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Spending well, Being well

Buddhist Ethics, Consumption Choices and Well-Being in a Sub-Urban Community in Northeastern Thailand

Andrea Zipprich

Spending Well, Being Well

Buddhist ethics, consumption choices and well-being in a sub-urban community in Northeastern Thailand

Bachelor Thesis of Development Studies

Andrea Zipprich student registration number 0633291 Supervisors: Dr. Detlev Haude, Judith Westeneng MSc, Dr. E. de Jong & Dr. L. Knippenberg Nijmegen, June 2009

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This research could only be set up, conducted and distilled into a thesis through the interaction with others. From this interaction I could draw different forms of support and input. Therefore I would like to express my appreciation to different persons who have played a role for the realization of this research. First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Edwin de Jong, Dr. Luuk Knippenberg, Judith Westeneng and Dr. Detlev Haude for their assistance during the preparation, conduction and writing phase of this research project. I also want to thank Theo van der Weegen for his comments on the statistical analysis of the survey. In Thailand, it was of great help to be supported by the faculty of Humanities and Social Science, especially by the lecturers from the Social Development department Dr. Dusadee Ayuwat and Dr. Buapun Promphakping. Conducting a research in an unknown environment can only be successful if 'insiders' are of assistance. In my case, this assistance was vital for the success of the research out of three reasons. First of all, I was barely acquainted with the cultural context of Thailand and the Isan. Secondly, I was not able to communicate with people directly since I had no command of the Thai language. Thirdly, the amount of the surveys that were to be taken within only a couple of days was far more than I could have managed to do. Therefore, the assistance of Thai students was crucial. I especially would like to thank Toey and Aim for their facilitating role in the conduction of the surveys. I am also grateful to Oh, Tar, Teaw, Pei and Jay Chou for executing the survey. Nui, Poh and BB, thank you for your patience and intuition in making verbal and non-verbal communication with the interviewees possible. Doing research in a community, hoping to get insight in different aspects of life there, asks for the openness and cooperation of the leaders and members of this community. Fortunately, we encountered a very generous and open community leader in Sri Than 4, as well as helpful and interested inhabitants. My gratitude goes to all of those Sri Thanians who have played a facilitating role for this research, especially those who were ready to take some time to share their experiences and opinions with me. Finally, I don't want to miss out to thank my fellow students Rachelle and Iris for the pleasant and encouraging team work in Sri Than. I am equally grateful to Nui, Alina and Mariska for their comments during the writing process of this thesis, as well as Franzi and Julia for their emotional support.

Andrea Zipprich Nijmegen, June 2009

CONTENTS list of figures, tables and boxes 1. Introduction 2. Theory, research questions and analytical framework 2.1 Theoretical framework 2.1.1 Well-being 2.1.2 Consumption choices 2.1.3 Decision making and narrative 2.1.4 Religious beliefs and ethics 2.2 Research questions 2.3 Analytical framework 2.3.1 Concepts 2.3.2 Conceptual model 3. Methodology 3.1 Methods of data collection 3.1.1 Community profile 3.1.2 Survey 3.1.3 Case studies 3.2 The interviewees 4. Background: Thailand and the research location 4.1. Thai Buddhism 4.1.1 Multiple rebirth and karma 4.1.2 Thai Buddhist attitudes towards material wealth 4.2 Sufficiency economy 4.3 Thai societal structure 4.5 The research location 4.5.1 The North East (Isan) 4.5.2 Sri Than 4 6. Results: Consumption choices, Buddhist ethics and well-being 6.1 Well-being and consumption 6.1.1 Family relations, health and education 6.1.2 Safety, food and decent housing 6.1.3 The material basis 6.1.4 Assets and luxury goods 6.1.5 Debts and investments 6.1.6 Spiritual well-being and religious spending 6.1.7 The community 6.1.8 The factor of time 6.2 Weltanschauung, Buddhist ethics and ideal behavior 6.2.1 The five Buddhist morals 6.2.1 Sufficiency 6.2.1 Karma and merit 7. Conclusion 7.1 Idealistic and materialistic aspects of well-being linked up 7.2 Unifying different desires and motives 1 3 3 3 4 5 6 7 7 7 8 9 9 9 9 10 11 12 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 15 15 15 15 16 17 17 18 19 19 19 20 20 20 21 22 22 23

Appendix 1: English version of the general household survey List of figures, table and boxes Figure 1: conceptual model Table 1: Perceived importance of different items for well-being (1-10) and the percentage of households owning these items Table 2: % of households items actual and desired items of expenditure Table 3: % of households in Sri Than owning certain assets Graph 1: Regression line illustrating the correlation of age (x-axis) and importance of luxury consumption (y-axis) Box 1: satisfaction and debts

8 15 17 17 18 18

INTRODUCTION Theorists on wellbeing have been dealing with the economic dimension like children do with their desired musical instrument. At first, totally being fixated on the economic aspects of wellbeing they missed to look around and see the other domains of life. After a while, however, they began realize that income and consumption could be complemented with other dimensions to reach a fuller sound. The concept of multidimensional poverty arose and gradually the economic dimension palled. Some even proved that income had barely any impact on overall wellbeing - where the other dimensions drowning the sound of the economic? The starting point for this research on wellbeing in North Eastern Thailand is the idea that the musical instrument of the now grown up child should not be thrown into the corner. In that case theory would fall short of the reality of peoples lives where income and consumption are often perceived as important contributors to wellbeing. This is for example reflected in a statement of a 59 year old widow from Isan (northeastern Thailand), made during a research on the quality of life in this area: A happy man is a wealthy man. We know how happy a man is by counting his material goods such as car, money, gold, and jewelery. (Jongudomkarn & Camfield, p. 20). Material aspects are what people refer to in the first place when it comes to the assessment of their wellbeing. The reason for this tendency is quite obvious: Material wealth is visible, tangible, easy to count and to compare. In opposition, family relations are a bit more complicated to observe, not to speak of the psychological dimension. That doesnt have to say that the economic dimension is most important for somebodys wellbeing. Thus, rather than discarding the economic, a different playing technique may make the instrument sound differently and improve its contribution to the full sound of the orchestra of dimensions of wellbeing. Even if income may have a relatively low significance on its own, the way in which people come to spend their income may not. The fact that people are very aware of their economic situation makes it worth taking a closer look behind the scenes. Thus, instead of focusing on actual consumption patterns, I laid the emphasis on the decision making process whereby certain ideals and motives lead to certain consumption choices. I was inspired by a discrepancy between attitude towards material wealth in the research of Jongudomkarn and Camfield on the quality of life in Thailand. Apart from linking happiness with wealth people would also describe the ideal person as someone who is unselfish and not materialistic (Jongudomkarn & Camfield, 2005). As a consequence, I wanted to find out about the process by which motives, defined as a combination of individual and collective ethics, ideals and goals, are translated into specific consumption choices. This research is thus focused on the decision making process in which motives transform into concrete choices. This process is a continuum between various desires and the way they are either discarded or put into action. Consumption choices are the result of a decision making process which is informed by these ethics, ideals and goals. Embedding these processes into the context of subjective wellbeing, the factors that one finds important for wellbeing play a role during that process, while the satisfaction with one's situation can be imagined at the initial and final states. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz describes religion as a cultural pattern which is providing a guideline for social and psychological processes which shape public behavior(Geertz, 1966, p.6). Returning to the metaphor of the music instrument, not only the playing technique may be producing a different sound. It is the spacial acoustics that contribute to the sound. In the Thai cultural context the sound waves are reflected by the architecture of Theravada Buddhism. I thus want to zoom in on those motives that have been influenced by Thai Theravada Buddhism. Approaching my findings from this perspective I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the workings of religion in the consumption choices of Isan urban middle class. In wellbeing research practice, a bias towards quantitative methods to asses subjective wellbeing can be noticed. Sarah White criticizes this tendency since the perceptions of the 1

individual get lost in the process of the analysis of the answers people give (White, 2009, p.10). She further elaborates that approaches to wellbeing should be person-centered, in order to do justice to the individual as a subject (ibid.). Therefore, in this research, quantitative methods have been complemented by qualitative methods. At this, the former have mainly provided a general overview while the latter have yielded the crucial information needed to answer the research questions. As these questions have arisen from a research in North-Eastern Thailand, this region seemed to be the right place to be looking for the answers. So as to compare the motives with the actual choices made, I choose for a research population where alternatives to make choices about consumption pattern were relatively available and relevant. Therefore I conducted the research in a community with average wealth level in urban Khon Kaen. Assuming that most people are part of a household, within which incomes may be pooled and most purchases made collectively, I payed attention to the individual as part of a household with the emphasis remaining on the individual. The set up of this thesis will be as followed: In chapter 2, the theoretical framework for this study will be sketched. In this, theories on well-being, consumption choices and decision making will be discussed, as well as on ethics and ideals. The research questions resulting from these considerations shall be presented, together with an analytical framework that would make these questions operational for the research. In Chapter 3, I will go into the research methodology that was applied in order to get the information needed to answer the research questions. As a next step, chapter 4 shall present the context in which the research has taken place. For this purpose, the national context of Thai Buddhism and societal structure and the regional and local context of the research location will be introduced. In Chapter 5, the results of the research shall be pinpointed, followed by a conclusion in Chapter 6. This conclusion will summarize the main findings and discuss them in the light of the theoretical framework. As a final comment, considerations about the research process and implications of the research will be presented.

2. THEORY, RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK 2.1 Theoretical framework 2.1.1 Well-being
'Well-being is a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue ones goals, and where one enjoys a satisfactory quality of life' (WeD, 2007, p.1).

Well-being is one of the central issues in theoretical debates on development. The concept emerged as the antipole of poverty, providing a more positive and concrete goal to debates on poverty alleviation. Within the last two decades, various theories and definitions on wellbeing have been published. For the purpose of giving an insight into thoughts on well-being that are of relevance for this research, I will refer to Amartya Sen, who has been a leading figure in the theoretical discussions on well-being. I shall also illuminate the ideas of McGregor and White, who write in line with the 'Well-Being in Developing Countries' (WeD) framework. This framework is created by the ERSC research group of the University of Bath and advocates a multidisciplinary approach to the understanding of well-being. The conception of well-being put forward by the WeD research group combines the objective circumstances of a person and the subjective perception on their condition (McGregor, 2006, p.3). It is not only the objectively measurable and tangible states of being but also the subjective evaluation of these circumstances that make up the well-being of a person. In this, the WeD framework also points out to the 'cognitive aspect of subjective wellbeing, interpreted as satisfaction with the achievement of personally important goals in one's life' (WeD, 2007, p.2). In accordance with this statement, I will differentiate between the importance people attach to certain conditions for well-being and the satisfaction with the current state of implementation of these conditions. To make the notion of well-being more comprehensive, the WeD framework identifies three modes of being in which well-being plays, namely 'having', 'thinking/feeling' and 'doing'. Having can be understood as the resources people have, thinking and feeling as the meanings that guide them, and doing as the activities they undertake by applying those resources (McGregor, 2006, p.4). Many ideas of the WeD framework can be brought into relation with Sen's capability approach that envisions living as a combination of various 'doings and beings'. Sen argues that a persons ability to do valuable acts or reach valuable states of being are essential for the quality of life (in Nussbaum & Sen, 1993, p.30). Out of the capabilities that someone has, one makes choices to come to specific functionings by evaluating ones objectives (Sen in Nussbaum & Sen, 1993). To be more specific, functionings are the 'beings and doings' a person has achieved. These may range from basic physical needs, such as being adequately nourished, to more complex aspects, such as social status. The value that is given to various functionings depends on the context of the individual. Capabilities are the possible combinations of functionings that can a person can achieve. There is thus an emphasis the agency of the individual to come to specific sets of functionings. Of course, freedom is a precondition for agency. Therefore, a third concept that is central to Sen's approach is freedoms, that allow an actor to make choices with different options being provided. Sen thus reminds us not to see the individual as passive contemplator on his or her situation, but as an actor, trying to make the best out of the choices he or she has. The evaluation of what is best, what is a valuable state of being, however, is guided by the culturally and socially constructed meanings, individual preferences and ambitions. This view can also be found with White, writing on subjective well-being:
The subjective is thus more than a random selection of individual perceptions or preferences. Instead these perceptions are seen as constituted in culture and ideology which in turn structure the material, social and personal through a cascade of associations that makes them meaningful and designates some as pressing ' (White, 2009, p.6).

