Pridi Banomyong

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Pridi Banomyong
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ปรีดี พนมยงค์
Pridi Panomyong (Scholar).jpg
7th
Prime Minister of Thailand
In office
March 24, 1946 – August 23, 1946
Monarch Ananda Mahidol
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded by Khuang Abhaiwongse
Succeeded by Thawan Thamrongnawasawat
Personal details
Born (1900-05-11)May 11, 1900
Ayutthaya, Siam
Died May 2, 1983(1983-05-02) (aged 82)
Paris, France
Nationality Thai
Spouse(s) Poonsuk Banomyong
Signature

Pridi Banomyong[1] (Thai: ปรีดี พนมยงค์; RTGS: Pridi Phanomyong; May 11, 1900 – May 2, 1983) was a Thai politician. He was a Prime Minister and senior statesman of Thailand, and was named one of the world's great personalities of the 20th century by UNESCO in 2000.[2]

Family background[edit]

Pridi wrote that his great-great-great grandfather, Heng, was a native of Etang Village in the Chenghai District of Guangdong Province, southern China, who came to Siam during the reign of Boromaracha V (r. 1758–1767), leaving behind his wife, who was pregnant with their son, Seng. Heng lived in Siam among the Chinese relatives of King Taksin, who recruited some of the local Chinese, including Heng, to fight against the Burmese invaders in 1767. Heng died in the service of the half-Chinese king. Taksin compensated Heng's family, after they sent a letter inquiring about him.[3] Seng chose to live his life in China as a rice farmer.[4]

However, Seng's son, Tan Nai Kok (陳盛于/陈盛于; Chen Chengyu; Tan Sêng-u),[5] emigrated to Siam in 1814, during the reign of King Rama II. Nai Kok settled in Ayutthaya and made his living by selling Chinese and Thai sweets; it is said he had made innovations by combining Chinese and Thai culinary skills. A devout Buddhist, Nai Kok married a Thai woman named Pin.[6] Pin's sister, Boonma, would become an ancestor of Pridi's wife Poonsuk.[7] Their son, Nai Koet, married Khum, daughter of a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur. When Nai Koet died, his wife directed that his remains were to be cremated and interred at the shrine at Phanomyong hill, which is the origin of their Thai surname.[8] Their son, Nai Siang, who became a wealthy rice merchant, married Lukchan; they were the parents of Pridi.[1] Nai Siang adopted the surname Phanomyong in 1866.[7] (Some other accounts claimed that Nai Siang was a Chinese immigrant himself.)[9]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Pridi Phanomyong was born in Ayutthaya Province, the second of five children. He had two half-siblings from his father's "extra" wife. In 1915, following the royal decree issued by King Vajiravudh, Pridi and his family dropped the "Nai" from their names.[1]

He received a government scholarship to study law and political economy at the Sorbonne, and returned to Siam in 1927 to work for the Ministry of Justice. He quickly rose in rank, and was granted the royal title Luang Praditmanutham (Thai: หลวงประดิษฐ์มนูธรรม). However, he also began assembling a group of fifty civil servants who wanted to replace to the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy.

People's Party[edit]

On June 24, 1932, "Khana Ratsadon", the tiny People's Party, with Pridi as the leader of the civilian faction, carried out a lightning coup that abruptly ended 150 years of absolute monarchy under the Chakri Dynasty.

In 1933, Pridi went into voluntary exile when his radical economic plans, which called for the nationalisation of all land and labour, were violently rejected by many.

Statesman[edit]

He returned in 1934 to found Thammasat University as an open university, before assuming the posts of Minister of the Interior that year, Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1935, and Minister of Finance in 1938.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1935 to 1937, Pridi signed treaties revoking the extraterritorial rights of 12 countries.[10] With these treaties, Thailand was able to regain complete independence with regard to legal jurisdiction and taxation for the first time since the unequal treaties were signed under duress during the reign of King Rama IV.[11]

Although he had been friends with Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram during the early days of the People's Party, the two fell out in the following years. Pridi was violently anti-Japanese as well as a left-leaning, and therefore opposed many of Phibun's militaristic policies which tended to be more conciliatory toward the Japanese. The antipathy between the two characters would define how Thailand fared by World War II when Japan was quickly consuming territory in Asia.

