Siamese revolution of 1932
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The Siamese Revolution of 1932 or the Siamese Coup d'état of 1932 (Thai: การปฏิวัติสยาม พ.ศ. 2475 or การเปลี่ยนแปลงการปกครองสยาม พ.ศ. 2475) was a crucial turning point in Thai history in the 20th century. The revolution or more accurately the coup d'état was a nearly bloodless transition on 24 June 1932, in which the system of government in Siam was changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The revolution was brought about by a comparatively small group of military and civilians, who formed Siam's first political party, Khana Ratsadon (Peoples' Party). The revolution ended 150 years of absolutism under the Chakri Dynasty and almost 700 years of absolute rule of Kings over Thai history. The Revolution was a product of global historical change as well as social and political changes domestically. The revolution also resulted in the people of Siam being granted their first Constitution.
- 1 Background
- 2 The academic discourse on pre-1932 Siam
- 3 Siam before 1932
- 4 Siam in 1932
- 5 Causes of the 1932 Siamese Revolution
- 6 People's Party
- 7 24 June
- 8 Royal reaction
- 9 New administration
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
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The academic discourse on pre-1932 Siam
Unlike other modern Southeast Asian states, Thailand was never formally colonised by any colonial powers. Conventional perspectives attribute this achievement to the efforts made by the monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty, particularly Rama IV and Rama V, to 'modernise' the Siamese polity, and also to the relative cultural and ethnic homogeneity of the Thai nation. Rama IV (King Mongkut) was credited with opening up Siam to European trade and starting the process of 'modernisation'. Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) consolidated state control over his vassal states and created an absolute monarchy and a centralised state. The success of the Chakri monarchs, however, also sowed the seeds for the 1932 Revolution and the end of absolute monarchy. The 'modernisation' from above created in the early 20th century a class of Western-educated elite (not necessarily rooted in democratic values, with some leaning toward authoritarian) in the Thai commoner and lower nobility classes, who were influenced by the ideals of the French and Russian Revolutions and staffed the middle and lower ranks of the nascent Siamese bureaucracy. This new elite would eventually form the People’s Party that was the nucleus of the 1932 Revolution.
Recent scholarship has begun to raise new alternative perspectives to modern Thai history that challenges the conventional perspectives of the 1932 Siamese Revolution. One of the most influential contemporary scholars on Thailand is Thongchai Winichakul. His hypothesis on the emergence of the modern Thai geobody is widely accepted by scholars in Thai and Southeast Asian studies. He argues that the traditional Hindu-Buddhist paradigms of culture, space, governance and power were being challenged by a significantly different civilization that mainly arose from Latin Christianity tempered by Humanism of the Enlightenment. The rising power and confidence in Europe saw a corresponding increase in Western chauvinism. The East now became increasingly caricaturised as 'barbaric', ‘naïve’, 'childish' and 'inferior'. The mission to 'civilise' these 'barbaric Asiatics' became the raison d'être for colonialism and imperialism. The "siwilai" or "civilise" discourse that arose in nineteenth century Siam was in fact was part of a crucial strategy adopted by the Siamese government to justify the continued existence as a legitimate independent state and to fend off any excuse or colonial intervention. Other components involved the spatial and political reorganisation of the Siamese polity along the new Western paradigms to strengthen the Siamese state and gain recognition from the Western powers as a 'modern' state. Thongchai further argues that the key strategies adopted by the Siamese state to make Siam "siwilai" were quite similar to those adopted by Western colonial powers in administering their colonies. Space and power were essentially redefined by the Siamese state. Autonomous and semi-autonomous muangs were brought under the direct control of the Siamese state by the beginning of the twentieth century. Cartography was introduced to define the borders of Siam, instead of the vague frontiers of the Mandala polities. People were classified into different ethnic groups. In an attempt to promote the new ‘Western’- inspired definitions of being “siwilaí”, the Siamese elite of the 19th century, mainly the aristocracy, began writing ethnographies and create their own versions of the 'Other' to strengthen the identity of the newly created Siamese 'nation' by emphasising its own 'superior' status in relation to the 'barbarity' of the upland peoples like the Lue and the Lahu.
