Plaek Phibunsongkhram

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Plaek Phibunsongkhram

แปลก พิบูลสงคราม
Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram.jpg
Prime Minister of Thailand
In office
8 April 1948 – 16 September 1957
MonarchBhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded byKhuang Aphaiwong
Succeeded byPote Sarasin
In office
16 December 1938 – 1 August 1944
MonarchAnanda Mahidol
Preceded byPhraya Phahonphonphayuhasena
Succeeded byKhuang Aphaiwong
Minister of Defence
In office
28 June 1949 – 26 February 1957
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded bySuk Chatnakrob
Succeeded bySarit Thanarat
In office
22 September 1934 – 15 November 1943
Prime MinisterPhot Phahonyothin
Preceded byPhot Phahonyothin
Succeeded byPichit Kriengsakpichit
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
15 December 1941 – 19 June 1942
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byDirek Jayanama
Succeeded byLuang Wichitwathakan
Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives
In office
12 September 1957 – 16 September 1957
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded bySiri Siriyothin
Succeeded byWiboon Thammaboot
Minister of Culture
In office
12 September 1957 – 16 September 1957
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byposition establish
Succeeded byPisan Sunavinvivat
Minister of Commerce
In office
4 February 1954 – 23 March 1954
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byBoonkerd Sutantanon
Succeeded bySiri Siriyothin
Finance Minister of Thailand
In office
13 October 1949 – 18 July 1950
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byPrince Vivatchai Chaiyant
Succeeded byChom Jamornmarn
Minister of Interior
In office
13 October 1949 – 18 July 1950
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byThawan Thamrongnawasawat
Succeeded byChuang Kwancherd
Minister of Education
In office
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded bySindhu Kamolnavin
Succeeded byPrayun Phamonmontri
Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
In office
13 November 1940 – 24 November 1943
Preceded byposition establish
Succeeded bySarit Thanarat
Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army
In office
4 January 1938 – 5 August 1944
Preceded byPhraya Phahonphonphayuhasena
Succeeded byPhichit Kriangsakphichit
Personal details
Plaek Khittasangkha

(1897-07-14)14 July 1897
Mueang Nonthaburi, Nonthaburi, Siam
Died11 June 1964(1964-06-11) (aged 66)
Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan
Political partySeri Manangkhasila Party (1955–57)
Other political
Khana Ratsadon (1927–54)
Spouse(s)La-iad Bhandhukravi
Children6, including Nitya
Military service
Allegiance Siam
Thailand Thailand
Branch/service Royal Thai Army
Emblem of the Royal Thai Armed Forces HQ.svgRoyal Armed Forces
Years of service1914–1957
RankRTA OF-10 (Field Marshal).svg Field Marshal
RTN OF-10 (Admiral of the Fleet).svg Admiral of the Fleet
RTAF OF-10 (Marshal of the Royal Thai Air Force).svg Marshal of the Air Force
CommandsSupreme Commander
Battles/warsBoworadet Rebellion
Franco-Thai War
Pacific War
Palace Rebellion

Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Thai: แปลก พิบูลสงคราม  [plɛ̀ːk pʰí.būːn.sǒŋ.kʰrāːm]; alternatively transcribed as Pibulsongkram or Pibulsonggram; 14 July 1897 – 11 June 1964), locally known as Chomphon Por (Thai: จอมพล ป.; [tɕɔ̄ːm.pʰōn.pɔ̄ː]), contemporarily known as Phibun (Pibul) in the West, was the third and longest serving Prime Minister of Thailand and dictator of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.

Early years[edit]

Phibun as a teenager.

He was born Plaek Khittasangkha (Thai: แปลก ขีตตะสังคะ  [plɛ̀ːk kʰìːt.tà.sǎŋ.kʰá]) in Nonthaburi Province to Keed Khittasangkha and his wife.[1] Plaek's paternal grandfather was said to be a Cantonese-speaking Chinese immigrant. However, the family was completely assimilated and Plaek did not show any features deemed to be typical of ethnic Chinese,[2] which is why he could later successfully conceal and deny his Chinese roots.[3] Plaek's parents owned a durian orchard. He received his given name – meaning 'strange' in Thai – because of his unusual appearance as a child. Plaek Khittasangkha studied at Buddhist temple schools, then was appointed to Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. He graduated in 1914 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the artillery. Following World War I, he was sent to study artillery tactics in France. In 1928, as he rose in rank, he received the noble title Luang from King Prajadhipok and became known as Luang Phibunsongkhram. He would later drop his title, but adopted Phibunsongkhram as his surname.

1932 revolution[edit]

Phibunsongkhram was one of the leaders of the military branch of the People's Party (Khana Ratsadon) that staged a coup d'état and overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932. Then-Lieutenant Colonel Phibunsongkhram rose to prominence as a man-on-horseback.[4] Nationalisation of some companies and increasing state control of the economy followed the 1932 coup.

