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Sakdina (Sakdi Na; Thai : ศักดินา , literally: power over land ) is a measure of social rank expressed in digits, which in the feudal society of Siam (today's Thailand ) determined the classification within the social hierarchy for all subjects. This was expressed in the unit of measurement Rai , which is actually a measure of area and corresponds to 1,600 m².

It probably developed out of the custom for kings to grant deserving subjects land of a certain size. Later the kings probably gave several villages including land and inhabitants to their senior advisors. The smallholders given away in this way had the duty to do their overlord labor . King Borommatrailokanat wrote the practice of distributing land to different categories of subjects in 1454 in his "Law of Civil, Military and Provincial Hierarchies" as the Sakdina system. Towards the end of the Ayutthaya period it was fully developed, so that every Siamese, whether he was a slave, a military commander or the viceroy, knew his position on the Sakdina scale. At that time the connection between a position and a certain size of land was lost, but the Sakdina units were still given in Rai.

In a figurative sense, Sakdina also means “power over workers”, which were necessary for the cultivation of this land. The social standing and the social position within the hierarchy was decisively determined by the number of adult, able-bodied persons who belonged to the followers.

The only exception to this system comes from the early days of this system: the king himself. In theory, the king had control of the entire kingdom, so that the number of the land to be assigned to the king would be immeasurably large.


The person with the highest Sakdina was the Uparat ("viceroy"), the second most powerful man in the country after the king. He was given a value of 100,000 rai. A prince of the rank of Chao-Fa received 15,000 to 50,000 rai. Other descendants of the king and their mothers had 6,000 to 7,000 rai. Officials were assigned from 400 to 10,000 rai depending on their rank. For non-noble citizens were among commoners (Phrai) and their men with a Sakdina of 25 Rai (Nai) differentiated with 400 Rai. Slaves (that) had 5 rai. Women who performed the same work or function as men also had the same number of rai. Buddhist clergy were also included in the system. Depending on the rank within the order ( Sangha ) and knowledge of Buddhist teachings ( Dhamma ) , her Sakdina varied between 200 Rai (novice with little knowledge) and 2400 Rai (monk with the rank of Phra khru with great knowledge).

This also went hand in hand with an obligation to do slave labor. The Phrai had to work for their master or for an office or administrative unit for six months of the year. Some Phrai had to deliver in kind instead of work. The slaves who fell into this status due to bondage or prisoner-of-war had to do all their labor for their masters.

If a person was promoted within the hierarchy or was given a royal (nobility) title, his Sakdina share was also increased accordingly. If a person committed a crime, a penalty proportional to his Sakdina status was imposed. For example, an adulterer with a sakdina of 10,000 rai was punished with a sum of 2,000 baht in silver, with a sakdina of 5,000 rai the penalty was 1,200 baht, a slave with 5 rai sakdina had to pay 160 baht.

With the transition to capitalist production conditions in agriculture, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) abolished the Sakdina system at the beginning of the 20th century.

The radical intellectuals Chit Phumisak claimed in his work Chomna khong Sakdina thai nai patchuban ( "The face of Thai feudalism today") 1957 that the feudalism of Sakdina system long after its official abolition, even after the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 further editing would . In 2017, the political scientist Prapimphan Chiengkul found patron-client relationships in Thai society that go back to the Sakdina system, especially in rural areas and in state administration.


  • Neil A. Englehart: Culture and Power in Traditional Siamese Government . Cornell Southeast Asia Program, Ithaca NY 2001, ISBN 0-87727-135-6
  • HG Quaritch Wales : Ancient Siamese Government and Administration . London 1934, reprinted by Paragon, New York 1965 (without ISBN)
  • Craig J. Reynolds: Thai Radical Discourse. The Real Face of Thai Feudalism Today. Cornell Southeast Asia Program, Ithaca NY 1987, ISBN 0-87727-702-8
  • BJ Terwiel : Thailand's Political History. From the Fall of Ayutthaya to Recent Times . River Books, Bangkok 2005, ISBN 974-9863-08-9

Individual evidence

  1. ^ GB McFarland: Thai-English Dictionary . Stanford University Press, Stanford 1944, ISBN 0-8047-0383-3
  2. Somboon Suksamran: Buddhism and politics in Thailand. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore 1982, p. 17.
  3. Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead: The Rise and Decline of Thai Absolutism. Routledge Shorton, Abingdon (Oxon) / New York 2004, p. 12.
  4. Michael Kelly Connors: Democracy and National Identity in Thailand. Routledge Shorton, Abingdon (Oxon) / New York 2003, p. 35.
  5. ^ Tyrell Haberkorn: Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand. University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin 2011, p. 55.
  6. Prapimphan Chiengkul: The Political Economy of the Agri-Food System in Thailand. Hegemony, Counter-Hegemony, and Co-Optation of Oppositions. Routledge, Abingdon (Oxon) / New York 2017, p. 58.