Puey Ungphakorn

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Puey UngphakornMBE (Thai: ป๋วย อึ๊งภากรณ์, RTGS: Puai Uengphakon; IPA[pǔaj ʔɯ́ŋ.pʰāː.kɔ̄ːn]Chinese: 黃培謙; pinyinHuáng Péiqiān;[3] 9 March 1916 – 28 July 1999) was a Thai economist who served as Governor of the Bank of Thailand and Rector of Thammasat University. He was the author of From Tomb to Womb: The Quality of Life of a South-East Asian, which to date remains one of the most influential writings about social security in Thailand.

Puey Ungphakorn
ป๋วย อึ๊งภากรณ์
Governor of the Bank of Thailand
In office
11 June 1959 – 15 August 1971
Preceded byJote Guna-Kasem
Succeeded byBisudhi Nimmanhaemin
Rector of Thammasat University
In office
30 January 1975 – 8 October 1976
Preceded byAdul Wichiencharoen
Succeeded byNongyao Chaiseri(acting)
Personal details
Born9 March 1916
Bangkok, Siam
Died28 July 1999(aged 83)
London, United Kingdom
Spouse(s)Margaret Smith (m. 1946)
ChildrenJon UngpakornPeter UngpakornGiles Ji Ungpakorn
Alma materAssumption College, BangkokUniversity of Moral and Political Sciences (LL.B)London School of Economics (BScPh.D.)
WebsiteThe Centennial Anniversary of Prof. Dr. Puey Ungphakorn
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
 Free Thai Movement
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1942–1945
UnitWhite Elephants, Force 136[2]
Battles/warsOperation Appreciation (1944)
AwardsMember of the Order of the British Empire, Military Division

Born to a Thai Chinese family, Puey was a graduate of the first class of Thammasat University,[a] teaching as a lecturer of French until winning a scholarship to study economics at the London School of Economics in 1938. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War, when he joined the Free Thai resistance movement opposed to the pro-Japanese military regime of Plaek Phibunsongkhram. He was captured as a prisoner of war in 1944 after parachuting into Chai Nat Province on a reconnaissance mission.

Puey completed his studies after the war, receiving a doctorate in 1948.[2] He joined the Ministry of Finance in 1949, serving in a progression of senior posts before becoming central bank governor in 1959. At 43, and serving for over 12 years, until 1971, Puey is to date both the youngest person appointed as, and the longest serving, Governor of the Bank of Thailand.[2] As governor, he played a central role in shaping Thailand‘s economic development policies during the governments of Field Marshals Sarit Dhanarajata and Thanom Kittikachorn. He also was a proponent of financial co-operation in Southeast Asia, leading to the establishment of regional financial and institutions such as SEACAN. He was awarded the Magsaysay Award in the field of government service in 1965.

An active academic, Puey was simultaneously Dean of the Faculty of Economics of Thammasat University from 1964 to 1972.[4] In 1975 he was appointed Rector of Thammasat University, but resigned in protest following the massacre of student protesters on 6 October 1976. Tarred by nationalists as a leftist subversive, he was subsequently forced to flee the country for fear of his is safety, residing in the United Kingdom until his death in 1999.


Early life and educationEdit

Puey was born the fourth child of an immigrant Chinese fishmonger and a second generation Thai-Chinese mother, with ancestry from Raoping.[3] In 1934 he was among the first group of students to enrol at the newly opened Thammasat University, from which he graduated in 1937. After having briefly worked as a translator, Puey earned a government scholarship to study economics at the London School of Economics in 1938.