Abdication of the king[edit]

The following year, Phibunsongkhram, along with officers allied in the same cause, successfully crushed the Boworadet Rebellion. This was a royalist revolt led by Prince Boworadet. While King Prajadhipok was not in any way involved in the rebellion, it marked the beginning of a slide which ended in his 1935 abdication and replacement by King Ananda Mahidol. The new king was still a child studying in Switzerland, and parliament appointed Colonel Prince Anuwatjaturong, Lieutenant Commander Prince Aditya Dibabha, and Chao Phraya Yommaraj (Pun Sukhum) as his regents.

Prime Minister of Thailand[edit]

In 1938, Phibunsongkhram replaced Phraya Phahol as Prime Minister and Commander of the Royal Siamese Army, and consolidated his position by rewarding several members of his own army clique with influential positions in his government.

Phibunsongkhram began to increase the pace of modernisation in Thailand. He supported fascism and nationalism. Together with Luang Wichitwathakan, the Minister of Propaganda, he built a leadership cult in 1938 and thereafter. Photographs of Phibun were to be found everywhere, and those of the abdicated King Prajadhipok were banned. His quotes appeared in newspapers, were plastered on billboards and were repeated over the radio.[citation needed][citation needed]

Imitating Italian fascism[edit]

Phibun gave ultranationalism speech to the crowds at the Ministry of Defence which is opposite Swasti Sopha gate of Grand Palace in 1940.

After the revolution of 1932, the Thai governments of Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena were impressed by the success of the March on Rome of the fascist movement of Benito Mussolini in Italy. Phibun also seemed to be an admirer of the Italian fascism. Phibun sought to imitate the fascist Italian regime's cinema propaganda, valued as one of the most powerful propaganda instruments of Italian political power, the main purpose was to promote the ideologies of nationalism and militarism, strengthening unity and harmony of the state, and also glorifying the policy of ruralisation in Italy and abroad. With the pro-fascist leanings of Thai political leaders, Italian propaganda films: newsreels, documentaries, short films, and full-length feature films, such as Istituto Luce Cinecittà, were shown in Thailand during the interwar period.

Phibun adopted the Italian fascist salute, modeled on the Roman salute, and he used it during speeches. The salute was not compulsory in Thailand. It was opposed by Luang Wichitwathakan and many cabinet members as they believed it inappropriate for Thai culture.

Thai Cultural Revolution[edit]

Thai poster from the Phibun era, showing prohibited "uncivilised" dress on the left, and proper Western dress on the right.

"Aimed to uplift the national spirit and moral code of the nation and instilling progressive tendencies and a newness into Thai life", a series of cultural mandates were issued by the government. These mandates encouraged all Thais to salute the flag in public places, know the new national anthem, and use the Thai language, not regional dialects. People were encouraged to adopt Western, as opposed to traditional, attire. Similarly, people were encouraged to eat with a fork and spoon, rather than with their hands as was customary. Phibun saw these policies as necessary, in the interest of progressivism, to change Thailand in the minds of foreigners from an undeveloped country into a civilised and modern one.[5]

Phibun's administration encouraged economic nationalism. Anti-Chinese policies were imposed, and the Thai people were to purchase as many Thai products as possible, thereby reducing Chinese economic power. In a speech in 1938, Luang Wichitwathakan, himself of Chinese ancestry, followed Rama VI's book Jews of the East in comparing the Chinese in Siam to the Jews in Germany, who at the time were harshly repressed.

In 1939, Phibun changed the country's name from "Siam" to "Thailand". In 1941, in the midst of World War II, he decreed 1 January as the official start of the new year instead of the traditional 13 April.

Franco-Thai War[edit]

Phibunsongkhram inspecting troops during the Franco-Thai War

Ardently pro-Japanese at the beginning, Phibun and his administration soon distanced themselves from Japan following the aftermath of the French-Thai War.[citation needed] This conflict lasted from October 1940 to May 1941. Following the peace talks, the Japanese gained the right to occupy French Indo-China. Threatened with war, Phibun stated that the Japanese would be the transgressors.[citation needed] The administration also realised that Thailand would have to fend for itself when the Japanese invasion came, considering its deteriorating relationships with the major Western powers in the area.[citation needed]

Alliance with Japan[edit]

