History of Ministry of Interior

The job description of the Ministry of Interior has evidently appeared in the history of Thailand’s administration since Sukhothai was the first kingdom, around 1257 to the Ayutthaya period, where civil administration had been organised in the form of “Jatusadom (The Four Columns)” (Mueang, Wang, Klang, Na). Krom Mueang was responsible for local governing, maintaining peace, and administering civilians until the reign of Somdej Phra Borommatrailokkanat around 1463 that set the Department of Interior to oversee civil administration passed down to the early Rattanakosin era.

It could be said that the establishment of Ministry of Interior in 1892, was the first time gathering interior works into one place explicitly. Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab described when he was the Minister of Interior that working procedures and regulations had been lack of distinctness. The tasks overlapped with other agencies as well as the ourtdated process of operation. His Majesty Chulalongkorn assigned Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab to revive all aspects in the Ministry of Interior.

Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab had improved various features such as amending the regulation of working, removing the practice that officials had to work at the house of minister, cancelling the tradition that the ministers kept the seal at home, identifying the rule of inspection at the provinces, setting up city hall in each province. Especially, he had initiated the working concept for the Ministry of Interior to focus on making the country stay well in peace by upholding the country not only during the war but also in the normal situation. Moreover, he had proceeded to integrate as well as set up various originally was distributed to 3 ministries, to direct to the Ministry of Interior in order to meet the royal intention of King Chulalongkorn.

However, in general, organising, procedure and personnel must be adjusted to the contemporary social trend, both domestically and globally. The focus is mainly at people and national interest. A variety of responsibilities must be clearly defined to avoid confusion from service providers and recipients. Fast and effective are the key of service. From now on, the future will be systemically paved by policy and planning. Practitioners and personnel in all levels in Ministry of Interior are developed for quality, attitude, and behaviour to be a new generation aimed at working for public.

The establishment of the Ministry of Interior

The first problem of composing “History of Interior” is the definition of “Mahad Thai”. The names of government agencies in Thailand sometimes couldn’t find the true meaning such as “Mahad Thai”, “Kalahom” (Defence), and “Plum Pung”. The latter department had been under the Ministry of Interior as well.

The meanings of the terms, “Mahad Thai” and “Kalahom” had been defined by many people. Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab also explained but there is still no definite conclusion although the duties of both ministries have been the same. Ministry of Defence has the duty to protect the nation. The Ministry of Interior has the duty to govern and preserve the nation. The first one “fight”, but the latter one “maintain” until today.

There are two words in Thai government service using “Mahad” as a prefix;

  • Mahad Thai (Interior)
  • Mahad Lek (Royal Page or Chamberlain)

The ancient Thai language in the Ayutthaya period had another government official’s position starting with “Mahad” as well, called “Mahad Asa”

It was told that in May 1913, His Royal Highness Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab visited southern provinces and received the original royal decree in the period of Phra Chao Suea, Ayutthaya (1703-1708) from Khian Temple at Bang Kaeo, Phatthalung Province. It’s a Thai Khoi notebook written with a black pencil. There were the images of angel and Buakaew (the seal of Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It was about a story of Provost Inthra asked Phra Chao Suea to patronise temples in Phatthalung city as according to the royal tradition. Phra Chao Suea accepted the request and designated officers to look after temples and monks in Phatthalung. Department of Civil Affairs or others couldn’t intervene this designation.

The background of this royal decree appeared in the legend of Satang Phra, Uangtana (those who live on the cape, perhaps Johor or Malacca) had changed from Buddhism to Islam. When they gained more mystic, they attacked Thai border closer to Phatthalung. Citizens in the area were afraid and fled into forests. King of Ayutthaya told the monk to gather people and stayed together as Moo or Tumbon (sub-district). In order to prevent the governor and any departments from disturbing these people to do work other than the royal act, a royal decree had been enacted. Those exempt from government service were called “Ka Prod Kon Tarn” or “Ka Phra” in the later class, called “Lek Wat”, the worker in the temple. Any heads of departments or governors were not allowed to bring these people to work as civil servants and collect tax. The text in the royal decree stated that…

“Moreover, there was a royal order prohibit the marriage and “Mahad Asa” and income that was given” Ka Phra Kalpana or Ka Prod Kon Tarn had got strange rules that disallowed to marry and wasn’t Mahad Asa. The question rose up, how was “Mahad Asa”?

