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Atlas of Thailand

Doryane Kermel-Torrès

Chapter 8. Two peripheral regions: the North-East and the South

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1The North-East (Phak Isan) and the South (Phak Tai) are two of Thailand’s three very distinctive peripheral regions. The North-East is syno- nymous with the Khorat plateau, a remarkable natural unit of almost 170,000 km2 bordered to the north and the east by the Mekong, to the west by the Phetchabun Range and to the south by the Dangrek Range. This is the largest region in the country, a little more extensive than the North but much more densely populated (almost 21 million inhabitants compared with 12 million), in fact one third of the country’s total area and population. The South is the smallest of the three peripheral regions, with almost 71,000 km2 (14 % of the total national area) and little more than 8 million inhabitants (14 % of the national total). This region extends over 600 km, from the very narrowest part of the Thai peninsula between the Gulf of Thailand and Myanmar, to the Taluban Range.

2In the way these two frontier regions are populated and in relations with their own culture and with the Thai nation, they still retain traces of their own histories closely linked with those of the neigh-boring countries. Although their histories have been different, they coincide at the key points that resulted in the later integration of these regions into the Kingdom of Siam. Today, these two peripheral regions are in a position to connect together several areas at the level of continental and maritime South-East Asia (see plate 6 Networks in Eastern Asia).

3Under the influence of the Dvaravati civilization before the 11th century, the North-East came within the sphere of influence of the Khmers and the Empire of Angkor, which declined in the 13th century, leaving behind outposts and religious sanctuaries in the southern part and an established population south of the river Mun (see plate 10 Main ethno-linguistic groups). In the 14th century, Buddhist populations from Laos were established to the north of the plateau and there were outposts from the Lan Chang kingdom in the center (see plate 21 Formation of the nation-state territory). The influx from Laos of opponents to the wars between kingdoms increased at the end of the 17th century and spread into the plateau as a result of the expanding power of the Champassak principality on the north bank of the Mekong. In 1778, the kingdoms of Laos recognized Siamese suzerainty which was at that time confined to the south-west edge of the plateau. The allegiance of the external provinces (hua muang) to the Kingdom of Siam was then through Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima, city with a population made up of Khmers and Siamese speaking Tai Khorat) or the principalities of Vientiane or Cham-passak. At the beginning of the 19th century, Bangkok’s control over Isan was threatened and this led to terrible wars with Vientiane which resulted in the deportation of a large proportion of the Lao population on the plateau (and as far as the center of the country). The Kingdom of Siam then had sovereignty over the territories of the former Lao kingdoms which it later lost to the French colonial empire (see plate 20 Changes in boundaries and frontiers (18th-20th century)).

4The Siamese penetrated earlier into the South (13th century), via Nakhon Si Thammarat, a flourishing local center and outpost in the Malay world, established as a province with a fairly high degree of autonomy. The current eastern provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala and part of Songkhla correspond to what was at that time the Malay sultanate of Patani, an important center of Islam in South-East Asia, which also included Kelantan and Trengganu, today in Malaysia. Linked with Malacca, Patani was a flourishing, cosmopolitan port that succeeded in fending off attacks by the Siamese in the 17th century, before giving in and recognizing the suzerainty of Bangkok in 1786. Rebellions occurred sporadically, especially at the turn of the 19th century, which resulted in Muslims from the region being installed by force in Bangkok and hundreds of Siamese families being settled in Patani. The constant tension led Siam to divide Patani into seven distinct principalities each with a Malay ruler appointed by the King, before grouping them into four, then three provinces with Siamese governors. The Anglo-Thai treaty of 1909 legitimized the incorporation of Patani into the Siamese nation at the same time as it created, on the western side, the province of Satun, henceforward separated from the Sultanate of Kedah which had passed into the hands of the British.

