Victory Monument (Thailand)
Victory Monument (Thai: อนุสาวรีย์ชัยสมรภูมิ, Anusawari Chai Samoraphum) is a large military monument in Bangkok, Thailand. The monument is located in Ratchathewi district, northeast of central Bangkok, at the center of a traffic circle at the intersection of Phahonyothin Road, Phaya Thai Road, and Ratchawithi Road.
The monument is entirely western in its design: in this it is in sharp contrast with another prominent monument of Bangkok, the Democracy Monument, which uses indigenous Thai forms and symbols. The central obelisk, although originally Egyptian, has been frequently used in Europe and America for national and military memorials - its shape suggesting both a sword and an outstanding mark that holds in a territory, here it is designed in the shape of five bayonets clasped together. The five statues, representing the army, navy, air force, police and civilian bureaucracy, are in a standard western "heroic" style, familiar in the 1940s in both fascist and communist states, and were executed by the Italian sculptor Corrado Feroci, who worked under the Thai name Silpa Bhirasi. The sculptor did not like the combination of his work with the obelisk, and referred to the monument as "the victory of embarrassment."
The monument was erected in June 1941 to commemorate the Thai victory in the Franco-Thai War, a brief conflict waged against the French colonial authorities in Indo-China, which resulted in Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia and northern and southern Laos. These were among the territories which the Kingdom of Siam had been forced to cede to France in 1893 and 1904, and patriotic Thais considered them rightfully to belong to Thailand.
In fact the fighting between the Thais and the French in December 1940 and January 1941 had been brief and inconclusive. Only 59 Thai troops were killed, and the final territorial settlement was imposed on both parties by Japan, which did not want to see a prolonged war between two regional allies at a time when it was preparing to launch a war of conquest in South East Asia. Thailand's gains were less than it hoped for, although more than the French wished to concede. Nevertheless the Thai regime of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram decided to celebrate the war as a great victory, and the monument was commissioned, designed and erected within a few months.
The monument became an embarrassment in a more political sense in 1945 when the Allied victory in the Pacific War forced Thailand to evacuate the territories it had gained in 1941 and return them to France. Many Thais regard the monument as an inappropriate symbol of militarism and a relic of what they now see as a discredited regime. Nevertheless the monument remains one of Bangkok's most familiar landmarks.
The monument is one of Bangkok's major traffic intersections. There is a BTS Skytrain station of the same name to the south of the Monument, Victory Monument Station, and the expressway has an exit nearby to the north at Sanam Pao. Many Bangkok BMTA bus lines stop around the monument's traffic circle, including lines no.8, 12, 14, 18, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 34, 36, 36ก, 38, 39, 54, 59, 63, 69, 74, 77, 92, 97, 108, 112, 139, 140, 157, 166, 171, 187, 503, 509, 510, 515, 522, 536, 537, 538, 539 and 542. Many private commuter van lines also use the monument as a terminus. Rajvithi Hospital and Robinson Department Store are located at the intersection. No one seems to know what Victory Monument commemorates, but all roads and practically all forms of public transportation in Bangkok, maybe even all of Thailand, lead here.
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This article is based on the account in Ka F. Wong, Visions of a Nation: Public Monuments in Twentieth-Century Thailand, White Lotus, Bangkok 2006