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While the second coronation was being planned, but be­fore it actually took place, Vajiravudh inaugurated what he undoubtedly regarded as his most important means for building nationalism, the Wild Tiger Corps. The corps was basically a paramilitary organization, a kind of home guard, made up of volunteers who were recruited at first from among the members of the civilian bureaucracy.

No creation of the King’s was a better vehicle for his nationalistic ideas, and no concept for carrying out his nationalistic program was more fully realized. Further, no organization was dearer to his heart. The corps was his child, his delight. Its members were his comrades, his fellow “club” members, his companions at arms, his students. The Wild Tiger clubhouse was a place where the King could relax. The whole corps idea hearkened back to Saranrom Palace and the Thawipanya Club atmosphere, the “war maneuvers” of the pages and courtiers, with the King as absolute director and manager, although in a “democratic,” that is, comradely, way.

28The creation of the corps was officially announced on May 1, 1911—six months and eight days after Vajiravudh became king.1 On May 6 the formal ceremony inaugurating the corps and its first members was held in the Chapel Royal of Wat Phra Kaeo. The cere­mony consisted of the customary lighting of candles, professions of faith, and reading of scriptures by monks. The King accepted the position of captain general, deposited some strands of his hair in a receptacle at the top of the staff of the corps banner, and then, bearing the banner, led the men to a formation in front of the chapel. There Prince Vajiranana, the Buddhist patriarch, delivered a sermon praising the corps, then blessed the members and banner with holy water and with Pali stanzas from the Temiya Jataka, to which he added a final stanza:

By the power of these words

I ask that the fortune of victory be yours,

I ask that this volunteer Corps

Be united and free from danger,

And that it endure.2

The ceremony was private, it was quiet, it was relatively brief. But it was by no means casual. The presence of Prince Vajiranana, the careful preparation of the banner, and the selection of the members of the first company (kο̨ng) from among those courtiers closest to the King and from the ranks of ministers of state, high princes in govern­ment, and representatives of departments of the civil service, all showed that an event of great importance had taken place.3

The ceremony itself and the initial comments of the King also showed that the idea of the corps had been long forming in the King’s mind. In the same month the corps was established the King stated that he had been planning for many years to create such an organi­zation and that indeed, without such preparation, he would never have been able to move so fast and so well with the idea. The King traced the corps’ genesis back to the war games he had introduced among his court pages at Saranrom Palace in 1905. These war games, he stated, were the initial experiments with the Wild Tiger idea. He wrote: “I acted quietly because one does not wish to make too much of a thing before one is sure that it will succeed.”4 The specific, practical planning sessions for the establishment of the corps, how­ever, started as late as April 26, 1911, when the King and a small party of his closest courtiers, during a trip on the royal yacht in the Gulf of Siam, set up the basic framework and compiled the first list of volunteer members.

29The inspiration for the corps, of course, did not come from experiments or meetings. The corps had a meaning for the King that undoubtedly went far back in his history. The times, he saw, were ripe for the corps. Indeed, international times seemed ripe, for the heightened nationalism and superpatriotism, the urgently felt need for preparations of total populations for some great national endeavor, were obvious throughout Europe in the years prior to World War I. Sir Robert S. Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement, which began in England in 1908 and spread like a grass fire through the receptive dry lands of Germany, France, Russia, and the United States, was but one symbol of the readiness of an idea. The Boy Scout movement was not the inspiration for the Wild Tiger movement, although the King knew of Baden-Powell and may have been stimulated by some of his ideas. The Wild Tiger Corps, true enough, had its germ in European ideas, in the King’s appreciation of the strength of European nationalism; the same perceptions prompted both Baden-Powell and Vajiravudh. But Baden-Powell’s organization came too late to have been responsible for the Wild Tiger idea, and the Wild Tiger concept was certainly not a literal or even close approximation of the entirely youth-directed, essentially nonmilitary concept of the Boy Scouts. The outward similarities of the Tiger Corps to the Boy Scouts were definitely not the sign of an imitation with “comic” overtones, as one Westerner of the time implied.5

Original Purposes of the Corps

The King’s original aims for the corps in furthering national policies are made clear in a number of his writings and speeches,6 particularly in a series of addresses he gave to corps members in May, June, and July of 1911.7 The King evidently saw the organization as a new instrument for bringing the Thai nation together; breaking the narrow interests, personal and departmental, of civil servants; stimulating martial values; and, above all, creating among the Thai people a new national spirit, the spirit of the Wild Tigers.