Free Thai movementEdit

Thailand joined the Second World War on the side of the Axis in January 1942, following its invasion by Japan the previous month and the subsequent decision of Thailand’s military ruler, Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhramto ally with rather than resist the Japanese invaders. Puey’s studies were as a result interrupted, and he joined the Free Thai Movement resisting the pro-Japanese government, helping to organise the movement in the United Kingdom.[2] Puey was commissioned as a Captain into the British Army and underwent vigorous training with the Special Operations Executive, In November 1944 he parachuted into Chai Nat Province in northern Thailand as part of Operation APPRECIATION, intended to establish contact with the influential and anti-Japanese politician Pridi Banomyong. He was captured almost immediately, and remained technically a prisoner of war until the Japanese surrender in September 1945, though he in fact made contact with Free Thai members of the Thai police and was able to work with them from his jail cell.

After the war, Puey was promoted to the rank of Major[5] in the British forces and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. He resumed his studies, having won a Leverhulme Trust scholarship, and in 1948 received a doctorate in economics from the London School of Economics, becoming one of the first Thais to do so.[4]

Government serviceEdit

Ministry of FinanceEdit

In 1949 Puey became an economist in the Ministry of Finance. In 1953 he was appointed managing director of the National Economic Council.[4]

Bank of ThailandEdit

In 1953, Puey was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand.[4] Upon becoming governor in 1959, Puey quickly attracted the attention of international agencies, foreign governments, and the international financial community for the integrity of his financial planning and management. His international stature was recognised ceremoniously in 1964 when he became the first Thai to receive the Magsaysay Award for public service. Equally important, this international recognition gave him an influence with Field Marshals Sarit ThanaratThanom Kittikachorn, and their cohorts which far exceeded his bureaucratic position. They sought his aid and advice as a troubleshooter for Thailand’s monetary interests, particularly in matters they had botched or in which they were suspected to have their own private interests, such as remedying Sarit’s mishandling of Thailand’s participation on an international tin council and preventing a kickback scandal over the foreign printing of Thailand’s currency.

Other positionsEdit

After stepping down as central bank governor, Puey was appointed to the un-elected National Legislative Assembly established under the interim constitution of December 1972 in the aftermath of Thanom’s 1971 auto-coup. After Thanom’s junta was ousted in a popular uprising in 1973, Puey was chosen by caretaker prime minister Sanya Dharmasakti, who had also served as Rector of Thammasat University, to chair the government’s Economic Advisory Council.[4] He served in both posts until Sanya’s ministry was succeeded by the elected government of Seni Pramoj following elections in 1975.

Academic careerEdit

In 1966 Puey became the dean of the Faculty of Economics at his alma mater, Thammasat University, where his work with the Rockefeller Foundation and with foreign scholars dramatically upgraded the training of Thailand’s future technocrats. He also instituted a long-term research project on raising the productivity and economic level of Thai villagers. It was during this period that he was invited to serve as a visiting professor at both Cambridge and Princeton universities and was appointed to the governing boards of such organisations as the International Council for Educational Development, the East-West Center (EWC), the Asian Institute of Management, and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Puey played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Bangkok-based Asian Institute of Technology (AIT),[6] previously the Graduate School of Engineering of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)[7] in 1967. Dr Puey became the first chairperson of the AIT Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1973.

After the ousting of Thanom’s regime in October 1973, Puey was catapulted into political prominence and, along with M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, was broadly promoted as one of the two major candidates for the post of prime minister in the elected government that would follow the palace-picked interim administration of Sanya Thammasak. However, after a great deal of self-examination, Puey disavowed all interest in such a candidacy and returned to Thammasat, where he was appointed rector. Puey’s explanation was that when he had joined the Free Thai Movement he had taken an oath never to seek or accept political appointment until after reaching the age of retirement. Some have argued, however, that Puey’s withdrawal was based upon his mature understanding of the nature of society and that he had accurately foreseen that the upcoming democratic period would be inherently unstable, dangerous, and short-lived.


Puey Ungphakorn’s relief in the 6 October 1976 Massacre Memorial, Thammasat UniversityBangkok

Despite his service, honesty and international reputation, Puey was branded a communist and “destroyer of unity” by the political right of Thailand. Although he spoke out against the unending student demonstrations of 1975–76 as being both ineffective and self-destructive, and even denied his students any use of the Thammasat campus as a base for mounting public demonstrations, he was nevertheless assigned blame for their occurrence.