The social context not only plays a major role in creating, conveying and transforming these meanings. The way a person is embedded in social relations also influences his or her evaluation of objectives since they have to be brought in line with collective goals (Mc Gregor, 2006, p.23). Besides, social factors do not only have an influence on the perception of well-being, but are also determinants for the state of being. As White points out, harmonious and close social relationships, as well as public and social respect contribute to the well-being of a person (White, 2009, p. 4). It needs to be noted that the social dimension does not stand on its own. It interacts with the material and human dimension and the three spheres jointly constitute the well-being of a person (White, 2009). Warr, for example, suggests that the contribution of economic factors to the happiness of a person get less important when a basic level of income is reached while the importance of social factors increases from that stage on (Warr, p.12). In the following paragraph, I will go into the material aspect by discussing some theories on consumption. 2.1.2 Consumption choices The second notion that has to be defined is consumption. By consumption I mean all actions that require the spending of a part of the income and assets of a household. That can be the purchase of material goods, but also of services and participation in certain activities, as well as gifts to family members and friends or donations. Generally, a difference has to be made between consumption that is aimed at fulfilling basic needs and consumption that goes beyond that purpose. However, identifying criteria that separate basic needs from desires asks for the specific context. Basic needs have to be covered to be able to sustain what is perceived to be a decent livelihood which enables one to fulfill context specific requirements for human dignity. In this research, I want to look at consumption as tool to come to what an individual perceives to be well-being. Therefore, the definition of what is basic and what is not, is based on the same concepts that have been illuminated above and depends on objective and subjective factors. Consumption can thus not only be seen in economic and utilitarian terms. The way people spend their money has social and symbolic motivations. As Fromm pointed out, the realm of the symbolic comes into play as soon as a product's ability to satisfy mere physical needs is transcended (Fromm, 1976). According to Elliott, the symbolic is always part of the material (1997, p. 287). This would mean that the choice for a certain product is always related to a meaning the consumer gives to that product. Monica Guillen-Royo presented a research on consumption and subjective well-being in Peru whereby she payed attention to the motives people have to adopt certain consumption patterns (Guillen-Royo, 2008). Through certain actions and consumption patterns people construct their identity and present themselves in certain ways (ibid., p.238). Consumption is also used as an instrument to achieve and maintain a social position in comparison with others (ibid., 537). Guillen-Royo identifies the satisfaction of basic needs and household basics, social comparison, social interaction and hedonism as local meanings of consumption. The meanings and motives of consumption are subjective and often even subconscious. Instead of being driven by simple human needs, the demand for particular consumptions is often culturally induced (Elliott, 1997, 287). The relation between consumption and well-being can therefore not only be understood as a calculation of needs being fulfilled by absolute or relative consumption. The ability to act along with cultural codes and social expectations via consumption patterns has an impact on well-being, as well. In this line, it is possible that the subjective well-being of a person is impaired if he or she can not make consumption choices which are socially desirable. Later in this chapter, I will therefore expound the role of the weltanschauung as part of the underlying factors that lead to specific consumption choices and patterns. Before that, I shall elaborate on some theoretical considerations on decision making in general.

2.1.3 Decision making and narrative Motives to act in certain ways develop within the space between ideals and the act itself. Many, situationally varying factors come together and channel this decision making process. A person and his or her household are embedded in structures like the cultural, social, political, infrastructural and economic situation. Within these external structures, the individual occupies a certain position that leads to certain attitudes and actions. Additionally, individual characteristics like educational level, ethnicity, gender, religion, various forms of capital at hand are influencing the decision making process. As it is impossible to cover all these aspects within this research, I focused on the decision making process as it is perceived by the individual. While getting an overview of the circumstances of the household the individual is part of through the survey, the qualitative part of the research was devoted to the motives of the individual informants to make certain choices. A concept that lends itself for the analyses of this decision making process from the position of the individual is the 'narrative'. It can be seen as the way an individual perceives and represents his or her identity and the way this identity is reflected in the actions he or she takes. Aim of the narrative is to integrate these actions and life choices into a coherent biography (Atkins and Mackenzi, 2008).
We care about what we are. We are ceaselessly alert to the danger that there may be discrepancies between what we wish to be (or what we wish to seem to be) and how we actually appear to others and to ourselves (Frankfurt, 1988, p.163).

The various dimensions that contribute to well-being mentioned in the first section of this chapter can be detected in the narrative theories as well. A narrative has social and moral dimensions. It is formed within the socio-cultural context of a person and needs to be understandable for others. At the same time it has to be logical to oneself as it forms ones identity (Mackenzi, p. 15,16). This logic is not only based on the way the storyline develops but also on the motives that lead to this development. The justification of ones actions through the motives and their underlying values have to be understandable as we strive for motivational integrity (in Atkins& Mackenzi, p.170). In an article on normative agency, Kennett and Matthews also shed light on the way an individual is continuously confronted with different, sometimes even conflicting desires out of which she has to make choices for his or her actions (in Atkins and Mackenzi, p. 219,220). The nature and value of one's agency consists in an individuals capacity to unify parts of herself over time by acting on normative reasons ' (ibid.). In the citation above, the co-authors bring up the idea of unified agency. As Kosegaard puts it, there may be conflicting desires but we just have one body to act (in Atkins & Mackenzi, p.216). Not only conflicting desires make a choice for action problematic. On a higher level, choices out of different narrative paths that could be followed and even out of different identities have to be made. That does not mean that a person can not have multiple identities. Multiple identities are not always exclusive but can coexist along each other (Buitelaar, p.262). One may be a mother, a business-woman and the community leader at the same time. These identities have to be brought together in a relatively coherent overarching self-narrative (ibid.). That religion can play a fundamental role in this is reflected in the statement of Baker, that [s]pirituality is the connecting force or integrating power, that unifies all of life. It is the way that synthesizes the total personality and provides energizing direction and order (Baker, 2003, p.51).In the paragraph below, I will further go into the functions of religion.

2.1.4 Religious beliefs and ethics In 2000, Ver Beek published an article in Development and Practice, in which he criticizes the avoidance of the topic of spirituality in development theory and practice. In contrast to the consensus among development theorists on the integration of factors like gender, indigenous knowledge and social structure for the design of effective aid, religion and spirituality are mostly left aside (Ver Beek, p. 31). Due to the centrality of religion and spirituality in peoples lives, these aspects should be addressed more openly and included in the considerations made about development strategies and programs. The concept of weltanschauung covers a wide range of aspects contributing to the perspective from which somebody looks at, interprets and judges 'reality'. The term covers religious beliefs and ethics, norms and values as well as morality. Codes of conduct the translation of ideals into the social realm. According to the Anthropologist Clifford Geertz, values and attitudes suggested within a religious context are transferred into nonreligious contexts (1966). In this research, I take religious beliefs and ethics as the most basic factors of a weltanschauung as religion widely informs norms and values, morality and codes of conduct. Geertzs theory seems to be suitable for the Thai context as Thai Buddhism is strongly interwoven with everyday life. According to Kirsch Thai Buddhism plays a formative role for the individual weltanschauung, aspirations and activities, as well as for the structure of Thai society as a whole (Kirsch in Skinner & Kirsch, 1975, p. 194).
the importance of religion lies in the capacity to serve, for an individual or for a group, as source of general, yet distinctive conceptions of the world, the self, and the relations between them.From these cultural functions flow, in turn, its sociological and psychological ones (Geertz, 1966, p.40).

Geertz suggests that religion is a cultural system which helps to make sense of our perceptions by providing order and meaning (1958, p. 421, 422). Order can be attained from the world view that is conveyed by religion while meaning can be derived from the norms and values, the ethos, that is communicated through religion (ibid.). Viewed from that perspective, religion as a cultural pattern - can be seen as providing a guideline for social and psychological processes which shape public behavior(Geertz, 1966, p.6). It seems to be logical that Ver Beek emphasizes the importance to pay more attention to the topic of spirituality in development theory and practice:
...if development is truly about strengthening peoples capacity to determine their own1 values and priorities, and to organize themselves to act on these, then researchers and practitioners must recognize the importance of spirituality in peoples lives, seek to better understand it, address it openly, and give people the opportunity to decide how both their development and their spirituality should shape each other (Ver Beek, 2000, 41).

I want to take this advise and contribute to the better understanding of the workings of religion in the decision making process considering the way people spend their income. Furthermore, the I want to link these insights with the concept of well-being. In her conceptualization of well-being, Sarah White (2008) mentions the importance to acknowledge the moral dimension within the material, subjective, and relational facets of well-being (White, 2008, 4). I will especially look at those aspects of morality, that are derived from Thai Buddhism.

emphasis in the original version

2.2 Research questions Out of the theoretical considerations above, a general research question can be formulated: How does the sub-urban middle class of north eastern Thailand join idealistic and materialistic aspects of well-being in their consumption choices? In order to give answer to that question, the following sub-questions need to be clarified in reference to the sub-urban middle class of north-eastern Thailand: 1. Which concepts of Thai Buddhism are constitutive for the weltanschauung of... 2. What are the basic values of Thai Buddhist ethics for... 3. How are Thai Buddhist ethics reflected in the consumption choices of... 4. Which are the main factors that are perceived to contribute to well-being for... 5. How does the conception of well-being influence the consumption choices of... 6. How is a possible dissonance between religious ethics and consumption choices handled by... 7. What is the effect of consumption choices on subjective well-being of... ...the sub-urban middle class of north-eastern Thailand?

