Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/19

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5
SIAM

occupation of practically the whole population of Siam outside the capital. Primitive methods obtain, but the Siamese are efficient cultivators and secure good harvests nevertheless. The sowing and planting season is from June to August, and the reaping season from December to February. Forty or fifty varieties of paddi are grown, and Siam rice is of the best in the world. Irrigation is rudimentary, for no system exists for raising the water of the innumerable canals on to the fields. Water-supply depends chiefly, therefore, on local rainfall. In 1905 the government started preliminary surveys for a system of irrigation. Tobacco, pepper, coco-nuts and maize are other agricultural products. Tobacco of good quality supplies local requirements but is not exported; pepper, grown chiefly in Chantabun and southern Siam, annually yields about 900 tons for export. From coco-nuts about 10,000 tons of copra are made for export each year, and maize is used for local consumption only. Of horned cattle statistical returns show over two million head in the whole country.

Mining.—The minerals of Siam include gold, silver, rubies, sapphires, tin, copper, iron, zinc and coal. Tin-mining is a flourishing industry near Puket on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula, and since 1905 much prospecting and some mining has been done on the east coast. The export of tin in 1908 exceeded 5000 tons, valued at over £600,000. Rubies and sapphires are mined in the Chantabun district in the south-east. The Mining Department of Siam is a well-organized branch of the government, employing several highly-qualified English experts.

Timber.—The extraction of teak from the forests of northern Siam employs a large number of people. The industry is almost entirely in the hands of Europeans, British largely predominating. The number of teak logs brought out via the Salween and Menam Chao Phaya rivers average 160,000 annually, Siam being thus the largest teak-producing country of the world. A Forest Department, in which experienced officers recruited from the Indian Forest Service are employed, has for many years controlled the forests of Siam.

Technology.—The government has since 1903 given attention to sericulture, and steps have been taken to improve Siamese silk with the aid of scientists borrowed from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. Surveying and the administration of the land have for a long time occupied the attention of the government. A Survey Department, inaugurated about 1887, has completed the general survey of the whole country, and has made a cadastral survey of a large part of the thickly inhabited and highly cultivated districts of central Siam. A Settlement Commission, organized in 1901, decided the ownership of lands, and, on completion, handed over its work to a Land Registration Department. Thus a very complete settlement of much of the richest agricultural land in the country has been effected. The education of the youth of Siam in the technology of the industries practised has not been neglected. Pupils are sent to the best foreign agricultural, forestry and mining schools, and, after going through the prescribed course, often with distinction, return to Siam to apply their knowledge with more or less success. Moreover, a college under the control of the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, which was founded in 1909, provides locally courses of instruction in these subjects and also in irrigation engineering, sericulture and surveying.

Commerce.—Rice-mills, saw-mills and a few distilleries of locally consumed liquor, one or two brick and tile factories, and here and there a shed in which coarse pottery is made, are all Siam has in the way of factories. All manufactured articles of daily use are imported, as is all ironware and machinery. The foreign commerce of Siam is very ancient. Her commerce with India, China and probably Japan dates from the beginning of the Christian era or earlier, while that with Europe began in the 16th century. Trade with her immediate neighbours is now insignificant, the total value of annual imports and exports being about £400,000; but seaborne commerce is in a very flourishing condition. Bangkok, with an annual trade valued at £13,000,000, easily overtops all the rest of the country, the other ports together accounting for a total of imports and exports not exceeding £3,000,000. On both the east and west coasts of southern Siam trade is increasing rapidly, and is almost entirely with the Straits Settlements. The trade of the west coast is carried in British ships exclusively, that on the east coast by British and Siamese.