Therefore, we are still confused with the word “Mahad Thai”and “Mahad” as mentioned above. It is necessary to clarify these words. In fact, these words have long been questioned but no one could clarify. There are many historical philosophers such as Somdej Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupab and Luang Wichit Wathakan. His Highness had various explanations. The followings are the opinions that put together here in order to be a place for further research.

Opinion 1: The ideas of His Majesty Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanubhab


The founder of the modern Thai Interior and the history had given the long explanation to Phraya Indra Montri who asked him as can be seen from his fifth question about the sources of “Kalahom” and “Plum Pung”. “Mahad Thai” must be added as it was used with Kalahom. These three words are not Thai, probably from Sanskrit or Bihar (Pali). From doing research, “Kalaho” was found in Pali dictionary of Professor Silder, means “Quarrel”, “Strife” and “Battle” which seemed to get along with the mission of ministry.

Another word is “Mahadaya”, means “very compassionate” and “very merciful”, got along with the name of civil department. Only two words were found for Plum Pung. “Plum” means “strength, power, force, and “army, troop”. “Ambho” means pepple. If these two words were combined, it would be “Plumbho” which is very close to Plum Pung. Due to Feudal Enactment, Plum Pung was appeared both in Ministry of Interior and Defence.

Phraya Cha Saenyobodi was the director of Plum Pung Department, Ministry of Interior. Phraya Sri Saowaratpakdi served as the director of Plum Pung Department, Ministry of Defence. I once asked senior officials in the Ministry of Interior. They said that in the past, it was used for officers who controlled artillery. Therefore, Plum Pung may be derived from “Plumbho”. “Ambho” that means “pebble” probably refers to the bullets.

The reasons that the words “Mahad Thai” and “Kalahom” have been used as the department’s name are explained in the royal chronicles of the Ayutthaya period and the feudal law. In 1998, King Borommatrailokkanat separated civil servants into “Military” and “Civilian” and appointed two Akkara Maha Senabodi. Chao Phraya Maha Senabodi served as the head of military service. Chao Phraya Chakri served as the head of civil service. Staffs and assistants of Akkara Maha Senabodi gathered as “the Department of Defence”. Staffs and assistants of Akkara Maha Senabodi gathered as “the Department of Interior”. The word, ministry has just used in the reign of King Rama V.

Hence, “Mahad Thai” perhaps came from “Mahadaya” which means “very compassionate” and “very merciful”, that perfectly matched with the duties of the interior.

Opinion 2: Opinions of Luang Wichitwathakan

Major-General Luang Wichitwathakan, the key historian of Thailand had demonstated that “… whether the names of kings in this dynasty (Sukothai) or actions had been related to the sun (athit or uthai). The first king named Sri Indrathit. Capital city was called Sukothai (Suk+Uthai) Names of other kings like Lerthai, Lithai, Sailuethai, all emerged from “Uthai”.

Besides, we, Thai people migrated from China. We did do hair as same as Chinese people in the past and dressed hair after the foundation of Sukothai with the circle in the middle on head and shaved off the hair around, looked like the sun (athit or uthai). This hairstyle was called “Mahad Uthai” before it has been known as “Mahad Thai” at the present.

In conclusion, he assumes that it’s a kind of orthography which is a very serious disease among ancient documents of Thailand that used to continue to copy and extract before the printing of books.

Opinion 3: the proposal of another theory

“Mahad” has been widely analysed. Some people considered the whole term, Mahad Thai and Mahad Lek but when “Mahad” arose, then “Maha” probably be the position. To separate the vocabulary, Vocabulary – Mahad Maha + Ata (ancient people normally write “Mahat”) according to the translation in the Royal Institute Dictionary, 1950.

Maha = Big

At = Identity

When combined these two words will get the word,“Mahad” which refers to powerful person.

It could be seen that “Mahad” refers to those who are appointed to be senior officers. When we knew the meaning of Mahad, Mahad Thai, Mahad Lek and Mahad Asa could be defined as follows.

  1. Mahad Thai

Only the word “Thai” means powerful or independence, Mahad Thai means “senior officials who are independent enough to administer with their authority” (as assigned from their chief). That is, having the power to issue orders or to act to solve problems immediately in all cases by them and they must be bound to take responsibility for that practice as well, it seems to match with the current duty of the Interior officials.

  1. Mahad Lek

Only the word “Lek” was written as a leg. Understand that he would probably add later. The old vocabulary would be “Mahad Lake”. Lak is an ancient language meaning able-bodied people or servants. Therefore, Mahad Lak is senior government official responsible for the King which corresponds to the current duties of the Chamberlain. It was not that the interior officials were senior and chamberlains were junior officers since there was few numbers of chamberlains in Thailand. There are also chamberlains with greater power than interior officials. Even during the reign of King Rama 5, chamberlains in royal court had been set, as a popular royal practice in the reign of King Rama 6.

  1. Mahad Asa

The word, “Asa” in dictionary means volunteer or apply. “Mahad Asa”, thus, refers to senior officials or those who were designated to work or volunteered to do specific work and would probably be civil servants for specific matters. When the job is finished, then they may be out of duty. Therefore, according to the royal decree about the people of Phatthalung province, I’m afraid that those Ka Phra Kon Tarn would flee to asa to do any other government service (when they were bored.). There will be no workers of temples as prescribed by the Royal Decree Therefore, it was forbidden to become Mahad Asa. This word or position of Mahad Asa, could be seen in many Asa positions, such as the position of a scout in the reign of King Rama 6. At present, there are still Asa positions in many positions, such as Asa, protecting the land, volunteer scouts, and Red Cross volunteers. It is observed that Maha Asa had been disappeared while Mahad Thai (Interior) and Mahad Lek (chamberlain) have been existing until the present. This is reasonable. Mahad Thai and Mahad Lek are civil servants but Maha Asa had only been honourably designed by His Majesty for particular important missions.

As a consequence, the dignity of this great position caused Maha Asa to expire quickly because when there were significant tasks, the regular civil servants would quickly hurry to volunteer to do it themselves. That is if something happened within the royal court, the chamberlain would do. If it occurred in general, Interior officials would probably take them all. Refused to allow outsiders to accept volunteering as Maha Asa because it could be considered a sign of their inferiority and disrespect themselves. Maha Asa then ceased.

Opinion 4: Interesting opinion

Kanchanakphan had written that Mahad Thai that “Mahad” may be from “Mahat” in Sanskrit which means ‘great’. Mahad Thai means Royal Thai, is a name of ministry that has duty in governing.

Mahad Thai is one of the most prevalent names in the administrative sphere of Siam. This name is used for the first time in a royal criminal law King U-Thong of Ayutthaya period, 1352. It was stated that “and sue thieves to the court, Thammarong, interior, the governor, the supervisor called”. Later, it was found in the law of robbers, issued in 1360, “Section one, Thammarong of Interior took the prisoner and gave the Banda as a fugitive. He was ordered to hurry to find. If he couldn’t do, punish the careless officials instead”. “Mahad Thai” appeared for the first time in King U-Thong reign, the first king of Ayutthaya dynasty that seemed to refer to a prison guard.

The word ‘Mahad Thai’ was noticeable in the royal law 1459, In the King’s Borommatrailokkanat era, many places had mentioned, “If the quartermaster didn’t prohibit, he must be punished in three ways, to pakiyadham, send to the Interior, send to royal guard to prison” “Any juror argued to quartermaster had three penalties. Firstly, send the Interior, send the guard, and ancient criminal penalty consisting of cutting grass for the royal elephants” “Public prosecutors, civilian jury groups, military personnel, criminal penalties and elephants, horses, tusks, sailboats under the law and Interior officials” From the text in the royal law, although this is not exactly described but it provided enough to make three assumptions;

  1. Civil service in the early Ayutthaya period had 2 parts.

(A) Civil service in His Majesty as royal guard

(B) Government service as Interior

  1. Government service divided into 2 parties.

The military is a defence official. The civilian is the Interior staff.

