Thai History III
Rattanakosin Period: Chakri Dynasty
9 Kings of Chakri Dynasty
Rama I (1782 - 1809)
Rama I (Buddha Yod Fah
Chulaloke) became a king
together with the inauguration of
the Chakri dynastry on April 6,
1782. He moved the capital across
the Chao Phaya River from
Thonburi to "Bangkok”.
He restored most of the social and
political system of the Ayutthaya
kingdom, promulgating new law
codes, reinstating court
ceremonies and imposing
discipline on the Buddhist
In 1792 the Siamese occupied Luang
Prabang and brought most of Laos
under indirect Siamese rule. Cambodia
was also effectively ruled by Siam. By
the time of his death in 1809, Rama I
had created a Siamese over lordship
dominating an area considerably larger
than modern Thailand.
Rama II (1809 - 1824)
In 1809, Rama II or King Buddha Loet
Lah, son of Rama I took the throne
until 1824. He devoted himself to
preserve the Thai literature that had
remained from Ayutthaya period and
produced a new version of Ramakien
or Thai Ramayana, the classical
The Chakri dynasty now controlled
all branches of Siamese
government — since Rama I had
42 children, and Rama II had 73,
there was no shortage of royal
princes to staff the bureaucracy,
the army, the senior monkhood
and the provincial governments.
(Most children were of concubines
and thus not eligible to inherit the
British Occupation
In 1785 the British occupied Penang,
and in 1819 they founded Singapore.
Soon the British displaced the Dutch
and Portuguese as the main western
economic and political influence in
Siam. The British objected to the
Siamese economic system, in which
trading monopolies were held by royal
princes and businesses were subject
to arbitrary taxation.
British Demand
In 1821 the government of British
India sent a mission to demand
that Siam lift restrictions on free
trade — the first sign of an issue
which was to dominate 19th
century Siamese politics.
Rama II died in 1824 and was
succeeded by his son Prince
Jessadabondindra, who reigned as
King Nangklao, now known
as Rama III. Rama II's younger
son, Mongkut, was 'suggested' to
become a monk, removing him
from politics.
Rama III (1824 - 1851)
In 1824-1851, Rama III or King Nang
Klao was successful in re-establishing
relation and making trades with China
which was necessary to meet the
increasing domestic agricultural
In 1825 the British sent another
mission to Bangkok led by East
India Company emissary Henry
Burney. They had by now
annexed southern Burma and
were thus Siam's neighbours to
the west, and they were also
extending their control
over Malaya.
Burney Treaty
The King was reluctant to give in to
British demands, but his advisors
warned him that Siam would meet the
same fate as Burma unless the British
were accommodated. In 1826,
therefore, Siam concluded its first
commercial treaty with a western
power, the Treaty of Amity and
Commerce (Siam–UK) (also called
the Burney Treaty).
Amendment of Monopolies
Under the treaty, Siam agreed to
establish a uniform taxation system, to
reduce taxes on foreign trade and to
abolish some of the royal monopolies.
As a result, Siam's trade increased
rapidly, many more foreigners settled
in Bangkok, and western cultural
influences began to spread. The
kingdom became wealthier and its
army better armed.
British Trading with Siam
Bowring Treaty
In late Rama III, Siam used monopoly
policy again that against the Burney
Treaty. This resulted trading disputes
between Siam and Britain. In 1855
(Rama IV), the British made Bowring
treaty that forced Siamese to be under
British trading at last.
Lao Rebellion
A Lao rebellion led by Anouvong was
defeated in 1827, following which Siam
destroyed Vientiane, carried out massive
population transfers from Laos to the more
securely held area of Isan, and divided the
Lao Mueang into smaller units to prevent
another uprising. In 1842–1845 Siam waged
a successful war with Vietnam, which
tightened Siamese rule over Cambodia.
By the 1840s it was obvious that
Siamese independence was in danger
from the colonial powers: this was
shown dramatically by the British First
Opium War with China in 1839–1842.
First Opium War
Foreign Traders’ Demands
In 1850 the British and Americans sent
missions to Bangkok demanding the
end of all restrictions on trade, the
establishment of a western-style
government and immunity for their
citizens from Siamese law
Chinese Influx
Economically, from its foundation,
Rattanakosin witnessed the growing
role of Chinese merchants, who were
chased out before by king Taksin.
Beside merchants, Chinese who were
farmers, endlessly came to seek
fortune in the new kingdom.
