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Dividing the Family Farm

When Gaun’s mama had a mild stroke last year it made the family focus on formally splitting the farm between the seven kids. How does that work in a Thailand environment? Find out here.
This post covers the final administrative part of that process on the ground, with some bonus rural insights to add a little extra flavour to the day. This isn’t a dry bureaucratic story in any way so put on farming footware and let’s get going.

Currently the farm is officially held under two titles, one 22 rai (1 rai = 1,600 m2 BTW rai is pronounced ‘lie’ in Isan because Isan people don’t do ‘r’s’)  in mama’s name and 26 rai in the name of Gaun’s grandma. Mama’s title can be distributed no problems but the other land was more difficult because mama doesn’t have a current direct claim on it (no will involved obviously) as her husband died when Gaun was five years old.

The solution was to first transfer that portion of the land to the Gaun’s only surviving uncle, who has since then transfer it to the kids. Today the government was formally measuring both the two plots of land and then marking the split of the land between the eight blocks.

When I arrived all the local family were in attendance along with the surveyor and two government helpers.

This is at the bottom of the farm. At this stage the surveyor is marking out the edges of the two larger plots before doing the split between the family.

The family head off to mark this edge of the land across to the boundary on the far side where the farmhouse is located.

The main players gather to confirm location of the markers.

Looking back to the road and th boundary of this side of the farm. A cousin’s sugar on the left and family sugar on the right.

More discussion. You can see that Gaun, Bear and Yuan are all carrying concrete markers. One of my favourite locations in the background. The farm pond with my beach hut and floating sala Isan Grace.

Each marker is numbered 2-5886 in this case and 10-2108.

Each number is then recorded on the draft title, which will be formally drawn up and registered. If you then buy this land you can get a copy of the title and ensure that each marker is in place to determine the boundary, unless your neighbour has moved it! GPS backup if required.

Each marker is then buried.

I only add this because it shows Jan Gaun’s older brother who has 1/8th of the farm. I think this is the only photo I have of him. He is less involved in the family than the other kids and is usually left to do his own thing.

Gaun on the edge of the farm pond (which is on Yuan’s land). My beach hut in the background.

Two bank robbers. Gaun and Yuan. Lud on the left and Bear the right. Balaclavas are worn to stop Isan people getting any darker not for skin cancer. How sensible if bloody hot! Note that they are totally covered up. Somehow even though you only see the eyes their character shines through.

Jun on the left and Gaun’s uncle on the right. Uncle was there to add authority just in case there was any dispute, which is very unlikely with this family. Jun is the only slight wild canon.

Marking the top corner of the farm. My beach hut and Gaun’s farm garden on the right and the farmhouse further over. Digging in another marker. These concrete posts will follow once the boundary has been determined. A lot harder to move them then a marker, if a neighbour was so inclined.

This surveyor guy was friendly and efficient. Spoke a bit of English. Seemed to know exactly what he was doing.

My second best Isan friend Yuan.

Tham (hidden – Bear’s husband) and Gaun adding a marker. I left them to it but will report back on any developments that might be of interest. The final stage is that once the paperwork is finalised the transfer is registered and stamp duty paid.

The eight plots run from left to right based on age. Mama has the first and Yuan, the youngest, the second. Because Yuan, being the youngest, looks after mama, she will inherit her land but farms it in the meantime. Gaun has the next two plots because she bought out her brother Orr, who is number five in line. Bear is next then Jun. Yurt the second oldest after him and Noi the final plot. Yuan farms Gaun’s land (sugar, rice and vegetables) as well as Noi’s and Yurt’s plots (sugar)

Next to the road I spotted a pond which actually had water. Only half full but better than many that are mostly dry. This has water from the last ‘wet’ season. There’s no farming happening close to it so the water isn’t accessed.

A nice tractor (god I’m getting rural saying something like that. In a previous life I would drool over a Porsche). It turned up to do some clearing work – see later photos.

The daughter of a neighbour and a cousin passing on a saling – motorbike and sidecar.

The entrance to Vansutha farm. I wrote previously about my desire to get a sign made to promote the fresh vegetables Yuan sells under the motto ‘Vansutha Farm Fresh. Picked today – sold today’. I costed the making of the sign with a photo background at 300 baht (A$10.00) so no big deal. I will get a couple made one of which will live at this entrance.

And to add to my ‘ruralness’, I love this photo. It reflects farming life across the world. A farmer in work gear, leaning on a tractor having a chat. Yuan here.