Free Thai movement[edit]

Main article: Free Thai Movement

On 8 December 1941, Imperial Japan launched its attacks on Southeast Asia and the Allied possessions in the region, which resulted in the full development of the Pacific War. This included numerous amphibious landings in Thailand and an invasion across the border from French Indochina. After initially resisting, the Thai government reluctantly agreed to let the Japanese pass through the country and use its military bases to strike other Allied possessions in the region, including the Battle of Malaya.

When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram issued a declaration of war against Britain and the United States in January 1942, however, Pridi refused to sign it. As a result, he was effectively demoted by Phibun to the figurehead role of Regent for the young monarch, who was studying in Switzerland. In this capacity, Pridi built up the anti-Japanese underground Free Thai Movement ("Seri Thai") network in Thailand. Codenamed "Ruth", he established contact with the Allies and the parallel Thai resistance organisations based in Britain and the United States. As the war progressed and the fortunes of the Japanese turned, public dissatisfaction grew and Phibun was forced to resign as prime minister in 1944. Eventually, in August 1944, the parliament chose Pridi to be the 'regent' as the king had left the country for doing his study in Switzerland.

Khuang Abhaiwongse, a liberal lawyer and member of the Seri Thai, was chosen to be prime minister because of "his ability to dissemble with the Japanese" to shield the growing Seri Thai movement while at the same time improving surface relations with the Japanese occupiers.

When Japan's surrender ended the war, the Seri Thai-dominated government immediately acted to "restore the pre-war status quo". As regent, Pridi termed "the declaration of war illegal and null, and void" as improperly made, and repudiated all agreements made with Japan by Phibun.

When Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Commander, South East Asia, visited Bangkok in late 1945, he recorded a tribute to Pridi in which he said that there had existed a unique situation wherein "the Supreme Allied Commander was exchanging vital military plans with the Head of a State technically at war with us".

Post-war years[edit]

Pridi retired from the regency when King Ananda Mahidol returned in December 1945. He was formally named a Senior Statesman (Ratthaburut Awuso), and served as a respected advisor to the post-war, civilian governments of Tawee Boonyaket and Seni Pramoj.

In March 1946, Khuang, who had been elected Prime Minister in January, resigned. Pridi took the premiership in an attempt to stabilize the political situation, which was now spiralling out of control. It was during the first months of the Pridi government that the war crimes trial against Phibun was dismissed on a legal technicality.

On the morning of June 9, 1946, the young king was found dead in his bed. The monarch's death resulted from a gunshot to the head, while in his bedroom in the Baromphiman Mansion in the Grand Palace. In October 1946, a Commission of Inquiry reported the King's death could not have been accidental, but that neither suicide nor murder was satisfactorily proved.[1]

After a general election, Pridi resigned as prime minister, resumed his status of Senior Statesman, and left on a world tour, visiting Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and United States President Harry S. Truman along the way.

On November 8, 1947, army troops seized various government installations in Bangkok. The coup, led by Lieutenant General Phin Choonhavan and Colonel Kat Katsongkhram, ousted Thamrong's government. It marked the return to power of Phibun. At the same time, armoured cars arrived in front of Pridi's riverside residence. However, when the troops entered, they found that Pridi had already left. Pridi spent a week hiding with the Royal Thai Navy at Admiral Sindhu Songkhramchai's headquarters. On November 20, the statesman was spirited out of the country by British and American agents to Singapore.