On the evening of the bloody 6 October 1976 Massacre, Puey resigned from his position as rector of Thammasat in protest against the bloodbath that had occurred that day on the university campus. Realising he was a marked man, Puey went to Don Mueang airport where he was met by a lynch mob. Only with the help of the Royal Thai Air Force Police, who had been instructed by King Bhumibol‘s privy council office to help him leave, did he evade death and get on a plane bound for London.[8]

While living abroad, Puey met with Thais and influential figures in several countries, including those in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and Australia to speak about the incident and to call for a peaceful transition to democracy in Thailand. In 1977, Puey gave testimonials before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs investigating human rights in Thailand following the incident of 6 October 1976 Massacre.

In September 1977, Puey suffered a haemorrhagic stroke and was confined to a hospital for three months. The illness left Puey with a speech impediment resulting in mumbling speech. He could walk by himself, but was unable to control his right hand. Puey died in London on 28 July 1999.[9]


Puey’s status as a hero derives from several obvious, but special, features of his career and character. His most significant, if paradoxical, attribute was his willingness to work for the Thai bureaucratic establishment and yet maintain his moral independence, intellectual creativity, and sense of social responsibility. His capacity to strike a compromise between what was objectively possible and morally desirable was an extraordinary accomplishment. It had a particular impact on younger people, almost all of whose models have traditionally been either successful rogues who manipulate their social environment for their own advantage or martyrs who succumb to it.

Even more commendable was his deep sense of incorruptibility. Over the years, he held a variety of jobs and served on a number of commissions that, in terms of standard Thai corrupt practices, could have made him a very wealthy man. Further, Puey’s incorruptibility was more than merely passive. As an economist he was keenly aware that official corruption was depriving the Thai treasury of inordinately large sums, and in public addresses and statements he would often include selections of thinly veiled, but cutting, poetic attacks against the specific acts of the very highest government officials.

Puey’s career is also powerful evidence of how education—in contrast to wealth, political power, and connections—could be used to climb the Thai status ladder.[clarification needed][citation needed][who?] In 2015 he was recognised by UNESCO for his high ethical standards.[10]


Military rankEdit

Academic rankEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37704/supplement/4341/data.pdf
  2. a b c d “Prof. Dr. Puey Ungphakorn’s Biography”. Truth Grace and Righteousness: Prof. Dr. Puey Ungphakorn and the Bank of Thailand (PDF). Bangkok, Thailand: Bank of Thailand. 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  3. a b [泰国] 洪林, 黎道纲主编 (April 2006). 泰国华侨华人研究. 香港社会科学出版社有限公司. p. 18. ISBN 962-620-127-4.
  4. a b c d e Panurach, Patiwat (28 February 1996). “The History of Dr. Puey Ungphakorn”Thammasat University Faculty of Economics. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  5. ^https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37704/supplement/4341/data.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.ait.ac.th
  7. ^ Southeast Asia Treaty Organization
  8. ^ David van Praagh. Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy. Holmes & Meier (1996).
  9. ^ Kongrut, Anchalee (9 March 2016). “Unforgettable Puey Ungphakorn”Bangkok Post. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  10. ^ “Unesco lauds Puey for ‘ethics'”. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  11. ^https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37704/supplement/4341/data.pdf
  12. ^http://www.ratchakitcha.soc.go.th/DATA/PDF/2508/D/092/2586.PDF
  13. ^ (in Thai) รายชื่อคณะกรรมาธิการ Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.


  1. ^ Known as the University of Moral and Political Sciences (Thai: มหาวิทยาลัยวิชาธรรมศาสตร์และการเมือง; RTGSMahawitthayalai Wicha Thammasat Lae Kanmueang) until 1952.

External linksEdit

Last edited 3 months ago by Mr Tan


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