5At the beginning of the 20th century, the application of the provincial administration system thesaphiban to the North-East and the South, placing the entire country under centralized control, gave rise to local resistance, sometimes violent, as was the case, for instance, in the five predominantly Islamic southern provinces (see plate 12 Islam and Christ-ianity) in relation to other measures including the “thaisation” of education. From the 1920s, the policy of integration of these five provinces has varied according to the governments and their view of international relations (especially with Malaysia) and their assessment of the scale of resistance move-ments made up of those who call themselves the Melayu. The ethnic and religious identity, the awareness of a former political independence, also make the South peninsular region a particularly sensitive area. The denigration of distinctive cultural traditions took on other forms (subordination of the local sangha to Siamese monks at the beginning of the 20th century) in the North-East, suspected of separatist intentions and where, in the 1960s and 1970s, communist guerilla movements brought fears that a front was opening up in Thailand. The backwardness in infrastructure provision and in the economy, the poverty, all show another dimension of the “northeastern problem” that robust rural develop-ment programs intended to alleviate: Accelerated Rural Development, widely backed by the USA who had military bases in the region; at the end of the 1980s, Isan Khiao (Green North-East), launched by the army to reforest and install agricultural village infrastructure. At the same time, the raising of the level of education, the confrontation with the outside world (especially as a result of emigration) has helped construct a regional identity for those who consider themselves Khon Isan.

6The physical environment also contributes to the very clear individuality of the two regions (see also plates 7 Relief and hydrographical system and 8 Environment and natural resources). The North-East is a hard environment with soils that are poor and of variable fertility according to topography and vulnerable to salinity, rainfall that is uneven and irregular over time, causing flooding for several weeks (in the valleys) and extreme drought for the rest of the year. In the South, which has a high rainfall and is widely open to the sea, the low eastern coastal side with its alluvial plains contrasts with the rocky, indented western side. The agro-ecological landscapes that express the relationships between units of the biophysical environment and the social groups that exploit them are the subject of case studies: one on the Sakon Nakhon basin, one of the two physical subregions of the North-East (plate 61 Land use in the North-East: Sakon Nakhon province); the other on the eastern side of the South region, between Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phatthalung (plate 62 Land use in the South: Pak Phanang watershed). Mapping here is the result of a classification of information from satellite images validated by direct observation. When an analysis is carried out on two dates, differences in interpretation of details can make validation delicate, yet do not affect the significance of the whole.

7The last three plates concern district level (amphoe). This scale level is better suited than the one used at province level to present the modalities of population distribution or specific agricultural and industrial features in more detail. For industry in particular, it shows the duplication of the center-periphery phenomenon already observed between provinces, but now seen between districts within the provinces. For each theme, the map bases have been adapted (generally by grouping districts together) to adjust the statistical mapping to the administrative units used by the body responsible for the data collection. Population distribution within the provinces (plate 63 Population in North-East and South) bears witness both to the attraction of the urban areas and to the spread of settlement as the result of agricultural colonization that has marked the history of the country since the middle of the 1950s (see plate 19 Population distribution and demographic features). Crops have been selected both for their importance in each region studied and for the availability of statistical information at district level (plate 64 Agriculture in North-East and South). Fruit trees and oil palm trees are some of the perennial crops, other than rubber, typical of the South (major or even exclusive production at national level). Rice (white rice or glutinous rice) is an important crop in the North-East which has strengthened its position as producer (see plate 33 Rice). The duplication within the provinces of the spatial imbalances of industrialization refers to a certain number of factors, among which are the unequal availability of equipment and facilities, the geographical position of the district, notably its distance from the center of the country, and the role of local entrepreneurs (plate 65 Industry in North-East and South). These entrepreneurs, alone or with Thai or foreign participation, have been able to reach out to national and international markets, not limiting their operation to local or regional markets.

Regional specializations in the North-East and the South

Production of silk hanks (Chaiyaphum province)

Production of silk hanks (Chaiyaphum province)

Photo Doryane Kermel-Torrès

The North-East has acquired a reputation for its silks with motifs from Laos and Siam. Mulberry leaves are harvested during the rainy season to feed successive generations of silk worms. Weaving is made mainly during "free time" in the dry season. Traditionally carried out by the women, silkworm rearing, depending on the localities, is either a family activity or is integrated into a manufacturing process.

Rubber sheet workshop (Phangnga province)

Rubber sheet workshop (Phangnga province)

Photo Doryane Kermel-Torrès

The production of natural rubber, 90 % of it from the South, is mainly carried out by small farmers. The rubber tree begins to produce after six years and yields depend on several factors, including tapping techniques. The natural rubber is commercialized in three different forms: sheets, compacted into blocks, fresh and liquid. The sheets are hung out to dry for 7 to 10 days.

