The 1966 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service
CITATION for Phon Sangsingkeo
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 1966, Manila, Philippines
Rapid urbanization throughout much of Asia threatens the individual caught up in this process with psychic shock. Torn from the traditional security of a family-centered rural way of life, he is compelled to make his way in a strange, new, uneasy and demanding environment. The human cost is apparent in the growing number both of mental cases and juvenile delinquents.
As Dr. PHON SANGSINGKEO has observed, "Societies have a threshold of tolerance for rate of change which, if exceeded, must lead to some measure of social disorganization." He had made it his professional life concern to ameliorate the human price of this transformation.
Care of the mentally ill has progressed greatly since the late 19th century when in Thailand, as often elsewhere, treatment consisted of placing the afflicted in chains or locking them in small barred rooms, and administering holy water and decoctions of snuff. Today, Thailand has eight major mental institutions providing hospitalization, neurological treatment and enlightened care for mentally retarded individuals. Mental health clinics attend to outpatients and provide child guidance, aided by psychiatric units in general hospitals and mobile psychiatric units. In pleasantly designed mental hospitals named after flowers, therapy includes participation in farming, furniture making and other crafts. Although there still is scope for improved curative treatment, including acceptance of psychiatry as a vital field of medicine, emphasis now is upon prevention and mental health education.
Since he first trained to become a doctor in Thailand, except for tours of graduate study in psychiatry in the United States and Europe, Dr. PHON, now 59, has devoted his talents to government service. Beginning as a local community health doctor at Sakolnakorn in northeastern Thailand in 1930, he moved on to direct the Mental Hospital in Thonburi and become chief of the Mental Hospital Division in the Ministry of Public Health. Recognition abroad led to his election as president of the World Federation of Mental Health in 1961. The following year he was named Director-General of the Department of Medical Services and in 1964 became Undersecretary of State for Public Health.
Associates and friends affectionately remark that Dr. PHON has been "cool" like "rain"the meaning of his namein his approach to the mentally ill. In shaping development of his country's mental health services and encouraging the men and women who staff them, he has combined traditional cultural practices and values with modern techniques. The institutions and methods of care for the mentally afflicted and the preventive education established under his vision and guidance are helping his people make the transition toward modernization with minimal human cost.
In electing PHON SANGSINGKEO to receive the 1966 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his farsighted design in creating and staffing superior mental health services for his country.
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