A monthon (Thai: มณฑล, from Sanskrit maṇḍala, literally "circle") was a country subdivision of Thailand in the beginning of the 20th century. The Thai word 'monthon' is a translation of the word Mandala. These were created as a part of the thesaphiban (เทศาภิบาล - literally translates to control over territory) bureaucratic administrative system, introduced by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab. Together with the monthon also the still existing provinces (changwat), districts (amphoe) and communes (tambon) were established step by step nationwide. Each monthon was led by a royal commissioner also called thesaphiban. The system was officially adopted by the 1897 Local Administration Act, after some monthon were established before and the details of administration were tried out.
Before the thesaphiban reforms, the country consisted of partially independent cities named Mueang, some directly subordinate of the capital, some subordinate of larger Mueang or of one of the tributary kingdoms. Before the reforms the governors lived on taxes they collected in their area and inherited the governor post within their family. These were converted into a normal official post, paid by the central government, and the Mueang developed into provinces. The term changwat for the provinces was first used in 1907 for the provinces in Monthon Pattani, and in 1916 it became in general use.
It took till around 1910 that the system was implemented in the whole country. The main reason for the slow implementation was the lack of suitable educated officials, but also the resistance of the traditional local leaders. In 1902, local revolts broke out in Isan, often led by charismatic religious leaders called Phu Me Boon ผู้มีบุญ) or Phi Bun ผีบุญ Holy man). One of the most serious of these rebellions (Prakot Kan Pi Bun ปรากฏการณ์ผีบุญ) recalled the resistance toThonburi authority by the monk Chao Phra Faang, 1768–1770. A former monk and Phu Mi Bun in the Ubon Ratchathani area headed a millenarian sect inspired by his predictions of 'apocalyptic' vision. His apocalyptic prophecy created panic among almost all of the Isan people until the Bangkok government eventually crushed it.
In 1915 there were 19 monthon containing 72 provinces, however due to economic problems several monthon were merged in 1925, monthon Phetchabun was already dissolved in 1915. Only 14 monthon remained: Chanthaburi, Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Sawan, Pattani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachinburi, Phayap, Phitsanulok, Phuket, Ratchaburi, Ayutthaya, Udon Thani and Krung Thep (Bangkok). In 1932 another four were abolished - Pattani, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Chaisi and Chanthaburi. Finally in 1933 the whole monthon system was abolished with the Provincial Administration Act B.E. 2476, part of the changes made after the coup d'état which changed the absolute monarchy to a democracy. Since then the 70 provinces were the second level administrative division.
List of monthons
- Phayap (Thai: มณฑลพายัพ): The monthon was originally called North-western monthon (Thai: มณฑลฝ่ายตะวันตกเฉียงเหนือ, monthon fai tawan-tok chiang nua) in 1899, but was renamed to Phayap one year later. The actual administrative reform was established gradually between 1907 and 1915, succeeding the previous high commissionership. It covered the northern principalities of former Lannathai, the provinces Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Chiang Rai, Nan and Phrae.
- Maharat (Thai: มณฑลมหาราษฎร์): The monthon Maharat was created in 1915, when the monthon Phayap was split into two halves. It covered the eastern part of former Phayap, i.e. the provinces Chiang Rai, Nan, Lampang and Phrae.
- Nakhon Sawan (Thai: มณฑลนครสวรรค์): The monthon Nakhon Sawan was created in 1895, and was thus among the first ones created. It covered the provinces Nakhon Sawan, Chainat, Kamphaeng Phet, Manorom, Phayuhakhiri, Sankhaburi, Tak, Uthai Thani.
- Phitsanulok (Thai: มณฑลพิษณุโลก): Monthon Phitsanulok was established in 1894. It covered the provinces Phitsanulok, Phichai, Phichit, Sukhothai, Sawankhalok.
- Phetchabun (Thai: มณฑลเพชรบูรณ์): Monthon Phetchabun was split off from monthon Nakhon Ratchasima in 1899. It consisted of the two provinces Lom Sak and Phetchabun, which were later merged. It then became the only monthon covering a single province. It was temporarily included into the monthon Pitsanulok from 1903-1907, before it was finally abolished in 1915 and incorporated into monthon Phitsanulok.
- Nakhon Ratchasima (Thai: มณฑลนครราชสีมา): Monthon Nakhon Ratchasima was the first monthon to be created in 1893. It covered the provinces Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum. In 1899 the monthon Phetchabun was split off from Khorat.
- Isan (Thai: มณฑลอีสาน): Monthon Isan was established in 1900. In June 1912 it was split into the two parts - monthon Roi-Et and monthon Ubon.
- Roi-Et (Thai: มณฑลร้อยเอ็ด): Monthon Roi-Et was split from monthon Isan in 1912. It contained the provinces Roi Et, Kalasin and Maha Sarakham.
