Monarchy of Thailand
|Heir apparent||Maha Vajiralongkorn|
|First monarch||Sri Indraditya of Sukhothai|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The monarchy of Thailand (whose monarch is referred to as the King of Thailand or historically as King of Siam; Thai: พระมหากษัตริย์ไทย), refers to the constitutional monarchy and monarch of the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam). The King of Thailand is the head of state and head of the ruling Royal House of Chakri. The king's power is not limited to being a symbolic figurehead (see below), and the institution commands the respect and reverence of many Thai people.
The current monarch of Thailand is Bhumibol Adulyadej. The king has reigned since 9 June 1946, making him the world's longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. Most of the king's powers are exercised by his non-elected government in accordance with the Constitution of Thailand. The king still retains many powers such as: being head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, the prerogative of royal assent and the power of pardon. The 2007 Constitution of Thailand Chapter 2, Section 9 (The King and the Faiths) states: The King is a Buddhist and Upholder of religions.
The Siamese-Thai monarchy dates from the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom in 1238, with a brief interregnum from the death of Ekkathat to the accession of Taksin. The institution was transformed into a constitutional monarchy in 1932 after the bloodless Siamese Revolution of 1932. The monarchy's official residence is the Grand Palace in Bangkok; however, the present king spends much of his time at the Chitralada Palace, or the Klai Kangwon Villa (Thai: วังไกลกังวล) ("Palace Far from Worries") in the beach resort city of Hua Hin.
The current concept of Thai kingship has evolved through 800 years of absolute rule. The first king of a unified Thailand was the founder of the Kingdom of Sukhothai: King Sri Indraditya in 1238. The idea of this early kingship is said to be based on two concepts derived from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhist beliefs. The first concept is based on the Vedic-Hindu caste of “Kshatriya” (Thai: กษัตริย์), or warrior-ruler, in which the king derives his powers from military might. The second is based on the Theravada Buddhist concept of “Dhammaraja” (Thai: ธรรมราชา), Buddhism having been introduced to Thailand somewhere around the sixth century A.D. The idea of the Dhammaraja (or kingship under Dharma), is that the king should rule his people in accordance with Dharma and the teachings of the Buddha.
These ideas were briefly replaced in 1279, when King Ramkhamhaeng came to the throne. Ramkhamhaeng departed from the past tradition and created instead a concept of “paternal rule” (Thai: พ่อปกครองลูก), in which the King governs his people as a father would govern his children. This idea is reinforced in the title and name of the King, as he is still known today, Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng (Thai: พ่อขุนรามคำแหง). However this lasted only briefly, by the end of the kingdom the two old concepts had returned as symbolized by the change in the style of the kings; “Pho” was changed to “Phaya” or Lord.
Kings of Ayutthaya
The Kingdom of Sukhothai was eventually supplanted by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was founded in 1351 by King Ramathibodhi I. During the Ayutthayan period the idea of kingship changed. Due to ancient Khmer tradition in the region, Hindu concept of kingship was applied for the status of the leader. Brahmins took charge in the royal coronation. The king was treated as if a reincarnation of Hindu gods. Ayutthaya historical documents show the official titles of the kings in great variation; Indra, Shiva and Vishnu, or Rama. Seemingly, Rama was the most popular, as in 'Ramathibodhi'. However, Buddhist influence was also evident as many times the king's title and 'unofficial' name Dhammaraja, a abbreviation of the Buddhist Dharmaraja. The two former concepts were re-established, with a third, older concept taking a more serious hold. This concept was called “Devaraja” (Thai: เทวราชา) (or Divine-King), which was an idea borrowed by the Khmer Empire from the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Java, and especially the idea of a scholar class based on Hindu Brahmins. The concept centered on the idea that the king was an incarnation (Avatar) of the god Vishnu and that he was a Bodhisattva (enlightened one), therefore basing his power on his religious power, his moral power and his purity of blood.