And here is the tractor starting work to clear the two plots on the far right of the farm, which are owned by Noi and Yurt. It was lightly treed but those have been cleared and sugar will be planted here.

This is the area. Rubber trees in the background.

Yuan and Lud have already started to plant it up a new area of field started a couple of days ago. Two new rows completed and the raised beds handmade for more.

Duk Dik WSD (world’s scruffiest dog) arrives at the farm having missed out on a motorbike lift, which is his preferred method for getting there from home.

No words required really 

The iron buffalo, as recently described by a reader. Essential farm equipment.

I also recently mentioned somewhere about the sharing of equipment between the two family farms in a mini-cooperative arrangement, which has to be the future of small time farming in Isan. This is the trailer that’s used when required rather than each farm having their own. Not used too much.

Fish being raised in this small enclosure.

Timber that’s been stacked from clearing land. This will end up as charcoal unfortunately.

This beautiful tamarind tree is exactly half on Gaun’s land and half on Bear’s. Either way it will outlive us all because it is part of the family and no one will be cutting it down. Gaun has memories of climbing it when she was a child over forty years ago. It produces heaps of tamarind in season too, which needless to say Yuan sells on her market stall.

Fish being raised in this small enclosure.

Timber that’s been stacked from clearing land. This will end up as charcoal unfortunately.

A dozen people in the farmhouse having lunch. The social nature of Isan people shines through at informal events like this. Sharing food is just naturally done. No Isan people eat alone. I sometimes see farang sitting alone in a cafe eating with the iPad or phone their only company. Isan people would get the kitchen staff to join them rather than replicate this scene 

Even Duk Dik gets lunch. Dogs get whatever is left over, so they are chilli tolerant or go hungry.

An example of the underlying land management systems that match western procedures. People write about the slight chaos in Thai bureaucracy, but in my personal experience I have never seen it. 

We received this registered mail at home because the land next to ours has been sold and split into two lots. The local land office sent out this form which we have to sign to approve the change in status of our neighbour’s land. The exact same happens in Australia.

The neighbours of the family farm also received these letters because of this subdivision happening and they can either sign or raise an objection. Once again this is not third world country procedures but an organised and working system.

The guy in orange is head of one of our two moo bans and he has arrived to witness the neighbours sign off on the change in land status. I wonder what mama makes of all of this. Uncle in the background.

An insight into the politics of family life. This is an additional 4 1/2 rai of land owned by Yurt who bought it from a relative who has since died. Yuan holds the title deeds for Yurt but it has never been formally signed over. The daughter of the deceased guy wanted 20,000 baht to approve the transfer even though Yurt had paid for the land. Family not happy.

In the split of land today it ended up that Yuan owned a thin 20 metre length of land that projected into land this lady is using to grow sugar. Yuan has agreed to sign this small piece across to her in exchange for her approving the transfer of Yurt’s land to Yurt. A win win.

I hope you found this rural small story interesting and adds to your knowledge base about how things are done here in Isan. It’s what makes this blog unique. Please leave a comment if you enjoyed the story.

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  1. Peter

    Hi Tony, great story, but how did the surveyor survey the land? If you have photos, can you post them. Thanks

    • Tony in Thailand

      I will send you a couple of photos Peter.

      The surveyor, when he came out the second day, had lots of Google Earth images of the land printed out, and all the boundaries were marked in detail on his laptop plus he had draft paper versions. Placing the markers to split the land between the family was done using a theodolite and they were very specific with the measurements. The markers were dug in by the family straight away while he was there.

  2. Nobby

    A very informative post Tony, with regards to the markers we had a devil of a job trying to find one of our boundaries whilst clearing our land to build which we finally found after 2 days of digging, at some point the marker had been broken and buried when the land was used for agriculture, to be on the safe side somebody came and measured to be sure we were not encroaching on somebodies land.



    • Tony in Thailand

      We had a search to find a couple on our original block of land too Chris. Luckily in the process the ladies discovered some buried vegetable crop that was turned into a meal, so a win win!

  3. Jim Busby

    Of course, in any other part of the world, there would be a last reading of the will of who got what, and who was left out. Then the lawyers would get involved to represent those people who thought they should get more. And finally after many years of waiting, a judgement would be made on who gets what in the end. In America, your family includes your parents, siblings, relatives, and your lawyers!



    • Tony in Thailand

      There are some issues outside the immediate family, which I will tell you about outside this forum, but from the core family point of view all done remarkably smoothly (so far). The surveyor finished yesterday and it is now a question of waiting for the final plans to be drawn and title deeds prepared. A three month process we are told.


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