A mosaic of intense land use

8The province of Sakon Nakhon in the far northeast, with an area of 9,606 km2, illustrates the form of agro-ecological landscapes in the North-East that have resulted from the agricultural land colonization and the gradual diversification of cash crops. The map represents the situation after the rainy season (May to October), and enables us to appreciate how farmers make the best use of the land’s diversity, according to its position in the topo-sequence, which conditions the nature of the soils and their moisture-holding capacity.

9Two main types of physical environment can be observed. In the south, the Phu Phan Range, with forest, reaches its highest point in the extreme south-east of the province at 666 m. A national park has been established here, which also extends over the cultivated zones: as elsewhere (see plate 23 Defores-tation) there is a divergence between the conser-vationist logic and the survival of the rural populations (crops already established, collection of firewood and plants that traditionally form part of the diet). The rest of the area is occupied by the Song Khram basin. The main course of the river passes to the north-east of the province, flows directly into the Mekong, and collects in the province the two main tributaries (Lam Nam Yam and Huai Nam): their valley is recognizable by the density and homogeneity of the paddy fields and by the large numbers of swamps and small tanks. The largest reservoir (Nam Un) was created on the river Huai to regulate water supplies to the paddy fields downstream, while the Nam Pung dam in the south-east serves hydro-agricultural purposes. The built-up areas are scattered across the middle and low terraces, they also form strings along the communi-cation axes and are grouped together in small towns, the largest of which have municipality status: in 1999 Sawang Daen Din in the east has 11,000 inhabitants, Wanom Nivat in the north has almost 10,000. The provincial center, with over 50,000 inhabitants, is next to the natural reservoir of Nong Han.

10Four agro-ecological landscape units can be seen on this scale. The first two occupy the area to the south of the diagonal formed by the Sakon Nakhon-Sawang Daen Din road axis, bordered by built-up areas. The forest unit consists of a mixed deciduous forest on the highest areas and a clear forest, mainly of dipterocarps. This natural landscape has been encroached upon by pioneer crops on the borders (cassava) and at the center, in small depressions (rainfed rice). The second unit consists of cash crops or field crops (cassava, sugar cane, and others such as maize, and kenaf in the past) in fields with scattered trees on the well-drained pediment slopes or middle terraces: the gentle undulating topography allows for paddy fields in the valley bottoms or on some slopes, creating a very delicate mosaic of different crops and trees; on pasture-lands cattle rearing is possible. A transition zone between these clearly agricultural areas and the first unit can be seen on the slopes of the Phu Pan Range where the forest has been degraded by tree felling in order to put in cash crops: these coexist with forest remnants in clearings strewn with charred stumps and tree trunks.

11The third unit, at the junction of the middle and low terraces, is characterized by rainfed paddy fields with tree cover; density is high to the north of the road axis, and cash crops can be established above them in open fields. In the rainy season rice is the main crop, while in the dry season tanks allow diversification into small areas of vegetables and legumes (see also plate 64 Agriculture in North-East and South). Lastly, the fourth unit, the flood plain and the low alluvial terrace concentrate paddy fields with no tree cover (or with just a few sugar palms): here the principal crop in the rainy season is glutinous rice and irrigation of some fields makes it possible to produce a cycle of white rice or a vegetable/legume crop in the dry season. The highest rice yields are obtained in this area but they can be affected by salinity, especially on the low terrace. This zone also has the longest established population and is the most densely populated (over 100 inhabitants per km2).

12At first, farmers took advantage of the great variety of landforms to increase the cultivated acreages: paddy fields, then from the 1950s, the slopes and uplands. Since the beginning of the 1990s, their strategy has consisted mainly of increasing intensity of land use, by adopting seasonal crop rotations or diversifying agricultural activities (cattle rearing) to increase the productivity of family work and spread the work more evenly throughout the year.

