The Early Years of the Ministry of Finance: its Establishment and Collapse, 1885–96

  • Ian Brown
Part of the Studies in the Economies of East and South-East Asia book series (SEESEA)

Abstract

In 1885 Prince Mahāmālā, the head of the Hǭ Ratsadākǭnphiphat (the Finance Office) from its establishment in the early 1870s, retired. He was succeeded first by his nephew, Prince Čhakkraphatdiphong, and then, when Prince Čhakkraphatdiphong became ill, by another of King Chulalongkorn’s brothers, Prince Narāthip Praphanphong.1 It was Prince Narāthip, at that time in his mid-twenties,2 who was to guide the establishment of the modern Ministry of Finance and the introduction of the first financial reforms of Chulalongkorn’s second reform period.

Keywords

Depression Europe Income Assure Egypt 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    David K. Wyatt, The Politics of Reform in Thailand. Education in the Reign of King Chulalongkorn, New Haven, 1969, pp. 85–7, 93 fn. 16.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    G. William Skinner, Chinese Society in Thailand: An Analytical History, Ithaca, 1957, p. 121.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Prince Damrong, Ru’ang tamnān kānlōekbǭnbia lae lōek huai [The Abolition of Gambling Dens and the Huai Lottery], Bangkok, 1960, pp. 37–45.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Anuman Rajadhon, Tamnān sunlakākǭn [History of the Customs Department], Bangkok, 1939, pp. 96, 118. However, according to Anuman Rajadhon, the import duty on foreign spirits was attributed to the farmers until 1901. Apparently, between 1889 and 1901 the duty was collected by the Customs Department, passed to the appropriate farmer, who then made the payment to the treasury, together with the other payments due in connection with the farm.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    The following figures are given by Wira Wimoniti, Historical Patterns of Tax Administration in Thailand, Bangkok, 1961, p. 114. Treasury Revenue Receipts 1882–1889 (million baht) 1882:6.92 1886: 13.66 1883:7.39 1887: 12.09 1884:6.03 1888: 13.65 1885: 6.08 1889: 12.02 The break between 1885 and 1886 is very dramatic. Yet figures of the same order of magnitude were quoted in Narāthip to Chulalongkorn, 17 March 1893, NA r5 Kh 3/1. 1886 was the year in which the Kalāhōm agreed to remit all its revenue receipts to the Finance Office.Google Scholar
  6. 20.
    ‘Act Concerning the Functions of the Ministry of Finance’, 7 October 1890, NA r5 Kh 1/5. The Act is quoted in full in Wichai Prasangsit, Prawatsanphākǭn [History of Taxation], Bangkok, 1971, pp. 305–13.Google Scholar
  7. 30.
    Sir Henry Norman, ‘Urgency in Siam’, Contemporary Review, LXIV (1893), p. 738. For a consideration of the internal political circumstances of Siam in the early 1890s, see Wyatt, The Politics of Reform in Thailand, chap. 4.Google Scholar
  8. 31.
    Sir Henry Norman, The Peoples and Politics of the Far East, London, 1895, p. 451. It is important to note that for the period up to 1896–1897, the Siamese documentary evidence is rather scanty and disorganized, a reflection of the underdeveloped state of administrative procedures and then the virtual collapse of government. For this reason, for this period it is necessary to rely to a considerable extent on Norman’s observations, although as Wyatt points out (op. cit., p. 95, fn. 18) some of his opinions are highly questionable. At the same time, the limited primary evidence does support his general picture.Google Scholar
  9. 32.
    W. A. Graham, Siam: A Handbook of Practical, Commercial and Political Information, London, 1924, vol. 1, p. 338Google Scholar
  10. 39.
    Narāthip to Phrayā Mahā Yōthā, 6 January 1893, NA r5 Kh 10.1/1; Narāthip to Chulalongkorn, 17 November 1891, NA r5 Kh 10/1; R. S. Le May, The Coinage of Siam, Bangkok, 1932, p. 85.Google Scholar
  11. 51.