The King cast his arguments for the corps in historic terms. The very name Wild Tigers, he said, was an old one, used in former times for men who kept watch on the frontiers of the country, observing enemy movements, sending back reports to aid the Siamese army. These Wild Tigers of former days had qualities of ruggedness, loyalty, and fearlessness combined with expert knowledge of nature and war­fare. And it was their presence and the presence of many others with the Wild Tiger spirit, including “nearly all the kings,” that made it possible for the Thai nation to prosper and survive.8

30The old society which possessed this Wild Tiger spirit, said the King, also had the advantage of not being divided into civilian and military groups. All young men served their country in war; only after such service and after they had established families were men considered civilians. Small as Siam then was, and surrounded by enemies, it expected all men to become strong, to know how to defend the country, to gain expertise in arms, to begin to learn the arts of war “as soon as they were able to walk.” Principal ministers of government functioned as leaders in both peace and war. It was only after pro­longed peace that the country became soft, that government officials began using the labor of soldiers for their own personal ends in the departments under their control, that enterprising men sought ways to avoid service, that military service became unpopular and even regarded as shameful. This theoretical sketch, which had some basis in history, set the scene for the King’s essential arguments in favor of the Wild Tigers.9

In support of the purely military advantages of the Wild Tigers the King stressed the military danger Siam faced:

How many countries close to us have already fallen to European power? Do you know? Burma, which was once our competitor, is a possession of the British. Cambodia, which was once a brilliant nation and was once the master of us Thai, is now a possession of the French. Vietnam is a possession of the French. More than half of Malaya is a possession of the British. Java, once very magnificent, is a possession of the Dutch.10

And on he went with India and Korea. Only four countries were still independent, but two of these, Persia and China, were in chaos. Only Japan and Siam were still free and orderly. “Of those two countries, which is the more respected in the world? I’m sorry to have to answer that it is Japan. Why? Because Japan has clearly demonstrated to the world that it still has able soldiers.”11 Siam in contrast, said the King, was weak. Its people were asleep. And it would be too late to awaken when the enemy was at the door. Siam had to learn to be prepared, even in peacetime, for “when other countries see we are prepared to fight, they are likely to give up the attack, for an attack on a country that is prepared to resist to the fullest becomes too costly to pursue.”12

The military services, of course, had to bear the chief burden of defense, but civilians with proper military training, that is, the Wild Tigers, could support the military in time of need. The Wild Tiger Corps would enhance the country’s military strength by giving civi­lians the opportunity to harden their bodies and commit their minds 31and spirits to the nation, as soldiers do. Once again, as in the proud past, all men of Siam would share in the task of defending the country.

The value of the military strength of the Wild Tiger Corps was, however, far outweighed in the King’s mind by its spiritual strength, by the contribution it would make toward national unity by uniting civilian and military, by uniting the various civil sections of govern­ment, and, finally, by uniting the entire people in Wild Tigerism, that is, nationalism.

The corps, by blurring the lines between civilian and military, would ally these two social elements in a common cause:

We should understand that although we have two separate names for soldier and civilian, the truth is that we have one name that applies to both, and that is the word Thai. Soldiers are one part of the Thai people, civilians are one part of the Thai people; how can they then be separate groups? Every soldier is also a civilian. Every civilian like­wise ought to be a soldier.13

The overriding fact was that civilian and soldier must both see them­selves as part of the Thai nation, equally willing to do their jobs, equally willing to make sacrifices of personal comfort, personal ad­vantage, even life itself, for the good of the nation. It was not for soldiers to sacrifice and civilians to be comfortable. All must sacrifice; civilians must learn to be something in the way of soldiers themselves.

A real problem that had bedeviled Vajiravudh’s father, King Chulalongkorn, in his program of reforming government administra­tion was that of interministerial, interdepartmental, and interpersonal rivalry.14 The problem stemmed from traditional administrative prac­tices that made it difficult to remove high officials from office and that produced an extraordinary bond of loyalty and continued service between a high official and his staff. Vajiravudh saw the problem clearly. He stated: “Officials often seem to believe that their first and only debt of loyalty is due to the particular Ministry or Depart­ment in which they serve; they must do all they can to advance the interests and prestige of that Ministry or Department even at the cost of another branch of the service.” Chulalongkorn, Vajiravudh said, “was well aware” of the problem and sought remedies in education, “which requires much time,” and in conscription, “which was not popular with certain classes” (that is, the official classes). What was to be done, he asked, to break down parochial interests, to bring all civil servants into one discipline? 32

Suppose something of a military nature were tried? But although mili­tary, it must be something with an element of freedom in it. It must be a military organization with liberty to join or not as the individual pleased. Hence the origin of the Wild Tiger Corps.