  1. The Interior is responsible for elephants.

The royal law was the law issued in the reign of Somdej Phra Boromtrilokkanat as the 9th King after King U-Thong. But the words in the royal law are in an old language; even more ancient when compared to the laws issued in the era of King U-Thong. For example, calling the king “the throne hall”, which is the most ancient Thai language, as old as Egypt, the most oldest and prosperous nation. Egypt called the king Pharoah, which we often read as Pharaoh. This word is derived from the word “Prao” or “Paroue”, meaning “Big House” that is Royal palace. This is matched to “throne hall” in Thailand. In addition, the word “Phae – ra” or “Phrara” is probably the same word as “Pra”, which is the Prang Pra or Phla Phlab of Thailand. The languages in the royal law corresponds to the Egyptian language like this naturally proves that the words and expressions in the royal law are very old. This means the royal law had been implemented for very long times, not just started in the reign of King Boromtrailokkanat. It was probably fragmented and His Majesty only gathered and organised. Therefore, Mahad Thai or the interior wasn’t just Phathammarong as shown in the royal criminal law but served in the civil service since the earliest times and that duty greatly related to elephants as well.

The royal law provided many provisions about elephants, for example, trapping, riding, finding, feeding, hurting elephants and the royal ceremonies on elephants, in which these elephants are seen as not only a part of the royal service but also as a civil service, such as the reward of warfare, the victory of elephant fighting was major achievement. From the 10,000 feudal forces down to the very lowest servants must be rewarded respectively. The Interior was commissioned with elephants, both the royal service and civil service. We should assume the definition of Mahad Thai from the story of elephants. The elephant will be discussed firstly. If we read Thai history, we will find two stories of the most prominent elephants. The one is King Naresuan the Great. The great elephant defeated King Maha Uparacha during the Ayutthaya period. Once again, King Ramkhamhaeng the Great won the victory of Khun Samachon, the governor of Chod, in the Sukhothai period. These two stories illustrate the merit of elephants in saving the city and the ability of Thailand to use elephants in warfare. The royal warfare of King Naresuan and King Ramkhamhaeng reflected us the picture of our ancient elephant army that would be truly enormous as described in various books. The War Elephants consisted of elephants in different functions. Elephants lining the four paths arranged in front of, at the back, and beside the King as a royal civilisation looked so majestic and terrifying.

War elephant and elephant army as mentioned, reminded us why there had been so many provision on elephants in the royal law prior to the age of Sukothai, as prescribed in the inscriptions stone that “…I rode the elephant to fight with him, Khun Samchon until he lost …” Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanubhab, the Father of History assumed that Thailand had received the methods of taming an elephant from India since the Lawo period. This is undoubtedly the truth. India is the birthplace of liberal arts and a large source of elephants since ancient times. The Indians searched for knowledge on the forced use of elephants in battle. The ancient Indian army was organised into 9 groups, arranged in ascending order. In the same way Thailand arranged the army, 100 to 1000 (battalion) today. Each division consists of four Sena, called “Jaturongha Sena”. There were elephants, horses and infantry-man. The first division had 1 elephant, 1 horse, 3 Sena 5 infantry-men and then multiplied by 3 per division respectively. In particular the eighth division had 2187 elephants. The ninth division had 21870 elephants ridden by the senior sena. Therefore, there is a textbook on the practice of using elephants as a science called “Kotchadhama” (Kotch = elephant). Those who experienced in controlling elephants were regarded as a very important person. Siam is a place where eastern indian, Ongkarat contacted for trade since the ancient times. Indian immigrants had also taught these methods to Siamese. The king and all the generals had to learn these methods to train elephants into the army. Krom Phraya Damrong Rajanupap had written a story about trapping an elephant in an archaeological story. Readers may be able to see that trapping elephants is one of the most important of the Thai nation in ancient times. From the north to the south of Thailand, they had caught elephant for some purposes. “Phon Phisai” is a city in the north of Thailand is likely to be a place of “Phon” “Wang Phong” should be “Wang Chang” (Elephant Palace). Kedah of Saiburi, the southern part of Thailand since ancient times was the place where elephants were caught by ancient Thai methods (pa-nied). Each area had their own language to catch elephants, called “Suay Chang” in which there were a lot of common words in ancient Thai language and the advantages of elephants as evidence shown earlier. The royal law had to identify about it as well as the king and all related positions needed to know how to deal with elephants in every aspects. The Nakhon Chum inscription stone of Phraya Luethai (Phra Ruang the 4th) mentioned that riding an elephant is basically knowledge of Thai people regarded that everyone needed to learn for the benefit of general civil service. In the absence of war, there were royal ceremonies set forth in royal court rules, such as royal ceremonies in the field in the 5th months, standing marquee, standing elephants, luring pan-phan, police riding elephants and chasing horses, Khun Chang riding an elephant, and then walked by a procession of elephants and horses passing in front of the throne. There were also various amusement theatres.

