A LETTER FROM SIAM.
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
is truly a pleasure in these troubled times to be able to write from a country which is at peace with the world and at peace with herself. Stray tentacles of the Bolshevist octopus have indeed, during the last few months, spread to us here in the backwash of the China seas, but have been sum- marily lopped off by the Government, who took drastic action. However, the agitator from China makes little headway with his own contented compatriots in the country, and finds no ears lent to him by the Siamese.
Yet a year ago, when King Prajadipok came to the throne, there was a menace to internal peace. Many thousands of Government officials of all grades were dismissed, or more politely " retrenched," in the interests of economy. But no trouble arose ; the submission of the unfortunate was amazing, even considering the ingrained-habit of obedience to authority in the people of this absolute monarchy. The need for such wholesale retrenchment is a significant incident in the growth of modern Siam. As a result of her adoption of Western ideas of Government administration during the last fifty years, she is approaching her cross-roads, where a choice must be made between full development of the country or mere consolidation of the ground gained. The organization of the Government Departments on European lines produced and absorbed an army of officials. The last generations of upper- class Siamese as apart from the peasants have become officials, and naturally there is no room at present for the younger generation.
The need for the drastic economy of last year was, perhaps, mainly due to the extravagance of King Rama VI., who was a man of letters too generous to be an absolute monarch with a country's revenue at his disposal. But he only acceler- ated the coming of an inevitable situation. The administra- tive machine of the country has practically reached the limits of its expansion, and the young Siamese of to-day can no longer look forward to a soft Government job as the goal of his desires. The Minister of Education is trying to interest him in commerce, but as yet there is not a single native Siamese commercial firm of any standing in the country. The ubiqui- tous John Chinaman, and a few European and Indian firms have a monopoly.
Exciting news to us is that a baby white elephant was born some months ago in our Northern teak forests, and this augurs well for the prosperity of the country. The baby has a happy life before him, and soon (he has already met the King at Chiengmai) he will be brought down to Bangkok with all the splendid ancient pageantry, and installed among his peers in the Royal stables.—I am, Sir, &c.,
YOUR SIAM CORRESPONDENT.