Plate 61 – Land Use in the North-East: Sakon Nakhon Province

Source : Khon Kaen University, Division of Environmental Information, 1998

Forests under threat: spatial expansion of aquaculture and rubber cultivation

13As a result of the wide diversification of primary sector products in Thailand there have been correspondingly significant changes in land use. The Pak Phanang watershed illustrates the evolution that has occurred in rural areas in the South, with the development of aquaculture (especially shrimp farming) and rubber tree cultivation. Between 1988 and 1995, the spatial expansion of these two productions, major users of manpower and important foreign currency earners (see also plates 36 Rubber and 38 Recent breeding and shrimp farming acti-vities), resulted in the advance of the agricultural front causing damage to the forests, and in crop substitution.

14Extending from a clear indentation on the eastern coast of the peninsula to the mountain ranges (up to 1000 m) in the southern part of the Nakhon Si Thammarat province, this tiny region is organized into three main units of agro-ecological landscapes. The west, consisting of mountains, low and medium hills, is the area of evergreen rainforests, rubber plantations and, in the flattest parts of the watershed, paddy fields. In the east, the area formed by the coast and the lowland plain is covered by a mangrove forest, paddy fields and aquaculture, and is crossed by rivers. These two units also contain strips of settled and mixed cultivated areas. In the center, forming a buffer zone, lies a swampy plain with bushes. The changes that occurred between 1988 and 1995 produced very dif-ferent trends in these three major units: homogeni-zation in the west, the opposite effect in the east, with the center remaining stable despite some encroachment at the edges by paddy fields and mixed crops.

15In 1995, the rubber plantations in the western part encroached on the forests, of which now only a few traces remain. Whereas in 1988, the plantations were situated on the lowest part of the watershed, they took over in the mixed zones (forest and rubber) which formerly covered a large surface area. These mixed areas still remain as small formations adjoining some paddy fields. During this period, rubber monoculture did not encroach much on the paddy fields, but it gradually eroded all the zones characterized by the association of housing and fruit tree plantations. While the spatial expansion of the rubber plantations is undeniable between these two dates, the rate at which it advanced, in the Pak Phanang watershed as elsewhere in the peninsula, slowed from the middle of the 1980s.

16Aquaculture experienced a boom from 1988 onwards, which brought Thailand into the world shrimp market. Although on the face of it intensifying farming techniques led to a reduction in the amount of land used, in fact the installation of shrimp and fish farms was the main cause of the destruction of the mangrove and the transformation of agricultural land. In 1988, aquaculture was restricted to the end of the western promontory of Pak Phanang bay, but in 1995 it took over part of the mangrove forest at the bottom of the indentation and also assimilated coastal areas along the Gulf of Thailand and land areas along the main rivers: in the latter areas, farmers attracted by the prospect of large, quick profits substituted paddy fields or orchards for ponds. Some fairly large areas of mangrove remain between the shrimp and fish farms and the bay, whereas formations in the south, and especially around the small town of Pak Phanang, are dominated by other plant species (Nypa palm). The installation of ponds in the middle of the mangrove is a foretaste of future destruction in the eastern promontory.

17The spatial expansion of rubber cultivation and aquaculture was accompanied by considerable intensification of culture practices, mainly by small or medium producers with help from the state and large private firms. Aquaculture, for example, was a traditional activity, an extensive system for farming a variety of species of fish, crustaceans and molluscs. The transition in the 1980s to poorly controlled intensive systems resulted in an impoverishment of the species farmed, as well as the felling and degeneration of the mangrove, pollution (discharged water full of toxic waste) which has harmful consequences for coastal aquaculture and for other users (farmers practising rice cultivation, market gardening or orchards, non-farming fishermen). The resulting conflicts between users, the problems associated with the consumption of drinking water, are symptomatic of an inability to manage the coexistence of a new production system with the other systems already in place. Moreover, farmers in aquaculture whose farms are affected by pollution and the epizootic diseases that occur when the density of larvae is too high, are forced to abandon this activity which, despite the high level of quick profit that it can provide, does involve a considerable degree of risk.

