72). For Wichit, striving as he was to achieve some kind of "proportional parity" for Thailand, his country had to have the same kind of history as other countries: the nation-state that had created itself through a historical process of Hegelian struggle for self-realization. Casting Thailand onto the stage of world history, Wichit's writings inspired several generations of Thai readers, not least the young readers who would in their adult years become socialists and communists. One of

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these, Udom Sisuwan, who read Wichit's World History at the age of ten when it was first published, remembers the impact it had on him (Udom interview 1984). The process of Hegelian struggle took the form in Wichit's writings of "revolution" and "liberation," an anti-colonial discourse for a country that had never been a colony! It may be that Wichit, not Damrong, is the father of Thai history, because it is his plot, not that of Damrong, who had very little to say about the 1932 event, which is now the plot that sustains legitimate political authority and which modern Thai historiography must challenge. The Real Face is a rewriting of the works of Wichit—as well as those of Damrong and Wachirawut—in terms of a restructured sociology and historiography. The liberation motif, prominent at the end of the text, is as inescapable for Jit as for Wichit, and it is such constants as this anticolonialist discourse that draw Jit's work into intertextual relationship with Wichit's, just as it is drawn into intertextual relationship with court and CPT historiography. The ambition of The Real Face is to displace and replace the dominant classificatory knowledge and the dominant historiography, an ambition that could thrive in the space created by the intermittently open politics of the 1950s. But the attack in Jit's text on proper meanings by means of metaphoric play had implications that were seditious. It is through the assertion of proper meaning that absolute authority exerts itself, and the challenge to improper meanings in such texts as Jit's entered into the raison d'etre of the 1958 coup of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. Improper meaning—the displacement of proper meaning—is a material force, as Ryan says, and it was met by material force: incarceration. Jit Poumisak and other writers who had toyed with the proper meanings and asserted an alternative sociology and historiography were jailed, thus bringing the pluralism of the 1950s to an end. A DIFFERENT HISTORIOGRAPHY PARADIGM COMES TO DOMINATE The publication of The Real Face in 1957 came at the end of a period in post-war history that I describe as open in relation to the period that followed. The American alliance that was building throughout the 1950s (American technical and economic aid began in 1950, the SEATO pact was signed in 1954) was inevitable only by hindsight. The Phibun governments of 1947-1958 played both sides of the street—with the new government of China as well as with the United States—and Thai delegations of students and writers travelled to Russia and China as late as the end of the 1950s (Reynolds and Hong 1983:78). Through the writings of Jit Poumisak and others in the literary-journalist world, an articulate element of the Thai intelligentsia was trying to forge an internationalism inspired by the Russian and Chinese revolutions, especially by the Chinese communist victory in 1949. The way that saktina operates in Jit's text—the way that saktina hooks onto FEUDAL—is a sign of these internationalist ambitions. Thus I relate the saktina = feudal equation to a movement, an ideology, and a cast of mind that had liberating and Utopian aspirations. Sarit and his successors brought this movement to heel, and their policies ushered in a new historiographic paradigm. Yet this paradigm bears the marks of that which it sought to replace. Jit's text, to use it as an emblem of its time, appears in refracted and distorted form in the historical writing that counters it. When Sarit took power in 1958 he imposed a monolithic hold on the military and the bureaucracy and propounded a political philosophy emphasizing indigenous values and institutions at the expense of foreign models and ideologies (Thak 1979:15271). A paradigm congruent with Sarit's political philosophy came to dominate Thai studies, a paradigm that drew a sharp distinction between European feudalism on the one hand, and precapitalist, premodern Thai society on the other. Stressing the control


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of manpower rather than land as the basis of political power, the paradigm saw patronclient relations rather than class as the determining factor in Thai social relations. The paradigm arose in both Thai- and English-language writing, and it embraced the notion that Thailand was unique: an historicist theory of development was thus not applicable to Thai society. Several key texts in Thai and English exemplify this new paradigm in Thai studies. Of particular interest in relation to Jit's 1957 work is Khukrit Pramot's Parang saktina [European Feudalism], which appeared serially in late 1957 and early 1958 (Khukrit 1961). This text mocked the characterization of Thai society as saktina. The preface stated: I have titled this book Farang saktina for the sake of having a convenient expression, not because the meaning of European feudalism and Thai saktina is the same, or because they are the same phenomenon. They are comparable only insofar as they occur at the same time. The Thai social system in ancient times was Thai, the ancient European social system was European. They had no connection with each other whatsoever. It is difficult to read these sentences without seeing Jit and the other progressive writers behind every one, although Khukrit never lowers himself to identify his targets on the Left. A skilled polemecist, Khukrit uses his pen as a lance, to jab his rivals and dismount them. The book is filled with cartoons of knights jousting, coats of arms, and the mediaeval baron receiving his loyal retainers. The text ostensibly explains the terms that appear in román typeface: VASSAL, EXCOMMUNICATION, WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR (these familiar to us all) plus a host of obscure terms from heraldry and Vulgar Latin. Yet for all of Khukrit's verve and wit, the book obfuscates as much as it explains. What is a Thai reader to do with QUAS VULGAS ELEGERITLES QUIELS LA COMMUNAUTE DE VOSTRE ROIAUME? Indeed, what is anyone! By consigning European feudalism to the exotic, by caricaturing it, by packing the lot off to Camelot and Hollywood, Khukrit did his best to alienate FEUDALISM from saktina. He denied the sign that Jit's text helped to create. In so doing, Khukrit also denied that socio-economic processes play a fundamental role in the evolution of human society, and this is why his thought is characteristic of the old sociology and still bears the marks of premodern court historiography. But Khukrit, a versatile and prolific talent whose achievements reflect favorably on the incumbent ninth Chakkri king as well as on his own royal ancestors, is also a teacher and scholar. On the heels of his satiric treatment of saktina he also made at least two scientific, rationalist refutations of the new sign: one, an essay called "The Saktina System in Thailand" (Khukrit 1964); and the other, a lecture he gave in 1957 on Ayutthayan society (1350-1767), which most historians regard as the formative period of the premodern Thai state (Khukrit et al. 1975). Khukrit's part in reviving the patron-client— rather than class—paradigm for Thai social relations marks him as a real saktina intellectual, one of those to whom Jit refers mockingly in The Real Face as "saktina scholars" or "saktina historians." Another text that confronts Jit's analysis but keeps Jit offstage is Khachorn Sukkhapanij's The Status ofPhrai, the first edition of which appeared in Chumnum chula of December 1959 just after the Sarit period began. This text also argued that manpower, not land, lay at the base of Thai political power. And there are passages that seem to be explicit rebuttals to Jit's thesis. Khachorn even appends a note addressing the issue directly, his "proof" of the proper meaning of Old Thai sakdina (Khachorn 1975). He puts Old Thai sakdina back where it belongs, so to speak, in the Old Thai law code with the meaning of ranks graded and quantified according to putative land allocations. He