- Ubon (Thai: มณฑลอุบล): Monthon Ubon was split from monthon Isan in 1912. It contained the provinces Ubon Ratchathani, Khukhan, Sisaket and Surin.
- Udon (Thai: มณฑลอุดร): Monthon Udon was established in 1899. It contained the provinces Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Loei, Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai and Sakon Nakhon.
- Phuket (Thai: มณฑลภูเก็ต): Monthon Phuket was established in 1898, succeeding a previously established commissionership. It consisted of the provinces Phuket, Thalang, Ranong, Phang Nga, Takua Pa and Krabi. In 1907 Satun was added when most of the area of monthon Kedah was ceded to Britain.
- Chumphon (Thai: มณฑลชุมพร): Monthon Chumphon was established in 1896 consisting of the provinces Chumphon, Chaiya, Kanchanadit and Lang Suan. Chaiya and Kanchanadit were later merged into one province named Chaiya. In 1905 the monthon administration was moved to Ban Don, the center of Chaiya province. Together with the rename of Chaiya to Surat Thani the monthon got renamed to "Monthon Surat". 1925 the monthon was incorporated into monthon Nakhon Si Thammarat.
- Nakhon Si Thammarat (Thai: มณฑลนครศรีธรรมราช): Monthon Nakhon Si Thammarat was established in 1896, consisting of the provinces Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phattalung.
- Pattani (Thai: มณฑลปัตตานี): Monthon Pattani was created in 1906, and covered the so-called Seven Malay Provinces Pattani (Tani), Yala, Sai Buri, Yaring, Nong Chik, Raman, Ra-ngae.
- Kedah (Thai: มณฑลเกดะห์); later Syburi (Thai: มณฑลไทรบุรี): Monthon Kedah was established in 1897. It covered the provinces Kedah, Perlis and Satun. In 1907 Kedah was ceded to Britain, Satun as the only remaining province was added to monthon Phuket.
- Krung Thep (Bangkok; Thai: มณฑลกรุงเทพ): The area around the capital was under the control of the ministry of Urban Affairs, however a similar administration was established with the monthon Krung Theb in 1897. It consisted of the provinces Phra Nakhon, Thon Buri, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phra Pradaeng (Nakhon Khueankhan), Samut Prakan, Thanyaburi, Min Buri. Pathum Thani and Thanyaburi later transferred to monthon Ayutthaya. In 1915 it was renamed to Krung Thep Phra Maha Nakhon (Bangkok Metropolis). In 1922 the ministry of Urban Affairs was dissolved and put under the Ministry of Interior, like all the other monthon.
- Ayutthaya (Thai: มณฑลอยุธยา: Monthon Ayutthaya was created in 1893 as Monthon Krung Kao (Thai: มณฑลกรุงเก่า), consisting of the provinces Ayutthaya (then called Krung Kao), Ang Thong, Lop Buri, Phrom Buri, Sara Buri.
- Ratchaburi (Thai: มณฑลราชบุรี): Monthon Ratchaburi was created in 1895 and covered the provinces Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi, Samut Songkhram, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
- Nakhon Chai Si (Thai: มณฑลนครชัยศรี): Monthon Nakhon Chai Si was established in 1895, consisting of the provinces Nakhon Chai Si, Samut Sakhon and Suphan Buri.
- Prachinburi (Thai: มณฑลปราจีนบุรี): Monthon Prachinburi was established in 1893, covering the provinces Prachin Buri, Chachoengsao, Nakhon Nayok and Phanom Sarakham.
- Burapa (Thai: มณฑลบูรพา): Monthon Burapha was established in 1903, and covered the provinces Sisophon, Battambang, Phanomsok and Siamriap, all in modern day Cambodia. In 1906 the area was ceded to French Indochina.
- Chanthaburi (Thai: มณฑลจันทบุรี): Monthon Chanthaburi was established in 1906, covering the provinces Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat. The monthon was created just after the area of monthon Burapa was ceded, and the French returned the province Trat to Thai authority.
The larger monthon Phayap, Udon Thani and Isan had an additional administrative level between monthon and provincial administration. Three to five boriwen (บริเวณ), each administrated by a commissioner (khaluang boriwen, ข้าหลวงบริเวณ).
- Tej Bunnag (1977). The provincial administration of Siam, 1892-1915: the Ministry of the Interior under Prince Damrong Rajanubhab. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195803434.
- History of the Bangkok Metropolitan Council
- Mandala (Southeast Asian history)
- Subdivisions of Thailand
- Former provinces of Thailand
- Twentieth century impressions of Siam its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources, with which is incorporated an abridged edition of Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya. Editor in chief: Arnold Wright. Assistant editor: Oliver T. Breakspear. London: Lloyds Greater Britain Publishing Company. 1908. Library of Congress classification: DS565.W7. The subject is survey and map making in Siam, and gives the rationale for land control without mentioning the monthon system directly. Open Library
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