Plate 62 – Land Use in the South: Pak Phanang Watershed

Source: Chao Yongchalermchai, Danupon Tonnayopas, Anan Khampeera, Suchada Yongsatisak, 1998

Regional settlement and specific population density patterns

18According to preliminary results from the 2000 census, the North-East and the South have 20,759,899 and 8,057,518 inhabitants respectively, or 34 % and 13 % of the country’s total population. These proportions have remained stable for over five decades, with a slight drop in the North-East and a similarly small increase in the South, which accurately reflect their respective demographic growth rates between 1947 and 2000: 2.3 % and 2.5 %, for a national annual average of 2.4 %. Somewhat different demographic (see plate 14 Demographic characteristics) and migratory behavior patterns (see plate 17 Inter-regional migrations) account for the difference in the rates for the two regions. In the 1990s, growth in the North-East was lower than the national average, although it had been higher between 1960 and 1980, whereas the growth rate in the South remained higher than the national average, and this difference has become more marked since 1970.

19With 122 inhabitants per km2, population density in the North-East is higher than the national average of 110 inhab/km2, whereas the South, with 108 inhab/km2 is much closer to it. In both regions densities are very uneven between districts, reflecting the relationship between population distribution and the physical environment, the duration of land development and the size of the administrative meshes. The spatial distribution of these densities is thus based on configurations specific to each regional space. A comparison of the extreme density values reveals a much higher occurrence of these in the South, reflec-ting the much wider disparities between settlement levels here. Hence five districts with provincial centers (amphoe muang) belong in class 540 to 1,000 inhab/km2 (Pattani in first position), all situated on the eastern side, except Phuket (in-migration linked with tourism), while in the North-East, Nakhon Ratchasima is the only one, but with a population in absolute terms four times that of Pattani. Both regions have the same number of districts (65) with a density lower than 90 inhab/km2, yet these represent 45 % of mapped districts in the South and only 22 % in the North-East, where more than half the districts are in the 90 to 165 inhab/km2 class.

20The South has a double dissymmetry in its settlement pattern: contrast between the north and the south, and between the eastern and western sides. North of a diagonal running from the island of Ko Samui to the bay of Krabi, densities are no greater than 90 inhab/km2 except in the amphoe muang of Ranong and Chumphon, and they reach their highest in Surat Thani (600 inhab/km2); here the mountains (Phuket Range in particular) have limited the demographic impact of agricultural colonization and fruit tree plantations (see also plate 64 Agriculture in North-East and South). South of the diagonal, the east/west contrast predominates. From the frontier with Malaysia to Pattani, from Songkhla to Hat Yai and around Nakhon Si Thammarat, the continuum of high densities in these eastern districts, especially on the coasts, bears witness to a long-established settlement (rice-growing) and nuclei that have been active historically (port trade, political influence in the penin-sula in some cases: Pattani, Nakhon Si Thammarat). In the west, despite settlement linked with the rubber plantations, densities are still below 165 inhab/km2 except around Trang.

21In the North-East, a different spatial configuration contrasts the area surrounding the Khorat plateau, where densities are lowest, with a more densely populated central zone with a pronounced hierarchy in density levels. This picture has to be adjusted slightly, however, as in some districts there are densities (excluding the amphoe muang) of over 90 inhab/km2 along the Mekong (effect of population deportation from Laos in the 19th century) and on certain southern edges of the plateau; conversely, we note some low densities in some of the inland districts (Phu Phan Range, west of Udon Thani). From the 1950s, following the possibilities opening up for cultivating the high and middle terraces (cash crops), the population spread in an uneven fashion from the center of the plateau and the rice-growing valleys of the Mun (from Kalasin to Yasothon) and the Chi (from Ubon Ratchathani to Nakhon Ratchasima). The size of the administrative meshes, which cover popula-tion zones with settlement densities ranging from dense to low, accounts for the very variable densities in the valleys. Today, the communication routes are the determining factor in accounting for the densities of 230 to 300 inhab/km2 that can be seen in the corridor in the south of the plateau and in the north-south corridor where several amphoe muang stand out: Nakhon Ratchasima, and also Khon Kaen and Udon Thani (over 300 inhab/km2), where growth is strong.