The king, portrayed by state interests as a semi-divine figure, then became – through a rigid cultural implementation – an object of worship and veneration to his people. From then on the monarchy was largely removed from the people and continued under a system of absolute rule. Living in palaces designed after Mount Meru (Home of the gods in Hinduism), the kings turned themselves into a “Chakravartin”, where the King became an absolute and universal lord of his realm. Kings demanded that the universe be envisioned as resolving around them, and expressed their powers through elaborate rituals and ceremonies. For four centuries these kings ruled Ayutthaya, presiding over some of the greatest period of cultural, economic and military growth in Thai History.
Sakdina and Rachasap
The kings of Ayutthaya created many institutions to support their rule, which were similar to the contemporary regulations of the royal court of George V "the Brilliant" (r. 1314-1346), but modified to comport with southeast Asian Mueang mandala "circles of power." Whereas feudalism developed in the European Middle Ages, Ayutthayan King Trailokanat instituted Sakdina, (ศักดินา, lit. "Field Power", but usually translated as "dignity marks." This comported with the names of two kingdoms further north: Lanna "Million Fields" and Sip Song Phan Na "Twelve Thousand Fields." "Rachasap" (ราชาศัพท์ royal language) is required by court etiquette as an honorific register consisting of a special vocabulary used exclusively for addressing the king, or for talking about royalty.
The king’s sovereignity was reflected in the titles “Lord of the Land” (พระเจ้าแผ่นดิน Phra Chao Phaen Din) and Lord of Life (เจ้าชีวิต Chao Chiwit). These titles engendered a belief by foreign observers that the king was an absolute monarch in the European sense: king being chief administrator, chief legislator and chief judge, with all laws, orders, verdict and punishments theoretically originating from his person. The duty and responsibility of the king, however, developed from the authority of a king in ancient India, and Siamese kings had to devise ways to work around those limitations. This was disrupted in 1767, when Thai digests of the dhammasāt (ธรรมศาสตร์) were lost when a Burmese army under the Alaungpaya Dynasty invaded, sacked and burned the city of Ayutthaya.
|This section requires expansion. (March 2013)|
In 1782, King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke ascended the throne and moved the capital from the Thonburi side to the Bangkok side of the Chao Phraya River. There he established the House of Chakri, the current ruling dynasty of Thailand. (This first reign was later designated as that of Rama I in the list of Rama Kings of Thailand.) He also established the office of Supreme Patriarch as the head of the Sangha, the order of Buddhist monks.
During the Rattanakosin Period the Chakri kings tried to continue the concepts of Ayutthayan kingship once again emphasizing the connection between the sovereign and his subjects. On the other hand, they continued to not relinquish any authority of the throne. Kings Buddha Loetla Nabhalai (Rama II) and Nangklao (Rama III) created a semblance of a modern administration by creating a supreme council and appointing chief officers to help with the running of the government.
Mongkut (Rama IV) marked a significant break in tradition when he spent the first 27 years of his adult life as a Buddhist monk during which time he became proficient in the English language, before ascending the throne. As king, he continued appointment of officers to his supreme council, the most notable being Somdet Chao Phraya Prayurawongse and Si Suriyawongse, both of whom acted as Chief Ministers for King Mongkut (and the latter as regent, from the king's death in 1868 until 1873.)
Chulalongkorn (Rama V) ascended the throne as a minor at age 15 in 1868, and as king of Siam 16 November 1873. As a prince, he had been tutored in western traditions by the governess, Anna Leonowens. Intent on reforming the monarchy along western lines, during his minority he traveled extensively to observe western administrative methods. He transformed the monarchy along western lines of an ‘enlightened ruler’. He abolished the practice of kneeling and crawling in front of the monarch, and repealed many laws concerning the relationship between the monarch and his people, while continuing many of the ancient aspects and rituals of the old kingship. In 1874, he created a privy council copied from the European tradition, to help him rule his Kingdom. During his reign Siam was pressured to relinquish control of its old tributaries of Laos and northern Malaya to Western powers, Siam itself narrowly avoided being colonized.