These new perspectives raise the image of a politically dominant Siamese aristocracy that became increasingly powerful from the ‘modernisation’/‘self-colonisation’ process it initiated and directed. This seems contradictory to conventional perspectives. Conventional perspectives are based on the assumption that the Chakri absolute monarchy by the early 1930s was a relatively passive actor, due to the weaknesses of Rama VI (King Vajiravudh) and Rama VII (King Prajadhipok) and crises such as the Great Depression, and could no longer control events and political developments in Siam and was thus swept aside by young activists who advocated democracy and nationalism. Revisionist proponents point out that the weaknesses of individual monarchs does not necessarily mean the resolve and power of the traditional landed aristocracy or the so-called Sakdina aristocracy in maintaining its preeminence through upholding the political prerogatives of the absolute monarchy was in any way lessened. From their viewpoint, attributing the outbreak of the 1932 Revolution largely to the beliefs and ambitions of the Western-educated Promoters of the People's Party has obscured the role played by the Siamese monarchy and aristocracy.
Siam before 1932
Since the year 1782 the Kingdom of Siam was ruled by the House of Chakri, founded by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (or Rama I). The capital city, Bangkok (built on Rattanakosin Island), was also founded by King Rama I.:27 For over a century, the Kings of Siam were able to protect the nation from neighbours (such as Burma) and other foreign nations, escaping colonialism from European powers such as Britain and France. In 1932 Siam, together with China and Japan, were the only independent countries remaining in East Asia.:7
King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) came to the throne in 1868, eager to modernize and reform his medieval kingdom, and he introduced many new reforms and inventions to his country. He openly embraced Europeans as well as European thought on many matters, chiefly law, politics, philosophy, commercialism, education and medicine. He reformed the administration as well as the military system.:3:38–66 At the same time he successfully maintained the country's fragile independence, being situated between prolific colonialists: the British Raj (Burma) and French Indochina (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia). The King, who understood the importance of foreign education, not only sent his many sons to European schools and academies, but also sent thousands of commoners and scholarship students, anticipating that the Kingdom's survival rested on modernization.:3
He was succeeded to the throne by his son, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) (1910–25), a Sandhurst and Oxford graduate.:6 Vajiravudh continued most of his father's efforts in modernizing the infrastructure and other institutions of the country, including appointing able commoners to the government.:3 The foundation of the Vajiravudh College (a school founded on the model of an English public school) and Chulalongkorn University (Siam's first) were part of his educational reforms. He also encouraged more European practices such as fashion and the adoption by all of surnames. His reforms resulted in much anger in many quarters, especially from older, reactionary members of the aristocracy and nobility, whose influence was slowly being eroded. However, the speed of his constitutional reforms also resulted in dissatisfaction from an entirely different faction: the progressive and radicals.:4
In 1912, a Palace revolt, plotted by young military officers, tried unsuccessfully to overthrow and replace the King.:112 Their goals were to change the system of government, overthrowing the ancien régime and replacing it with a modern, Westernized constitutional system, and perhaps to replace Rama VI with a prince more sympathetic to their beliefs.:155 The revolt failed and the participants were imprisoned. In reaction, Vajiravudh largely abandoned his attempts at constitutional reform and continued with his absolutist rule, with the minor exception of appointing some able commoners into his Privy Council and Government.:7 King Vajiravudh died in 1925, and was succeed by his younger brother King Prajadhipok (Rama VII).:112
Siam in 1932
Prince Prajadhipok Sakdidej, the Prince of Sukhothai, was the youngest son of King Chulalongkorn (the 33rd son and the 76th child out of 77th children), an Eton and Woolwich Academy educated Prince. King Prajadhipok inherited a country in crisis, His brother Vajiravudh had left the state on the verge of bankruptcy, often using the Treasury to cover-up the many deficits of the Privy Purse, and the fact that the state and the people were forced to subsidize the many Princes and their lavish lifestyles.:3