    Anuman Rajadhon, ‘Phraprawat phraworawongthōe phra ong čhao phrōmphong athirāt’ [Biography of Prince Phrōm], in Tamnān sunlakākǭn [History of the Customs Department], Bangkok, 1939, p. ii.Google Scholar
  12. 62.
    Rātchasakunwong [Royal Genealogy], Bangkok, 1969. For a further comment on the resignation of Prince Narāthip see Suphāphǭn Čharanphat, ‘Phrayā Suriyānuwat nai kitčhakānfin khǭng rathabān’ [Phrayā Suriyānuwat and Government Administration of the Opium Monopoly], in Sirilak Sakkriangkrai (ed.), Phrayā Suriyānuwat (Koet Bunnāk) naksētthasāt khonrāek khǭng mu’ang thai [Phrayā Suriyānuwat (Koet Bunnāk): Thailand’s First Economist], Bangkok, 1980, pp. 170–1.Google Scholar
  13. 63.
    David K. Wyatt, The Politics of Reform in Thailand, New Haven, 1969, p. 296.Google Scholar
  14. 64.
    D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-East Asia, London, 1968, pp. 679–701.Google Scholar
  15. 65.
    In November 1893 the British Minister in Bangkok informed the Foreign Office in London that over the preceding four months the King had lost three stones in weight and had abandoned all interest in life: Scott to Rosebery, 24 November 1893, PRO FO 69/150. In June 1894 he reported that the King, now at KǭSi Chang, had a high fever and that it was believed that death was imminent: Scott to Kimberley, 21 June 1894, PRO FO 69/153. There is also some evidence on this subject from Robert Morant, the tutor to the Crown Prince, who was dismissed from his post in early 1894. On his return to London he wrote a ‘Memorandum on the Present Political Situation in Siam. The Misleading Nature of the Current Reports thereon and the Grave Condition of her Internal Affairs’, July 1894, which he submitted to the Foreign Office: PRO FO 17/1223. [This document appears in Nigel Brailey, Two Views of Siam on the Eve of the Chakri Reformation, Whiting Bay, Arran, 1989, pp. 85–105] Because of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Siam, Morant certainly cannot be regarded as an independent observer (and in this context it is important to note that he was Sir Henry Norman’s principal informant) but presumably he was one of the very few foreigners to see the King regularly at this time. Morant wrote that in August 1893 the King ‘was as nearly as possible imbecile... though it is at the same time incorrect to suppose that he is or has been in a condition of pronounced active insanity’. Although he had since improved, Morant suggested that ‘he has lost all will-power and all initiative, is a prey to perpetual despondency, and also entirely “possessed” by the spirit of distrust and suspicion of everyone who approaches him’. See also Wyatt, op. cit., pp. 95–6;Google Scholar
  16. 65a.
    Sir Henry Norman, The Peoples and Politics of the Far East, London, 1895, pp. 435–9, 451–3.Google Scholar
  17. 69.
    W. A. Graham, Siam, London, 1924, vol. 1, p. 338. This situation was well reflected in the statements of accounted expenditure. Total expenditure fell from 18.17 million baht in 1893/4 to 12.48 million baht in 1894/5. More significantly, the accounted expenditure of the Ministry of the Interior was, at 205 000 baht, the lowest of all the ministries in 1894/5 except the Ministry of Justice: RFAB 1903/4, p. 24. It is evident that to a very considerable extent, the Ministry of the Interior was financing itself outside the budget — from its own sources of revenue.Google Scholar
  18. 84.
    Anuman Rajadhon, ‘Phraprawat phraworawongthōe phra ong čhao phrōmphong athirāt’ [Biography of Prince Phrōm], in Tamnān sunlakāhǭn [History of the Customs Department], Bangkok, 1939, pp. iv–viii.Google Scholar
  19. 98.
    Christian de Saint-Hubert, ‘Rolin Jacquemyns (Chao Phya Aphay Raja) and the Belgian Legal Advisers in Siam at the turn of the Century’, Journal of the Siam Society, 53, 2 (July 1965), pp. 181–90.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ian Brown 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Oriental and African StudiesUniversity of LondonUK

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