His son Vajiravudh (Rama VI) succeeded as king in 1910 and continued his father’s zeal for reform, to bring the monarchy into the 20th century. The perception of a slow pace of reform resulted in the Palace Revolt of 1912. In 1914, Vajiravudh determined that the Act providing for invoking martial law, first promulgated by his father in 1907, was not consistent with modern laws of war, nor convenient for the preservation of the external or internal security of the State; so changed to the modern form that, with minor amendments, continued in force through subsequent changes in government. Prajadhipok (Rama VII) succeeded his brother in 1925. This Eton and Sandhurst educated monarch created a council similar to a cabinet, where the most important government officials could meet to decide on state affairs. This advisory and legislative council, styled the Supreme Council of State of Siam (Thai: อภิรัฐมนตรีสภา) was founded on 28 November 1925 and existed until 1932.
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (May 2014)|
In June 1932, a group of foreign educated students and military men called “the Promoters” carried out a bloodless Revolution, seizing power and demanded that King Prajadhipok, grant the people of Siam a constitution. The king agreed and in December 1932 the people were granted a constitution, ending 150 years of absolute Chakri rule. From then on the role of the monarch was relegated to that of a symbolic head of state. His powers from then on were exercised by the Prime Minister and the National Assembly.
In 1935 King Pradhipok abdicated the throne, following disagreements with the government. Rama VII lived in exile in the United Kingdom until his death. The king was replaced by his young nephew Ananda Mahidol (or Rama VIII). The new king was 10 years old and was living abroad in Switzerland; a council of regents was appointed in his place. During this period the roles and powers of the King were entirely usurped by the fascist government of Plaek Phibunsongkhram, who aligned Siam on the side of the Axis powers during the Second World War. By the end of the war Phibunsongkhram was removed and the young King returned. The Free Thai movement provided resistance to foreign occupation during the war and helped rehabilitate Thailand after the war.
Beginning approximately in 2000, the role of the Thai monarchy was increasingly challenged by scholars, media, observers and traditionalists, and as more educated pro-democracy interests began to express their rights to speech. Many deemed that a series of laws and measures relating to Lèse majesté in Thailand aimed at protecting the King and the royal families are hindrances to the freedom of expression. Dozens of arrests, hundreds of criminal investigations and multiple imprisonments have been made based on these laws. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in his 2005 national birthday broadcast, also indicated that he could be criticized if it is constructive and not politically motivated.
As a liberal democratic country, Thailand supports and highly values freedom of expression which is a fundamental right guaranteed in Section 45 of the constitution. However, the right to freedom of expression is not without limits and may be subject to certain restrictions as provided by law and as necessary to uphold the rights or reputations of others and to protect national security and public order. The lèse-majesté law is part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, which also contains general provisions on defamation and libel of private individuals.
The king is assisted in his work and duties by the Private Secretary to the King of Thailand and the Privy Council of Thailand, in consultation with the head of the cabinet, the Prime Minister. In accordance with the constitution the king is no longer the originator of all laws in the kingdom; that prerogative is entrusted to the National Assembly of Thailand.  The monarchy's household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Crown Property Bureau respectively, these agencies are not considered part of the Thai government and all personnel are appointed by the king.
The heir apparent to the Thai monarchy is the Crown Prince of Thailand, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. The succession to the throne is governed by the 1924 Palace Law of Succession, promulgated by King Vajiravudh. Section 22 of the constitution clearly stated that the amendment of the Palace Law shall be prerogative of the King. Journalist Andrew MacGregor has argued that behind the scenes, there are 'Endless struggles for the throne'. His book has been banned in Thailand and holding a copy results in three year imprisonment and a fine.
List of kings
The present set of royal regalia of Thailand (Thai: เบญจราชกกุธภัณฑ์) and the royal utensils was created mostly during the reign of King Rama I and Rama IV, after the previous set was lost during the sack of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767. The Regalia is used mainly during the coronation ceremony of the king at the beginning of every reign. The Regalia is presently on display in the Museum of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
- Royal Nine-Tiered Umbrella (พระมหาเศวตฉัตร)- the most important regalia; currently there are seven, distributed at various palaces.
- Great Crown of Victory (พระมหาพิชัยมงกุฎ)- official headgear.