2.3 Analytical framework and operationalization To make the theory operational, important concepts will be shortly defined below. The conceptual model will illustrate the relations between these concepts. 2.3.1 The main concepts Well-being The present well-being of a person is the state of being that is constituted by a combination of the three modes of having, doing and feeling. Objective and subjective subjective factors equally contribute to that state of being, whereby the subjective van be split into importance and satisfaction. This state of being is not well-being itself but a well-being position on the continuum from poverty to well-being, with well-being representing the most optimal state of being. Consumption All actions that require the spending of a part of the income and assets of a household. That can be the purchase of material goods, but also of services and participation in certain activities, as well as gifts to family members and friends or donations. Here, a difference should be made between basic needs and additional needs, or desires. The definition of basic needs depends of the individual context and their fulfillment enables a decent livelihood and human dignity, which is also context specific. Narrative A narrative is the way a person perceives and represents his or her identity and that explains the actions and life choices he or she takes. Aim of a narrative is to integrate these actions and choices into a coherent and logical biography. The motive that someone uses to account for certain actions are a way to reach this coherence. Religious ethics 7

Codes of conduct and attitudes that are informed by religious concepts. Household Entity of social organization: people, mostly connected through kinship ties, that are pooling resources and sharing them. Mostly a household is settled in the same house or set of houses. However, it is also possible that household members live some place else, for example students or migrants. Context Social, cultural, economic, political, infrastructural, geographical circumstances. 2.3.2 Conceptual model

well-being (importance) Decision making

In line with? Consumption choices well-being (satisfaction)

Buddhist ethics

In line with? Individual Household community

3. METHODOLOGY 3.1 Methods of data collection To access the data necessary to give answer to the research question, various research methods were used. For an overview of Sri Than 4, a community profile was made in the beginning of the research. Also, a general household survey was conducted. To get more detailed information in-depth interviews were held in the course of the case studies. In the initial phase where general information was collected, it was of importance to tackle the three main topics, namely consumption, ethics and well-being. While the community profile should provide information at the community level, the survey was meant to get insight in data on the household level, including a limited number of data at the individual level. In the second phase, this general information has been used to identify the topics that had to be delved into more closely and the informants that could provide the information necessary. 3.1.1 Community profile Aim of the community profiles was to get background knowledge about life in Sri Than 4, concerning the geographical, socio-cultural, demographic and infra-structural situation. By getting insight in these dimensions a better understanding, analysis and interpretation of the data from the surveys and in-depth interviews was to be reached. Due to the lack of existing data sources on the community, the information was gathered through semi-structured interviews with key informants and PA methods by a group of three dutch students, assisted by two interpreters. The sampling of the key informants was done in a quite informal, snowball like way. After a first meeting with the community leader we asked her for experts on different topics. She was able to name only few so we were left to ask people on the streets about neighbors who were likely to know about certain issues. This approach worked surprisingly well, as the scope of the community was rather small. Key informants were the community leader, some members of the community board, a teacher, a community health volunteer, the master monk of Jom Sri temple, and some elders. As for the PA methods, a transect walk was done to get an impression of the scope of the community, the housing and resources. Approaching different inhabitants, a resource map was gradually completed. During an interview with two elders of the community, a historical time line was drawn. To get more information about gender roles and conceptions, a group of male and a group of female community members were approached to hold a focus group discussion. 3.1.2 Surveys The survey, which was conducted by local students, comprised a range of questions on the economic, social and political realm that were of interest for the assessment of well-being of the households2. The attention was hereby directed to the aspects of 'having', 'doing', 'thinking' related to well-being. However, it must be admitted, that there was a bias towards 'having', as this dimension was most easily operationalized. Relevant data from the questionnaire were on basic household characteristics, assets, income sources, consumption, and perception of well being. When it comes to the analysis of the data, the survey was analyzed statistically with SPSS. With the help of this program, the data could be arranged to be easily interpreted, for example by frequency tables or bar charts. Furthermore, different relations between the findings could be traced by regression analysis. Results could be presented in tables and diagrams. Some of the variables had to be modified in order to make them comparable. Income, for example could be indicated from daily to yearly income. A comprehensive variable with all income periods calculated into yearly income had to be constructed. Moreover I wanted to identify the respondents that valued luxury consumption and/or religion. For this purpose I constructed a luxury consumption scale as well as a religion scale, including the relevant

See attachments for the topic list

items3 from the series of questions on the perception of well-being. The luxury consumption scale includes 'having a job/income', ''having a lot of money', 'owning a car', 'having a mobile phone', 'having a personal computer', and 'fun shopping'. The religion scale comprises 'personal prayer/meditation', 'going to the temple', 'giving food and other donations to the monks' and 'attending ceremonies'. Furthermore I constructed two new variables to identify the respondents who had named luxury goods or religious spending as their main or desired spendings. 3.1.3 Case studies In the fourth week of the project, the questions that remained unanswered by the survey and the community profiles were tackled. These questions were of a qualitative nature and therefore they were approached through in-depth interviews. In these personal interviews, I hoped to find out more about the different factors that contribute to the way people make and look at their consumption choices. Aside from that, the level of satisfaction with these choices was to be explored. Moreover, the subjective well-being of the informant and his or her perception of the well-being of the household should be illuminated by the interviews as well as the importance people give to Buddhism and the implication of the ethics that go along with it. Sampling the research population I planned to sample the informants out of the household survey. I wanted to get in contact with those respondents who showed relatively high scores on religion and consumption. I choose for this selection criterion because I was interested in the way people match their consumption choices with their ideals. Among respondents who both valued religion and consumption I expected the greatest dissonance between values and consumption choices and therefore hoped to get insight in the underlying motivations and goals. For the sample, I selected the respondents who scored an eight or higher on the consumption scale or who had mentioned luxurious goods as one of the four most important ways to spend money (retrieved from form G4 and G5). I narrowed this selection in order to identify those respondents who would also give importance to religion. I did this by selecting the respondents who at least scored eight out of ten on the religion scale or who had mentioned religious spending as one of the four most important ways to spend money (retrieved from form G4 and G5). The final sample frame included 20 households in Sri Than 4 with 8 people above the age of 50, 5 people between 35 and 50, and 7 people younger than 35. The level of education in the sample frame ranged from primary school drop-outs to university graduates. Almost all of the respondents of the sample frame were employed or had their own business. Out of this frame I sampled 14 informants out of which 10 should be interviewed. In practice, however, I had to approach all households of the sample frame. The reason for this was the fact that the potential informants were all working during the day except for the older informants. In order to avoid an age bias I decided to approach three informants who had not taken part in the survey. However, I could not escape a gender bias, having interviewed seven women and only three men. Set up of the in-depth interviews The semi-structured in-depth interviews were guided by four main topics with some questions and possible follow-up questions that needed to be treated during the interview. These topics were: well-being, household economics, religion and decision making. Within the guidelines there was room left to react to the personality of the informant and the atmosphere during the conversation. The in-depth interviews took about 50 to 90 minutes. Because of my lacking knowledge of the Thai language I had to work with interpreters. This was not unproblematic

Consumption scale: Cronbach's Alpha 0,75. Religion scale: Cronbach's Alpha 0,76. A Cronbach's Alpha higher than 0,75 is indicating the internal consistency of the scale


as direct communication with the interviewee was impossible. Besides that, the way I put my questions had to be understood correctly by an interpreter lacking a social science background. Again, the interpreters had to summarize the answers and make choices about the English phrases. To smoothen the communication as well as possible, I briefed the interpreters about my research questions and the goals of the interviews. Furthermore, I asked them to translate as literally as possible and also draw my attention to non verbal communication of the informants. Additionally I would ask the interpreter for a general evaluation of the credibility of the answers given during an interview. Analysis The analysis of the information from the in-depth interviews was done in a iterative way. This started with the daily evaluation and adjustment of the interview guide in order to get closer to the information needed to answer the research questions. After the conduction of ten in-depth interviews, interviews were compared and labels were given to the interview summaries. In that way, gradually a model developed in which the central concepts were identified and structured. 3.2 The interviewees In this paragraph, the interviewees that were approached for the in-depth interviews are shortly introduced. This is done to give an impression of the type of persons who provided a vital part of the information presented in the results. Nuk4 is a 45 year old man living in a relatively poorly appointed two-room wooden house with his family. The interview was taken in front of the house on some mattresses, where the family usually sleeps at night. His neighbor, Sawat, a 46 year old woman, lives in a brick and wooden house together with her husband and her teenage daughter. The son has already moved out She owns a restaurant at the main road where the interview took place. Another interview was conducted with Nang, a 24 year old woman, who is studying management at Khon Kaen University. She is still living with her parents, her grandmother and sister in a relatively well furnished brick and wooden house. Kumpun is a 54 year old return migrant who had been working in Libya and Saudi-Arabia is now owning a grocery store at the main road. He lives in the back of the store together with his wife. His children have already founded their own families. An interview was also held with Tong Mai, a 29 year old trainee at the school of cosmetics. She is a divorced mother of 3 children at the age of 10, 8 and 4. Opposite to the beauty salon, Tong Mai is working at, lies the grocery store of Kunsee. She is a 42 year old woman, living in a relatively good appointed house with her husband and two children. Furthermore, I held an interview with Payun, a 60 year old woman, working at the nearby hospital. As a sideline income activity, she sells plants and trees and flowers together with her husband. The two are living in a house with some of her children and grandchildren. Her age mate, Nantawan, has a paralyzed husband. The interview was taken in front of her quite luxurious new house. Another interviewee, Pituk is a 48 year old school teacher. Together with his wife and children he lives in a relatively big, well appointed house. Finally, an interview was held with Sommai, a 45 year old single woman, living with her sister and mother in a average size house who is working in a hotel in the center of Khon Kaen.




Before turning to the results of the research, a context has to be sketched within which the research has been conducted. The background information that will be presented in this chapter is essential to be able to make sense of the data gathered during the research. I will elaborate on Thai Buddhism, the concept of sufficiency economy, and various levels of Thai societal structure. As Kirsch suggests, an investigation of Buddhist values and beliefs can broaden our understanding of the general patterns in Thai society (in Skinner & Kirsch, 1957, p. 177). This is why I will set out to delineate Theravada Buddhism first before turning to Thai social order and interaction. In this I will concretize my descriptions by referring to the context of the research location. 4.1. Thai Buddhism A differentiation must be made between the official Buddhist institutions and doctrines and Thai popular religion as it is practiced in every day life. Theravada Buddhism, Hinduism, Animism and other influences come together in Thai popular religious belief and practice. Although in the literature it is generally referred to as syncretism, 95 percent of the Thai call themselves Buddhist. I will recognize this denomination and from now on refer to this religious and spiritual topics as Thai Buddhism. 4.1.1 Multiple rebirth and karma Nirvana, the formal goal of Buddhism has often been characterized as otherworldly Nirvana, [shortly defined as the escape from this world], is very abstract and distant and difficult for anyone to aspire to, much less achieve (Kirsch in Skinner & Kirsch, 1975, p.179). Therefore most Thai Buddhists strive for intermediate goals that are more likely to be reached. The doctrines of karma and multiple rebirth stand in the center of these aspirations (ibid., p. 180). The path towards deliverance from this world is characterized by cycle of rebirths. The lives are stages on the way to Nirvana, whereby one strives to reach a higher level in the next life and come closer to Nirvana as a consequence (ibid., p. 180). Not only human beings are perceived to be in this sacred hierarchy, but all animated life including animals, demons, spirits and gods (ibid., p.181). On the way to salvation, it is in the hands of the individual whether he or she will go forward or backward. As Mulder put it, salvation is not a gift but a task (1978, p.38). Here the doctrine of karma comes into play which suggests that every action has some measure of religious reward or punishment attached to it (in Skinner & Kirsch, 1975, p.180). In order to understand the concept of karma, one has to understand Thai Buddhist ideas about merit making. Merit making is not just one out of many practices in Thai Buddhism. The concept of merit is the intersection of various elements of the Buddhist belief system (Kirsch in Skinner & Kirsch, 1975, p. 183). Young, who wrote about Thai Buddhist practices in the nineteenth century identified merit making rituals as the sum and substance of [Thai] religious faith and practice (Young, 1898, p. 274).The groundwork for ones destiny have been laid by the merits and demerits accumulated in ones previous life (Kirsch in Skinner & Kirsch, p. 180). Merit making is the tool to improve ones karma by doing good and is practiced with the hope that a good karma leads to rebirth into a higher level of the sacred hierarchy. The other way round, bad acts will lead to an deterioration of ones karma which could result in rebirth at a lower level of the sacred hierarchy. Nevertheless, there are still ways to give influence the course of ones present life. Popular merit making practices are aimed at short term rewards, ensuring safety and auspiciousness in the present life (Mulder, 1978, p. 38). Popular merit making is especially acted out in institutionalized Buddhist rituals, while the former notion of merit making is more related to the implementation of morality in daily life (Mulder 1978, p.38). The ideas of karma and merit making have important implications on the way Thai Buddhists look at their socio-economic position and the foreseen and unforeseen course of their lives. The individual 12

is seen as responsible for his or her present life situation and the shape his or her life will take in the future. 4.1.2 Thai Buddhist attitudes towards material wealth
Luxury consumption does not go along with the teachings of Buddhism. People just want more and more and can not control themselves. They spend their money on luxury goods because they want to have the same as people around them but are left with nothing in the end. If people want better things for themselves it has to go in line with self-sufficiency because they should not cause any harm to anyone (Master Monk of Jom Sri temple in Sri Than).