Chinese Assimilation
The Rattanakosin's rulers welcomed
the Chinese, due to their source of
economic revival. Some ethnic Chinese
merchants became the court officials,
holding crucial positions.
Relationship with China
Chinese culture such as literature was
accepted and promoted. Many Chinese
works were translated by ethnic
Chinese court dignitaries. Siam's
relationship with the Chinese Empire
was strong.
It has been a royal tradition to build a
temple of king since King Rama I.
Although temple of Rama III is Wat
Ratcha O-Ros, his most visible legacy
in Bangkok is the Wat Pho temple
complex, which he enlarged and
endowed with new temples.
Both temples contain many Chinese
arts and sculptures.
Wat Pho (Chetupon)
Chinese Guardians
Wat Ratcha-Oros
Chinese [email protected] temple
Rama IV (1851 - 1868)
Rama IV or King Mongkut (Phra Chom
Klao), who reigned from 1851 to 1868
lived as a Buddhist monk for 27 years.
He used his long sojourn as a monk to
acquire a western education from
French and American missionaries,
and British merchants. He could speak
many languages such as Latin,
English, and five other languages.
 The
missionaries hoped to
convert him to Christianity, but
in fact he was a strict Buddhist
and a Siamese nationalist. He
intended using this western
knowledge to strengthen and
modernise Siam when he came
to the throne.
Having been a monk for 27 years,
he lacked a base among the
powerful royal princes, and did
not have a modern state
apparatus to carry out his wishes.
His first attempts at reform, to
establish a modern system of
administration and to improve the
status of debt-slaves and women,
were frustrated.
Under his reign, he created new
laws to improve the women's and
children's right. There was a
common saying that “Woman is
buffalo, Man is human”.
A Thai movie titled “Am Dang
Muen and Nai Rid” portrayed
women’s lives in this period.
Anna Leonowens
“Anna and the King”
Anna Leonowens, a British
governess, presents a group of
liberated Christian women in the
1800's that worked to end slavery. She
was a part of Siamese history and has
been fictionalized as The King and I.
The film mentions that Anna was one
of the forces that brought freedom
from slavery and freedom of religion.
Rama IV thus came to welcome
western intrusion in Siam. Indeed
the king himself was actively proBritish. This came in 1855 in the
form of a mission led by the
Governor of Hong Kong, Sir John
Bowring, who arrived in Bangkok
with demands for immediate
changes, backed by the threat of
The King readily agreed to his
demand for a new treaty, called
the Bowring Treaty, which
restricted import duties to 3%,
abolished royal trade monopolies,
and granted extraterritoriality to
British subjects.
 Other western powers soon
demanded and got similar
The king soon came to consider
that the real threat to Siam came
from the French, not the British.
The British were interested in
commercial advantage, the French
in building a colonial empire. They
occupied Saigon in 1859, and
1867 established
a protectorate over southern
Vietnam and eastern Cambodia.
Rama IV hoped that the British
would defend Siam if he gave
them the economic concessions
they demanded. In the next reign
this would prove to be mistaken,
but it is true that the British saw
Siam as a useful buffer state
between British Burma and French
Siam as Buffer State
Buddhist Affairs
Rama IV also adopted the
discipline of local Mon monk as he
saw many monks during that time
were not so disciplined. Thus he
founded a new sect in which
called “Dhammayutika Nikaya”.
This sect observed precepts
stricter than the majority monks,
later were called “Maha Nikaya”.
Rama V (1868 - 1910)
Rama V or King Chulalongkorn,
Rama IV's son, continued the
throne when he was 15 years old.
Rama V was the first Siamese king
to have a full western education.
Survival of Colonization
In 1886, Siam lost some territory
to French, Laos and British Burma
accorded the foreign powers
intercede. After that King
Chulalongkorn declared Thailand
as an independent kingdom on
the 23rd of October.
 In
1893 the French authorities
in Indochina used a minor
border dispute to provoke a
crisis. French gunboats
appeared at Bangkok, and
demanded the cession of Lao
territories east of the Mekong.
Seize of Bangkok
 The
King appealed to the
British, but the British minister
told the King to settle on
whatever terms he could get,
and he had no choice but to
 Britain's
only gesture was an
agreement with France
guaranteeing the integrity of
the rest of Siam. In exchange,
Siam had to give up its claim
to the Tai-speaking Shan
region of north-eastern Burma
to the British.
The French, however, continued
to pressure Siam, and in 1906–
1907 they manufactured another
crisis. This time Siam had to
concede French control of territory
on the west bank of the Mekong
opposite Luang Prabang and
around Champasak in southern
Laos, as well as western
 The
British interceded to
prevent more French bullying
of Siam, but their price, in
1909 was the acceptance of
British sovereignty over
of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and
Terengganu under AngloSiamese Treaty of 1909.
 All
of these "lost territories" were
on the fringes of the Siamese
sphere of influence and had
never been securely under their
control, but being compelled to
abandon all claim to them was a
substantial humiliation to both
king and country.
 David
K. Wyatt describes King
Chulalongkorn as "broken in
spirit and health" following the
1893 crisis and is the basis for
the change in the name of the
country; with the loss of these
territories Great Siam was now
no more, the king now ruled
only the core Thai lands.
In the early 20th century these
crises were adopted by the
increasingly nationalist
government as symbols of the
need for the country to assert
itself against the West and its
Meanwhile, reform continued
apace transforming an absolute
monarchy based on relationships
of power into a modern,
centralized nation state.
The process was increasingly
under the control of Rama V's
sons, who were all educated in
 Railways
and telegraph lines
united the previously remote
and semi-autonomous provinces.
 The
currency was tied to
the gold standard and a modern
system of taxation replaced the
arbitrary exactions and labor
service of the past.
Tradition Reforms
Rama V started to reform the
tradition, legal and administrative
realm by allowing officials to sit on
chairs during royal audiences.
Under the reign of Rama V,
Thailand developed relations with
European nations and the USA.
King Chulalongkorn
He introduced schools, roads,
railways, and Thailand's first post
office. He even established civil
service system.
In 1892, Rama V overhauled the
administration of Siam to a form
of cabinet government with 12
The biggest problem was the
shortage of trained civil servants,
and many foreigners had to be
employed until new schools could
be built and Siamese graduates
produced. By 1910, when the King
died, Siam had become at least a
semi-modern country, and
continued to escape colonial rule.
Rama VI (1910 - 1925)
 Rama
VI or King Vajiravudh,
took the throne from 1910 to
1925. During his short reign, he
introduced the Westernization
to Thailand.
He introduced the primary school
 Thai women were encouraged to
grow their hair at a certain length.
 Surnames were introduced
Football was introduced in
Thai women and girls in
Early Ratttanakosin Period
Costumes for Thai Women
Western Education
He had been educated in Britain.
Indeed one of Siam's problems was
the widening gap between the
westernised royal family and upper
aristocracy and the rest of the country.
It took another 20 years for western
education to extend to the rest of the
bureaucracy and the army: a potential
source of conflict.
King Vajiravudh, knew that the
rest of the 'new' nation could not
be excluded from government
forever, but he had no faith in
western-style democracy. He
applied his observation of the
success of the British monarchy in
ruling of India, appearing more in
public and instituting more royal
However Rama VI also carried on
his father's modernisation plan.
Polygamy was abolished, primary
education made compulsory, and
in 1916 higher education came to
Siam with the founding
of Chulalongkorn University, which
in time became the seedbed of a
new Siamese intelligentsia.
Bangkok became more and more
the capital of the new nation of
Siam. Rama VI's government
began several 'nation-wide'
development projects, despite the
financial hardship. New roads,
bridges, railways, hospitals and
schools mushroomed throughout
the country with national budget
from Bangkok.
King Vajiravudh's style of
government differed from that of
his father. In the beginning of the
sixth reign, the king continued to
use his father's team and there
was no sudden break in the daily
routine of government. Much of
the running of daily affairs was
therefore in the hands of
experienced and competent men.
Because of them, Siam owed
many progressive steps, such as
the development of a national
plan for the education of the
whole populace, the setting up of
clinics where free vaccination was
given against smallpox, and the
continuing expansion of railways.
However, senior posts were
gradually filled with members of
the King's coterie when a vacancy
occurred through death,
retirement, or resignation. By
1915, half the cabinet consisted of
new faces.
World War I
In 1917 Siam declared war on German
Empire and Austria-Hungary, mainly to
gain favour with the British and the
French. Siam's token participation in
World War I secured it a seat at
the Versailles Peace Conference.
 ForeignMinister Devawongse
used this opportunity to argue
for the repeal of the 19th
century treaties and the
restoration of full Siamese
sovereignty. The United States
obliged in 1920, while France
and Britain delayed until 1925.
Post World War I
This victory gained the king some
popularity, but it was soon
undercut by discontent over other
issues, such as his extravagance,
which became more noticeable
when a sharp postwar recession
hit Siam in 1919.
There was also the fact that the
king had no son. He also obviously
preferred the company of men to
women (a matter which of itself did
not much concern Siamese opinion,
but which did undermine the
stability of the monarchy because of
the absence of heirs).
When Rama VI died suddenly in
1925, aged only 44, the monarchy
was already in a weakened state.
He was succeeded by his younger
brother Prajadhipok.
Rama VII (1925 – 1935)
Rama VII or King Prachadhipok was
Rama VI's brother. He changed Siam's
form of government from absolute
monarchy to democracy. This
revolution developed the constitutional
monarchy along British lines, with
mixed military and civilian group in
Unlike his predecessor, the king
diligently read virtually all state papers
from ministerial submissions to
petitions by citizens. Within half a year
only one fourth of Vajiravhud's
ministers stayed on, the rest having
been replaced by members of the
royal family. On the one hand, these
appointments brought back men of
talent and experience, on the other, it
signaled a return to royal oligarchy.
The initial legacy that Prajadhipok
received from his elder brother were
problems of economy: the finances
of the state were in chaos, the
budget heavily in deficit, and the
royal accounts an accountant's
nightmare of debts and questionable
transactions. Other countries were
deep in the Great
Depression following World War I
did not help the situation either.
The first act of Prajadipok as king
entailed an institutional innovation
intended to restore confidence in
the monarchy and government,
the creation of the Supreme
Council of the State.
This privy council was made up of
a number of experienced and
extremely competent members of
the royal family, including the long
time Minister of the Interior (and
Chulalongkorn's right-hand man)
Prince Damrong.
 Gradually
these princes
arrogated increasing power by
monopolising all the main
ministerial positions. Many of
them felt it their duty to make
amends for the mistakes of the
previous reign, but it was not
generally appreciated.
With the help of this council, the
king managed to restore stability to
the economy, although at a price of
making a significant amount of the
civil servants redundant and cutting
the salary of those that remained.
This was obviously unpopular
among the officials, and was one of
the trigger events for the coup of
Prajadhipok then turned his
attention to the question of future
politics in Siam. Inspired by the
British example, the King wanted
to allow the common people to
have a say in the country's affair
by the creation of a parliament.
A proposed constitution was
ordered to be drafted, but the
King's wishes were rejected by
his advisers, who felt that the
population was not yet ready for
In 1932, with the country deep in
depression, the Supreme Council
opted to introduce cuts in official
spending, including the military
budget. The King foresaw that these
policies might create discontent,
especially in the army, and he
therefore convened a special meeting
of officials to explain why the cuts
were necessary.
Serious political disturbances were
threatened in the capital, and in
April the king agreed to introduce
a constitution under which he
would share power with a prime
minister. This was not enough for
the radical elements in the army,
1932 Coup
On June 24, 1932, while the king
was holidaying at the seaside, the
Bangkok garrison mutinied and
seized power, led by a group of 49
officers known as "the Promoters".
Thus ended 150 years of Siamese
absolute monarchy.
General Phibul Songkhram
At that time, Phibul Songkhram
was a key military leader in the
1932 coup. He maintained his
position and power from 1938
until the end of World War II.
Rama VIII (1935 – 1946)
Rama VIII or King Ananda Mahidol, a
nephew of Rama VII, took the throne
in 1935 but was assassinated under
mysterious circumstances in 1946. His
brother King Bhumipol Aduldej
succeeded as Rama IX.
Rama IX (Since 1946)
Under Rama IX's government, the
country's name was officially changed
from "Siam" to "Thailand" in 1946 which
was defined in Thai as "Prathet Thai",
the word "Prathet" means "country" and
the word "Thai" means "free" referring
to the Thai races.
Correction: Land of Thailand
On Wed. 1 Feb., group of 4 presents 1
unit from the Buddha’s teaching from
On Mon. 6 Feb., pair of 2 presents 1
essay from the book (rgd. Thai belief/
culture/festival) Essays No.3, 4, 6, 7,
42, 43, 50, 51, 54, 61, 62, 63, 65, 72