After his coronation, the new King quickly created the Supreme Council of State (which became the main organ of state), to try to solve the many problems facing the nation. The Council was composed of experienced senior princes who had held ministerial positions in previous administrations. Unfortunately, they were quick to replace commoners appointed by Vajiravudh in the civil service and military with many of their own.:112:4 The Council was dominated by the Minister of the Interior, German-educated Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand, Prince of Nakhon Sawan, who was Prajadhipok's older half brother. Due to the complicated succession law of the Chakri Dynasty, he was also heir to the throne.:4 Prajadhipok turned out to be a very sympathetic monarch. He immediately ordered a cut in Palace expenditure and travelled extensively around the country to learn the situations first hand. He made himself more accessible and visible to the ever-growing Bangkok elite and middle class by carrying out many public duties. By this time, many students sent to study abroad decades earlier had started to return. Faced with the lack of opportunity, the entrenchment of the Princes, and the comparative backwardness of the country, most became disillusioned with the status quo.:3
By 1930, however, the events of the world were too much for the Kingdom to bear, as the Wall Street Crash and the economic meltdown that came with it finally reached Siam. The King proposed the levying of general income taxes and property taxes to help elevate the sufferings of the poor. However, these were roundly rejected by the Council, who feared their own fortunes would be reduced. Instead, they cut civil service pay rolls and reduced the military budget, angering most of the country's educated elite.:2 The officer corps was especially discontented, and in 1931 Phra Ong Chao (lower class of Prince) Boworadet, a minor member of the Royal Family and Minister of Defence, resigned.:1 Prince Boworadet was not a member of the Supreme Council, and it was suspected that disagreement with the council over budget cuts and jealously led to his resignation.:2 The King, who openly confessed his own lack of financial knowledge, stating he was just a simple soldier, tried with little success to battle the senior princes over this issue.:2
Meanwhile, the King put his efforts into the drafting of a constitution (which for the first time was to introduce democracy to Siam), with the help of two princes and an American foreign policy advisor, Raymond Bartlett Stevens. Despite being advised that his people were not yet ready for democracy, the King was undeterred and was determined to grant a constitution before his Dynasty's 150 anniversary in 1932.:5 However, the document was completely rejected by the princes in the Supreme Council.:5
On 6 April 1932, when the Chakri Dynasty celebrated its 150 anniversary of rule over Siam, the King opened a bridge across the Chao Phraya River. The celebration was somewhat muted due to fears stemming from an alleged prophecy dating back to the days of King Rama I, which predicted the end of the dynasty on its 150th anniversary.:1 By the end of April, Prajadhipok had left Bangkok for his summer holidays, leaving Prince Paribatra in charge as regent. The King went to the beach resort town of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province to his summer villa, "Klai Kangwon" (วังไกลกังวล: translated as "Far from Worries").:15
Causes of the 1932 Siamese Revolution
Thai political history is perhaps one of the least researched by Western Southeast Asian scholars in the 1950s and 1960s. Thailand, as the only nominally 'native' Southeast Asian polity to escape colonial conquest, was deemed to be relatively more stable than compared to other newly independent states in Southeast Asia. It was perceived to have retained enough continuity from its 'tradition', such as the institution of the monarchy, to have 'escaped' from the chaos and troubles caused by decolonisation and to resist the encroachment of revolutionary Communism. By implication, this line of argument suggests the 1932 Revolution was nothing more than a 'coup' that simply replaced the absolute monarchy and its aristocracy with a 'commoner' elite class made up of Western educated generals and civilian bureaucrats and essentially that there was little that was revolutionary about this event. David K. Wyatt for instance described the period of Thai history from 1910 to 1941 as “essentially the political working out of the social consequences of the reforms of Chulalongkorn's reign”. The 1932 revolution was generally characterised as the ‘inevitable’ outcome of “natural consequences of forces set in motion by Rama IV and Rama V.
Effects of Rama VI’s (King Vajiravudh) mismanagement
Rama VI was the first Chakri monarch to be educated overseas in Great Britain and he basically sought to legitimise absolutism through the promotion of Thai nationalism, using a secular and western approach. He was determined to maintain the absolute monarchy and carried out many unpopular policies and decisions that lowered the prestige and influence of the Chakri dynasty. He was blamed for the rapid deterioration of the Siamese government’s fiscal health. His lavish spending on his court, his inability to control the corruption of his inner circle and his creation of the Wild Tiger Corps to promote modern-style Siamese nationalism was widely deemed as wasteful and unproductive. By 1920, fiscal mismanagement under Rama VI and the global economic downturn took the Siamese state budget into deficit. In 1925, even the most senior princes decided to demand large cuts in expenditures, especially the royal household. This represented a bold challenge to the authority of the absolute monarch and reflected the severity of the fiscal malaise in Siam.