According to Buddhist notions, wisdom and compassion are the characteristics that should be aspired (Warr, n.d). Thoughts about suffering as a result of greed, hatred and ignorance are central to the Buddhist world view (Warr, n.d) The perception that happiness can be derived from material wealth results in greed. However, in Buddhist notions, the aspirations of greater wealth that stem from this perception lead to frustration, which in turn spark anger. Again, the Buddhist notion of ignorance is a result of the misconception of the self as an isolated, independent and inherent entity (Warr, n.d.) Warr explains, that these three poisons result in the endless vicious circle of frustrated pursuit of happiness from material things (Warr, n.d.). Kirsch even states that otherworldly focus of Buddhism generally discourages attempts at economic achievement (in Skinner & Kirsch, 1975, p. 177). These central conception of the Buddhist doctrine stand in opposition to the actual practice where Thai Buddhism recognizes the wish and need of people for a good financial situation. In Sri Than 4, two very obvious believes concerned with this topic could be found. Naang Kwak (literally: 'Lady Come') is described as a sort of goddess or angel that is believed to bring economic success and wealth. Her statue can be seen in most of the shops and houses. People pay respect to her, offer flowers and sweet drinks so that she will attract prosperity. When asked, the informants would assure the positive effects of this practices. Business men and women among the interviewees would have a statue in their shops so as to attract clients. Furthermore, Jom Sri temple of Sri Than has a enormous statue of a sitting Buddha with a big belly. He stands for wealth and prosperity, too, and people come to pray and pay respect in front of the statue in the hope of his assistance on the economic realm. Shedding light on these seemingly contradictory approaches to material wealth within Thai Buddhism raises the question as to how practitioners make sense of these contradictions. In Thai Buddhism, the idea of the middle way is widely applied. Referring back to the teachings of Buddha, Thai Buddhists are considered about avoiding extremes. The middle way ideology is applicable to every situation in life, also when it comes to the importance of material wealth. As the statement of the master monk of Jom Sri temple in Sri Than shows, luxury consumption is generally not highly valued but accepted if it happens under the condition of self-sufficiency. Furthermore, a differentiation can be made between the materialistic desire that is is aimed to be satisfied through the maximization of consumption, and the desire for quality of life, which is tied to the principle of sufficiency (Prayukvong, 2005, 1174). Sufficiency is also the guideline of the economic philosophy introduced by the present King of Thailand. In the next paragraph I shall further explain this ideology. 4.2 Sufficiency economy Sufficiency economy is a concept, brought forward by king Bhumipol (Warr, 2007). It was first mentioned in his annual speeches in the 1970s but put central to his speech in 1997, the year of the Asian economic crises that hit Thailands economy badly after a long period of economic boom (Warr, 2007). During the boom, a mentality of extensive risk taking for long term economic gain had developed in Thailand (Warr, 2007). The sufficiency economy ideology is informed by Buddhist ideals of wisdom and compassion whereby the individual is pictured as an integral part of the universe and therefore inextricably linked with nature and all other beings (Warr, 2007). In Buddhist terms, the crises can be interpreted as the result of the destructive effects of greed and ignorance (Warr, 2007). Coming forward with the concept 13

at the beginning of an economically disastrous period for Thailand, King Bhumipol tried to restore a mentality of sufficiency and constraint as a method to cope with the crises on an individual, communal and national level. However, the king did not denunciate economic growth in general. He rather argued that an excessive emphasis economic growth or material wealth at the expense of other, more important matters, can lead to the Buddhist concept of suffering. In this, the king also chooses the middle way by making Buddhist ideology match with the everyday life of Thai citizens as well as the workings of the markets in which the Thai economy is embedded. In his major speech on Sufficiency Economy, king Bhumipol identifies five major themes of the philosophy, namely moderation, resilience, self-reliance, inner dynamic and knowledge. The concept of moderation can be defined by a call to sensible material aspirations(Warr, 2007). In this line, the priority of individuals and policy makers has to be the fulfillment of basic needs for the majority before higher levels of economic growth can be aspired. Resilience asks for the avoidance of excessive risk during these aspirations. The concept of self-reliance postulates economic independence and can be translated to the individual and the national level, as well. Inner dynamic points out to the importance to be concerned about the protection of others, who are, according to the Buddhist world view, linked with us. Finally, the knowledge term draws our attention to the importance of nonmaterial aspects of life, such as education, arts and spirituality. 4.3 Thai societal structure Two essential elements that shape Thai society have already been mentioned: Buddhism and Monarchy. 'Nation, Religion and King' are perceived to be the three pillars of Thai society as suggested by King Vajiravudh in the beginning of the twentieth century (Cohen 1991, p. 11). In this paragraph I will not further dwell on the Thai monarchy or the Thai nationality but on the structure of Thai social order. Erik Cohen identifies a horizontal and a vertical dimension of Thai social order (1991, p. 27-30 & 37-39). There is a strong social hierarchy that assigns clear rights and obligations to a person occupying a certain position within that hierarchy. However, the individual is not bound to a certain position within that hierarchy (ibid.). He or she can move between positions through achievement. This achievement can be reached spiritually, through the accumulation of merit, or economically, socially or politically through personal characteristics such as diligence. Social rigidity and individual freedom can be combined in that way. Ideas on social structure and social mobility seem to reflect religious notions as similar principles can be found in the workings of karma and merit (Kirsch, p. 181). 4.4 The research location 4.4.1 The North East (Isan) Isan is the name for the north-eastern region of Thailand, as well as for the inhabitants of that region, who make up one third of the population of Thailand. The region is historically perceived as lying at the periphery of the country, not only geographically, but also economically and socially. There have been various efforts to incorporate the region more closely into Thai society and economy (Cohen, 1991). These efforts however, emphasized the differences between the north-east and the 'rest' and created a consciousness of separate regional identity (ibid.). The Isan is economically dependent on the center and a lot of outward migration taking place which results in a 'brain drain' that especially extracts the young and highly educated Isan. 4.4.2 Sri Than 4 Sri Than 4 is a urban community that is part of Khon Kaen municipality. Khon Kaen has been made the economic center of the Isan region in the course of the attempts of the government to better integrate and develop the region (Cohen). In addition, a university was established there, which has grown to be one of the largest campuses of Thailand. All this was meant to diversify the income opportunities, away from pure agricultural activities. The former village 14

of Sri Than has gradually become part of the expanding city of Khon Kaen. In the course of Thai decentralization politics of the administrative entities, Khon Kaen had been divided into two, later into four separate communities. Historically relying on subsistence farming, Sri Than 4 is now a typical suburban community with approximately 700 inhabitants living in 150 households. Most adults are now employed in and around Khon Kaen which is also an effect of the increasing educational level as various types of schools lie within reach. Next to these formal income activities, many households have a sideline source of income in the form of a small grocery store, a street restaurant, or a stall at the communal night market. The change in economic activities has brought about increasing wealth among the households, who mostly describe themselves as belonging to the middle class. In the chapter that follows, some characteristics of the households in Sri Than 4 will be described, regarding well-being, assets and consumption. 5. RESULTS: Well-being, consumption and Buddhist ethics in Sri Than 4 In the following chapter, the results from the survey and the in-depth interviews will be presented. First I will go into the factors that have shown to be important for the well-being among inhabitants in Sri Than 4. Secondly, the material assets and other purchases will be described. In order to understand how inhabitants of Sri Than 4 come to their specific consumption choices, important concepts of Thai Buddhist ethics will be illuminated in third section. In the final section, consumption choices will be taken up, this time in the light of Buddhist ethics and well-being.
Perception well-being: importance on a range from 0-10 Owned by % of HH

1 health of people close to you 9,55 2 having good relations with your family 9,53 3 having children educated at high school / university 9,44 4 being safe 9,35 5 having a decent home 9,21 6 having good children 9,18 7 being healthy 9,15 8 being able to take care of your family 9 9 having a lot of money 8,86 10 having a job/income 8,55 11 being able to vote 8,44 12 owning land 8,26 84,8 13 giving food and other donations to monks 8,18 14 having a partner 8,18 15 having a TV 8,15 98,5 16 having children 8,03 17 learning new things 7,82 18 being respected in your community 7,61 19 going to the temple 7,52 20 having the freedom to express your political opinion 7,45 21 owning a car 7,44 53 22 meeting friends 7,32 23 attending ceremonies 7,23 24 personal prayer/meditation 7,22 25 having free time 7 26 owning a mobile phone 6,86 97 27 engaging in politics 6,79 28 owning a motorcycle 6,68 92,3 29 having a personal computer 5,91 53 30 fun shopping 5,82 31 having access to the internet 4,98 Table 1: Perceived importance of different items for well-being (1-10) and the percentage of households owning these items

5.1 Well-being and consumption in Sri Than 4 In this section I will set out to describe the main aspects of well-being that came to the surface during the survey and the in-depth interviews. These are statements about the importance of certain dimensions of well-being, as well as the satisfaction with ones position within these dimensions. To get a complete picture of the well-being situation in Sri Than 4, I will simultaneously compare these subjective perspectives on wellbeing with the possessions and actions of the inhabitants of the community. The section will be structured by a ranking that has revealed the different level of importance of different topics for the well-being of the inhabitants of Sri Than 4 (Table 1). 5.1.1 Family relations, health and education The general survey has revealed trends about the importance that 15

is attached to certain issues with respect to well-being. Table 1 shows an order of the importance certain topics have for the well-being of inhabitants of Sri Than 4. The most significant contributors to well-being are related to the immediate social environment, such as good relations with the family, the health of people close to the respondents and the education of the children. Family relations The in-depth interviews affirmed that family relations are highly valued. A happy, complete, unite and peaceful family is important to the well-being of the informants. The reason for this was the function of the family as emotional and financial backup. The family was also seen as providing practical assistance in taking care of the children. Nang, the 24 year old student, is still living with her parents. She reported that spending time with her family, talking to her parents as often as possible, makes her happy and is a big contributor to her mental health. At the moment, she is supported by her parents but she is planning to get a good job after her graduation. That way, she wants to support her parents financially and be able to take care of them when they get old. Health When it comes to the topic of health, the high ranking from the survey was also confirmed in the interviews. Apparently, the health of household and family members was a bigger concern to individuals than their own health, which got a high score, nonetheless. An explanation for this is the financial burden that illness brings to a household, but also the emotional stress that goes along with it. 39 percent of the households that were surveyed reported a case of serious illness of one or more household members, whereby the emotional impact was generally ranked higher than the financial one. Education In the ranking of actual spendings (Table 3), education arises as one of the most frequently named expenditures. Table 3 also shows that many households would like to spend more on education, if they had more money at hand. This is also reflected in the in-depth interviews, where informants stated that they would like to save more money for the education of their children. Good education for the young family members was considered as one of the most crucial preconditions for a 'happy life'. Within this topic, happy life was defined by the ability to get a permanent and well paid job that will lead to Items of financial stability. In this, the importance of family Rank Desired items of additional spending actual spending ties as a tool for financial security reemerges. Many 1 housing 33,3 food informants had children who were still being food 22,7 electricity educated. The willingness of the children to strive education 13,6 Education towards a successful completion of their education other: 13,6 repaying debts was a concern to their parents, investing in them, also 2 luxury goods 15,4 Food because they hope to benefit from it in the future. education 15,4 education Two interviewees who were still about to complete health 10,8 electricity their education stated that it was their duty to food 12,3 toiletries 3 education 18,5 electricity succeed. They had the feeling that they owed those health 2,3 clothing who supported them at the moment. A good health education would help them and their future nuclear debts 10,8 food families to cover their needs and enable them to food 10,8 luxury goods support their parents and other close relatives. 5.1.2 Safety, food and decent housing The physical environment plays a major role for the well-being of the community members. Here, safety and decent housing were given a high score in the ranking (table 1). Also in the in-depth interviews,
4 health 15,9 insurance insurance 14,3 education Religious spending 12,7 health food: 9,5 repaying debts Table 2: % of households ranking their actual/desired expenditures

