Who Was Puey Ungpakorn?

I recently got the following 1 Baht note of Thailand:

There are two signatures on the note, the right one is that of Puey Ungpakorn (ป๋วย อึ๊งภากรณ์). After deciphering the signature I wanted to know more about this gentleman. I used Google and found a lot on him, in English texts as well as in Thai sources.

He was born in 1916, in Bangkok. His parents lived at ตรอกโรงสูบน้ำ ตลาดน้อย. He had six brothers and sisters. His father was a fishmonger of Chinese origin, working at ปากน้ำ (pronounced “park narm“”, and named ซา แซ่อึ๊ง (pronounced “Sar Sae Ung”), and when he took a Thai name, he used the syllable “ung” as the first part of his new name. Puey’s mother was half Chinese, half Thai, her original name was เซาะเซ็ง แซ่เตียว (pronounced Sawsang Sae Tiow).

Although his parents were very poor they sent him to the French section of a private school called โรงเรียนอัสสัมชัญ (Assumption College). This was very expensive for the family (80 Baht per year). While he was attending this school his father died. A relative, one of his uncles, sponsored Puey’s family and allowed him to stay at the school. After his final exam he worked as a teacher at Assumption College. He got a salary of 40 Baht per month, of which sum he gave 30 Baht to his mother, he himself living on 10 Baht only…

When in 1934 the Thammasat University opened its doors to students, he enrolled as a student of law and politics. After getting his diploma he worked briefly as an interpreter and translator at the Thammasat University. During this time his mother died.

Later due to a scholarship he was able to study at the London School of Economics and here he got a diploma in economics and finance. When WW II broke out he interrupted his studies and worked for the “Free Thai Movement” (เสรีไทย / pronounce saeree thai). Here he got a “secret” name: เข็ม เย็นยิ่ง (Kem Yenying). He was trained as a soldier in India and was to enter Thailand in order to contact รูธ which was the secret name of ปรีดี (Pridi). But immediately after parachuting into Thailand he was captured…

After WW II he was sent to England in order to talk with the authorities about the status of the Free Thai Movement and about the Thai money deposited in British banks, money that had been frozen by the British government and was to be returned to Thailand

Puey continued his studies in London, wrote a thesis about how the economy can control tin production (Thailand was an important exporter of tin), and he married one Miss Smith. (Later they had three children, John, Peter, and Ji).

After finishing his studies, however, he could not yet return to Thailand, as the Pridi government was overtaken and he feared for his life.

One year later, however, he was able to return. He got many offers from private enterprises to work with them, but he decided to work for the state. He said: I was born in Thailand, I eat rice from Thailand, I got a scholarship from Thailand, so I have to serve Thailand

His first position was as secretary in the Bank of Thailand, then step by step he climbed the ladder to more important positions within the Bank of Thailand. As, however, he did not like the men then in power like Sarit Thanarath (สฟษด์ ธนะรัชน์) and Paw Sriyanont (เผ่า ศรียานนท์) he moved to another place to work: the Thai embassy in London.

After Sarit launched his coup d’état he invited Puey to become finance minister. But Puey declined the offer  because when he was a member of the Free Thai Movement he had sworn to himself never to take any political position. Instead he became the governor of the Central Bank of Thailand.

Puey held this position for 12 years. Here he did a good job which was internationally recognized when in 1964 he got, as the first Thai ever, the Magsaysay Award for his public services.

In 1966 Puey became dean of the faculty of Economics at the Thammasat University. He worked with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Asian Institute of Management, and other important organisations. Later he was appointed rector of the Thammasat University.

On Oct. 6, 1976, the day when that infamous massacre took place on the university campus, he resigned as rector of the university and fled to London.

Later Puey returned to Thailand several times. After a stroke he had difficulties in speaking. On July 28, 1999, he died in London. His corpse was cremated in London, his ashes were taken to Thailand

A private Note from Qing Times

This banknote I bought recently at a coin and banknote show in Valkenburg, The Netherlands. It is a hitherto (as far as I can see) unreported,  one side banknote of vertical format, the reverse side being blank.

The note was issued by a private firm, called (Yi De Hao), as the three blue Chinese characters in the upper part of the note tell us. In addition we find in the lower left corner a red imprint with the five characters (Yi De Hao fa piao = note, issued by Yi De Hao). The nature of this firm is, however, unknown. But we know, it was situated in Qingzhou ( ), Shandong Province. We even know (from the stamp at lower right) the address of the firm: (dong men yue cheng = at the east gate, in a quarter called Yuecheng).

The note was issued in the year (ren yin), which is 1902. This is a date of the 60 year cycle. From the note style it is evident that the note can only be of the late Qing times, so only the year 1902 can be correct (1842 would be too early, 1962 too late). Practically all notes issued during the last Qing times were of vertical format.

A cyclical date consists of two characters, there exist 10 first characters and 12 second characters.

The denomination of the note is hand-written: (yi qian wen) = 1000 Wen. The word “wen” means that the value of the note is copper based, not silver based.

The note also has a hand-written individual (serial) number! Below the character (the middle character in the note title) we find small figures, written in a shorthand so-called “commercial” style. The individual number has four digits and may be 3454, but the third and fourth digits are somewhat questionable…

The “1,000” written in blue near the top of the note was later added by someone with a coloured pencil…


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