His creation of the paramilitary Wild Tiger Corps alienated many regular military officers, who resented the privileges granted to the Corps while their own political and economic interests were being 'neglected'. Rama VI also caused resentment among the aristocracy, since he surrounded himself with commoner courtiers instead of high ranking nobles. The critique was thus that Rama VI was not a competent absolute monarch, and he squandered the massive political capital that he inherited from his father, Rama V, setting the stage for the 1932 revolution, in which disgruntled military officers and bureaucrats seized power.
Rise of the Western-educated 'commoner' elites
'Modern' or Western education was instituted in the reign of Rama V. Although this was still largely limited to the Siamese nobility and the wealthy, new avenues of social mobility was now available to commoners and members of the lower nobility. The best example of these commoner beneiciaries is Pibul Songkram who was from a peasant background. Many of the brightest Siamese students, both commoners and the nobility, were sent abroad to study in Europe. These include Pridi Banomyong, who was of Sino-Thai descent, and Prayoon Panornmontri, the half-German son of a junior Thai official at the Siamese legation in Berlin and later a page to the Crown Prince (who would become Rama VI). They were to become prominent members of the Promoters. These Western-educated 'Commoner' elites were exposed not just to the latest scientific and technical knowledge in Europe but also to the ideals of Western democracy, Nationalism and Communism.
But during the reign of Rama VII (King Prajadhipok), the high-ranking Chakri princes had regained dominance of the government and only four of the twelve ministries were administered by commoners or members of the lower nobility. This 'royal' government was struggling with the fiscal malaise created by Rama VI's administration, and the situation was made much worse by the onset of the Great Depression. Subsequent government measures to lay off many low-ranking bureaucrats and soldiers and reduce the pay of those still in government service caused great resentment among the 'commoner' elites, who were the ones most greatly affected, particularly when the high nobility continue to enjoy considerable wealth and privileges accorded to them by the absolute monarchical system. The resulting unhappiness at the status quo due to the awareness of the ideals of Western democracy, Nationalism and Communism, coupled with the mismanagement by the absolute monarchy and the deteriorating economic conditions caused by the Great Depression triggered the 1932 Revolution. The onus of the outbreak of the 1932 Revolution from this perspective thus lies with the disgruntled 'commoner' elites who wanted radical change and were generally unwilling to compromise with the monarchy and the aristocracy, in particular with Rama VII, who was supposedly in favour of a constitutional monarchy.
More recent scholarship does not disagree with the macro-causes raised by the conventional interpretations, but it tends to delve more into the power struggles between various factions in the labyrinthine world of Siamese politics. They argue that conventional perspectives overemphasise the role of abstract political and social forces, and essentially assume the 'Western' experience of revolution as the 'model' by which all socio-political upheavals are judged and thus ignores the specific historical circumstances in Thailand in 1932. They fail to consider that the 1932 revolution took place in an era when most of the population were kept out of politics and that the political sphere was the domain of military and bureaucratic elites. For example, Benjamin Batson's influential 1984 study of the end of the absolute monarchy in Siam and Judith Stowe's 1991 study both emphasize the actions of prominent individuals such as Pridi Banomyong and Pibul Songkram and their political intrigues. A more recent and controversial study by Paul Handley suggests that the root cause of the 1932 Revolution was the steadfast refusal of the Chakri monarchs (both Rama VI and VII) and aristocracy to share power with the new 'commoner' elites. He argues that insistence of both Chakri monarchs that protecting the powers of the absolute monarchy was equivalent to protecting the sacred royal prerogatives of the Chakri dharmaraja kingship forced the 'commoner' elites and some high-ranking nobility to support or acquiesce in the Promoters’ bid to seize power through military force in 1932.