63,8 10,6 7,6 7,6 22,7 18,2 18,2 9,1 36,4 7,6 7,6 6,1 6,1 15,4 12,3 10,6 10,6


decent housing conditions revealed to be an important factor for well-being. For 25, 8 percent of the population, this requirement is not met, as they report to be unsatisfied with their housing conditions and for 33,3 percent, the first thing to invest in if they had more money, would be housing (table 3). In addition to safety and housing, food was a basic need that has unanimously been given a high importance for well-being by the interviewees. An examination of table 3 shows that food is one of the most important purchases that is made by households is Sri Than 4. 63,8 percent of the respondents report to spend most of their households income on food, for another 22,7 percent, food reaches the second rank of actual spending. Also in the ranking for desired expenditures, food is often mentioned. Generally, the respondents rate their satisfaction with their diet with a 7,19 out of 10. 5.1.3 The material basis In the previous section, it already became visible that financial stability is a concern that emerges in almost every domain of life. It is not an aim on it's own, but rather connected to the fulfillment of basic and additional needs. Seen in from this perspective, the high score of the items of 'having a lot of money' and 'having a job' or a different source of income can be directly linked to a third item that received a relatively high score, namely 'being able to take care of the family' (table 1). In the in-depth interviews, money and a job were thus among the first factors that where named as basic requirements for well-being. Money was seen as the tool to realize various aspirations and have a comfortable life. Be it a higher educational level for oneself or one's offspring, the chance to improve one's business, convenience in daily life, and even respect from others. The informants agreed on the relation between happiness and money. The ability to buy anything one needs without having to struggle for it was perceived as an important element of happy life. As Nuk explains: 'Money enables me to lead a happy life and have a happy family. When I have money, I can do anything without having to work hard.' The ability to take care of the family, however, also carries a subjective dimension. A majority of the informants drew self-respect and respect from community members out of the ability to take care. Nantawan stated that it is a 'good feeling' to be able to take care of her disabled husband. In addition, it makes her proud to talk about the way she managed to afford the education of her children. Nang, on the other hand, emphasized the respect that she would gain if she supported her parents in the future. 5.1.4 Assets and luxury goods While social factors are predominant among the highest rated contributors to well-being, five out of the six lowest rated factors can be counted to the material dimension. The include properties as mobile phones, personal computers and motorcycles. Majority of the materialistic items5 in this topic list are correlating, which made it possible to construct a scale6 that summarizes the importance of material factors for well-being with a mean score of 7,1 out of 10. When compared with the scores that were given to other items, it becomes clear that the respondents perceive materialistic factors to be among the least important contributors to well-being. The fact that materialistic aspects are perceived to be least important with respect to well-being does not mean that Sri Than's inhabitants do not own or purchase the goods they value relatively low. In table 2, some technical products are listed, most of which are commonly found in households in Sri Than 4. Five of them, here marked in grey, can also be found in table 1, where they are part of the scale for materialistic well-being. When checking the percentage of households owning a certain asset against the importance the
5 6

TV 98,5 mobile phone 97 refrigerator 95,5 motorcycle 92,3 gas stove 83,3 radio/cassette CD 83,3 video 74,2 washing 71,2 machine bicycle 62,1 car/truck 53 PC 53 telephone 50 air conditioner 25,8 Table 3: percentage of households owning certain assets

Marked in grey (tabel 1) Cronbach's alpha of 0,86


respondents attribute to it, there does not seem to be a direct link. More than 90 percent, for instance, own a mobile phone and a motorcycle. However, these two items are among the lowest valued for well-being. In the ranking of actual and desired spending on different goods, luxury goods are rarely among the four items, most of the income is spent on. Only 13,6 percent of the inhabitants name luxury goods in this respect. For 27,3 percent of the respondents, luxury goods are among the four items they would spend money on, if they had a higher income. Buying luxury goods was also seen as a leisure activity, especially among the younger population. In the interviews, buying clothes was related to well-being by three of the younger female respondents. They stated that not only the act of shopping would bring relaxation, but also the effect of new clothes, as they would make them look good and make them be respected as a consequence. The survey confirms that age has a significant influence on the importance that is given to luxury consumption. As the graphic on the left shows, 28,3 percent of the variance in the importance given to luxury Graph 1: Regression line illustrating the correlation of age (x-axis) and importance consumption can be explained by age. of luxury consumption (y-axis) In the survey, respondents where also asked to indicate their wealth level in comparison to other community members. Half of the respondents ranked their households wealth to be average. A significant correlation can be noticed between the perception of relative wealth and the importance given to consumption. The survey shows that a higher importance of consumption goes along with a higher total yearly income. People who have more money at hand to spend on luxury have shown to attach a higher value to consumption. At the same time, people in less wealthy positions, seem to give less significance to luxury consumption. 5.1.5 Debts and investments The survey has revealed that 54,5% of the respondents are indebted. In that connection, the importance of religion does not influence whether somebody gets indebted or not. The purpose of the loan varies. To name the most popular reasons to take up a loan, 27,8 % of those indebted name agricultural purposes, 25% daily expenses, 13,9% see the need to invest into their housing and 11,1 get indebted for educational reasons, whereas another 11,1% purchase luxury goods by taking up loans. Finally, medical expenses are named by 5,6% of the respondents with debts. At this, the hight of debts does not seem to be correlating with the hight of the total yearly income that somebody has. While the qualitative interviews revealed a general fear of getting indebted, being afraid not to be able to pay back the loan, the respondents in the survey hardly indicated doubts about not being able to pay back. Only one respondent was not sure whether he will be able to pay back the debt, the other 35 indebted respondents were sure about their ability to pay. Taking up a loan, often has to do with lack of satisfaction with the current economic situation. This was also reflected in the desire for future investments that came to the fore in the in-depth interviews as the case of Nantawan illustrates. 18

Everyone named future plans that should either help their lives to be more comfortable or themselves to be more respected. A majority of the informants wanted to set up their own business, mostly restaurants, grocery stores, or renting out apartments. Others, who already had a business strived to improve the business. When asked about the reason for these goals, they named more convenience in daily life and financial independence. Again, the ability to help other family members was widely valued. Some informants also related a feeling of proud and gladness with the improvement of their job or business. 5.1.6 Spiritual well-being and religious spending Table 1 also contains four items that can be defied as religious activities. 'Giving food and other donations to the monks', 'going to the temple', 'attending ceremonies' and 'personal prayer/meditation' are positively correlating. Together, these activities are given 7,5 out of 10 with respect to their importance for well-being. This score is higher than that for the material scale with an average of 7,1, but still lower than the average score of the items in table 1. Also, consumptions related to religion were hardly among the four highest ranked expenditures. 13,6 percent of the inhabitants of Sri Than 4 are spending money on religious activities and goods. 28,8 percent would like to include religious spending into the four most important expenditures, if they had more money. However, the relatively low incidence of religious spending does not have to indicate a low level of religious activity since religious practices do not necessarily require the use of money, especially not in high amounts. A tendency that can be interpreted from the survey, concerns the relation between income and religiosity. With a rising level of the household income the score of the religion scale would decline. The higher the income, the lesser the significance given to the role of religion for well-being. In the in-depth interviews, the decline in participation in religious activities among the younger population was lamented several times. In opposition to these opinions, no significant correlation between age and the perceived significance of religion for well-being could be found in the data from the survey. 5.1.7 The community In the in-depth interviews, informants did not only refer to their household and family members, but also to the community as a whole. Friends and neighbors from the community were mentioned as practical and emotional backup and as social contacts for leisure activities, but also as customers of one's business. In addition, the socio-economic status as well as the role somebody has in the community and interaction with community members was of concern to the interviewees. The individuals position in the community is derived from age, length of stay in the community, possible leadership functions, income and job position, size of family, religiousness, generosity, active engagement in community activities. In order to be respected, informants tried to be a good example in the community. When a person can fulfill the characteristics of a 'good person' and follow the Buddhist morals, he or she will be respected and admired. Being a good example increases one's self esteem and satisfaction with the present life situation. In this way being a role model for others increases the subjective well-being.. 5.1.8 The factor of time Not only the present life situation but also the difference of this current situation with the past is another contributor to somebody's subjective well-being. The awareness of having achieved something in life seems to be important. Material achievements as own land, own house and assets made the informants proud. Also a job sustaining the family was seen as crucial achievement, as has been explained above. Two young informants stated that they have not yet achieved any of their goals. Several others, especially older informants, were already very proud with their achievements.


5.2 Weltanschauung, Buddhist ethics and ideal behavior Actions, decisions and reasoning can not be understood without referring to the cultural context of a person. In that line, this section will focus on some important Buddhist notions that influence the world view, ideals and behavioral norms of the inhabitants of Sri Than 4. In the in-depth interviews, informants closely linked their behavior to the ideals they mentioned. Thus, as a second aspect, the attitudes and behavior will simultaneously be described here. 5.2.1 The five Buddhist morals Buddhism is generally seen as a guide to a happy, peaceful peaceful life and a better after life. The informants believe that following Buddhist ethics will help them to be a good person who is respected or even admired by others. They may even function as a good example within the household and the community as a whole. A crucial element in the ethics of the informants were the five Buddhist morals which were named by almost all informants. The morals were summed up as the commandments of not killing, not stealing, not drinking, not lying, not committing adultery. At least once during the interviews, the morals where directly mentioned while at several instances they were reflected in statements on ideal and actual behavior. The commandment of not lying, for example, was reflected in terms like honesty and sincerity and trustworthiness as characteristics of a good person. The majority of the informants was quite confident about their ability to keep the commandments with the exception of drinking alcohol. Alcohol was commonly referred to as a big problem. But, on the other hand, people associated drinking alcohol with relaxation and and social contacts. Here most interviewees admitted that they enjoy drinking alcohol with friends. This could also be observed while staying in the community. It was very common to see people, especially men, sit together and drink the local white whiskey or beer. Nuk, a 45 year old man, stated that he tries to be a good example for his family and neighbors, keeping the Buddhist commandments. However, he enjoys drinking and flirting with other women occasionally. He explains this by a need to participate in social life and make friends. Nang, the 24 year old university student, also associates drinking alcohol with spending time with her friends which is a kind of relaxation to her and makes her happy. 5.2.2 Sufficiency The philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, as promoted by king Bhumipol was widely known to the informants. When asked about the definition however, the interviewees fell back on general ideas of sufficiency as mentioned above. The definition of sufficiency economy seemed to be quite flexible, as the informants seemed to bring it in line with their own situations. As a consequence it was not surprising that a majority of the interviewees were positive about their ability to comply with the requirements of sufficiency economy. In a few cases agricultural self-sufficiency was mentioned as a more pure form of sufficiency economy. In this case it was not possible for the informants to fulfill the requirements while living in a sub-urban area. Principles that were named as being led by the philosophy were the avoidance of overspending and the re-use of old things, like clothes. The notion of sufficiency was a topic widely recurring in the interviews. In this, a differentiation can be made between different aspects connected to the notion of sufficiency. One of them lies within the individual, namely the need to be satisfied with ones present situation and the means one has at hand to shape the future. Being satisfied was also seen as the precondition for the avoidance of 'struggling for more', an urge which was seen as a constraint to happiness as it stems from a situation in which one is not satisfied. Sawat, the 46 year old mother and restaurant owner, for example, is not satisfied with her present situation. She feels poor and wants to reach a better wealth level in the future. These future plans, however, put a lot of pressure on her to work hard and improve her business. Being sufficient requires the ability to distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary things in life. Informants were asked what they would like to purchase if they had two times their current income. Mostly, the response was to save the money, since they could not think of things that were really 'necessary' at the moment. The saved money should 20

work as a buffer in times of bad health of one of the family members, investment in the own business and education of the younger family members. Of course the interpretation of the terms necessary and unnecessary can be shaped individually. The informants emphasized the importance to omit harming others or extending ones problems to others. Not causing trouble for others seems to be one of the most important characteristics of a 'good' person. Burdening family members, friends or the community through problems one is responsible for should be avoided. On household level, these problems could be unemployment, illness, failure to complete one's education or inability to sustain the family. Friends could be burdened by seeking their help with financial problems while on community level crimes as theft or vandalism were given as an example. 5.1.3 Karma and merit The notion of karma recurs in all interviews. Some informants name it directly, while others explain the concept without giving a name to it. Generally the informants believe that the nature of their actions, to wit good or bad, will be reflected in the way their future is shaped. Thoughts around karma encompass the previous life, this life, as well as the next life. Ones present circumstances have mainly been predetermined by the sum of good and bad deeds in the previous life. Through merit making, shortly summarized as doing good, the interviewees believe to be able to improve their future destiny. While the focus lies on good behavior, it is also crucial to avoid 'bad' behavior. This can also be seen as a reason why informants are anxious not to affect others negatively by their own actions. Merit making is primarily aimed at a good afterlife. However, most informants also emphasized the short term impacts of it. Two ways of making merit can be distinguished as merit making can either be incorporated in everyday life or deliberately be acquired through religious practices. In case of the latter, Thai Buddhism provides a range of options to increase ones merit. The informants most frequently named practices as paying respect and bringing offerings to Buddha, gods or spirits. Donating food to the monks was also widely mentioned. Freeing animals as birds or fish was another way of making merit. Finally the interviewees expected to gain merit from prayer and meditation. In the section on well-being, I shortly alluded to the importance of these practices. It has to be noted that these practices (except for prayer and meditation) do not have to be aimed at gaining merit for oneself. It is also possible to transfer merit to others. This is mostly done in cases that others may be in a weak position which makes them dependent on assistance. It can be thought of children or elderly, sick, poor or deceased people as well as people facing major of minor critical life events, such as birth, marriage, an exam or a job interview. A more informal way of making merit has to do with the incorporation of Buddhist ethics in everyday life. These practices always deal with the impact of ones action on others. Through good behavior and actions in daily life, merit can be accumulated. As an informant stated during the interview: It is not necessary to go to the temple to make merit. You can also make merit in everyday life by giving clothes to the poor and candy to children. Another informant put that good behavior in daily life is more important than going to the temple. As a matter of fact, all informants were more elaborate on the implementation of ideal behavior in daily life than on institutionalized forms of merit making. Some of these codes of conduct have already been mentioned in relation to the Buddhist morals. Activities that were named in relation to daily merit making were particularly those that would benefit others. The most obvious one was financial support and material help. As a consequence, mercy and generosity were values that were often brought in relation to every day merit making acted out through donating money, cloths or food to monks, poor people and family members in need. The survey showed that 34,8% of the respondents seem to transfer money to family members or relatives who are not part of the household. 9,1% of the respondents sustain friends financially. Then, moral support was also named. Informants found it important to be a good example for others, giving advice to others on topics like health, conduct, ideal ways of life. 21

Besides, preventing others from doing bad things that could have a negative impact on others and on their karma was named several times. Payun, the 60 year old nurse, also offered her advice on health issues to community members. She made them aware of bad habits that would detriment their health. In addition, she saw herself as a role model because she had a harmonious family and considered herself to be a good wife and mother. Helping others on a spiritual way was also common, as I have mentioned above. Praying for others and transferring merit to others were said to be done on a daily basis. Through merit making, whatever the type, the informants get the feeling of having an influence on their destiny and the destiny of people they care about. It increases their hope for a better future. Some informants even noted that the tangible effects of merit making are subordinate to the comforting and encouraging feeling it entails. Moreover, the concept of karma helps to accept inequalities and shocks. The higher socio-economic status of others can be explained by their good previous life. As an informant stated: If people have good luck and a better position than us, it means that they have done so many good things in their previous life. In that way, the concept of karma helps to be satisfied with the own life situation while simultaneously giving a tool to reach for a better situation in the future.

In this concluding chapter I will discuss the results that were presented in the previous chapter in the light of the theoretical considerations from chapter two. In this, I hope to answer the sub questions of this research, which lead to the answer of the main question, giving insight about how the sub-urban middle class of north eastern Thailand join idealistic and materialistic aspects of well-being in their consumption choices. First, I will summarize and interpret the findings from the information gained in the local context, before discussing them in relation to the theory. 6.1 Idealistic and materialistic aspects of well-being linked up The research shows that religion helps the inhabitants of Sri Than to make sense of their perceptions by providing order and meaning to their actions and interactions with others, as Geertz had also suggested. The basic values of Thai Buddhist ethics that came to the surface during the research were sufficiency, munificence and compassion, honesty and diligence. The Buddhist notion of sufficiency shapes thoughts about consumption. Sufficiency is valued high and goes along with the requirement to feel satisfied with the present state of being and the means at hand to shape the future. Sufficiency also asks for a moderation of aspirations and the avoidance of harming others by ones actions. In the interviews, informants stated that they should be and were happy and satisfied with their standard of living and the consumption choices they had. A majority of the informants had the idea that they could live along the lines of the Kings Sufficiency Economy. However, many statements about the satisfaction with their living standard did not show in the way informants would struggle for an improvement of their and their children's economic situation. Almost all of the informants wished for a better job, a higher income. They had future plans for investments and wanted their children to live a better life. Many informants were even indebted for bigger investments. A discrepancy could thus be noted between the ideals of sufficiency and the actual behavior and attitudes towards material wealth. The overarching concepts of Thai Buddhism that could be identified during the research were karma and multiple rebirth. Sri Thanians believe that their fate is dependent on their karma, determined on how much merit they were able to accumulate in their previous life. Merit is accumulated through regular religious activities and doing good in everyday life. Making merit in this life will help to influence their destiny in positive ways and secure a better afterlife. Cohen, writing about Thai social structure, argues that from the Thai weltanschauung all beings are potentially equal (Cohen, 1991, p.37) as they can alter their position within the social hierarchy through the accumulation of merit. This was also reflected 22

in this research, as informants often stated that merit making gave them a feeling of agency, a tool to shape their future and that of the people they care about. The question is, however, what is a better future? It was shown that a combination of social and material aspects were desired but also the human preconditions such as health, education, and safety. A higher socio-economic status would, in the Buddhist weltanschauung, reflect a good character. Therefore, striving for a better job, a higher income, an exemplary family life and more respect in the community may be connected with the wish for an affirmation of being a good person, and being perceived as such by others. This is conflicting with the principles of sufficiency that encourages to be satisfied and discourage the desire to have more than what is needed. In the Buddhist world view, the concern about ones well-being is thus not limited to the present and the future in this life, but also in the next life. The older somebody gets, the close the next life comes, and thus the perceived need to improve ones karma increases with a higher age. The survey revealed that the importance that is given to material luxury is more present among the younger population. In the interviews, younger informants attributed leisure, happiness and respect to the purchase of goods that were not seen as a basic need. Older informants derived more well-being from the social status they had attained in the community. Both achievements within the social and the material dimension are believed to reflect ones karma. As age and achievements in family life are playing a big role for social status, the younger generations may have to rely more on the material dimension to be respected. Another reason for the role of age in the importance that is given to luxury consumption could be the fact that most of what is perceived to be luxury goods, are technical products, such as mobile phones, motorcycles and cars, televisions and personal computers. These products are more familiar with the younger generations, as they have grown up with them. What was conspicuous that consumption choices where overly named in relation to the family or the household. This was the case with almost all basic aspects of well-being. Harmonious family relations were the first condition for well-being to be mentioned. Basic material needs that were mostly named were food and decent housing for the family. Majority alluded to health and education of family members as basic human needs. The research has shown that striving for higher income is not justified by the need of more luxury or comfort. It is explained by the need to support others and do good. Here, the Buddhist values of compassion and munificence can be traced. In that line, most of the informants look at their consumption choices as motivated by Buddhist ethics and therefore as matching with these norms and values. In addition, purchases and planned investments, whether saving money for education, improvement of one's business, a new car or a new house are presented as being a necessity. 6.2 Unifying different desires and motives for well-being There were thus two statements that almost all informants made in the in-depth interviews. First of all, when asked directly, the interviewees stated to be satisfied with their lives and did not miss out to mention that it was important to be satisfied and omit reaching out for goal they could not reach easily. This attitude is informed by Buddhist ethics and the Thai Kings philosophy of Sufficiency Economy. For an outsider, these statements, however, are not consistent with peoples tendency wanting to improve their situation, even through taking up loans. One may conclude that these informants might have tended to give answers which are socially desirable. But, when learning more about the notion of sufficiency, there is another aspect to this notion, which did not ask for the passive acceptance of the present situation but more for a moderated and reasonable handling of the means at hand which does not exclude the hope to move forward in the future. It can be stated that people are trying to embed their consumption choices into the values and concepts that are provided by Thai Buddhism, emphasizing those aspects that are best matched with their situations. In this, definitions of 23

certain concepts may also be shaped according to the own situation that makes the own actions logical and contributes to a coherent self-narrative. Secondly, the interviewees were quite confident about their ability to act according to the Buddhist ethics. They saw themselves as good Buddhists, following the five Buddhist morals and other behavioral norms, such as compassion, munificence, and generosity. The motivations of for their consumption choices were brought in line with these ethics. Sri Thanians are looking at their purchases as a necessity that would contribute not only to their own well-being, but also to their families well-being. Via consumption, with money as the basis, they could reach different valuable functionings, as it is called by Sen. It was obvious that the value of these functionings was widely based on Buddhist ethics and the weltanschauung that Buddhist concepts inform. It could be stated, that, as Atkins and Mackenzie suggest, actions were justified through their motives and underlying values in order to come to motivational integrity (Atkins&Mackenzie, p.170). In this, value was also given to the way ones actions and consumption choices are judged in the wider social context. Thus, the narrative about consumption choices had a social and a moral dimension, as was also stated by Mackenzie (in Atkins& Mackenzie, 2008, p.15). It may be useful to widen the concept of subjective wellbeing with the idea that individual actors can adjust their own subjectivity of perception and thereby increase their subjective well-being. The concept of narrative makes this idea palpable. This is also in line with the WeD framework, within which meaningful action is acknowledged to be a part of well-being. Making sense of ones actions contributes to the subjective well-being of a person. In this, not only the individual perception but also the social environment plays a role. The more a person is able to smoothly integrate into the socio-cultural environment, the higher the satisfaction with her life. Idealistic and material aspects of well-being are joined by an iterative process of continuously balancing consumption choices and motives in relation to their social and cultural context.