In the early Rattanakosin period, elephants are also important in the war. The traditions of elephants have probably been passed down since ancient times. Elephants are still priceless to date.

From the story of elephants as described, we would see how important elephants had been to the nation. Ancient Thai people are well aware of the importance of them. Elephants are a favourite of the royal family in India. If we close our eyes, imagine a Thai elephant We will see the son of Khun Sri Intharathit, King Ramkhamhaeng, riding an elephant fluently since childhood and the Ramkhamhaeng drove the Nekapon elephant attacking the elephant of Chod’s governor, Ruja Srisatthan, grandchild of Khum Mueang Sai, crashed Khun Jung, Somdej Akbar the Great, who was able to ride an in-rut elephant that no one could get close to as well as countless royal ceremonies that elephants played a key role.

The popularity of India in ancient times often called Sena Amat, a high-ranking general, “Maha Ammat”. This is a Sanskrit word translated as “big pillar” meaning that people with intelligence, knowledge, and ability are respected as a chief. When compared with Thailand, it is close to the word “elders” and if compared to the rank, it seems to be what we call Sena Ammat or senior nobleman, also probably the same Indian word, “Maha Mat”. The word “Mahamat” is a praising word that refers to a master in elephant with ability to drive an elephant very well. It is revered as a great important person. As mentioned above, this “Maha Mat” came to be called in Hindu language as “Mahawat”, meaning an expert in driving elephants directly to the Indians are the leader of elephant subject to Lawa in Thailand. In this regard, it is completely believed that the word “Mahawat” is used to refer to the elephant riding expert as is popularly known in India. The word “Mahawat” is probably the term used to refer to Thai elephant pilots since ancient times, but the word “Mahawat” is an Indian word. Regarding the written languages, as it is written now, it can be read directly as “Mahawat”, but if speaking in Indian pronunciation India, which speaks quickly, the word “Mahawat” may sounds “Mahaat”. This sound “Mahaat” had later become “Mahad” in Thai. The evidence to be cited in this verse is that there is a word MAHOUT of a foreigner used in ancient India referring to the elephant rider as well. The word “MAHOUT” also comes from the word “Maha Wat”. Westerners would listen to the Indians say “Maha Wat” as quickly as the Indian normally speaks. Therefore, they wrote this word, distorted by what they had heard that is similar to Thai, which is MAHOUT (pronounced Mahao) and used as a term for elephant riders in India. Mahawat or Mahat, which are derived from the word “Maha Mat” of India, became MAHOUT in Western language and became “Mahad” in Thai language. In ancient times, the word Mahad would use in Lawa Thai people as a praise for calling an expert elephant driving. In those days, every Sena and high royal aristocracy must be an expert in driving elephants because everyone must go to wars. Sena Ammat, a high-ranking royal servant, is all known as the “Mahad”. This is to accept the discipline of “Mahawatra” from “Mahamat”, which is a praise to the Sena Amat class. This had been highly popular in India because of their expertise in elephants. The Indian teachers are called “Mahad” meanwhile Thai students are called “Mahad” as well. So, there would be two groups of “Mahad” in the ancient Lawa period, a true Indian who were principals and the other one is Thai, namely Sena, the royal officials. Therefore, there should be a try to differentiate the words by calling the Thai people who are Sena Ammat, “Mahad Thai” which means that they are “Mahad” that is “Thai”. The word “Mahad Thai” had then arisen as mentioned in the beginning. Main force of Thailand is at the Elephant army. The King is the elephant army’s commander. Sena, royal family also mastered in elephant riding. Those officials who worked for royal activities of the king would have to intimate with the king, they were call “Leg” or “Lek”. The new name called “Mahad Leg” or “Mahad Lek”, meaning “Mahad” who served as “Lek”. The word “Mahad Lek” then arises for royal guards. Later, the word “Mahaleg” would be distorted into “Mahad Lek” and refers to royal civil servants as used today. In the later days, the word “Mahad Thai” changed its meaning probably because Sena Ammat in the past had no routine duty, only go to war and the king assigned during the free time. All of them were “Mahad Thai” because they were experts in riding elephants for the royal war ceremony. When those “Mahad Thai” had to perform as civil service during normal time, “Mahad Thai” then became the chief of civil service. Key task of civil service was provincial administration that required “Mahad Thai” who the king relied on to inspect. Thus, “Mahad Thai” had broader duty of civil service. All provincial affairs were completely under “Mahad Thai”. “Mahad Thai” originally referred to a person who served as senior nobleman or Sena Ammat. The term “Mahad Thai” then spread widely in government affairs from ancient times.