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too denies the new sign saktina. A further illustration of this denial is in the subtitle of the university text in which Khukrit and Khachorn (but not Jit) were published: A Reader on the Fundamentals of Thai Civilization. In other words, the student is to learn how past Thai society really worked. The most important analysis in English of Thai society, Akin Rabibhadana's The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period (1969), also dates from the period after the 1958 Sarit coup. The period delineated by the title notwithstanding, Akin's representation of Thai society has been taken by historians and anthropologists alike to cover the fourteenth through the first half of the nineteenth centuries. Akin assumed that premodern mainland Southeast Asian states were underpopulated, an assumption that is explicit but never really tested in his exposition. This demographic assumption had two significant implications for the nature of rule in premodern Thai society. First, as there was an abundance of land and a shortage of population, the key to the ruler's power was his ability, by means of compulsion or incentives, to acquire manpower. Power was manpower. Second, the shortage of manpower was a deterrence against tyranny, for any oppressed subject could always flee an unjust ruler, resettle on the unclaimed land that lay about in abundance, and start a new life. These implications, which reign today in the English-language descriptions of premodern Thai society, have effectively closed off debate on the bases of power in the premodern Thai economy, although recent research has begun to challenge them. Takashi Tomosugi has found evidence in documents on the Ayutthaya period of the sale of land, the systemization of land transactions, titles (chanot) to occupancy, and the pledging of land, in which the creditor made use of land in lieu of receiving interest (Tomosugi 1980:chap. 4). This emphasis on the economic aspects of land holding suggests that the manpower paradigm, if it must be used, needs to be rethought and connected to a more complex model of economic life. In addition to this economism, which in the Thai case would be a healthy corrective, work from another theoretical direction— European neo-Marxism—may give pause for a look backward in time to see how power was imposed in non-economic terms of the Gramscian kind (Turton 1984). Akin's understanding of Thai social organization in terms of manpower may be traced to both Western and Thai antecedents. On the one hand was the social and cultural anthropology he studied at Cornell University where he did his Master's degree in the mid-1960s. His structuralist-functionalist and systems-maintenance model, never made explicit in the study itself, owes much to a course he took on African studies, where he found an emphasis on labor, patron-client ties, and segmentary kinship, and a debate among African scholars on the importance of land vs. people (Akin 1984). On the other hand, the Thai text at the core of Akin's work is Khachorn's study, which Akin rewrites and extends. Akin, too, denies the new sign saktina and seeks to restore its proper meaning: "The sakdina (dignity marks) system was a device which served as the most accurate guide to the different statuses of the whole population" (Akin 1969:98). In this assertion of the proper meaning imbedded in Old Thai sakdina Akin follows Khachorn and Khukrit. The dominant Thai historiography converged with American anthropology in Akin's analysis of premodern Thai society. American anthropologists appreciated Akin's patron-client model, which in some statements encompasses the social order as a whole, seemed a more sensitive alternative to class analysis in developing a social science appropriate to this non-colonized Third World country (Kemp 1982:146). In other words, the patron-client model helped to buttress propositions about Thailand's uniqueness and "further supported the somewhat rose-hued, complacent view of traditional Thai society" that prevailed until political, economic, and