Plate 63 – Population in the North-East and South

Sources: Michelin, 2000 Ministry of Interior, 1997, 1998 ; NSO, 1980, 1995 ; Roads Association of Thailand, 1997

Specialized productions of two contrasted patterns of regional agriculture

22In the South, the contrast in the distribution of fruit and oil palm trees is very clearly defined and expresses the duration of agricultural land use. Following the major lines of population density (see plate 63 Population in North-East and South), the fruit trees are concentrated on the east side, in the low, flat coastal districts from Chumphon to Surat Thani, from north of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and from Pattani to the border with Malaysia. On the other side, some of the districts of Ranong and Phuket stand out. If other fruit trees were taken into account, in addition to those represented here (e.g. rambutan, longan, mango-steen, coconut, cashew, durian), this would confirm the east/west imbalance, while still empha-sizing the role of tree cultivation in certain districts: Songkhla (orange trees), Nakhon Si Thammarat (lemon trees). Of the rich variety of fruit that benefit from the peninsular climate, rambutan and mango-steen, both fresh and processed, are exported. Co-operation between the Ministry of Agriculture and industrialists has largely contributed to the develop-ment of this type of production and processing, with the result that trees are now concentrated into veritable orchards, whereas production was tradition-ally as varied as it was fragmented, in a multitude of farms (except coconut plantations).

23Oil palm tree cultivation has developed on the western side as far as Satun, extending into the provinces of Chumphon and Surat Thani where it becomes fairly dense around the reliefs. Densities are highest in the same physical environments to the north and west of Krabi; they decrease in the coastal districts, especially on the slopes of the Nakhon Si Thammarat Range and pick up again in the northern districts of Satun. The oil palm, exclusive to the South, has expanded since the middle of the 1970s in the context of agricultural colonization, particularly after forest clearing or as a substitute for rubber trees, which are less profitable. In addition to small peasant farms, large palm plantations and oil refineries have been set up by local companies or with associated foreign capital. Production is supported by the state (investment promotion, price support, tariff protection), but does not meet domestic demand and is very vulnerable to trade liberalization: such low productivity exposes it to competition from Malaysia in the context of AFTA.

24In the rainy season, rice is planted in all districts in the North-East with acreages varying considerably. Densities are highest in the alluvial plains, irrigated or irrigable in some parts, of the Mun and the Chi and their tributaries, from Ubon Ratchathani to Maha Sarakham and Nakhon Ratchasima, the very heart of rice cultivation. There are other areas where densities are as high, though across a less extensive area and linked to the potential of irrigation (see plate 32 Irrigation), around Nong Khai to the north and Sakon Nakhon to the north-east. The lowest densities are found on reliefs of over 200 m in the vast Loei unit. The intermediate densities can be found on the relief slopes and on the western side of the plateau. Farmers make use of the tiniest patches in the micro-reliefs to plant rainfed paddy fields where productivity is necessarily precarious; they attempt to make up for any shortage of rainfall by controlling water with individual pumps. Planting methods are adapted both to the natural environment and to the shortage of labor at village level: direct seeding, sometimes along with transplanting, has developed since the beginning of the 1990s. Depending on the local water supply, market gardening crops are cultivated on small plots of paddy fields in the dry season.

25At regional level, about half of the area is planted with glutinous rice ( “Japonica” varieties): the contrast between the south, planted with white rice ( “Indica” varieties), and the rest of the plateau reflects food habits inherited from a different established population, as the Lao traditionally eat glutinous rice (see also plate 10 Main ethno-linguistic groups). The cultivation of white rice advanced from the end of the 1970s, at the expense of acreages under glutinous rice, especially in zones that benefited from irrigation. Improved yields increased the production of glutinous rice destined particularly for family consumption, and thus a larger area was planted with white rice which is sold to meet the farmers’ monetary needs. Glutinous rice combined with grilled chicken and papaya salad may have become popular in the rest of Thailand and be exported in small amounts, but it remains a limited market compared with that of white rice, which is also eaten more than before by the city dwellers of the North-East.

Plate 64 – Agriculture in North-East and South

Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, 1995 ; NSO, 1980, 1995

Intra-provincial imbalances in industry

26The distribution of industrial employment by province reflects the considerable spatial imbalances revealed in industrialization in the peripheral regions.

27Some central provinces emerge as a result of the attraction of infrastructure availability and investments in some major regional poles. The imbalance appears to be less in the South where half of regional employment is to be found in the three provinces of Songkhla, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat compared with only two provinces in the North-East: Nakhon Ratchasima, close to the Bangkok metropolitan region, and Khon Kaen.