In February 1927, in a hotel on the Rue du Sommerard in Paris, France, a small group of seven military and civilian students assembled to debate the founding of a party to try to bring change to Siam.:12 Intent on not wanting to repeat the failure of the 1912 plot, they laid out a clear and coherent plan to change Siam. This group included two young students: one a soldier and an artilleryman Plaek Khittasangkha, the other a law student and radical Pridi Panomyong.:116:11 The group called themselves the "Promoters" (ผู้ก่อการ), hoping to return home to try to promote change. The Promoters realized, ironically, as the King's advisors had done, that the Siamese people were not yet ready for democracy, and most were illiterate peasants with little concern for affairs in Bangkok.:12 In Bangkok itself, the new and emerging middle class was dependent on the patronage of the aristocracy for jobs and positions. As a result, they realized that a "mass revolution" was not possible and only a military-led coup d'état was possible. For this purpose a political party was formed and it was named the Khana Ratsadon (คณะราษฎร) (or the People's Party).
When the Promoters eventually returned to Siam by the end of the 1920s, they quietly expanded their lists of contacts and party membership; Pridi became an academic teaching at Chulalongkorn University, where he gathered support of about fifty like-minded men (mostly civilians and civil servants) who also wanted to see the end of absolute monarchy.:13 It was the job of the others, such as Plaek, who had by then received his title Luang Phibulsonggram, to try to gather supporters within the Army.:13 A young naval Captain Luang Sinthusongkhramchai was doing the same for the Navy.:12 The number of the Party increased, and by the end of 1931 it reached 102 members, separated into two branches: the civilians and the military.
Four Tiger soldiers
Prayoon Phamornmontri, one of the seven Promoters, himself an Army officer, and former Royal Page of King Vajiravudh, took it upon himself to try to recruit for the Party influential and powerful members who also wanted to see the end of absolute monarchy and power of the Princes.:12 One officer he had a connection with was the Deputy Inspector of Artillery, Colonel Phraya Phahol Pholpayuhasena. An affable man and popular within the army, he immediately joined the Party and gave it his support.:12 The second senior officer was Colonel Phraya Songsuradet. Considered one of the best minds of his generation, he was the Director of Education at the Military Academy. Both had studied abroad and were eager for change.:14 Songsuradet instantly became the Party's tactician, advising it should first secure Bangkok militarily and eventually the country would follow. He also advised the Promoters to be more secretive to avoid official and police detection.:14 Eventually, he approached his friend Colonel Phraya Ritthiakhaney, commander of the Bangkok Artillery, who shared his concerns about the Princes' domination over the Army and eventually he. too, joined the Party. Finally, they were joined by Phra Phrasasphithayayut, another discontented officer.:15 Forming what was known within the Party as the "Four Musketeers" (4 ทหารเสือ, Four Tiger Soldiers), the most senior members of the party they eventually became its leaders.
Despite all of their precautions and preparation, word of the plan's existence eventually leaked to the police. On the evening of 23 June 1932, the Director General of the Police made a call to Prince Paribatra, asking for his authorization to arrest and imprison all involved in the plot.:15 The Prince, recognizing many names on the list that included many influential and powerful individuals, decided to delay the order for the next day, a delay that would be crucial for the plotters.:16
On that same evening, one of Luang Sinthu's supporters in the navy commandeered a gunboat from its dock up the Chao Phraya river, and by morning was aiming its guns directly at Prince Paribatra's palace in Bangkok.:16 Luang Sinthu himself mobilized 500 armed sailors ready to take the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, which was situated at the center of the capital and part of Dusit Palace. Following them was Prayoon, who later that night took command of a cadre of young officers to seize the post and telegram offices around the capital – one of the officers was Khuang Abhaiwongse. All communications between the princes and senior members of the administration were thus disabled.:16 All their houses were also under surveillance and guard by both civilian and military party members.:16
At about 4:00 a.m. in the morning of 24 June, Phraya Phahol and Songsuradet were already carrying out their part of the plan. Phraya Phahol and some supporters gathered near the Throne Hall waiting for the signal,:17 while Phraya Songsuradet went with a couple of the conspirators to the barracks of the First Cavalry Regiment of the Royal Guards, where most of the armoured vehicles in Bangkok were kept. On arrival, Phraya Songsuradet reprimanded the officer in charge of the barracks for sleeping while there was a Chinese uprising taking place elsewhere in the city – all the while opening the gates of the barracks and mobilizing all the troops. The ruse worked, and through all the confusion and panic, Phraya Prasan was able to arrest the commander of the regiment and put him into custody. Luang Phibul was ordered to guard him.:17 The armoured vehicles, including some tanks, were commandeered and all were ordered to head toward the Throne Hall. Phraya Ritthi, after hearing of the success of Phraya Songsuradet, went to the barracks of the First Regiment of Infantry. After successfully mobilizing the Infantry, he too headed towards the Throne Hall.:17 Having been told weeks before that a military exercise was happening, other troops in the vicinity of Bangkok joined the plotters, thus unknowingly participating in a revolution.:17 Other units loyal to the monarch decided to take a passive role by shutting themselves in their barracks.:160
By the time the infantry and cavalry arrived in the Royal Plaza in front of the Throne Hall at about 6:00 a.m., there was already a throng watching the assembled military.:17 Confusion gripped the Plaza, many not completely sure if the Chinese uprising was real, or if the military were only at the square to exercise. Phraya Phahol climbed onto one of the tanks and read the Khana Ratsadon Manifesto, a declaration proclaiming the end of the absolute monarchy and the establishment of a new constitutional state in Siam. The Promoters cheered, followed by the military, probably more out of deference than full comprehension of what has actually happened.:18
In truth, Phraya Phahol was bluffing – the success of the revolution still depended on facts elsewhere in Bangkok. Phraya Prasan was sent to the house of Prince Paribatra, and to other high-ranking members of the government and Princes.:18 Prince Paribatra was apparently in his pajamas when he was arrested.:159 None, except the Commander of the First Army Corps, offered any resistance. He put up a fight and was slightly wounded, but was eventually taken into custody, becoming the revolution's only casualty. All in all, about 40 officials were arrested and detained in the Throne Hall. One exception was the Minister of Commerce and Communications, Prince Purachatra Jayakara, Prince of Kamphaeng Phet, who escaped in a detached railway engine to warn the King in Hua Hin.:160 By 8:00 a.m. the operation was over and the Promoters had won the day.:18
Most of the military and civil administrations offered little resistance – too used to taking orders and with all line of communications shut, they were unable to act. The next stage of the revolution was left to the civilian side of the Party. Pridi, its leader, with the help of his supporters, blanketed the capital in the Khana Ratsadon's propaganda leaflets, pamphlets and radio broadcasts, all supporting the revolution.:18 The text of manifesto of the Khana Ratsadon (written by Pridi) criticized the monarch in harsh terms:
All the People,
When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first had hoped that he would govern protectively. But… the king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints curt relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dis-honestly… he elevates those of royal blood to have special rights more than the people. He governs without principle. The country's affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and hardships… the government of the king has treated the people as slaves… it can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people, the king carries off many millions for personal use… The People's Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for the governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of the people's representatives… If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set… it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government.
The tone of the Manifesto differed greatly to that of the telegram sent to the King signed by the three full Colonels and Musketeers: Phraya Pahol, Phraya Songsuradet and Phraya Ritthi. The telegram stated using royal language (Rachasap: ราชาศัพท์) that if the King did not wish to remain as a Monarch under a constitution the party was willing to replace him with another Royal Prince.:19 Despite the language, the telegram assured that Monarch in strong terms that if any member of the Khana Ratsadon was hurt, the Princes in custody would suffer.:19
Even before the arrival of the Musketeers' telegram the King was aware of something going on in Bangkok. He was playing a game of golf at the summer villa's course with the Queen, two princely ministers and some courtiers, when an urgent message arrived (reportedly at the eighth hole). Later, Prince Purachatra arrived to report to the King what had been going on in the capital.:19
The King and the princes discussed many options, which included fleeing the country, staging a counter-coup or full surrender.:19 However, by the time the actual telegram arrived from the Khana Ratsadon, the King had already decided. He quickly replied he was willing to remain on the Throne as a constitutional monarch and that he had always favoured granting the people a constitution.:20 The King, later, wrote of his decision of refusing to fight: "I could not sit on a throne besmirched by blood.":161 One point in which the King did not concede was when the Party sent a gunboat to fetch him to Bangkok. He refused and, instead, traveled back to the capital by Royal Train, stating that he was not a captive of the Khana Ratsadon.:20
