For reasons of protection and efficient administration, village houses are commonly arranged in compact groupings. Most houses are elevated on stilts to avoid flooding and unwelcome animal intruders.
Moreover, the stilts give an added sense of security since they make burglary more difficult.
Security considerations aside, villagers are also more comfortable in their raised homes than they would be on the ground, since the elevation improves air circulation and keeps the house cool.
The open area beneath the house serves as a ‘basement’ for storing farm implements and constitutes the sleeping quarters for the household’s buffalo, pigs and poultry. During the day, it is the coolest part of the house, providing welcome shade for basketry, spinning, weaving, pounding rice or simply enjoying a nap.
A small wooden granary, also built on stilts, is often found beside the house along with large earthenware jars containing rain-water for drinking purposes. Since most villages have neither electricity nor running water, water for washing and cooking is drawn from canals, rivers or ponds, or, in and northeastern areas, from communal wells.
The village school, communal spirit house and wat are located on the village outskirts. The school and temple are sometimes adjacent, sometimes at opposite ends of the village. To give monks maxi-mum privacy and seclusion, the wat com-pound is often separated from the village by an open field that serves as the village common where cattle graze and children play games, kick balls and fly kites.
Village wells are often situated in this area, as may be the village store – a rudimentary wooden emporium selling basic necessities such as tobacco, canned milk, matches, sugar, soap, kerosene, toothpaste, mirrors, pens and paper- and the village tea stall, normally a simple sheltered counter selling beverages and soft drinks, a local meeting place and hive of news and gossip.
Commonly, the school is a simple, unpainted wooden building, often a single, elevated room and a broad verandah. Many classes are held outdoors. An essential piece of school ‘furniture’ is the flagpole upon which the Thai flag is ceremoniously raised each school morning and lowered in the evening.
The village temple reflects the village’s wealth. Constructed and maintained largely by local donations, the temple usually takes the form of a simple walled or fenced enclave composed of a plain whitewashed stone chapel for ordinations and sermons, wooden monks’ quarters and wooden, open-sided, elevated pavilions used for meditation classes and meetings. During periods of prosperity, the wat is embellished with tiles, carvings and other decorations to make it as opulent as village funds allow.
Village leadership and administration
Officially, leadership belongs to the village headman or pu-yai-ban, literally ‘the big man of the house-cluster’. Lowest ranking official in the government hierarchy, the village headman is elected by fellow villagers to act as community representative to the government bureaucracy.
Sharing no political party affiliations, candidates for village headman must be literate Thai male householders resident in the village for at least six months and must be at least 21 years old. Once elected, the
headman enjoys a five-year term. If he retains his villagers' esteem, this may well become a lifetime tenure through repeated re-election.
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Article Added on Sunday, December 20, 2009
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