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social change in Thailand during the 1970s began to disturb it (Kemp 1982:148). Only then did Western writing, of which there are now many examples (e.g. Anderson 1978), challenge the conceptual habits which have shaped Thai historiography in English-language, and especially American, scholarship. Yet although Akin's patronclient model is congruent with the historiographic paradigm of the Sarit era in Thailand after 1958, even the most acute critiques of the patron-client model, such as Kemp's, fail to take note of the roots of Akin's thought in Thai-language Thai studies. The very categories—religion, the state, law, custom, kin relations, values, norms—that fill Akin's analysis as explanations for this patron-client system are those that constitute the structure of the mode of production in precapitalist social formations. These categories are the extra-economic sanctions under which the mode of production operates. But in Akin's analysis these sanctions, which he has described in persuasive detail, remain unconnected to the productive base. What is missing in the study is the link between these sanctions and how the economy worked. There is no hint that the "gifts" given by the clients/serfs (phrai) to their patrons/lords (nai) belong to an economy and are, in fact, surplus production. Akin ignored the very thing that Jit had made central to his thesis: land and labor as the bases of economic power. It is possible to read Akin's entire study without realizing that the majority of Thailand's population in premodern times was a rice-cultivating peasantry. In its neglect of economic matters Akin's study comes close to what one writer has termed the "religious-structural" approach to the economy (Hong 1984:3-4); still another has termed it the "benevolent autocracy model" (Trocki 1981:64). Scholars who adopt this approach do not attend sufficiently to economic aspects in their study of society, assuming that, when the Thai monarch ruled virtuously, resources flowed naturally and smoothly from clients to patrons. Clients would willingly cooperate to bring society closer to the ideal Buddhist state. In such a model peasants are never disgruntled at the economic exactions made on them, and while Akin's study allowed for conflict and client discontent at corvee demands, the conflict he reveals was never economic. He stresses that the relationship between client and patron was voluntary, "dyadic and contractual" (Akin 89). In contrast to Jit and other writers of the 1947-1958 decade Akin, as well as Khukrit and Khachorn, in the decade or so after 1958 deemphasize economics and highlight norms, values, and individual choice as checks on tyranny by the kshatriya/lord/patron. Akin's interpretation of premodern Thai society later put him at odds with Thai scholars of political-economy in the mid-1970s (Reynolds 1979). Moreover, what underlies the differences between Jit et al. and Akin, Khukrit, and Khachorn after 1958 is a debate over the nature of political authority. For Jit, royal absolutism, the political system of the feudal/saktina period, was exploitative, and it created class antagonisms. For the latter writers, royal absolutism in premodern times made "the system" work. But I believe this post-1958 paradigm must be seen in relation to the way Sarit's military regime revived the monarchy from the low prestige that had been its fate since the 1932 coup. Sarit helped change the monarchy in Thai politics from a passive object to the active subject it is today. The paradigm of a unique Thai social system with a monarch as head of state served to underpin the adjustments that were being made to the way the military legitimated and explained its dominance. In their writings Khukrit, Khachorn, and Akin denied the new sign by denying the metaphoric relationship between saktina and feudal, with Khachorn explicitly refuting the equivalence in his study on phrai without naming the incarcerated Jit as an eloquent exponent of feudalism in Thai society (Khachorn 1975). The terms could no longer

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stand for one another. As Khukrit would say, the terms had nothing to do with one another; they were unrelated. He asserted the differences between saktina and feudal over and against similarities and identity. He sought to deny the new sign and restore the proper meaning of Old Thai sakdina as a quantified, graded hierarchy of ranks. Modern Thai saktina lost its motility and was stripped of its new connotative range. In effect, the metaphoric possibilities of Old Thai sakdina were declared illegitimate. In Ryan's language, they were now deemed to constitute an unsanctioned transfer of meaning. THE RETURN OF SAKTINA In the explosion of Thai-language historical studies touched off by the dramatic and sometimes violent events of 1973-1976 Modern Thai saktina returned as a configuration for premodern Thai society. Jit's The Real Face, which was reprinted many times in those three years, became a banner for the movement, as the students and lecturers who read it for the first time found in it a discourse on past society that gave voice to the political consciousness awakened by the mass protests of October 1973. The naming of premodern society as saktina was and is a way of leaving that society behind, of objectifying it and distancing it from present consciousness. Although 14 October 1973 is still on everyone's lips as a turning point in Thai history and historiography, stirrings before then of the impending revisionist social history are evident in the pages of the Thai-language Social Science Review, and in the reprinting of Jit's literary criticism in 1972 (Jit 1972). At university seminars in 1971 writers and academics met to deliberate on ideology and Thai society, and Anut Aphaphirom, an editor and writer of children's books who later joined the maquis after 6 October 1976, helped to revive the saktina formation, describing the premodern Thai social formation as "partially saktina, partially capitalist, and partially colonial" in terms of social values and socio-economic conditions (Chatthip 1972:6-12). Saktina, as applied to society before 1932, meant that human beings were not equal, the social structure was class based, and order was maintained by police and military forces concentrated in the palace and aided by foreign mercenaries. Anut stressed the importance in that society of such values as "face saving," "obligations for favors bestowed," "acceptance of fate," "deference to elders and seniors," and the like, to which—in contrast to authors after 1958 such as Akin and Khukrit—he attached negative valences. Such values, inculcated and held in place by religion, thwarted the development of skeptical inquiry, reason, and science. When the West—i. e. capitalism—arrived with its high regard for human equality and science, its respect for the individual, and its venturesome use of capital, it came into conflict with saktina society. Just after 14 October 1973 a brief essay by an economic historian, Chatthip Nartsupha, heralded the revival of political economy studies in the open atmosphere that accompanied the return of full parliamentary democracy (Reynolds and Hong 1983:8788). Though the essay had no footnotes and made no reference to either Udom's or Jit's analyses, the naming of the social formation as "saktina combined with capitalism" served as a hypothesis to guide new research, however imprecise such a formulation ultimately turned out to be. As the revisionist historiography gained momentum, "saktina system" grew as a representation for precapitalist society. Economic studies came to center stage, as scholars sought to understand the slow rate of structural change in Thai society and the reasons why accumulation of indigenous capital for industrialization remained at a low level. And to give depth to the new historiography, Chatthip and other historians returned to earlier economic analyses that had been all