Typically, the administration has a hierarchy. Those assigned to govern must be honoured, causing the use of ranks and titles. Subsequently, every “Mahad Thai” will receive a royal title, high or low depending on their position and duty. The use of ranks and titles had gradually replaced the use of “Mahad Thai”. This variation happened before the Sukhothai period. In the Sukhothai period, the term “Mahad Thai” was not found. To sum up once again, “Mahad Thai” since ancient times was praise to the Sena Ammat, those who specialised in elephant riding. It became the civil servants when those Sena Ammat that were alled “Mahad Thai” administered various civil servants in the metropolitan area and the governor of provinces. At first, the term “Mahad Thai” was not a civil service but referred to the individual, namely, Sena.

Finally, the word “Mahad Thai” had generally become the duty of civil service. In the reign of King Boromtrilokkanat, the government regulations had become visible. Previous royal laws had been collected and organised similar to the constitutions as well as enacted the act of feudal civilian and provincial feudalism. That was similar to the amendment act of ministry and department. “Mahad Thai” has become the administrative civil service. From Sukhothai to U-Thong period, soldiers were the defence officials while civilians were Mahad Thai (interior) officials as shown in the royal law. Additionally, “Mahad Thai” formerly involved with elephants so they were elephant staffs in civil farming law. Head of civil service was Samuha Nayok, namely, Chao Phraya Chakri Si Ongkharak Akhasenathibadi Apaipiripra Krom Phahu Akka Rajarsi with 10000 of feudal. Luang Ammatyathibordi Siriyaphahu served as the Northern Interior (Mahad Thai). Luang Cha Saen Bodi Sri Boriban served as the Central Interior. There was no Southern division of Interior, this means inner provinces merely consisted of the north. Krom Chang (Department of Elephant) was in charge of house of civil farming. Jang Wang Chang was Phra Petrachathibordi Srisuriyapichart Ongkasamuha Phra Kotchabarn with 50,000 of feudal. During the reign of Rama V in Rattanakosin dynasty, His Majesty had laid down the regulations and rearranged the administration. “Mahad Thai”, which in ancient times means the expert in elephant riding, was used as to praise the elder Sena. Finally, it has become a ministry with a majority of civil service functions, the so-called, Ministry of Interior (Kra-suang Mahad Thai) as the president of the civil service in the area of governance at the present.


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