Meanwhile, the Promoters forced the Princes to sign a document proclaiming their commitment to peace and to avoidance of any bloodshed.:20 In Bangkok, the coup elicited almost no response from the populace, and the day-to-day life of the people returned to normal even before the end of the day. The rest of the country was also similarly disaffected,:20 prompting the Times in London to report that the revolution merely was "a simple re-adjustment".:22
By the evening of the 24th the Promoters were confident enough to call a senior ministerial meeting. In the meeting Pridi tried to persuade senior civil servants to support the Khana Ratsadon, asking them for support and telling them to remain united, unless the semblance of confusion would lead to foreign intervention.:21 Pridi asked the Foreign Ministry to dispatch to all foreign missions a document stating that the party was committed to protecting foreign lives and business and to fulfilling Siam's treaty obligations.:21
King Prajadhipok returned to Bangkok on 26 June. His first immediate action was to give a royal audience to the Promoters. As the members entered the room the King rose and greeted them by saying: "I rise in honour of the Khana Ratsadon". It was an extremely significant gesture, as in Siamese culture the King always remains seated when their subjects offer homage, not the reverse.:22 This led to Pridi apologizing to the Monarch for defaming him in the Manifesto; subsequently, all known copies were pulled from circulation. The King responded to this act by affixing his Royal seal on a document exonerating all members of the Khana Ratsadon for the coup.:22
The Khana Ratsadon then released all their hostages with the exception of Prince Paribatra, whom they considered too powerful and asked to leave the country instead. He later left for Java, never to return; other Princes went into voluntary exile in other South East Asian countries, and some others in Europe.:119:22
In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, Prajadhipok and the Khana Ratsadon immediately set about granting the Siamese people their First Constitution. The Temporary Charter was signed on 27 June 1932 at 5:00 p.m., it was a draft document written by Pridi in advance.:25 The constitution began by announcing that: "the highest power in the land belongs to all people." The Constitution basically stripped the King of all of his ancient powers such as his power of veto, power of pardon and the right to even confirm his own successor and heir. The constitution removed the Monarchy of all of its power, without actually abolishing the office itself.:26 The constitution created a People's Committee (คณะกรรมการราษฎร, the executive) and an Assembly of People's Representatives (รัฐสภาผู้แทนราษฎร) made up of 70 appointed Members.
'Democracy' for Siam was, however to be given to the people in installments, three to be precise. First, the Assembly members were to be appointed by no other than the Four Musketeers (the military). They would exercise the power on behalf of the people, and their first session was to last six months.:26 Second, a period when the mostly ignorant populace would learn about democracy and elections; the Assembly would then be changed to be composed of half appointed members (again by the Musketeers) and the other half through indirect representation. These candidates must, of course, have been examined by the Khana Ratsadon before any election. Thirdly, and finally, the charter stated that full democratic representation in the Assembly could only be achieved at the end of ten years or when more than half of the populace has gone through primary education, whichever was achieved first.:26
The first session of the People's Assembly convened in the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall on 28 June 1932.:27 The charter however did not last long by the end of the year a new more moderate Permanent Constitution:33 would be signed, on 10 December. This constitution eventually gave back to monarch many powers it had lost in the previous charter, the monarchy was once again held "sacred and inviolable". The Assembly of People's Representatives was expanded to include 156 members, 76 were elected and 76 were appointed. The democratic restrictions were removed and the government scheduled Siam's first election in October 1933.:34
The revolution was a product of many events, including for the most part what the Khana Ratsadon considered misrule under Prajadhipok and the princes. Others included the dire economic situation the country faced in the 1930s and the rapid social development at the time.
Despite his lofty ideals and Western education, Pridi's version of democracy faced the same dilemma that Pradhipok's version did: the notion simply that the country, especially the rural populace were not yet ready for it.:26 Within days, the Khana Ratsadon had turned Siam into a one-party state with communistic sounding institutions such as the "People's Assembly" and the position of "President of the People's Committee".:162 However, the Khana Ratsadon showed their bipartisanship when they recommended the appointment of lawyer and Privy Councillor Phraya Manopakorn Nititada as the first President of the People's Committee and in effect the first Prime Minister of Siam, more probably out of pragmatism and shrewdness rather than any honourable intention.:27 However, infighting within the government and the actions of the conservative Prime Minister would eventually lead to another coup d'état only one year later, in June 1933, resulting in the appointment of Phraya Phahol as Siam's second Prime Minister.