Thai Radical Discourse

but forgotten because of government censorship. Chief among these was Phraya Suriyanuwat's treatise of 1911, suppressed by Wachirawut some sixty years before, and Jit's The Real Face, banned by the military regime after 1958. The immense popularity of The Real Face stirred up debate about its comprehensiveness and adequacy as an interpretation for all of Thai history. Forced by enthusiastic student response to evaluate the text for themselves, Thai lecturers in their thirties and forties, many of them products of distinctly non-Marxist training, questioned the unilinear sequence of social formations and suggested that various multilinear models were more appropriate for Asian societies. The highpoint of this critical evaluation came at a seminar in December 1975 when Chai-anan Samudavanija, an Americantrained political scientist, made the first sustained public assessment of Jit's history. Chai-anan's long paper, originally entitled 'The Real Face of Thai Saktina" (in invidious reference to Jit's text), was then published as Saktina and the Development of Thai Society, complete with a critique by Chatthip (Chai-anan 1976). Chai-anan challenged Jit's social formations by arguing that, while Jit had demonstrated the existence of slaves in Sukhothai society, the idea of a slave mode of production was altogether unconvincing. Inquiring into why Thai society had taken so long to reach the capitalist stage if, like Europe and Japan, it was saktina/feudal, Chai-anan asked whether or not Thai society really was saktina/feudal in Marx's sense. His solution to the problem of defining Thailand's social formation was to reach for hydraulic society, Karl Wittfogel's extrapolation of Marx's Asiatic mode (Reynolds and Hong 1983:88-89). Just as a number of scholars have sought to save China and Marx from Wittfogel, so a number of Thai reviewers of Chai-anan's study set out to save Thailand, Marx, and Jit from Wittfogel and Chai-anan. Anut Aphaphirom, one of the speakers at the December 1975 seminar, accused Chai-anan of using Marxism to destroy Jit and of using Jit to destroy Marxism, a forceful criticism reflecting the continued influence of the unilinear schema, and impatience, on the part of activists, with fine theoretical distinctions (Muang Boyang et al. 1980:228). Chai-anan was also criticizing another neoMarxist work by "Amnat Yutthawiwat" (Phin 1975), who had been with the CPT until his capture by government forces in 1969. Amnat's analysis, though sketchier than Jit's and without the historical data that fill The Real Face, had the endorsement of the CPT, so Chai-anan was in effect taking on party theory in public criticism. The debate about the utility of Wittfogel's version of the Asiatic mode continued for a while, but historians ultimately rejected it on theoretical as well as empirical grounds (Reynolds and Hong 1983:89-90). Although Chai-anan's Saktina and the Development of Thai Society is now a document of its time, having been eclipsed both by primary research and by greater theoretical sophistication, it was salutary in three specific ways. First, Chai-anan went to great lengths to show that the historical experiences of Thai and European society were different and that a separate Marxist category other than Western feudalism existed for analyzing the Thai case. This was an effective answer to the historical studies of the previous paradigm, discussed above, that sought to discredit the Marxist analyses by emphasizing the patron-clientage and the uniqueness of Thai society. Second, Chaianan's study encouraged Thai scholars to look beyond the Marx-Engels corpus, to European Marxist intellectuals as well as to dependency theorists. The analyses of Thai social formations have now become increasingly detailed and complex. Finally, the critique of Jit's text by one of Thailand's most prolific political scientists helped to pull The Real Face into the mainstream of Thai historiography, thus contributing in no small way to the construction of "Jit Poumisak" the historian and political economist. Discussion of The Real Face in a university symposium played a part in undermining its subversive thrust.

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The 6 October 1976 coup and the rightist regime that ruled for the following twelve months momentarily silenced the political economy debate. Among the books banned by the government were Udom's and Jit's histories, leading a group of enterprising Thais to publish The Real Face in the Thai language in America in 1977. But the tight security measures of that government were considerably relaxed by its successor's policy of reconciliation—including an amnesty for those who had gone into the jungle after 6 October—and the political economy debate resumed in late 1977 and 1978 (Reynolds and Hong 1983:90-91). Many Thai scholars—Marxist and non-Marxist—now accept "saktina system" as a social formation characterizing precapitalist Thai society; at the same time, it is recognized that this system is not "feudal" in the European sense (no parcelized sovereignty, no fief system, and so forth) and that it resembles the AMP. Thus the dilemma of Jit's analysis—saktina is the same as feudal but something Thai makes them different—continues today in Thai socioanalysis as it seeks to define the country's social formations. How is it possible to describe Thai social formations (past, present, future) in such a way that the Thai particulars are individuated and intact within a schema of universal evolutionary change? In their search for answers, Thai historians writing in open society have sometimes found themselves at odds with the outlawed CPT, which for years insisted on a semicolonial, semifeudal formation. One particularly rigorous criticism of the CPT's "semicolonial, semifeudal" hybrid was published in 1981 by the pseudonymous "Songchai na Yala," a French-educated newcomer to the political economy debate, who argued that Thai society through at least 1910 was fundamentally saktina, i.e., precapitalist. Only after the 1932 "change of government," a watershed event in Songchai's view, did the relations of production change to a capitalist mode of a kind that he labels "dependent and underdeveloped" (Reynolds and Hong 1983:93-94). The CPT has responded on a number of occasions to this challenge to its analysis, which was grounded for years on Mao's 1939 essay, "The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party." Younger CPT members who went underground after 6 October also questioned the standard party analysis and in 1982-1983 issued a collection of essays, The Path of Thai Society, a title that mimicked the republication of Udom's work in 1979 (Klumwichai 1983; Panya 1983). This analysis was further evidence that party theory was being freed from its Maoist strait jacket. What is interesting about the debate over social formations is the extent to which it is a shared one: academics, urban thinkers, returnees from the jungle, and revolutionaries still in the jungle all participate. Faced with the return after October 1973 of saktina as a trope for premodern society, some writers persisted in denying the equivalence of saktina and feudal, very much in the mode of Khachorn, Khukrit, and Akin. Writing in 1975, a prominent novelist and essayist reacted against the new political consciousness by arguing for the "proper" definition of saktina: status as reflected in certain rights and duties. In contrast to Anut, who gave these rights and duties negative valences, she attributed great virtue to them and emphatically resisted the characterization of modern society after 1932 as partially saktina or containing saktina elements. These had all been eliminated by legislation, she argued (Bunlua 1975). Her defense of the proper meaning of saktina—a reversion to something close to sakdina in the old law code—was aroused by the attacks of students and young lecturers on classical Thai literature. It was, they said, saktina literature. An even more striking example of how the debate over saktina = feudal continues to represent polarized interpretations of the present conditions and future prospects of Thai society is a thesis submitted to the Thai Army College in 1980, "Saktina" and Subversion by the Opposing Side, by Colonel Sihadet Bunnag. Colonel Sihadet argues that


Thai Radical Discourse

although the saktina system has long since faded away, "the opposing side" (i.e., the CPT) uses the saktina characterization to attack Thailand's legitimizing institutions: "saktina retains great significance for the opposing side. The attack on saktina has an impact on our highest institutions and the work of the contemporary state" (Sihadet 1980:iii). This military officer is concerned about the way students use saktina in their speech, and the frequency with which the term appears in the lyrics of popular songs which find their way into the heads of today's youth and give them distorted ideas about the history of their forefathers (Sihadet 1980:56-57). Colonel Sihadet fears that extensive use of the term in Thai language, including investigation of the saktina remnants which is disallowed on the grounds of lese majesty, would indeed unravel the meanings on which proper authority bases itself. He finds that the new sign, saktina = feudal, is predominantly Marxist-Leninist and is propagated by the CPT; his thesis is an argument against this new sign, against its potential for unraveling proper meanings. He reasserts the proper meaning of sakdina, and he refers with approval to Khachorn and Khukrit and to the "rights and duties" interpretation of the Old Thai term, while rejecting the emphasis in Jit's text on land as the basis of saktina power (Sihadet 1980:37-38). As if in this thesis time were bending back on itself to 1953, Colonel Sihadet in his university days was the student representative from the Faculty of Engineering who took the stage in the yonbok incident to criticize Jit's editorial contributions to the yearbook, and he had a hand in the yonbok itself, throwing Jit to the ground ("Muang Boyang" 1981). SAKTINA AND SEDITION For the reader in English, "semicolonial," "semifeudal," "semicolonial capitalist," "dependent capitalist and underdeveloped," and so forth may whir together as if in the blades of a fan, their analytic range diffuse, their power to evoke meaningful periodizations arguable. Yet in Thai language, these terms are crucial coordinates on a map of contrasting positions. The social formations in and of themselves, one might say, are not meaningful except as they are seen in contrast to one another, as relational contrasts. They stand in dialectical relation to one another and can thus only be understood relationally. The very different interpretations of the feudal/saktina relationship that I have traced out in this chapter offer a pathway, as it were, into distinctive mentalities and conceptions about how Thai speakers imagine themselves in relation to their own rulers and to the rest of the world and about how power should be shared in the Thai state. To term this feudalism and other feudalisms in the vernacular of neighboring Southeast Asian states a "folk" feudalism, as a speaker did in a recent conference on comparative feudal systems, is to trivialize what is actually happening and to perpetuate an Orientalist construction of an Asian Other, necessarily subordinate to the European dominant (Leach et al. 1985:9-10). Among the signifieds in the "vernacular term = feudal" sign are the monarchy and the Buddhist monkhood which today are regarded as saktina remnants, relics of a backward agrarian order. Thus the debate about social formations, about the exact way to represent the saktina = feudal relationship, at some point touches these legitimizing institutions, and the saktina = feudal sign can be deemed a danger. In texts as different as Colonel Sihadet's thesis and Nine Reigns of the Chakkri Dynasty the link between saktina—the transformation of Old Thai sakdina—and sedition is direct, as Old Thai sakdina becomes transformed. Saktina is improper transfer of meaning. To assert the identity or resemblance between the premodern Thai social formation and the European one is to assert the comparability of Thai society. Such comparability further suggests that each Thai social formation, including and especially the

