Bangkok (1932-1942) / 3.1 Moving Forward by the State

People’s Party (known as Khana Ratsadon in Thai) was the key organization, which drove the emergence of Siamese Revolution 1932 and the flowing in of ideas of democracy in political system. It consisted young, foreign-educated military officials and civil servants. The group was founded in 1927 by 7 Siamese students studying abroad, including Lieutenant Prayoon Pamornmontri, Lieutenant Plaek Khittasangkha, Thatsanai Mitphakdi, Tua Lophanukrom, Luang Siriratchamaitri, Naep Phahonyothin and Pridi Banomyong. Most of them were scholars in different aspects and army officers, which all had a higher social position and influencial power in the society. They called themselves ‘The Promoters’. The People’s Party had 6 principles of freedom, peace, education, equality, economy and unity, which all originated from the western ideas of democracy. These ideas were represented by the construction of Democracy Monument on the Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Members of People’s Party

These middle-class people were unsatisfied with the poor performance of the King Prajadhipok, of failing to solve the problem of unemployment and economic crisis. Moreover, Siam faced the threat from British and French power. At the same time, there are more and more people in the higher or middle class claiming their political awareness after studying or travelling abroad. As a result, people started seizing their rights and demands from the Siam government. This group of people became the representatives of the elites in the society and aimed to change the political system in Siam from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. After the Revolution, People’s Party successfully established constitutional administration in Siam for the first time in history and also they formed a 1937 treaty with the foreign powers that Siam would continue to have the full authority and would not be a colony of any country. They wanted to show the citizens that they were able to do a better job than the royal power in claiming their own sovereignty.

After the Revolution 1932, there was a transitional stage from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, when a Provisional Constitution was used temporarily while the permanent one was being drafted. In December 1932, the monarchy and the 1932 promoters collaboratively held a ceremony, where the king would hand over the constitution to the people representative, symbolizing the passing of ownership of civil right. Also, since the constitution is drafted by the Promoters, it carried a meaning of going from the bottom (people) to the top (king). This ceremony was the way in which People’s Party presented the democratic idea to the public.

One of the key figures was Lieutenant Plaek Khittasangkha, which was known as Plaek Phibunsongkhram later. He studied at a Buddhist temple school, which then he was appointed to be in Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. He became one of the army officers in the Thai government. He had also studied in France about artillery tactics. He was one of the key members in the People’s Party, which took a crucial role in the Siamese Revolution 1932. In 1938, he became the third Prime Minister of Thailand and the Commander of the Royal Siamese Army. In his term of office, he pushed forward the pace of modernization in Thailand. He supported the idea of nationalism. He showcased his ideals about the democracy through the re-construction and renewal in the Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the most important road in Bangkok. It symbolized that Thailand was taken over by a new power, replacing the old political system.

King Plaek Phibunsongkhram

 

Reference:

Brian Mcgrath. (2014). War, Trade and Desire: Urban Design and the Counter Public Spheres of Bangkok. Footprint, 7(1), 75-90.

Dovey, K. (2001). Memory, Democracy and Urban Space: Bangkok’s ‘Path to Democracy’. Journal of Urban Design, 6(3), 265-282.

Ferrara, Federico. “Unfinished Business.” Chapter. In The Political Development of Modern Thailand, 1–38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107449367.003.

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