Fascinating detail revealed by cache of old documents

PHUKET: The effort to classify four huge stacks of old documents found by workers fixing the roof of Phuket Provincial Hall nearly six years ago should be completed by the end of September, the official in charge of the project says.

Suntree Sungayuth, Chief Archivist at the National Archives in Trang, told the Gazette that some of 70,000 pages of official documents date back a century or so.

The effort to read through and classify all the documents, now in its sixth year, has been slow because of the fragile state of the papers and the fact that only two people are responsible for all the work, she explained.

The papers have been broadly divided into two main groups according to date, and then subdivided into almost 300 topics. These should be listed by title and page number on the Fine Arts Department website within two month’s time and on the Rajabhat Phuket University’s Anurak Thai webpages.

This first group of documents dates from 1900 to 1933, when Siam was still divided into administrative divisions known as monton, of which there were 10. Monton Phuket was the administrative center for a number of tin-mining areas in the south during that period.

“The documents tell us about the management and development of Phuket during that era. Among the documents found are a daily account of the work by Monton Phuket’s fourth Governor, Praya Rassada Nu Pradith. Many of the documents are official reports, local public announcements and tin mining concession contracts,” she revealed.

Some of the documents discovered are in English, including one contract with a foreign company in which the company agrees to complete a road building project in return for a mining concession, she said.

The second set of papers, from 1933 to 1952, deals with Phuket after it was established as a province. It will probably take until the end of September to finish reading and classifying all these documents, she said.

She said that documents of interest from this period include papers from the period, when the country was under the control of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

Observers who believe that the Thaksin administration was the first to employ country-wide campaigns to effect social change might be surprised at some of the official edicts issued back then.

“At that time, Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram had several policies intended to ‘reform culture to make it more civilized’,” K. Suntree explained.

“These included public directives on how people should live their lives, such as instructing them to clean their houses and keep them tidy and to stop eating betel nut and wearing jonekarbane [traditional Thai trousers]. They were told to start wearing hats when outside the home.

“Men in Bangkok were also instructed to give their wives a kiss before leaving home,” she said.

K. Suntree said that for the moment those interested in seeing the documents can do so only by visiting the National Archives Office in Trang, which is opposite the train station on Nong Yuan Rd.

“We keep the documents in a climate-controlled room and we cannot allow people to make photocopies, as the paper is too old and fragile,” she said, adding that once all the documents have been classified, each will be copied – once – and made available to the public for research purposes through the two websites.

Phuket News

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Legacy Phuket Gazette

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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