Biography of Master Chamnien Saranaga

Mr. Chamnien Saranaga was born on March 22, 1909 at Wat Tha Phra Sub-district, Bangkok Yai District, on the Thonburi side of the river. The fourth child of Deputy Councillor Khun (a civil title) Bhakdibhumiwibhak (Nim Saranaga) and Mrs. Charoen Saranaga, he had five siblings and remained single all through his life.

Education

1. High School Diploma, Wat Pathumkhongkha School, 1927
2. Thammasat Graduate Degree, University of Moral and Political Science
(now Thammasat University), 1935

Career

1. First joined the civil service in 1929 as a clerk, 2nd class, in the Command Department, Ministry of the Royal Treasury (now Ministry of Finance).
2. Transferred to the Cooperative Department, Ministry of Agriculture, in 1937, serving as full-time official and gradually rising in ranks as follows:
– 1939: Head, Document Division, Office of the Secretary
– Cooperative Officer (Academic Section) and District Cooperative Officer, respectively
3. In 1955, the Cooperative Department was elevated to the Ministry of Cooperatives. Mr. Chamnien became a staff member of the Department of Cooperative Credit and Banking, Ministry of Cooperatives. He was further promoted to higher positions as follows:
– Head, Credit and Cooperative Bank Control Division
– Director, Credit and Cooperative Bank Control Division (later changed to Credit and Community Cooperative Group Control Division)

Deputy Director-General, Department of Cooperative Credit and Banking

4. The re-organization of the government agencies in 1963 caused the abolishment of the Ministry of Cooperatives and the establishment of the Ministry of National Development. The Department of Cooperative Credit and Banking was merged with the Department of Commercial Cooperatives to become the new Department of Commercial Cooperatives and Cooperative Banking, Ministry of National Development. Mr. Chamnien held the position of Deputy Director-General, Department of Commercial Cooperatives and Cooperative Banking, until September 18, 1966. After approximately 37 years of government service, Mr. Chamnien resigned at the age of 56 to work with the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. Even though he was to retire in 1970, BAAC’s Board of Directors unanimously resolved that, as the bank was still in its fledgling days and needed a president with comprehensive banking knowledge as well as thorough and precise understanding of agricultural credit crucial for the laying of a solid foundation for the entire working system, and as Mr. Chamnien still enjoyed good health and had such virtues as honesty, diligence, perseverance and complete devotion to his work, a proposal on an extension of his service with annual renewal until he turned 65 in 1975 be submitted to the Minister of Finance. However, the 1975 Standard Qualifications for Board Members and Employees of the State Enterprise Act had been enforced early in the year. On its strength, Mr. Chamnien was compelled to give up his position as BAAC President as from February 27, 1975 at the age of 64 years and a little more than 11 months. His service with BAAC which started on September 19, 1966 and ended on February 26, 1975 lasted altogether 8 years, 5 months and 8 days.

During the more than eight years of Mr. Chamnien’s term as BAAC President, the three Chairmen of the Board, namely Mr. Boonma Wongsawan, Mr. Sommai Hoontrakul and Mr. Puey Ungphakorn – all of whom were highly qualified, had the highest caliber, upheld the virtues of intelligence, wisdom and honesty and adhered to the stringent principle as regards the frugal use of state budget – along with all members of the Board were known to be totally satisfied with Mr. Chamnien’s performance, especially his honesty, perseverance and hard work. He was also highly commended as author of the manuals that proved to enhance the quality of work and, more importantly, were reliable due to accuracy.
Mr. Chamnien carried out every task, be it entrusted to him or endorsed by the Board, with the greatest sense of responsibility. Each and every case containing difficult or complicated issues would be profoundly studied, researched, considered, reviewed and reflected on while a solution to every step of the potential problem would be clearly given in detail and in advance while the operational staff were equipped with the manuals that he had diligently and thoroughly prepared. They could, therefore, perform the tasks entrusted on them promptly and properly.

Special Assignments

  1. Representing the Ministry of National Development at the joint drafting committee on cooperative legislation under the auspices of the Office of the Council of State of Thailand;
  2. Serving as Head of the Thai delegation to the international technical conference on Agricultural and Cooperative Credits held at the University of California, U.S.A.;
  3. Representing the Ministry of Cooperatives in the Thai delegation to the international conference on rice, held in Bangkok by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO);
  4. Representing the Ministry of Cooperatives in the Thai delegation to the international technical conference on Agricultural Credit in the Far East, held in Manila and Baguio City, the Philippines, by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA);
  5. Serving as Head of the Thai delegation to the Far Eastern Agricultural Credit and Cooperatives Workshop, held in Seoul, Korea;
  6. Serving as Head of the Thai delegation to the Far Eastern Agricultural Credit and Cooperatives Workshop, held in Bangkok;
  7. Visiting Professor of Cooperative Studies and Cooperative Law at the Faculty of Cooperative Economics (presently Faculty of Economics and Business Administration), Kasetsart University;

8. Serving as member of the ad hoc committee on the founding of the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) set up by the Office of the National Economic Development Board [presently National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB)];

9. Chairman of the committee on the founding of BAAC.

Aside from the above, Mr. Chamnien Saranaga also served as head of the Thai delegation as well as Thailand’s representative at several other international conferences and meetings held both in Thailand and abroad.