28In the provinces, “empty” districts are juxtaposed with districts where there is a concentration of industry. The proportion with less than 5 % of provincial employment is the same in both regions but it is higher for the 55-87 % class in the South (5.4 % for 2 % in the North-East). Generally speaking, the districts of the province centers (amphoe muang) have the highest ratio: a third have over 55 %, 40 % have 35 to 54 % and a little under 30 % are in the 20 to 34 % class. The concentration of employment in these districts where the facilities are better, and which are administratively and economically central, appears stronger in the South where 40 % are in the highest class, whereas in the North-East this proportion relates to the 20-35 % class. The highest concentrations are to be found in province centers where industrial employment levels are low, limiting the true impact of employment in these districts: over 80 % in Mukdahan in the North-East and in Satun in the South.

29Conversely, the rates for Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen, for Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat, with 30 to 50 % of provincial employment, convey both the importance of employment in the central districts, given the mass at province level, and the spread of industrialization into one other or several other districts (Nakhon Ratchasima), generally adjoining. Two cases are the exception to the rule of the primacy of the province center district, for different reasons. Almost 60 % of employment is concentrated in Hat Yai, whereas the proportion in the central district of Songkhla is only 20 %: this is a very small district and enterprises have to settle in the neighboring district. Concerning employment figures that are clearly much lower, the proportion in Phangnga is only half that of the other two coastal districts, a result of their more labor-intensive industrial specializations.

30In terms of the comparative advantages of these two regions, the transformation of raw materials is important: agricultural products and wood, non-metallic minerals, and produce from the sea for the South. The map showing the dominant sectors of employment reflects in part the district specialization, by focusing on the dominant sectors. Rice mills predominate in the North-East, whereas they are of more limited importance in the South (eastern side). In the North-East, the importance of the cassava processing plants gives an image that is the reverse of that of the paddy fields (except Loei; see plate 64 Agriculture in North-East and South). In the South, rubber processing is vital for employment. Other agro-based industry covers a wide range of fields: in the South there are the oil mills in Krabi, Trang, Chumphon where there are also fruit canneries, units for packaging produce from the sea and from aquaculture at Songkhla/Hat Yai; in the North-East, there are fruit and vegetable packaging plants at Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen and also sugar mills at Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, canneries and agricultural product processing (cotton, tobacco, leather) at Nong Khai, Ubon Ratchathani. The wood sector touches a large number of districts in the South, whereas in the North-East it predominates in only a very few districts (paper manufacture at Khon Kaen). The exploitation of non-metallic minerals also touches districts in the South more (tin at Phangnga) while the North-East has developed the textile sector by relying on traditional productions (silk, and to a lesser extent jute) and expanding into new areas (synthetic fiber spinning, fishing nets; Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen).

31Whereas industry in the South remains largely dependent on primary resources, the basis of industry in the North-East is more diversified; this is clearly seen from the predominance of the other sectors in certain districts and is masked by the importance of the dominant sector in other districts. New, strongly labor-intensive sectors (electronics, machinery, plastics) have been developed, especially with support from the Board of Investment. In the South, the Board has given its support to a diversification of products within sectors that were already established (products based on latex with a higher value added).

Plate 65 – Industry in North-East and South

Sources: Ministry of Industry, 1993, 1994 ; NSO, 1980, 1995

Table des illustrations

Titre Production of silk hanks (Chaiyaphum province)
Crédits Photo Doryane Kermel-Torrès
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Rubber sheet workshop (Phangnga province)
Crédits Photo Doryane Kermel-Torrès
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
Crédits Source : Khon Kaen University, Division of Environmental Information, 1998
Fichier image/jpeg, 163k
Crédits Source: Chao Yongchalermchai, Danupon Tonnayopas, Anan Khampeera, Suchada Yongsatisak, 1998
Fichier image/jpeg, 165k
Crédits Sources: Michelin, 2000 Ministry of Interior, 1997, 1998 ; NSO, 1980, 1995 ; Roads Association of Thailand, 1997
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Crédits Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, 1995 ; NSO, 1980, 1995
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Crédits Sources: Ministry of Industry, 1993, 1994 ; NSO, 1980, 1995
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