Phibun arrested King Ananda's secretary, Senator Chaleo Patoomros, and two of his pages under charges of conspiracy to kill the King. Rumours were spread among the public that Pridi was part of a conspiracy involved in the alleged regicide, and that he had plans to turn Thailand into a republic. After a farcial trial, during which the entire defence counsel resigned and two members of a subsequent counsel were arrested under charges of treason, the judges ruled that none of the accused could have fired the fatal shot. However, it did convict one of pages, Chit Singhaseni, of being a party to the crime. Chit appealed his conviction. The Appeal Court later dismissed Chit's appeal and, undeterred by the legal doctrine of double jeopardy, found the other page, But Pathamasarin, also guilty. The Supreme Court upheld the convictions, convicting Chaleo as well. All three were executed several years later.

According to biographer William Stevenson, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has said he does not believe that Pridi was involved in his brother's death.[12] However due to his testimonial in the court, he did not give any comment on the rumor of the conflict between Pridi, and his faction, with Rama VIII.

Pridi also supported the Vietnamese independent movement of Ho Chi Minh. As the cold war shadowed the post-war arena of Southeast Asia, Thailand apparently became a focus point of the world powers; USA & Soviet Union. In 1949 when China became under the communists, Vietminh ran the anti-French war, many, including USA, doubted that Pridi would lead Thailand to support the communist movement in the region. The policy of Pridi became controversial, leading to the coup which ousted him from power by his former ally, the wartime leader, Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

Permanent exile[edit]

Pridi secretly returned in 1949 in order to stage a coup d'état against Phibun's dictatorship. When it failed, Pridi left for China, never to return to Thailand. From China, he travelled to France, where he spent the remainder of his life.

Pridi died on May 2, 1983, at his home in the suburbs of Paris.

Legacy[edit]

Statue of Pridi at Thammasat University, Bangkok. His office was in the building directly behind the statue.

Pridi remains a controversial figure in Thai modern history. As one of the leaders in 1932 Pro-Democracy Coup, he has been viewed in many ways. The first declaration of the "revolution", which harshly attacked the king and his government, was written by Pridi himself. Nevertheless, Pridi held the position of regent when Rama VIII ascended to the throne.

During the period of military rule, Pridi was portrayed as a communist, a demon designed to frighten off others who might have liberal ideas. King Rama VIII's tragic death came to be blamed on Pridi. Right-wing factions accused Pridi of being the leader of a plot to assassinate the popular young monarch. This culminated in the military coup in 1957.

In his later years Seni Pramoj, also promoted the idea that he had saved Thailand from a post-war British colonial rule that Pridi had been willing to accept.[13] Nigel Brailey treats the Free Thai movement as largely a sham and casts doubt on Pridi’s part, arguing “it appears questionable whether Pridi committed himself personally to the Allied cause much prior to August 1942, if even then,” suggesting that “his eventual anti-Japanese stance was a consequence primarily of his hostility to Phibun.” [14]

There is no doubt that Pridi wanted to remove Phibun from power, and the war offered an opportunity to do so. However, there is no question that Pridi recognised well before the war that Thailand’s alignment with the Axis powers would work to Phibun’s advantage and enable him to strengthen his dictatorship. Even the Japanese recognised Pridi’s hostility, which is why he was forced out of the cabinet in December 1941. It was the reason every knowledgeable person on the Allied side, from Seni Pramoj and Prince Suphasawat, a chief organiser of the movement in Great Britain, to former British ambassador Josiah Crosby, anticipated that Pridi would emerge as the head of a domestic resistance movement.

One time conservative monarchist Sulak Sivaraksa has emerged as Pridi’s most ardent champion. A prolific critic of the Thai status quo, Sulak, in addition to praising the achievements of the Free Thai in saving Thailand’s sovereignty, has criticised Seni and his Democrat Party for alleged complicity in the military’s return to power in 1947.

Sulak led efforts to rehabilitate Pridi which achieved significant results. Four Bangkok streets now are named for him: three as Pridi Banomyong Road and one called Praditmanutham Road (his royally granted title). His birthday, May 11, is now celebrated as Pridi Banomyong Day. In 1997 the Thai government dedicated a park in eastern Bangkok to the Free Thai resistance movement. On August 16, 2003, a library/museum, built as a replica of Pridi’s wartime residence, opened at the park.