Feudalism in the Thai Past


present one, is historical, contingent, and temporally bounded. If such institutions as the monarchy and Buddhist monkhood are historical and contingent then they will gradually decline in power and prestige—perhaps next century, perhaps at the end of the decade, perhaps tomorrow. By the same token, the denial of comparability—as was advocated by the dominant historiography for the fifteen years or so after 1958—identifies the monarchy and monkhood as timeless institutions inseparable from Thainess. This proposition is one of the shibboleths of official Thai nationalism. It is for these reasons that usage of the term saktina has entered a radical and sometimes suppressed discourse about who should and should not hold power. Far from being a simple slogan, the sign saktina = feudal and the debate about its authenticity disposes people to think along certain lines and ultimately to act in light of those thoughts. The usage has what Thai speakers call a pejorative or derogatory meaning (khwammai lop, salaeng hu), a meaning that is only some forty years old. No one has ever been arrested for writing or speaking about saktina as such, but the term exists in a discourse that has subversive and seditious intent. The metaphor has material force.

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ost, possibly all, Asian languages with historiographies linked to Western historiography have vernacular equivalents of European-language "feudalism": Bengali samantatantra alternating with samantabad; Burmese padd-iha-ya-za (current usage) and ahmu-dan-sa-myei (in use from about 1940-1960); Thai sakdina; Indonesian feodal; Tagalog piyudal; Chinese feng-chien; Japanese hoken; Vietnamese phong kien. The existence of these terms for feudalism in Asian-language discourses about past and present society poses problems for any writer in English. What is the anthropologist, literary scholar, historian, or linguist to do with these feudalisms? Why do native speakers of Asian languages term their own societies "feudal" (feudal = term in language X) and how do they come to employ this term? Generally, Western writers dismiss these Asian-language feudalisms as too culture-bound to be of use in writing objective history. Such usage, so the argument might run, is too embedded in internal debates within Asian societies about who should—or should not—hold power. "Feudalism" is a category of social evolution that serves revolutionary or official nationalist interests, and such interests so skew its usage that the term cannot tell the disinterested observer anything illuminating about the political economy of a particular society. Western academic historians more or less agree that while Asian social systems functioned with ties of bondage, subordination, and even vassalage, the lack of parcelized sovereignty, the absence of a fief system, and various other elements deemed critical to European feudalism have all disqualified Asian societies from being knighted with this term so essential to the evolution of Western society and the emergence of the capitalist economic system. Moreover, use of the term feudal for Asian societies violates a principle of cultural relativism for most students of Asia, because it assimilates Asian societies to the Western evolutionary schema, thereby denying those societies uniqueness and autonomy. To put the matter slightly differently, I suspect that most supervisors of dissertations on Philippine, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Burmese history, written in Western universities, would want to scrub the term feudalism from early drafts. The term is too contentious and begs too many questions. Yet many Asian historians writing in the vernacular insist on using the term precisely because it does hook Asian development onto an historicist or universal evolutionary sequence. There are exceptions to these generalizations, particularly Japan and India. Japanese society, many historians argue, experienced a feudal period, meaning that Japanese society at one time bore resemblances to Western feudal society, resemblances strong enough to make the term illuminating as a category. It is no coincidence that the exception of Japan is also the one case of an Asian society approaching "parity" with Western countries in terms of industrialization, economic growth, hegemony of its commercial and business organization, and so forth. The parity even extends to such Westernisms as competence in playing Beethoven, making "Scotch" whiskey, and collecting Rembrandts. Indeed, the feudal element in the Japanese past is deemed to help



Thai Radical Discourse

account for Japan's economic, industrial, and cultural prowess and its successful modernization. Feudalism in the historiography of India is a slightly different kind of exception, because so much Indian history is written in English, thus clouding the distinction between feudalism (in English) as applied to Indian history by Indian historians and feudalism (in English, French, Dutch, whatever) as applied to Europe in the Middle Ages. I would argue that the signifieds of these two feudalisms are quite distinct, and that the evidence for this may be found in the preference among Western historians and social scientists, who are not much enamored of the idea of an Indian feudal past, for other terms, such as segmentary state, to characterize premodern Indian society. To the immensely varied political order that was medieval South India, says Burton Stein, "the terms centralized/ or bureaucratized/ or feudal' are widely and inappropriately applied" (Stein 1977:5). But it must also be recalled that for more than a half century after the Rebellion of 1857-1858 feudalism played a part in constructing a theory of Indian society that the British in their colonial historiography used to answer the important question, "how are we going to keep India?" (Cohn 1977). The feudal theory of Indian society served the British as a sociology, a classificatory system in which the British monarch and the "natural leaders" of India were placed in relation to one another as the dominant and the subordinated. In this discourse the feudal classification inscribed relations of domination in the legal language of "obligations," "rights," and "duties." Moreover, such a classification labeled local society and its powerholders as reactionary and passe, thus preparing the way for interference with them in the name of progress. Other Western colonial powers used the feudal classification in similar ways. As independence movements gained momentum, young nationalists picked up the classification as a convenient way of "reducing" old leaderships and high culture in favor of a modern outlook. When it is found in the English-language historiography of India written by Indian historians today, the term feudalism is really quite close to Asian vernacular feudalisms: its usage is bound up in a debate about the colonial past as well as the nature and direction of present society. Here "feudal" refers to a specific social formation in a Marxist historicist schema (as in the work of R.S. Sharma) or more generally to relations of domination in the precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial period (as in the work of Ranajit Guha and the Subaltern Studies group). Far from being a construct that tyrannizes, Asian-vernacular feudalism is a construct that essentializes. It can be found as the name of a period or social formation prescribed by party thinkers in the centralist historiography of socialist states (China, Vietnam, Burma) and as the name for relations of domination in a seditious discourse propounded by radical, marginalized, or disenfranchised groups (in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand). The obverse of pronouncements on the term in party cant is its appearance in a discourse of subversion. Thus, a military elite (Burma) may seek to explain its role by objectifying past society as feudal and highlighting its own modernist, non-royalist, anti-colonial policies, while at the same time a radicalized urban intelligentsia (Malaysia) attacks as feudal the dominant ideology which retains remnants of a monarchist political system by appealing for loyalty to the sultanates. In most cases the vernacular terms (Indonesian and Tagalog excepted, as they borrowed the European-language term) delve deep into the past by drawing on terms of great antiquity to translate European feudalism. Official Burmese histories after 1962, for example, retranslated the term, casting the etymology backwards in time and thus rooting feudalism more deeply in Burmese language and history. The impulse here was to plant feudalism firmly in Asian soil. Yet the activity of analyzing Asian feudalism



(Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, whatever) also involved an act of discovery, not simply translation. Feudalism was already "there7' to be found, excavated, and reinterpreted in contemporary language via ancient words. It is such an activity and act of discovery that I have sought to display and discuss in this book. Apart from a desire to credit Asian societies with a specific, autonomous, and non-European evolution, Western liberal historiography rejects the characterization "feudalism" because it evokes a particular sociology or classificatory knowledge—a Marxist one—from which many historians wish to distance themselves. I have argued in this book that there is a distinct, palpable connection between the way a history is written and the sociology it relies on and values. Each historiography endorses its own favored sociology. In the case of Thailand, the search for a non-Marxist sociology led to the patron-client paradigm among anthropologists, who developed and popularized it, and historians, who welcomed it. The popularity of the paradigm helped to suppress a large block of Thai history that Thai-language historians began to uncover and represent in writing only during the mid-1970s. This connection between a classificatory knowledge and a way of writing about the past is not unique to Thailand. A debate on the patron-client paradigm occurs in Indonesian studies, where some authors have given primacy to Javanese cultural perspectives, particularly to vertical, personalized patron-client structures (Robison 1981:8). The rubric of reciprocity in social science research obscures exploitation of the poor by their richer neighbors (Mortimer 1984:94). Such a paradigm has attracted criticism, because it conceals socio-economic relations under the New Order and has, in turn, affected interpretations of the political history of Suharto's Indonesia. A similar link between patron-client studies and historiography existed in scholarship of the same vintage on the Philippines, the other Southeast Asian state most buffetted by prevailing currents in American academic studies. That real socio-economic relations are hidden or codified in the language of allegiance and dependence is the driving theme of The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today. For all of its historical materialism and scientistic concern for "proof," it is a Gramscian study before Gramsci, an attempt to understand how hegemony operates. It is an attempt to understand how allegiance to the throne and the Buddhist Sangha help to maintain the subservience of the peasantry and working classes. By peeling away the religious and cultural integuments like so many layers of an onion bulb in order to understand the social and economic structures of conflict in society, it attempts to unveil the way Authority imposes its will. The impulse in Jit's history of Thailand is not unlike that of another student of feudalism, Georges Duby: to understand the structures of feudalism in order to demystify the workings of power (Duby 1980:1-9). This metaphor of disclosure has informed the title of the work, The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today, and similar titles that betray a concern for the veiling and unveiling of reality: Tearing off the Mask of Thai Society (Klumsuksa-itsara 1981); The Unmasking of Thai Society (Sulak 1984,1985); Tearing off the Masks of the Thai Feudalists (Chik nakak n.d.), this last a document published in the United States that would surely put its author(s) in prison for lese majesty. Do all these titles take their cue from Jit's 1957 work? In a society where word-play is a vital political instrument, this may well be the case, even if the evocation of the "mask" metaphor is not direct imitation. In fact, the "mask" metaphor associates an illegal party and seditious words so closely that it serves as a signature— much like the Marxian social formations did in the 1950s—for opposition politics bordering on the rebellious. The author of The Unmasking of Thai Society, Sulak Siwarak, a much-respected writer and publisher, admired—like Jit—for his skillful use of Thai language, was arrested and tried for lese majesty in the second half of 1984 on the evi-