- Sword of Victory (พระแสงขรรค์ชัยศรี)- found in Tonlé Sap in 1784, the sword represents military power.
- Royal Staff (ธารพระกร)- symbol of justice
- Royal Fan and Flywhisk (วาลวีชนี)- Royal Fan made of gold and the Royal Flywhisk made from the tail of a white elephant.
- Royal Slippers (ฉลองพระบาท)- official footwear made of gold
- the Betel Nut Set
- the Water Urn
- the Libation Vessel
- the Receptacle.
These unique objects are always placed on either side of the king's throne or his seat during royal ceremonies.
Other symbols of kingship
- Royal Thrones of Thailand- currently there are six, distributed at various Throne Halls in the Grand Palace.
- Royal White Elephant- usually one to represent each reign, the current one resides at Dusit zoo, the king also has 10 others.
- The Royal Garuda- Emblem of the king and of Thailand
- Royal Standard of Thailand- Official standard of the king
- Royal Flags- Personal flags of the king and royal family
- Sansoen Phra Barami- The Royal Anthem
The King and other members of his family carry-out many royal ceremonies per year, some dating from the 13th century.
- Royal coronation ceremony
- Royal Barge Procession
- Royal Ploughing Ceremony
- The Changing of the Robes of the Emerald Buddha
- Trooping the Colours
- Oath of Allegiance Ceremony
- Speech from the Throne to the National Assembly of Thailand
Royal orders and decorations
The king is sovereign of several Royal Orders and Decorations, the prerogative to appoint and remove any persons from these orders are at the king's discretion. However sometimes recommendations are made by the Cabinet of Thailand and the Prime Minister.
- The Most Auspicious Order of the Rajamitrabhorn
- The Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
- The Ancient and Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems
- The Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao
- The Ratana Varabhorn Order of Merit
- The Honourable Order of Rama
- The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant
- The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand
- The Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn
- The Vallabhabhorn Order
- The Order of Ramkeerati
- The Vajira Mala Order
the Chakri Dynasty
|Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke
(King Rama I)
|Buddha Loetla Nabhalai
(King Rama II)
(King Rama III)
(King Rama IV)
(King Rama V)
(King Rama VI)
(King Rama VII)
(King Rama VIII)
(King Rama IX)
- 1924 Palace Law of Succession
- Bhumibol Adulyadej
- Chakri Dynasty
- Constitution of Thailand
- Government of Thailand
- Grand Palace
- Privy Council of Thailand
- Rama (King of Thailand)
- Sacred king
- Head, Jonathan (5 December 2007). "Why Thailand's king is so revered". BBC News.
- Cœdès, G. (1921). "The Origins of the Sukhodaya Dynasty". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 14.1b (digital): image 1. Retrieved March 17, 2013. "The dynasty which reigned during a part of the XIIIth. and the first half of the XlVth. centuries at Sukhodaya and at Sajjanlaya, on the upper Menam Yom, is the first historical Siamese dynasty. It has a double claim to this title, both because its cradle was precisely in the country designated by foreigners as "Siam" (Khmer: Syain; Chinese : Sien, etc.), and because it is this dynasty which, by freeing the Thai principalities from the Cambodian yoke and by gradually extending its conquests as far as the Malay Peninsula, paved the way for the formation of the Kingdom of Siam properly so called."
- Prince Dhani Nivat, Kromamun Bidyadabh (1947). "The Old Siamese conception of the Monarchy". Journal of the Siam Society (Siamese Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 36.2b (digital): image 10 page 93. Retrieved March 7, 2013. "Patriarchal Sukhothai Kingship ... The monarch was of course the people's leader in battle; but he was also in peace-time their father whose advice was sought and expected in all matters and whose judgment was accepted by all. He was moreover accessible to his people, for we are told by an old inscription that, in front of the royal palace of Sukhothai there used to be a gong hung up for people to go and beat upon whenever they wanted personal help and redress. The custom survived with slight modifications all through the centuries down to the change of regime in 1932...."
