March 10, 2010

Bureaucracy Insanity: Chair Envy

Here's an amusing item making the rounds. It is a letter that hails from Sri Prachan District, Suphanburi Province, a few hours northwest of Bangkok.

An unfortunate employee of the local revenue office there who suffers from back pain was told she cannot use her own chair at work, because it makes her look like the boss. Click on the image to enlarge and read the Thai for yourself, but I've provided an English translation below.

14 January 2010  
Re: Request for clarification regarding bringing a personal chair to a government office 
To: Sri Prachan Revenue Office
I, Mrs. Rasmi Thaisitthipong, a revenue expert for the Revenue Department, moved to the Sri Prachan Revenue Office on 21 November 2007, and brought a personal chair for use in the performance of my duties. The office chairs are uncomfortable to sit in, making be unable to perform my duties to the fullest, since I suffer from chronic back pain. Thus, I bring a personal chair, and have brought the chair with me to every office I have worked in. 
I have never had a supervisor inform me that I cannot bring a personal chair to work, until 3:34 p.m. today, when I received a phone call from the District Revenue Chief's office, informing me that Asst. Chamrat wants me to take my personal chair home, because it is not appropriate for my position. I was told to take a personal day tomorrow and to take the chair home. 
I acknowledge that I received the telephone call. However, I will not take the chair home, and request to continue to use it while performing my duties, until I receive a formal written order to take the chair home, in which case I will strictly obey the order.
I also request to review the Sri Prachan Revenue Office regulations to determine which regulation forbids bringing personal chairs for use in the performance of official duties.
Respectfully submitted,
Mrs. Rasmi Thaisitthipong  
Revenue Expert

The handwritten reply to her note, which apparently took four days to compose:

Khun Rasmi,
- That chair isn't appropriate for you, because it looks equivalent to the Sri Prachan District Revenue Chief. Tax payers or others who come to the office are confused as to who is the office chief.
- Use the office chair.
- As for your back pain, you should take care of your health by seeing a doctor.
18 January 2010

A doctor! Now why didn't poor Rasmi think of that? I think this is a hilariously perverse example of bureaucracy in action. And the fact that its making its way around the Thai websphere means that it's not just me who finds this kind of thinking a few tarang wa short of a rai. Never mind that a doctor's advice would be to use an ergonomic chair to minimize stress on your back.

If you're curious about who the characters are in this little tragicomedy of bureaucratic numbskullery, then look no further than the Revenue Department website: Suphanburi Revenue Department Administrators. The relevant players are in the left column.


  1. Rikker,

    Is จึงเรียนมาเพื่อโปรดทราบ translated as Respecfully submitted?

    What are the other conventions in letter writing? How about Yours sincerely and Your respectfully?


  2. It's not a very literal translation, but I think it works.

    จึงเรียนมาเพื่อโปรดทราบ is a standard fixed expression used in formal letters like this. Literally it's like a formal way of saying "FYI". But I don't think there's an idiomatic English equivalent, so in my mind it's roughly equivalent to a formal-sounding signoff line like "respectfully submitted."

  3. I came to your blog from Changkhui (haven't listen to your episodes yet becuase I lost my MP3 player since new year, so I haven't managed to catch up Changkhui yet).
    This is an interesting letter you have here. You mentioned that this letter making its way around Thai websphere, may be I am out of that sphere as I see it here for the first time. :)
    If you take โปรด out, จึงเรียนมาเพื่อทราบ is literally translated to FYI. โปรด shows the respects, makes it even more formal (and bureaucratic.) I don't receive many official Thai letters, but I think จึงเรียนมาเพื่อทราบ is more common and formally enough in this situation. However, I assumed that Mrs. Rasmi chose จึงเรียนมาเพื่อโปรดทราบ to show her sarcasm to this bureaucracy insanity (or should we call bureaucrazy?)

  4. If she's being sarcastic, that would be awesome. She seems too intelligent to be working under such nitwits.

  5. I only guessed from the fact that she has the guts to write this letter. And since she is smarter than her boss, she might not do very well career-wise, which is too bad.

  6. This is a wonderful example of why Thailand is where it is today. "Tax payers or others who come to the office are confused as to who is the office chief." Not confusing at all - just look for the fat guy in uniform covered in medals sleeping in his chair at the back of the office.

  7. I agree with thaicapital comment.