The revolution was a huge blow to Prajadhipok and the monarchy, for it has stripped him of all of his ancient powers and privileges. Despite the cordial words, the King lived in constant fear and felt the next time a confrontation between him and the party occurred, he and his Queen both might be killed. In late 1932, the King wrote to his nephew Prince Chula Chakrabongse about his decision to return to Bangkok: "...we were all quite aware that we were probably going to our death.":161 The many unsettled constitutional roles of the Crown and the dissatisfaction of Phraya Phahol's seizure of power culminated in October 1933 in a counter-coup, the Boworadet Rebellion staged by royalist factions. The royalists were led by Prince Boworadet and the many others who had permanently lost their influence and positions because of the seizure of power by the Khana Ratsadon. The rebellion was a failure, and although there is no evidence whatsoever that Prajadhipok was involved, his neutrality and indecisiveness during the brief conflict led to the loss of his credibility and prestige. Three years after the Revolution, King Prajadhipok abdicated the throne and left Siam never to return. He died in England in 1941, during World War II.:75 He was replaced as King by his 9-year-old nephew Prince Ananda Mahidol (King Rama VIII), who at that time was attending school in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Not only did Prajadhipok fail where the Khana Ratsadon succeeded, they accomplished it because of the military. Without the support of the Army faction, the coup would never have happened and the system of absolute monarchy might have lasted years longer. Despite the great socio-economic changes in Bangkok, rural Thais were still uneducated and almost completely uninterested in what went on in the nation's capital. The revolution gave the military a sense of power which it would exercise 16 more times through the end of the 20th century, toppling civilian governments whenever they saw fit. Even today the Thai military is viewed with some suspicion. Nevertheless, the so-called revolution was an extremely significant event in the modern History of Thailand.
- See John Coast, Some Aspects of Siamese Politics (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1953), pp. 1–2. Benjamin A. Batson, The End of Absolute Monarchy in Siam (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 1–14. Kenneth Perry Landon, Thailand in Transition: A brief survey of Cultural Trends in the five years since the Revolution of 1932 (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1939), pp.1–8. Rayne Kruger, The Devil’s Discus (Great Britain: Cassel & Company Ltd, 1964), pp. 10–16. David Van Praagh, Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M.R. Seni Pramoj (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1996), pp. 41–43.
- See Kullada Kesboonchoo Mead, The Rise and Fall of Thai Absolutism (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), pp. 67–92.
- See Thongchai Winichakul, Siam mapped : a history of the geo-body of a nation (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, c1994)
- See Thongchai Winichakul, “The Quest for ‘Siwilai’: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries Siam”. The Journal of Asian Studies. 59, 3 (August 2000): pp. 528–549.
- Ibid, pp. 534.
- Landon, pp. 20–26. Van Praagh, pp. 38–41.
- See Paul M. Handley, The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006). Judith A. Stowe, Siam becomes Thailand: A story of intrigue (London: Hurst & Company, 1991)
- Baker and Phongpaichit.
- Kesboonchoo Meade.
- Soravij: Siamese Royalty. The Descendants of King Rama V of Siam. Retrieved on 14 March 2009
- The Last Chance for Political Reform. Modern Thai politics. Department of Government, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. 2007. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
- See Van Praagh, pp. 16–21.
- D.J. Steinberg ed., In Search of Southeast Asia.(Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 313.
- Batson, pp. 136.
- See Kullada.
- Ibid, pp. 85–92.
- Stowe, pp. 4.
- See Handley, pp. 37.
- Kullada, pp. 126–153.
- Kullada, pp. 66–69.
- Stowe, pp. 9–11
- Stowe, pp. 9–22.
- Landon pp. 20–27.
- See Batson, pp. 187–235.
- See Stowe.
- See Batson and Stowe.
- See Handley, pp. 35–43.
- Pridi Part II Chapter 7
- Pridi Part II Chapter 8.
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (February 2013)|
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- Thongchai, Winichakul. "The Quest for ‘Siwilai’: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries Siam". The Journal of Asian Studies. 59, 3 (August, 2000): pp. 528–549.
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