When the Japanese invaded Thailand on 8 December 1941, (because of the international date line this occurred an hour and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor),[6] Phibun was reluctantly forced to order a general ceasefire after just one day of resistance and allow the Japanese armies to use the country as a base for their invasions of Burma and Malaya.[7] Hesitancy, however, gave way to enthusiasm after the Japanese rolled their way through Malaya in a "Bicycle Blitzkrieg" with surprisingly little resistance.[8][9] On 21 December Phibun signed a military alliance with Japan. The following month, on 25 January 1942, Phibun declared war on Britain and the United States. South Africa and New Zealand declared war on Thailand on the same day. Australia followed soon after.[10] All who opposed the Japanese alliance were purged from his government. Pridi Phanomyong was appointed acting regent for the absent King Ananda Mahidol, while Direk Jayanama, the prominent foreign minister who had advocated continued resistance against the Japanese, was later sent to Tokyo as an ambassador. The United States considered Thailand to be a puppet of Japan and refused to declare war. When the allies were victorious, United States blocked British efforts to impose a punitive peace.[11]

As Japan neared defeat and the underground anti-Japanese resistance Seri Thai steadily grew in strength, the National Assembly ousted Phibun. His six-year reign as the military commander-in-chief was at an end. His resignation was partly forced by two grandiose plans. One was to relocate the capital from Bangkok to a remote site in the jungle near Phetchabun in north central Thailand. The other was to build a "Buddhist city" in Saraburi. Announced at a time of severe economic difficulty, these ideas turned many government officers against him.[12] Phibunsongkhram went to stay at the army headquarters in Lopburi.

Khuang Aphaiwong replaced him as prime minister, ostensibly to continue relations with the Japanese, but, in reality, to secretly assist the Seri Thai.

At war's end, Phibun was put on trial at Allied insistence on charges of having committed war crimes, mainly that of collaborating with the Axis powers. However, he was acquitted amid intense public pressure. Public opinion was still favourable to Phibun, as he was thought to have done his best to protect Thai interests. His alliance with Japan had Thailand take advantage of Japanese support to expand Thai territory in Malaya and Burma.[13]

Coup, second premiership and more coups[edit]

Plaek Phibunsongkhram at Hyde Park, New York, 1955

In November 1947, Royal Thai Army units under the control of Phibun carried out a coup which forced then Prime Minister Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi to resign. Khuang was again installed as prime minister as the military coup risked international disapproval. Pridi Phanomyong was persecuted. He was, however, aided by British and US intelligence officers, and thus managed to escape the country. On 8 April 1948, the military forced Khuang out of office and Phibun assumed his second premiership.

On 1 October 1948, the unsuccessful Army General Staff Plot was launched to topple Phibun's government. As a result, more than fifty army and reserve officers and several prominent supporters of Pridi Phanomyong were arrested.

A Palace Rebellion in 1949 was another failed coup attempt. Its plotters' aim was to overthrow the Phibun's government and restore his main civilian rival Pridi Phanomyong to the Thai political scene.

Instead of the fascism that characterised his first premiership, Phibun and his regime promoted a façade of democracy. US aid was received in large quantities following Thailand's entry into the Korean War as part of the United Nations' multi-national allied force in the Cold War against the communists.

Phibun's anti-Chinese campaign was resumed, with the government restricting Chinese immigration and undertaking various measures to restrict economic domination of the Thai market by those of Chinese descent. Chinese schools and associations were once again shut down. Despite open pro-Western and anti-Chinese policies, in the late-1950s Phibun arranged to send to China two of the children of Sang Phathanothai, his closest advisor, with the intention of establishing a backdoor channel for dialogue between China and Thailand. The girl, aged eight, and her brother, aged twelve, were sent to be brought up under the assistants of Premier Zhou Enlai as his wards. The girl, Sirin Phathanothai, later wrote The Dragon's Pearl, an autobiography telling her experiences growing up in the 1950s and 1960s among the leaders of China.

On 29 June 1951, Phibun was attending a ceremony aboard the Manhattan dredge when he was taken hostage by a group of naval officers, who then quickly confined him aboard the warship Sri Ayutthaya. Negotiations between the government and the coup organizers swiftly broke down, leading to violent street fighting in Bangkok between the navy and the army, which was supported by the air force. Phibun was able to swim back ashore when the Sri Ayutthaya was bombed by the air force. With their hostage gone, the sailors and marines were forced to lay down their arms.

On 29 November 1951, the Silent Coup was staged by the army-led Coup Group and it consolidated the military's hold on the country. It reinstated the Constitution of 1932, which effectively eliminated the Senate, established a unicameral legislature composed equally of elected and government-appointed members, and allowed serving military officers to supplement their commands with important ministerial portfolios.

On 13 November 1956, Thailand's Criminal Code BE 2499 was signed into law by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram countersigned the code.

1957 coup and exile[edit]

At the end of his second term, suspicions of fraudulent practices during an election emerged. The US-equipped Thai army played a major role in the coup d'état of 1957, and the United States was "deeply involved".[14] The resulting unrest led to a second coup in October 1958 by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanaraj, who had earlier sworn to be Phibun's most loyal subordinate. Sarit was supported by many royalists who wanted to regain a foothold. Phibun was then forced into exile in Japan, where he lived until his death in 1964.