Art.—The Siamese are an artistic nation. Their architecture, drawing, goldsmith's work, carving, music and dancing are all highly developed in strict accordance with the traditions of Indo-Chinese art. Architecture, chiefly exercised in connexion with religious buildings, is clearly a decadent form of that practised by the ancient Khmers, whose architectural remains are among the finest in the world. The system of music is elaborate but is not written, vocalists and instrumentalists performing entirely by ear. The interval corresponding to the octave being divided into seven equal parts, each about 1¾ semitone, it follows that Siamese music sounds strange in Western ears. Harmony is unknown, and orchestras, which include fiddles, flutes, drums and harmonicons, perform in unison. The goldsmith's work of Siam is justly celebrated. Repoussé work in silver, which is still practised, dates from the most ancient times. Almost every province has its special patterns and processes, the most elaborate being those of Nakhon Sri Tammarat (Ligore), Chantabun and the Laos country. In the Ligore ware the hammered ground-work is inlaid with a black composition of sulphides of baser metals which throws up the pattern with distinctness.

Government.—The government of Siam is an absolute monarchy. The heir to the throne is appointed by the king, and was formerly chosen from among all the members of his family, collateral as well as descendants. The choice was sometimes made early in the reign when the heir held the title of "Chao Uparach" or "Wang Na," miscalled "Second King" in English, and sometimes was left until the death of the king was imminent. The arrangement was fraught with danger to the public tranquillity, and one of the reforms of the last sovereign was the abolition of the office of "Chao Uparach" and a decree that the throne should in future descend from the king to one of his sons born of a queen, which decree was immediately followed by the appointment of a crown prince. There is a council consisting of the ten ministers of state— for foreign affairs, war, interior, finance, household, justice, metropolitan government, public works, public instruction and for agriculture—together with the general adviser. There is also a legislative council, of which the above are ex officio members, consisting of forty-five persons appointed by the king. The council meets once a week for the transaction of the business of government. The king is an autocrat in practice as well as in theory, he has an absolute power of veto, and the initiative of measures rests largely with him. Most departments have the benefit of European advisers. The government offices are conducted much on European lines. The Christian Sunday is observed as a holiday and regular hours are prescribed for attendance. The numerous palace and other functions make some demand upon ministers' time, and, as the king transacts most of his affairs at night, high officials usually keep late office hours. The Ministry of Interior and certain technical departments are recruited from the civil service schools, but many appointments in government service go by patronage. For administrative purposes the country is divided into seventeen montons (or divisions) each in charge of a high commissioner, and an eighteenth, including Bangkok and the surrounding suburban provinces, under the direct control of the minister for metropolitan government (see Bangkok). The high commissioners are responsible to the minister of interior, and the montons are furnished with a very complete staff for the various branches of the administration. The montons consist of groups of the old rural provinces (muang), the hereditary chiefs of which, except in the Lao country in the north and in the Malay States, have been replaced by governors trained in administrative work and subordinate to the high commissioner. Each muang is subdivided into ampurs under assistant commissioners, and these again are divided into village circles under headmen (kamnans), which circles comprise villages under the control of elders. The suburban provinces of the metropolitan monton are also divided as above. The policing of the seventeen montons is provided for by a gendarmerie of over 7000 men and officers (many of the latter Danes), a well-equipped and well-disciplined force. That of the suburban provinces is effected by branches of the Bangkok civil police.

Finance.—The revenue administration is controlled by the ministers of the interior, of metropolitan government and of finance, by means of well-organized departments and with expert European assistance. The total revenue of the country for 1908-1909 amounted to 58,000,000 ticals, or, at the prevailing rate of exchange, about £4,300,000, made up as follows:—

Farms and monopolies (spirits, gambling, &c.). £783,000

Opium revenue 823,000

Lands, forests, mines, capitation. . . . 1,330,000

Customs and octroi 653,000

Posts, telegraphs and railways .... 331,000

Judicial and other fees 270,000

Sundries 110,000

Total £4,300,000

The unit of Siamese currency is the tical, a silver coin about equal in weight and fineness to the Indian rupee. In 1902, owing to the serious depreciation of the value of silver, the Siamese mint was closed to free coinage, and an arrangement was made providing for the gradual enhancement of the value of the tical until a suitable value should be attained at which it might be fixed. This measure was