Throughout his entire career, both in the civil service and at BAAC, Mr. Chamnien was renowned not only as an honest, hard working man who totally devoted his time almost all through his life to work but also as a pioneer whose work proved beneficial both to society as a whole and to the operational staff in the organization. For example, he co-founded Thailand’s first savings cooperative, namely the Savings Cooperative for Officials of [the Department of] Cooperative Limited, still in operation today, initiated and established the Agricultural Credit Cooperative as well as played a role in the improvement of credit services provided by the fund-raising cooperatives (a type of cooperatives that raised funds to enable them to provide loans to other cooperatives but have now changed to function as other types of cooperatives), which proved to have considerably enhanced their previously substandard debt payment ability resulting in their subsequent prosperity and stability, even though they were later merged and became other types of cooperatives, which reflected the social changes prevailing at the time.

Gratifying Achievements

Mr. Chamnien Saranaga’s most famous achievement is the establishment of a high quality, sustainable agricultural credit system. It is a comprehensive system that covers all components of agricultural credit, from the establishment of a stable organization to the definition of policies, laws, rules and regulations; the preparation of manuals and the application of the cooperative system to credit operation. Examples of his significant achievements are:

1. Founding the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives as an organization that renders assistance to and helps solve debt problems facing farmers who cannot take out loans from formal financial institutions, thus falling victim to informal lenders;
2. Drafting the national policy on agricultural credits; drafting guidelines for the founding of BAAC and BAAC Act as well as serving as a member of the BAAC Act drafting committee still enforced today;
3. Introducing the cooperative and Group Guarantee Credit systems to the operations, which greatly helped strengthen both people and communities on a sustainable basis;
4. Initiating a saving system for the borrower’s future security via, for example, the Deposits in Proportion to Loans project, whereby 5 percent of the total loan being taken out was reserved as deposit in the borrower’s account for three years, with a high deposit interest rate of 9 percent per year;
5. Initiating the non-passbook saving deposit system whereby withdrawal slips similar to the present-day checks were used. Each book contained 20 withdrawal slips;
6. Raising funds through the issue of shares and discounted promissory notes prior to maturity date;
7. Creating an innovative system whereby loans were granted in the form of agricultural materials such as fertilizers, plant pesticides and insecticides and seeds. The objectives were to ensure that farmers received quality agricultural materials, tools and machinery as well as to prevent inappropriate loan utilization;
8. Initiating the paddy pledging scheme while encouraging the farmer clients to build common silos for the storage of pledged farm output;
9. Establishing Thailand’s first savings cooperative

Mr. Chamnien worked seven days a week with no weekends or holidays whatsoever, striving to enable BAAC to provide extensive and swift services to farmers. He tried to instill in BAAC staff the virtues of honesty, integrity, sacrifice, devotion to work so as to gain the farmer-clients’ trust and confidence and loving care as if the clients were the staff’s own relatives, as this would be reciprocated in the form of love and profound loyalty on the part of farmers-clients.

To him, clients must by no means be exploited or taken advantage of. Failure to conduct field investigation or verification of the clients’ data at their homes and farmland prior to registration was considered a serious offense as this would cause a lack of trust and confidence on the part of customers from the outset. Such an offense deserved the penalty of dismissal without compensation or termination of employment. In addition, Mr. Chamnien constantly emphasized the virtue of unity among the employee body, insisting from the very beginning of his working with BAAC that

” … Regardless of the institutions you all came from, or the colors you represented, when at BAAC, we all have only one color … the color of BAAC.”
Given his resolution, devotion, self-sacrifice and determination to initiate a high quality agricultural credit system that could actually render assistance to farmers, Mr. Chamnien became renowned and recognized by scholars and technical experts both in Thailand and abroad. His innovations and methods were adopted as guideline for credit operations such that success was attained by various countries. Accordingly, Mr. Chamnien deserves to be the rightful recipient of the award of honor as “Creator of a high quality, sustainable agricultural credit system.”

King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Silver Coronation Medal

Chakrabarti Mala Medal   |     Knight Commander (Second Class), the Most     |   Exalted Order of the White Elephant of Thailand

Royal Orders, Decorations and Medals for Commemorative Occasions Bestowed on Mr. Chamnien Saranaga
1. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Silver Coronation Medal
2. Chakrabarti Mala Medal
3. Knight Commander (Second Class), the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand
4. Knight Commander (Second Class), the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant of Thailand
The above-mentioned orders, decorations and medals were bestowed during his civil Service.

Final Days

Following his retirement at the age of 65, starting from February 27, 1975 onwards, Mr Chamnien continued to work for BAAC for a certain period of time, until he completed the manual which had remained unfinished and gave useful advice and consultations relating to work. On June 18 of the same year, he stopped working completely and, from then on, spent his retirement days at home.

At home, Mr. Chamnien kept on studying and writing work manuals, not only in continuation of the topics he had started but also touching on new ones. Unfortunately, these were merely written in draft form as, in the middle of 1977, he was suddenly stricken with paralysis which affected his right arm and right leg such that he was unable to walk. Even though his relatives took him to several places for treatment, the symptom was only slightly improved. Still unable to write with his right hand, he learned to write with his left, which proved only a partial success.

Around the middle of April 1981, his health greatly improved following treatment combining both modern and traditional medicine such that his body balance was better. Although not yet able to write, he could hold light objects using his right hand and was able to sit upright and even walk. His relatives were thus encouraged hoping that his health would gradually improve. Unfortunately, with complications due to diarrhea alternating with constipation, Mr. Chamnien became so frail that he could no longer balance himself. His condition alternated between stable and worsening.

On Sunday, November 1, 1981, Mr. Chamnien passed away peacefully at about 4 p.m. at his home located in the alley way behind Rachasiddharam Temple in Thonburi. He was 71 years and a little more than 7 months old. It was a still, calm and quiet evening as though everything and everybody were mourning the passing of the great Mr. Chamnien Saranaga, founder of BAAC.