On 30 October 1999 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) included Pridi Phanomyong's name in the calendar of Anniversaries of Great Personalities and Historic Events Calendar as tribute to not so much his achievements, but to his ideals and integrity.

There are two Pridi Banomyong Memorials, one in Pridi's hometown, the other on the campus of Thammasat University, which he had founded. Thammasat is home to the Pridi Banomyong Library and the Pridi Banomyong International College. The law faculty at Dhurakij Pundit University is called the Pridi Banomyong Faculty of Law. The Pridi (Chloropsis aurifrons pridii), a species of leafbird, and Pridi Banomyong Institute, a non-profit academic organization, are also named in his honor. The Pridi Banomyong Institute holds an annual Pridi Banomyong Lecture, initially on Pridi Banomyong Day, but moved in recent years to June 24, in honor of his role in the 1932 coup.

Royal decorations[edit]

Pridi received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:

Foreign decorations[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Pridi by Pridi: Selected Writings on Life, Politics, and Economy, Pridi Phanomyong, ISBN 974-7551-35-7

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 13–The Banomyong Family. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  2. ^ Gerald W. Fry (June 18, 2012). "Research & Articles on Pridi Banomyong". BookRags. "Pridi was included in UNESCO's list of Great Personalities and Historic Events for the year 2000, and this year was declared by UNESCO as the centennial of Pridi. Also, the Université Paris (1 PanthéonSorbonne) in 2000 celebrated the centenary of Pridi and honored him as "one of the great constitutionalists of the twentieth century," comparing him to such figures as Rousseau, Montesquieu, and de Tocqueville." 
  3. ^ Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 8–The Banomyong Family. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  4. ^ Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 9–The Banomyong Family. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  5. ^ [泰国] 洪林, 黎道纲主编 (April 2006). 泰国华侨华人研究. 香港社会科学出版社有限公司. p. 17. ISBN 962-620-127-4. 
  6. ^ Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 9–10–The Banomyong Family and 21–Some experiences and opinions by Pridi Banomyong. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  7. ^ a b Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 19–The Banomyong Family. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  8. ^ Pridi Phanomyong, adapted by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (2000). Pridi Banomyong–Pridi by Pridi, Selected Writings on Life, Politics and Economy. Silkworm Books. pp. 10–The Banomyong Family. ISBN 974-7551-35-7. 
  9. ^ James O'Reilly, Larry Habegger. Travelers' Tales Thailand: True Stories. Travelers' Tales. p. 372. ISBN 1-885211-75-9. ; Pridi Banomyong - the father of Thai democracy
  10. ^ The Nation, "When Pridi's diplomatic skills shaped the nation's fate", 14 May 2000
  11. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand "Complete Independence"
  12. ^ Stevenson, William (2001). The Revolutionary King. Constable and Robinson. ISBN 1-84119-451-4
  13. ^ Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian(1995). Thailand's Durable Premier: Phibun Through Three Decades 1932-1957. Kuala Lumpur University Press.
  14. ^ Brailey, Nigel (1986). Thailand and the Fall of Singapore. Boulder.
  15. ^ Timeline of the life of Pridi Phanomyong. Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  16. ^ The Royal Gazette, Vol. 54, Page 2213. December 13, B.E. 2480 (C.E. 1937). Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  17. ^ The Royal Gazette, Vol. 55, Pages 2958-59. November 28, B.E. 2481 (C.E. 1938). Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  18. ^ The Royal Gazette, Vol. 55, Page 4032. February 27, B.E. 2481 (C.E. 1939). Retrieved on November 19. 2008.
  19. ^ The Royal Gazette, Vol. 58, Page 1945-46. June 19, B.E. 2484 (C.E. 1941). Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
  20. ^ a b The Royal Gazette, Vol. 62 No. 70, Page 1900. December 11, B.E. 2488 (C.E. 1945). Retrieved on November 19, 2008.
Preceded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Prime Minister of Thailand
1946
Succeeded by
Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi