Bangkok (1932-1942) / 2.1 Thai Nationalism ‘From Below’

Due to the reign of King Chulalongkorn, he had brought in a lot of western administrative and education ideas into Siam. Also, he encouraged Siamese to study abroad in England and the United States etc. As a result, the exchange of knowledge allowed the people in the higher social class to have a more critical mind on the ideas like democracy and authority. It gave rise to the emergence of the Siamese Revolution 1932.

On 24th June 1932, a group of middle-level civilian and military officials began to gather people in the pavilion of Ananta Samakhom throne Hall. They formed an organization called People’s Party during this political reform. A colonel Phraya Phahon-pholpayuhasena, also the leader of People’s Party, started to address people with a speech written by an educated French radical. With the western influence of democratic ideas, the middle class officials started to doubt the performance of the government and the political system in Siam. He criticized the King Prajadhipok of failing to lead the country out of economic depression and unemployment. These officials thought that changing the political system from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy would be the way out. The king would then be restricted by a constitution, instead of having all the power to control the country. They wanted to share a place in participating in the government. These were the reasons for the Siamese Revolution 1932, also known as a military coup d’état.

 

Tanks outside Ananta Samakhom throne Hall

 

Public gathered by the People’s Party

 

‘Thai nationalism ‘from above’, purportedly the creation of an enlightened if increasingly besieged monarch, in fact was a reaction to a vigorous nationalism ‘from below’’

The Revolution had the founding principle of achieving popular sovereignty, individual equality, constitutionalism, and democracy. People’s Party visioned to demand for a constitutional government, which the power of the ruler would be limited by an established legal framework. The citizens could better monitor the authority with the legislation. The legislative power was given to a People’s Senate, which had 70 members, in which the executive power would be handed over to the People’s Party, which was a committee appointed by the Senate. Universal suffrage of third degrees was adopted in the system. In addition, People’s Party guaranteed the public to provide welfare and employment opportunities. Therefore, they had gained support from the public to help them fight for democracy from the government. King Prajadhipok did not object to have a constitution in Siam. He agreed to sign to the Provisional Constitution, which the highest power of land belongs to all people in the country.

It was the main event in history that helped raise Thai’s political awareness at that time. It drove people to think about their identity and position in the country of how much they could contribute instead of just obeying the governance from the king, by bringing the independent spirit into the society.

 

Reference:

Lapomarede, Baron De. “The Setting of the Siamese Revolution.” Pacific Affairs 7, no. 3 (September 1934): 251. doi:10.2307/2750737

Sirikiatikul, Pinai. “Remaking Modern Bangkok: Urban Renewal on Rajadamnern Boulevard, 1932-1957.” Accessed 2013.

Malcolm, Ryan . “Siamese Coup d’État of 1932: From Absolute to Constitutional Monarchy.” June 6, 2011. https://madeinthai.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/siamese-coup-d%E2%80%99etat-of-1932-from-absolute-to-constitutional-monarchy/

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