Royal decorations of Thailand[edit]

Plaek Phibunsongkhram received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:[15]

  • 1911 - King Rama VI Coronation Medal (Thailand) ribbon.png King Rama VI Coronation Medal
  • 1925 - King Rama VII Coronation Medal (Thailand) ribbon.png King Rama VII Coronation Medal
  • 1932 - 150 Years Commemoration of Bangkok Medal ribbon.png 150 Years Commemoration of Bangkok Medal
  • 1934 - Dushdi Mala - Military (Thailand).png Dushdi Mala - Military
  • 1937 - Order of the Crown of Thailand - Special Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand
  • 1938 - King Rama IV Royal Cypher Medal (Thailand) ribbon.png King Rama VIII Royal Cypher Medal
  • 1940 - Order of the White Elephant - Special Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Knight Grand Cordon (Special Class) of The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant
  • 1941 - Victory Medal - Indochina with flames (Thailand).png Victory Medal - Indochina
  • 1941 - Order of the Nine Gems (Thailand) ribbon.svg Knight of The Ancient and Auspicious Order of the Nine Gems
  • 1942 - Order of Chula Chom Klao - 1st Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of The Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao
  • 1942 - Ratana Varabhorn Order of Merit ribbon.png The Ratana Varabhorn Order of Merit
  • 1943 - Medal for Service in the Interior - Asia (Thailand) ribbon.png Medal for Service Rendered in the Interior (Asia)
  • 1943 - Victory Medal - World War 2 (Thailand).png Victory Medal - World War II
  • 1943 - Dushdi Mala - Civilian (Thailand).png Dushdi Mala - Civilian
  • 1944 - Bravery Medal with wreath (Thailand) ribbon.png Bravery Medal - World War II
  • 1956 - King Rama IX Royal Cypher Medal (Thailand) ribbon.png Bhumibol Adulyadej King Rama IX Royal Cypher Medal, First Class
  • 1957 - Border Service Medal (Thailand) ribbon.png Border Service Medal

Foreign honours[edit]

Military rank[edit]

Volunteer Defense Corps of Thailand rank[edit]

Academic rank[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (in Thai) ผู้นำทางการเมืองไทยกับสงครามโลกครั้งที่ 2 [df]: จอมพล ป.พิบูลสงคราม และ ปรีดี พนมยงค์ Archived 27 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Batson, Benjamin Arthur; Shimizu, Hajime (1990). The Tragedy of Wanit: A Japanese Account of Wartime Thai Politics. University of Singapore Press. p. 64. ISBN 9971622467. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  3. ^ Ansil Ramsay (2001). Grant H. Cornwell; Eve Walsh Stoddard (eds.). The Chinese in Thailand: Ethnicity, Power and Cultural Opportunity Structures. Global Multiculturalism: Comparative Perspectives on Ethnicity, Race, and Nation. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 63.
  4. ^ "man on horseback". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 30 June 2011. n. A man, usually a military leader, whose popular influence and power may afford him the position of dictator, as in a time of political crisis
  5. ^ Numnonda, Thamsook (September 1978). "Pibulsongkram's Thai Nation-Building Programme during the Japanese Military Presence, 1941-1945". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 9 (2): 234–247. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
  6. ^ Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War, Vol 3, The Grand Alliance, p.548 Cassell & Co. Ltd, 1950
  7. ^ A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 (part one)
  8. ^ Ford, Daniel (June 2008). "Colonel Tsuji of Malaya (part 2)". Warbirds Forum. Retrieved 30 June 2011. Though outnumbered two-to-one, the Japanese never stopped to consolidate their gains, to rest or regroup or resupply; they came down the main roads on bicycles.
  9. ^ "The Swift Japanese Assault". National Archives of Singapore. 2002. Retrieved 30 June 2011. Even the long legged Englishmen could not escape our troops on bicycles.
  10. ^ A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 (part three)
  11. ^ I.C.B Dear, ed, The Oxford companion to World War II (1995) p 1107
  12. ^ Roeder, Eric (Fall 1999). "The Origin and Significance of the Emerald Buddha". Southeast Asian Studies. Southeast Asian Studies Student Association. 3. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011. Judith A. Stowe, Siam becomes Thailand (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), pp. 228-283
  13. ^ Aldrich, Richard J. The Key to the South: Britain, the United States, and Thailand during the Approach of the Pacific War, 1929-1942. Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-588612-7
  14. ^ Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 93-110
  15. ^ Biography of Field Marshal P. Archived 26 August 2002 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Thai Army website. Retrieved on 4 December 2008.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Preceded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Pote Sarasin