Thai Radical Discourse

dence.of his Unmasking book. Almost as if to affiliate him with the illegal CPT, though he has kept his distance from the party throughout his long career, the authorities apprehended him at the same moment they were arresting members of the CPT (PEER 1984). It is through such tangible but non-explicit affiliations that Authority connects lese majesty, sedition, and writing as it works hard to maintain proper meaning. Along such lines as these it is possible to understand why the government of Singapore, one of Thailand's Southeast Asian neighbors, would take the trouble to prosecute a 39year-old fish breeder for something written on a tombstone. He breached the Internal Security Act when he praised his brother as a communist martyr in a Chinese-language epitaph, thus making the tombstone seditious (AWSJ1983). The concern for masks and faces, concealment and disclosure, harks back to the well-spring of Jit Poumisak's thought in that complex moment before 1958 when the prestige of the monarchy was low and the military and police had to contend with the hundred thoughts of their rivals on the left which they themselves had encouraged to flourish. Linked to the "mask" metaphor is another term with a penumbra of associations that the radical nationalists of Jit's generation often used. This term, thatsana, a neo-Sanskritic term for perception, outlook, viewpoint, vantage point, turns up in the literature and interviews of writers and journalists from the 1950s. Kulap Saipradit wrote an essay in 1957 called "Looking at Thammasat University Students through Clear Spectacles" as well as a novel titled Behind the Picture in which the narrator unfolds and brings into being the life behind a picture (Rungwit 1979). Samak Burawat's essay in The Vantage Point of the Masses is entitled simply "Vantage Points" (thatsana). In his essay Samak explains to the university students that thatsana does not just mean looking at the world but thinking about it and reasoning about it at the same time (Samak 1974:15). And there is the anecdote that Supha Sirimanond tells of an encounter in the early 1950s between the younger Khukrit Pramot and Atsani Phonlachan ("Nai Phi"), a brilliant literary scholar who was later to go underground and commit his life to the CPT. At a literary gathering of many of the major writers of the time the two men debated furiously over the meaning and etymology of a single word, thatsana (Supha interviews 1979). According to Supha, Atsani trounced Khukrit in this battle of literary and linguistic wits, and Khukrit never again returned to the gathering of writers. My reading of the centrality of thatsana as a sign of that time is not that it signified relativism, a position which would have meant giving up the right to make value judgements because there is no fixed vantage point, but that it signified relationism, meaning that there was a fixed vantage point from which the viewer judged relations. The emblem of Supha's magazine of the early 1950s, Aksonsan—the emblem, as it were, of his outlook—depicted a man wearing sandals, sitting on a chaise longue and examining a globe with a small telescope. On the globe was a map not of Thailand but of all Southeast Asia. The emblem seems to be saying that stepping back allows one to see things up close. Writing at a time before Thailand's university system became the vast thing it is today, intellectuals such as Kulap, Supha, Samak, and others were the educators of their day, teaching their readers and listeners to step back in order to see things up close. They were practicing a critical philosophy. In trying to look behind the masks and thinking about what they found there, they were in effect arguing against the portrayal of the monarchy and the monkhood as truths transcending time and the contingency of events. As I have argued in the previous chapter, it is precisely the temporal and spatial contingency of these institutions that the saktina formation exposes, thus threatening the proper meaning of these institutions as timeless structures. Jit Poumisak's The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today was a tour de force effort to look behind the masks. He is the most theoretical of Southeast Asian Marxists, and unlike



them in that his writings never served a party or a specific nationalist program. The CPT had to hurry to claim his reputation as it grew larger after the 14 October uprising, so disconnected from official party history had his life/work been. In this respect, his closest peer in Southeast Asia might be the Indonesian Marxist Tan Malaka, also an alternative to official party theoreticians, whose science and humanism were deeply rooted in the Minangkabau world into which he had been born. Tan Malaka's philosophical system, Madilog (an acronym for materialism-dialecticslogic), parallels Jit Poumisak's saktina, in that both issue from within their respective Southeast Asian cultures while depending on foreign signifieds for revolutionary meanings. Just as in Tan Malaka's system, where "there was no direct equivalence between Madilog materialism and dialectics and the concepts bearing the same names in Western culture" (Mrazek 1972:20), so in Jit's saktina/feudalism there are elements in the Thai construct that resist and reject the European referent. Asian Marxists in general, if a generalization be warranted in this concluding statement, share the same tension between the unbelief to which their reason compels them and the centuries-old habits of their ancestral traditions which their reason rejects yet requires them to remember. I am reminded of Ho Chi Minh writing poetry in classical Chinese verse while imprisoned in South China. I am also reminded of "the father of scientific Indian history," D. D. Kosambi, another polymath with a fondness for the details of material culture, technology, and daily life. In his later years Kosambi would prowl the hills around his house looking for old coins and shards, junk from the land that would yield diamond-hard clues to India's socio-economic past. Jit Poumisak was similarly seized by his classical past. The poetry, documents, and art of kings became the stuff of another kind of history, not the history of kings and courts. Such comparisons as this throw Jit Poumisak's life/work as a theoretician into high relief and lift it above the localized elements of the Thai social, political, and intellectual landscape. Jit's life/work has had an enduring effect on Thai political thought in the past decade and a half, and when Thai politics again requires him he will be there with his dissident precursors—K. S. R. Kulap, T. W. S. Wannapho, Tim Sukkhayang, even Pridi Phanomyong. The many adjectival pseudonyms that he used create the effect of multiplicity, of a splintered personality, and in the splintered life of this individual may be read the splintered life of the nation—not only its regional, ethnic, and religious cleavages but the class ones of dominance and subordination as well—held together tenuously by the proper meanings created by proper authority. Even in the CPT Jit Poumisak had a splintering effect, both in his own lifetime and later when his reputation divided younger activists from the senior party leadership. His maverick nature will always derive its force from this connection to the splintered life of the nation. He is one of those human beings about whom there is no final truth, only disparate accounts, innumerable witnesses and assessments, various portraits by various artists, and a haunting expectation of another disclosure yet to come.

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