Stickman Readers' Submissions February 18th, 2006

I-san Migration – Another reason?


I am not an expert but I do have my own 'Teeding Book' and females are lining up to get the names in it. One might think that two thousand Baht a month for minimum effort is tempting. However with non family members in your book one may be visited by their problems too. Like a bailiff trying to collect a bad debt! Here then is what I understand of the organization of the organization of family ties and pressures in Thailand. I invite readers that detect errors in my understanding, as expressed in this article, to enlighten me by email.

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Why do beautiful Thai girls return to the land at sowing time or harvest time?

At its roots Thai society is essentially agrarian and has been since the beginning of time. The whole of the modern Thai system is based on it's tribal, agrarian and feudal past. Within such cultural systems the family unit is absolutely sacrosanct. This is the most natural way of ensuring the continuity of dynasties as well peasant family groups. There are four elements to full Thai Juristic personage with the status of 'Thai Citizen'. They are:-

1. Every legitimate family group, whether Hi-So or Lo-So have a 'Teeding Book'. The land on which families grow their crops is known as a 'Teeding'. The 'Teeding' book has a master page on which the bio data of the head of the family is printed by the Ampur (City Hall). On the succeeding pages the other residents on the 'Teeding' have their bio data entered. The right to live on or work on the land always passes to those that are listed in the 'Teeding Book' when the master is deceased.

2. The master may rent the land (Teeding) or he may own it. If he owns his land he will have a Title Deed which in Thailand is called a 'Cha-Nod'. The 'Cha-Nod' is a sheet a parchment like paper with the crest (Emblem) of the 'Ampur' on it, within whose boundaries the land lies. It will also have a brief description of the land (and the building(s) on it, if any. On the back will be a list of the Master's financial obligations, like mortgages and secured loads and government grants.

3. The master also has a copy of the register of births deaths and marriages of all the people on his land (They are not necessarily all members of his paternal family). Some will be family, others may have worked to land to earn the privilege of being entered into the 'Teeding' whilst yet others may be paying the master a "Rent' to be kept in his "Teeding'. These days this rent is usually 2,000 Baht per month, for as long as their name is in the 'Teeding Book',or as it is commonly called by Thai people 'Nang-Sue Naam Ngern' or 'Blue Book, literally translated as the 'Book Water Money'.

4. All of the people in the Master's 'Teeding Book' are entitled to apply for an Identity Card, in Thai a 'Baht-Pra-Cha-Chong'. This is a credit card sized document with summary bio data and a photograph of the holder. A farang should always ask for a copy of this ID if he brings a Thai woman into his home to stay.

If you do not have items 3 and 5 above, you cannot vote, cannot borrow money and cannot get a passport.

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The 'Teeding' system also applies to normal housing developments, because a house is standing on land, even if the footprint of the house extends to every boundary you still need a 'Teeding Book'.

Thousands of 'Teedings' (pieces of agricultural land) in Thailand do not have a Title Deed. The government has been working on a project to grant 'Title' to all 'Teedings' in the Kingdom, that don't already have one. Technically the 'Masters' farming this class of land are squatters. However, they are either living or working on the land and so do have a 'Teeding Book', just as someone who has rented land does. The 'Squatter's' right to use the land has usually passed through several generations of his family before him. At times in the past the so called squatters have served the Nobility well by occupying land that has been vacated by displaced tribal communities that were not essentially Thai.

So; what does all this have to do with bar girls from agrarian 'Teedings'?

First and foremost; it was on the agrarian teeding of yester-year that the Thai family structures evolved, each family member playing active roll in planting, tending and harvesting crops. From about the age of 9 years old and onward until the Master died. Each time a family member left the 'Teeding' the workload on the remaining family members increased. Therefore family member's living away from the Masters teeding would return to help at planting and harvest times. In parts of Thailand, other than the I-san it is just the same. Many Teedings are small and produce little more at harvest time than is needed to feed the family. With little to sell, money therefore, is a scarce commodity on the Teeding. That's where Sin-Sot comes into the equation, though that's another story. Family members, including children work off the Teeding at the quiet times of the growing season. Typically it will be on a neighbor's Teeding if the neighbor's crop has a different growing cycle. Even now in 2006 children will work after school picking chili's or berries for as little as 25 Baht for three hours work. For adults picking is usually done on pay per basket of produce picked. During the day older siblings and often mum too go harvesting for a neighbor whilst the Master stays home tending his Teeding.

Maturing daughters are sometimes cherished as a 'valuable pair of hands'. If there are three daughters, one or two of them may be viewed as a potential source of Sin-Sot (Dowry) or as a potential bar girl. If a daughter goes into the bar girl business she will have to send money home from time to time, usually monthly (In addition to her monthly 'rent' to be in the Teeding Book if she is not a blood relative of the Master), in order to maintain her position in the pecking order, and keeping an eye on her future assets, or sometimes simply obeying the commands of the Master. If for example she goes AWOL the Master may remove her from the Teeding Book. If that happens she has lost the ability to renew her ID card and will have to endure all of the problems that come with that. Thousands of Teedings today continue to rely on manual labor and/or water buffalo. The situation has been improving quite rapidly for some years now but has a long way to go before it is acceptable.

To summarize I must stress that your girl friends teeding and family will always be foremost in her mind. There is little a farang can do to interfere with her obligations, ambitions or dreams of succession in respect to her family unit and her fathers (or mothers) teeding. This will usually hold true even if you have bought a house (or another Teeding) in her name. Her tie to the teeding and her family is very similar to that of the son of a Scottish Laird, in respect to his Clan and his father's Castle.

Stickman's thoughts:

It's all in the teeding…

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