- Terwiel, Barend Jan (1983). "Ahom and the Study of Early Thai Society". Journal of the Siam Society (Siamese Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 71.0 (PDF): image 4. Retrieved March 7, 2013. "In older usage, khun was used for a ruler of a fortified town and its surrounding villages, together called a mueang; with the prefix pho (พ่อ "father") appears as Pho Khun."
- Griswold, A.B.; Prasert na Nagara (1969). "A Law Promulgated by the King of Ayudhya in 1397 A.D. Epigraphic and Historical Studies, No. 4". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 57.1 (digital): image 3. Retrieved March 17, 2013. "It was customary for Southeast Asian kings, who were of course the absolute proprietors of the land, to allot the usufruct of portions of it to their subjects. The kings of Ayudhya allotted a specified number of sakti-na or 'dignity-marks' to each of their subjects according to his rank and the position he occupied, corresponding to the number of rai he was actually or theoretically entitled to; and when the system was fully developed the number of marks ranged from 5 to 25 for ordinary citizens, up to 10,000 for ministers in charge of important departments, and 20,000 for princes of the highest rank."
- "Royal Words". Internet resource for the Thai language. October 9, 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
- Lingat, R. (1950). "Evolution of the Conception of Law in Burma and Siam". Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 38.1c (digital). Retrieved March 17, 2013. "Kings and rajas are only responsible for keeping peace and order. It is a very noticeable thing that in so rich a language as sanskrit there exists no proper word to translate our word law as meaning positive law. It is true Hindus have the word darma, which is sometimes wrongfully translated by the word law, but actually is quite a different thing...."
- Roberts, Edmund (October 12, 2007) [First published in 1837]. "Chapter XIX―titles of the king". Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat : in the U. S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4. Harper & brothers. p. 302. Retrieved January 28, 2013. "At the head of the Siamese administration is the supreme council, consisting of the following officers:...."
- Wales, H. G. Quaritch (April 14, 2005) [First published in 1931]. "Chapter IV, the kingship". Siamese state ceremonies (digital ed.). London: Bernard Quaritch. p. 32. Retrieved April 25, 2012. "...to-day we find the only certain relic of the cult of the Royal God in the symbolism of the Coronation Ceremony by which the Brahman riests call down the spirits of Visnu and Siva to animate the new king.... ...."
- Meyers, Dean (1994). "Siam under siege (1893-1902): modern Thailand's decisive decade, from the Paknam incident to the first flowering of the Chakri reformation" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Heritage Trust). JSS Vol. 082.0k (digital): image. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- Pakorn Nilprapunt (2006). "Martial Law, B.E. 2457 (1914) — unofficial translation" (PDF). thailawforum.com. Office of the Council of State. Retrieved May 21, 2014. "Reference to Thai legislation in any jurisdiction shall be to the Thai version only. This translation has been made so as to establish correct understanding about this Act to the foreigners."
- "Thailand The King – Flags, Maps, Economy, History, Climate, Natural Resources, Current Issues, International Agreements, Population, Social Statistics, Political System". Photius.com. 28 December 1972. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- MacGregor, A. 2014. A Kingdom in Crisis: Thailand's Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century. London: Zed Books.
- "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Thai Government Public Relations: Royal Regalia + Royal Utensils.
- "Pattaya's First English Language Newspaper". Pattaya Mail. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (2007), s:2007 Constitution of Thailand
- Aryan, Gothan (15 – 16 September 2004), Thai Monarchy, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Retrieved on 5 July 2006, presented in Kathmandu, Nepal
- Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead, The Rise and Decline of Thai Absolutism, RoutledgeCurzon 2004
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Monarchs of Thailand.|
- Website of the King's 50 Anniversary Celebration
- The illustrious Chakri family
- The Royal Family, History and Information
- Website on the Thai Monarchy
- Thanin Kraivichien (1976). Thai King under Democratic System (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Department of Academic Affairs, Ministry of Education.
- Yut Saeng-uthai (2008). A Legal Treatise on the Provisions of the Constitution governing the King (pdf) (in Thai). Bangkok: Winyuchon. ISBN 9789742886332.