REFERENCES Atkins, K. & Mackenzie, C. (eds.) (2008). Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. New York: Routledge Baker, D.C. (2003). Studies of the innter life: The impact of spirituality on quality of life. Quality of Life Research, 12 (1). pp. 51-57. Buitlaar, M. (2006). I Am the Ultimate Challange, Accounts of Intersectionality in the Life-Story of a Well-Known Daughter of Moroccan Migrant Workers in the Netherlands. European Journal of Womens Studies, Vol. 13(3), pp. 159-276 Cohen, E. (1991). Thai Society in Comparative Perspective. Bangkok: White Lotus. Elliott, R. (1997). Existential consumption and irrational desire. European Journal of Marketing, 31(3/4), 285-296 Frankfurt, H. (1988). The importance of what we care about. New York: Cambridge UP Fromm, E. (1976). To Have or to Be. Routledge &Kegan Paul: London. Geertz, C. (1966). Religion as a cultural system In: M. Banton, Editors, Anthropological approaches to the study of religion, Praeger, New York Guillen, M. & Velazco, J. 2006, Exploring the relationship between happiness, objective and subjective wellbeing: evidence from rural Thailand, WeD Working 11, University of Bath, Bath. Guillen, M. 2007, Consumption and wellbeing: motives for consumption and needs satisfiers in Peru. Thesis (PhD), University of Bath, Bath (UK). Guillen-Royo, M. (2008). Consumption and subjective wellbeing: exploring basic needs, social comparison, social integration and hedonism in Peru. Social Indicators Research, 89, 535-555. Jongudomkarn, D. & Camfield, L. (2005). Exploring the quality of life of people in north eastern and south Thailand. WeD Working Paper 11, University of Bath, Bath. Skinner, G. W. & Kirsch, A.T. (eds.) (1975). Change and Persistence in Thai Society. London : Cornell University Press. Mulder, N (1979). Inside Thai society: an Interpretation of Everyday Life. Bangkok: Duang Kamol Nussbaum, M. & Sen, A. (eds.) (1993). The Quality of Life. Oxford: Claredon Press Phongpaichit, P. & Baker, C. (1996). Thailand's Boom. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. Prayukvong, W. (2005). A Buddhist economic approach to the development of community enterprises: a case study from Southern Thailand. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 29, pp. 11711185 25

Srivastava, A., Locke, E. A., & Bartol, K. M. 2001, "Money and Subjective wellbeing: it is not the money, it is the motives", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 80, no. 6, pp. 959-971. Ver Beek, K.A. (2000). Spirituality: a development taboo. Development and Practice. 10 (1) Warr. P. (n.d.). The Economics of Enough: Thailands Sufficiency Economy Debate. Australian National University WeD (2007). Research Statement: Wellbeing and International Development. Wellbeing in Development Countries, ERSC Research Group, University of Bath. Available at:, retrieved 28 June 2009. White, S. (2009). But what is well-being? A framework for analysis in social and development policy and practice. In: Paper for Regeneration and Wellbeing: Research into Practice. University of Bradford Young, E. (1898). The Kingdom of the Yellow Robe. A Description of Old Siam. Westminster: Constable, 1898; New York: New Amsterdam, 1900; reprint Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1986


Appendix 1: English version of the household survey

Form A: Basic Household Data

A.1: Please tell us about all household members Lives in HH M


Nickname B

Relation head HH C

Sex D

Place of (years) birth E F


Marital Educational Education status G level H



Religion L

completed drop out Occupation I J K

Instruction/remarks: A) PID = personal ID-code. Give each member a code. This should correspond with the codes you use in Form B1 and B2. B) Fullname = please write down in English, not in Thai F) Exclude hospital. (many born in hospital in the city) Thus note the place where they lived after they returned from the hospital. H) Education level = highest level reached I) Education completed? = Has this person completed the schooling? Or did this person drop out early? M) Lives in HH = Does this person currently live in this house? Or does he or she stay somewhere else?

Form A Codes
(C) Relationship to head of the HH: (F) Place of birth: (J) If drop out, please state the main reason

01 Head of the HH 02 Husband/ wife 03 Child (biological) 04 Child (step / adopted) 05 Son/ daughter in law 06 Parent 07 Father/ mother in law 08 Direct brother /sister 09 Brother/ sister in law 10 Grandchild 11 Grandparent (female side) 12 Grandparent (male side) 13 Uncle/ aunt 14 Cousin 15 Servant 16 Other relative (specify) 17 Other non-relative (specify) (B) Sex: 01 Male 02 Female

01 Non-Non Wat 02 Sri Than 03 Other quarter Khon Kaen 04 Ban Fang 05 Ban Lao 06 Other village/city in Khon Kaen province 07 Other village/city in Isan 08 Other village/city outside Isan (in Thailand) 09 Other (specify) (G) Marital status: 01 Not yet married 02 Living together unmarried 03 Married 04 Living separated 05 Divorced 06 Widowed (H) Educational level: 01 Not yet in school (continue column K) 02 Never been to school (continue column K) 03 Primary school 04 Secondary school 05 High school 06 College/ university 07 Other (specify) (I) Education completed: 01 Yes 02 No, specify how many years completed..

01 For economic reasons 02 Other reason, specify (K) Main occupation: 01 Student/ child 02 Working in industrial sector 03 Working in civil services 04 Working in services 05 Working in agriculture 06 Bussiness/ trading 07 Transportation 08 Craftsmanship 09 Retired 10 Housework 11 Unemployed 12 Unable to work/ disabled 13 Other (specify) (L) Religion: 01 Buddist 02 Muslim 03 Christian 04 None 05 Other (specify) (M) Lives currently in the HH: 01 Yes, permanently (=more than 9 months last year) 02 Yes, but returned/seasonal migrant (away for more than 3 months last year) (Continue with Form B1) 03 No (continue with form B1)

Form B1: Migrated Household members Data

Continued from Form A: include those persons who are currently not living in the house Instruction: Copy the PID of the persons for whom the answer in column M (in Form A) is 02 and 03. For each of these persons, fill in this Form B1. If none of the household members live outside the house or has been doing that before, continue with Form B2. PID Length Year start Current/last Reason for Send/ bring Spending Send/ bring Kind of goods

of leave (in months) B

migration C

place of stay/work D

migration E

money home F

money G

goods home H I

Form B1 Codes
(D) Current/last place of stay/work 01 This Village/community 02 Other Village in Isan 03 Other quarter in Khon Kaen 04 Other city in Isan 05 Greater Bangkok (in and around) 06 Eastern and mid Thailand 07 Southern Thailand 08 North and West Thailand 09 Abroad 10 Other (specify) (E) Reason for migration 01 Marriage 02 Occupation (job) 03 Education 04 Other (specify) (F) Send/ bring money home 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know (G) Main spending of the money (multiple answers possible) 01 Daily expenses 02 For ceremony 03 Housing 04 Investments 05 Luxury goods/durables 06 Medical expenses 07 Education 08 Communication (e.g. phone) 09 Other (specify) (H) Send/ bring goods home 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know (I) Kind of goods (multiple answers possible) 01 Stereoset 02 Television 03 Other electronics 04 Clothing 05 Cigarettes/liquor 06 Food 07 Other (specify)

Instruction B) Length of leave = How long did/does this person stay outside the house (in months / last period of migration)? Example 1: Does this person work elsewhere for 6 months and then return home? Then the answer is 6. Example 2: Does this person works oversees and has been doing that for 7 months up to now, the answer is 7. Example 3: If a person has been working oversees for 2 years but returned 3 months ago, the answer is 24. C) When did this person leave the house for the first time? In what year? D) Place of migration. They are there now, or - in case of returned migrant - where they were last time.

Form B2: Migrated Household members Data

Instruction: Are any household members born outside the current place of residence (see form A, column F)? If no, continue with Form C If yes, fill in Form B2 for each person that was born outside the current community. Copy the exact PID-code from Form A B2 For people who were born outside the current place of residence (see Form A) when did they come to this community and why? PID Date person arrived in current place of residence (month/year) B Reason for migration

Form B2 Codes
(C) Reason for migration 01 Marriage 02 Migration with family 03 Occupation (job) 04 Education 05 Other (specify) Instruction: This Form seeks to identify those persons who migrated to the current place of residence. For those born outside the place of residence, please ask when they came to the current village/city and why they moved there. (maybe the person arrived at the age of 2 when the parents migrated, or the person came a few years ago in search for a job).

Form C: Housing
C.1 What type of house does this household live in? Instruction: answer by own observation. 01 Shack 04 Brick/ concrete house (two floors)

02 Wooden house 03 Brick/ concrete house (one floor)

05 Brick/ wooden house 06 Appartment 07 Other (specify)

C.2 Does the household own this property? Or do they rent it? Or is there a different construction? 01 Own property 02 The household pays rent 03 Don't know 04 Other (specify) C.3 Does the household own the land on which the dwelling is built? 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know C.4 Does the dwelling have electricity? 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know C.5 What is the main source of drinking water? 01 Private piped water 02 Communal piped water 03 Well/ tube well 04 Rain water (often from water storage jar) 05 Bottled water 06 Other, specify..

C.6 What kind of toilet facility do the members of the household use? 01 Flush toilet 02 Pit latrine 03 Bucket toilet 04 None (outdoors) 05 Other, specify. C.7 What is the main source of fuel for cooking? 01 Electricitry

02 Petroleum products 03 Bottled gas / gas tank 04 Firewood (wood, leaves & twigs, etc.) 05 Charcoal 06 Agricultural residue (e.g., stalk, chaff) 07 Other, specify C.8 How many bedrooms + living rooms does the house have? C.9 Concerning your family's housing which of the following is true? The family's housing is: 01 Not adequate 02 Just adequate 03 More than adequate 04 Don't know/ no answer Number:

Form D: Land and assets

D.1 Do you own/use land? 01 Yes 02 No (continue to question D.4) 03 Don't want to tell (continue to question D.4) D.2 How many pieces of land do you use/own? D.3 Land owned and operated by the household: No Land ownership/ usage Area (rai) A B 1 2 3 4 5 Number:

Use of fields C

Type of water D

Form D.3 Codes

(A) Land ownership/ usage: 01 Land is owned by the HH (trough land certificate) 02 Land of parents used free of charge (C) Use of the fields (multiple answers possible): 01 Houseplot 02 Rice (D) Main type of water

03 Rented by the HH for money 04 Rented by the HH for a share of the harvested crop 05 Renting-out 06 Public land 07 Other (specify)

03 Cabbage 04 Sugarcane 05 Cassave 06 Corn 07 Mushroom 08 Tomato 09 Melon 10 Other, specify

used: 01 Rain water 02 Underground water pump 03 Pumped pond water 04 Public canals 05 None 06 Other, specify

D.4 Does your household own any livestock and how many? (excluding pets) (Note 0 (zero) if they do not own one of the items) Kind of livestock No. Owned 01 Cow 02 Buffalo 03 Chicken 04 Duck 05 Pig 06 Other (specify) D.5 How many of these items are in your house? (Note 0 (zero) if they do not own one of the items) Kind of asset No. owned 01 Radio/ cassette/ CD 02 Television 03 Video/ DVD player 04 Telephone (not mobile) 05 Mobile Phone 06 Refrigerator 07 Gas stove 08 Air conditioner 09 Bicycle 10 Motorcycle 11 Tractor 12 Car/ truck 13 Washing machine 14 Personal Computer

Form E: Income sources

E.1 What are the income sources of your household?

Type of income source A 01 Agricultural activities - own business 02 Agricultural activities - labour 03 Non-agricultural activities - own business 04 Non-agricultural activities - labour 05 Pension 06 Remittances 07 Other, specify

Yes/ no B

Amount (Baht) C

Period D

Form E1 Codes
(B) Income source? 01 Yes, continue to C and D 02 No 03 Don't know/ don't want to tell (D) Period: 01 Daily 02 Weekly 03 Monthly 05 Yearly 06 Other (specify)

E.2 How satisfied are you with the household income? (0=completely dissatisfied, 5=neutral, 10= completely satisfied) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Form F: Debts/savings
F.1 Does your household currently have any debts? 01 Yes 02 No (continue to question F.2) 03 Don't want to tell/ don't know (continue to question F.2) To whom/ where A

No 1 2

Amount (Baht) B

Purpose C

How pay back D

Able to pay back E

3 4 5

Form F1 Codes
(A) To whom/where has the HH debts: 01 Bank (BAAC/BCCA) 02 Other bank 03 Relatives in village/ city 04 Relatives outside village/ city 05 Money lenders 06 Friends 07 Neighbours 08 Village headman 09 Village fund (specify) 10 Other (specify) (C) Purpose of debt: 01 Daily expenses 02 For ceremony 03 Housing 04 Investments 05 Luxury goods/durables 06 Medical expenses 07 Education 08 Gambling & drinking 09 Other (specify) (D) How to pay back: 01 Money 02 Labour 03 Money and labour 04 Goods 05 Other (specify) (E) Able to pay back 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know

F.2 Do the household members have any gold? 01 Yes, specify in Bath (weight) Bath (weight): 02 No 03 Don't want to tell/ don't know F.3 Does your household have any money savings? 01 Yes, specify in Baht Baht: 02 No 03 Don't want to tell/ don't know

Form G: Consumption
G.1 How often are following kind of foods consumed in your household on average? Instruction: please tick the right box in each line Daily (1) Weekly (2) Monthly (3) Less often (4) Never (5) 01 Fruit 02 Vegetables 03 Fish/ water animals 04 Pork 05 Beef 06 Chicken 07 Eggs 08 little land animals 09 snacks

Remark: Snack = candy, ice cream, etc.

G.2 Please indentify your level of satisfaction with your household's food consumption during the different seasons. (0=completely dissatisfied, 5=neutral, 10= completely satisfied) Please encircle the right number 01 Dry Season 02 Wet Season 03 Winter 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 6 7 7 7 8 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 10

G.3 In the past 12 months, did anyone in the household send money or goods to relatives or friends outside the household? If yes, how much? If goods, what is the value of those goods? Instruction: note the total value sent in the last year Sent to A 01 Family/relatives 02 Friends Yes/ no B Amount (Baht) C

Form G3 Codes
(B) Money/goods sent to these categories? 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know/ want to tell

G.4 On which items does your household spend most money? Number the 4 most important items. (Let the respondent rank. Note 1 for the first, most important item; 2 for the second; 3 for the third and 4 for the fourth) Goods Ranking A 01 Food 02 Clothes 03 Education 04 Insurance 05 Luxury goods 06 Transport 07 Toiletries 08 Electricity 09 Housing 10 Taxes 11 Health 12 Religious spending (monks, ceremonies) 13 Repaying debts 14 Other, specify

G.5 If your household had more money on which four goods would you like to spend more money? (Let the respondent rank. Note 1 for the first, most important item; 2 for the second; 3 for the third and 4 for the fourth) Ranking 01 Food 02 Clothes 03 Education 04 Insurance 05 Luxury goods 06 Transport 07 Toiletries 08 Electricity 09 Housing 10 Taxes 11 Health 12 Religious spending (monks, ceremonies) 13 Repaying debts 14 Other, specify

Form H: Shocks
H1.1 We would like to learn more about shocks: unexpected events that have a negative influence on your household e.g., a failed crop. Did one of the following shock occur to your household in the past 5 years? (0=no impact; 5=neutral; 10=very large impact) Kind of shock Yes/No Impact on daily life - economically Impact on daily life - emotionally (scale 0-10) (scale 0-10) A B C D 01 Serious Illness of a HH member 02 Death of HH member 03 Failed crop 04 Loss of employment/bankrupty 05 Sudden fall of crop price

Form H Codes
(b) Yes/no

01 Yes (Continue with column C and D) 02 No

Instruction: B) Did the shock occur to this household in the past 5 years? C/D) Note the number of the scale in the column

Form I: Health
I.1 Does a household member suffer from chronic ill health? 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know/ want to tell I.2 Does a household member suffer from a major disability? 01 Yes 02 No 03 Don't know/ want to tell I.3 How satisfied are you with the following health facilities? (scale 0-10) (0=very dissatisfied; 5=neutral; 10=very satisfied) How satisfied are you with the care you receive from the following facilities? (scale 0-10) 01 Traditional midwife 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 02 Sub-district government health centre 10 03 District government hospital 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 04 Provincial governmental hospital 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 I.4 Do you go to a private clinic or hospital if a household member is ill? 01 Yes 02 No (Continue with Form J) 03 No answer (Continue with Form J) I.5 If yes, why do you go to a private hospital or clinic? 01 Because it is closer to the house 02 Because the quality is better in these facilities 03 Because these facilities and doctors are more reliable

Don't know / N.A. Don't know / N.A. Don't know / N.A. Don't know / N.A.

04 Other reason, specify

Form J: Social relations

J.1 How often do members of your household have contact with: (Please tick the right box for each row) Once or twice a year (4)

Daily (1) 01 Relatives nearby (in community) 02 Relatives far away 03 Neighbours 04 Colleagues at work 05 Religious dignitaries 06 Community leaders J.2 Please indicate the purpose of those contacts (Multiple answers possible; please tick the right box for each row) Economic support A 01 Relatives nearby 02 Relatives far away 03 Neighbours 04 Colleagues at work 05 Religious dignitaries 06 Community leaders

Weekly (2)

Monthly (3)

Less (5)

Emotional support B

Ceremonies or festivities C

Work, business D

Official meetings E

chatting, eating, entertainment F

J.3 Do you or does one of your household members occupy an important position in the village/community? 01 No 02 Yes, specify who and what position PID. Name.Position PID. Name.Position PID. Name.Position 03 Don't no / No answer J.4 Are you or someone of your household a member of any organisation?

01 Yes 02 No (continue to J.6) 03 Don't know (Continue to J.6) J.5 In what kind of organization(s) do the members of your household participate at the present? (please tick the right box) Yes No 01 Official village based organisation 02 Spontanous, informal village based organisation 03 Governmental organisation beyond the community 04 NGO 05 Labour union 06 Religious group 07 Political party 08 Others (specify) J.6 Did you or any member of your household dropped out of any organisation lately? 01 Yes 02 No (Continue to Form K) 03 Don't know (Continue to Form K) J.7 Why did you or other members of your family dropped out? (multiple answers possible) (tick the right boxes) Person 1 Person 2 Person 3 PID: PID: PID: 01 Fees were to high 02 No more interested in activities 03 Organisation stopped as a whole 04 Did not agree with the policies or goals of the organisation 05 We moved to another place 06 Personal conflicts with the organisation 07 Health Problems 08 Other (specifiy) 09 Don't know/don't want to tell

Person 4 PID:

Form K: Politics
K.1 Did you vote at the last elections? 01 Yes (continue to K.3) 02 No (continue to K.2)

03 Don't want to tell (continue with K.4) K.2 Why not? (multiple answers possible) 01 Because of practical problems 02 Because I do not think my vote makes a difference 03 Because none of the political parties has a leader I like 04 Because none of the political parties has a program I support 05 Because I disagree with the way politics is functioning 06 Because I do not trust politicians 07 Other (specify) Continue with question K.4 (If answered 'yes' to question K.1) K.3 Why did you vote for the party you voted for? (multiple answers possible) 01 Because this political party has a programme I support 02 Because my family votes for the same party 03 Because the village headman advised me to vote for this party 04 Because a community leader asked me to do so 05 Because I received a small payment 06 Because this party has done something for our community in the past 07 Because this party has done something for me in the past 08 Becasue this party has a leader I support 09 Other, specify K.4 Will you vote during the next elections? 01 Yes (continue with K.5) 02 No (Go to question K.7) 03 Don't know (Go to question K.7) 04 Don't want to tell (Go to question K.7)

K.5 Will you vote for the same party? 01 Yes (Continue with question K.7) 02 No (Continue with question K.6) 03 Don' t know (Continue with question K.7) 04 Don't want to tell (Continue with question K.7) K.6 If not the same party, why do you want to vote for a different political party? (multiple answers possible) 01 Because this political party has a programme I support 02 Because my family votes for the same party 03 Because the village headman advised me to vote for this party 04 Because a community leader asked me to do so 05 Because I received a small payment 06 Because this party has done something for our community in the past 07 Because this party has done something for me in the past 08 Becasue this party has a leader I support 09 Because I am unsatisfied with the party I voted for during the last election 10 Other; specify K.7 What or who are your sources of information on politics? Indicate on a scale from 0 to 10 how important the following sources are to you. (0=not at all important; 5=neutral; 10=very important) 01 Radio 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 02 TV 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 03 Newspaper 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 04 Relatives 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 05 Neighbours 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 06 Friends 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 07 Village head 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 08 Other community leader 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 09 Rally of political party 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 Other, specify 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

K.8 How often do you receive information on politics? 01 Never 02 Less than once a month 03 About once a month 04 Almost once every two weeks 05 About once a week 06 Almost every day 07 Don't know/don't want to tell K.9 What sources of information you consider to be the most reliable? (Note a 1 for the most reliable; a 2 for the second reliable and a 3 for the third answered item) Rank 01 Radio 02 TV 03 Newspaper 04 Relatives 05 Neighbours 06 Friends 07 Village head 08 Other community leader 09 Rally of political party 10 Other, specify K.10 Have you ever participated in political demonstrations? 01 Yes (continue to K.11) 02 No (continue to K.12) 03 Dont want to tell (continue to K.12)

K.11 If yes, Why? 01 Because I received a small payment 02 Because I was against the policy 03 Because I was asked to join 04 Other (specify) K.12 According to you, how important are the following characterisitcs for a politician? Indicate on a scale 0-10 (0=not important at all; 5=neutral; 10=very important) 01 Honesty 0 1 2 02 Reliability 0 1 2 03 Accountability 0 1 2 04 Experience 0 1 2 05 Having a lot of money 0 1 2 06 The will to cooperate with other politicians from all parties 0 1 2 07 Other, specify 0 1 2

3 3 3 3 3 3 3

4 4 4 4 4 4 4

5 5 5 5 5 5 5

6 6 6 6 6 6 6

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

8 8 8 8 8 8 8

9 9 9 9 9 9 9

10 10 10 10 10 10 10

K.13 How satisfied are you with the quality of the existing politicians? Indicate on a scale of 0-10 for each characteristic (0=very dissatisfied; 5=neutral; 10=very satisfied) 01 Honesty 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 02 Reliability 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 03 Accountability 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 04 Experience 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 05 Having a lot of money 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 06 The will to cooperate with other politicians from all parties 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 07 Else; specify 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 K.14 Are you all in all satified with the present political situation? Indicate on a scale 0-10. (0=very dissatisfied; 5=neutral; 10=very satisfied) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8 8 8 8 8 8 8

9 9 9 9 9 9 9

10 10 10 10 10 10 10

K.15 What are according to you the main three changes needed. (Note a 1 for the most important change; a 2 for the second and a 3 for the third answered item) Rank 01 Better information 02 More honesty 03 More accountability 04 Stronger leaders 05 More democracy 06 Less democracy 07 More reliability 08 More attention for local issues 09 More political cooperation 10 Stonger parties 11 Other, Specify

Form L: Perception of Wellbeing

(0=not important at all; 10=very important L.1 Can you mention how important the following issues are to you on a scale from 0 to 10? (Encircle the answer given) No. 1 Being healthy 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 2 Owning land 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 3 Meeting friends 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 4 Having a partner 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 5 Fun shopping (e.g. Big C) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 6 Having free time 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 Being able to take care of your family 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 8 Having a job/income 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Being respected in your community 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 Learning new things 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 11 Engaging in politics 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 12 Having good children 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 13 Having a personal computer 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 14 Having a decent home 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 15 Having children 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 16 Owning a motorcycle 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 17 Health of people close to you 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 18 Going to the temple 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 19 Being able to vote 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 20 Giving food and other donations to monks 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 21 Having access to the internet 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 22 Having good relations with your family 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 23 Having a TV 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 24 Attending ceremonies 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 25 Having the freedom to express your political opinion 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 26 Personal prayer/ meditation 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 27 Owning a mobile phone 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 28 Having good relations with the spirits 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 29 Having a lot of money 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 30 Being safe 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 31 Owning a car 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 32 Having children educated at high school or university 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 L.2 How wealthy do you consider your household compared to other households in

9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9

10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10

your village/ neighbourhood? (0=least wealthy, 5=average, 10= very wealthy) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10