Central Thai - Sociopolitical Organization

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a king as head of state and a prime minister as head of the government.

Social Organization. Thai society is hierarchically organized on the bases of age, occupation, wealth, and residence. The rural farmers stand below the artisans, merchants, and government officials of the cities. The clergy stand as a group apart from society. Social classes, in the sense of stable, ranked statuses, are absent in the presence of considerable social mobility. Many interpersonal relationships, however, are hierarchical, and patron-client relationships are common.

Political Organization. Thailand is divided into seventythree provinces ( changwat ). The provinces are divided into districts ( amphoe ), and these into municipal areas and communes ( tambon ). Each tambon is composed of several numbered hamlets ( muban ), which appear to be primarily administrative divisions. Tambon seem to range in size from 1,400 to 7,000 people. Each muban has a headman ( phuyaiban ) and the head man of the tambon, the kamnan, is chosen from among the phuyaiban. The muban, and probably the tambon as well, are groups whose functions appear to be purely administrative, since only occasionally do the natural communities coincide with them. Thus a village may be composed of people from two different tambon and several different muban. They constitute a community in the sense that all the people of the village recognize the village temple and the government school. There does not appear to be a native Thai term for such a "natural" community and if asked the name of his or her village, the average inhabitant would probably refer to the temple that serves it. The Thai government provides a wide range of services including schools, police, courts, health services, tax collection, and the registration of vital information. District governments maintain the highways, canals, bridges, schools, and irrigation systems.

Social Control. To a large extent, social control is maintained by a Buddhist value system, which places a premium on avoiding conflict and fleeing rather than fighting. Gossip is an important informal source of social control. Because the natural community has no administrative structure, the temple committee, made up of monks and lay people, often concerns itself with village issues as well as temple affairs.

Conflict. In the past, warfare generally arose from disputes over succession to the throne, misbehavior of a vassal, and conflicts with neighboring states. Since the late 1880s a national military establishment on the European model has existed. Since the 1930s military personnel have taken an increasingly active role in politics.

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