The King made explicit his expectation that the Wild Tiger Corps, although cast in a military form, would educate his officials in the idea that the interests of the individual and the department or ministry were subservient to those of the state, that the good of the country was paramount.15

The very structure of the Wild Tigers was designed to shake up the loyalties and ranks of the civil bureaucracy, for Wild Tiger posi­tions did not correspond to regular department positions. A person high in a ministry might well be a common soldier in the Wild Tigers —a revolutionary approach to station in Siam, where customarily a person’s rank in the bureaucracy determined not only his salary and the number of subordinates he supervised but also the prestige ac­corded him, the language with which he was addressed, and virtually every other aspect of his social status. The King justified his approach by citing the general who, aboard ship, must obey the captain; the high prince who, in school, must obey his teacher. So in the Wild Tigers every man, no matter what position he might hold outside, must obey his Wild Tiger officer. The King generalized that the discipline and the stability of any group depended on everyone’s obeying the orders of those whose responsibility it was to give them.16

By bringing citizen and soldier together, by inculcating in civil sectors of life the values of sacrifice and unity he saw in the military, Vajiravudh hoped to bring a new spirit of unity to the nation. This unity of purpose would prompt everyone to do his duty toward the nation, which would be “the best way for one to demonstrate that he loves his nation more than he loves himself.” For only by acting in harmony with the interests of the group could any individual survive. The nation was the highest group; if its constituent parts did not work together, the nation could not survive. Individuals who worked for their personal advantage in ways that harmed the group, helped destroy the group and, in the end, themselves as well. He compared the individuals in a group to the parts of a human body:

… if the hand feels that it has done enough work and will not bring food to the mouth, what will happen? No food goes to the stomach, which is ready to digest the food that does not come. So, lacking food, there is nothing to sustain the blood. The blood thins and is unable to 33care for the flesh and sinews of various body parts. So they weaken. The body emaciates. And the hand that refused to take up the food dies along with the rest.

So with nations. A nation, he said, is nothing other than many groups of people joined together in a great body; these groups must be in agreement if the organism is to escape destruction.17

Combining and surpassing all the King’s particular aims for the Wild Tigers was his vision of the Tigers as bringing about a “true national feeling,” a “Wild Tiger spirit,” an ideal of nationalism among all his people. This was the only aim of the Tigers he mentioned in an important speech he gave on December 3, 1911, at coronation time:

The aim of this national institution is to instil in the minds of the people of our own race love and loyalty towards the High Authority that controls and maintains with justice and equity the political indepen­dence of the nation, devotion to Fatherland, Nation, and our Holy Religion, and, not least of all, the preservation of national unity and cultivation of mutual friendship. These qualities form the strongest foundation on which our national existence will rest and not belie its name as the Nation of the Free. Thus shall we deserve well of our an­cestors who gave their life’s blood in firmly planting the home of our ancient race in this land of Siam.18

This message of three-in-one loyalty to king, nation, and religion—undoubtedly inspired by the British “God, King, and Country”—was a foundation of the King’s nationalistic ideas and was continually developed before Wild Tiger audiences. These general nationalistic concepts, which will be developed in later chapters, were imparted to Wild Tiger groups more fully than to any others. The King ob­viously saw the corps as playing a large role in the dissemination of his basic nationalistic ideas. This large role included such specifics as supplying the nation with slogans and goals. The motto of the Wild Tiger Corps, emblazoned on its flags, badges, and signs, read “Give up life rather than honor.” This motto, although coined for the Tigers, was clearly meant to set a standard of patriotism for the whole of the Thai nation.

The King assigned a new specific duty to the Wild Tigers in an order issued on June 20, 1911.19 This order made it a duty of the Tigers to help preserve public order and called for them to aid local authorities in suppressing crimes, fighting fires, protecting the person of the king, and performing humanitarian deeds. Proper reports were to be made of such activities; those who had done outstandingly 34meritorious acts were to be cited in the Čhotmaihet su̓apa (Wild Tiger Documents) on pages figuratively called “plates of gold,” and those who had failed their trust were to be listed on pages of “dog hide.”20

There were other royal purposes, or possible purposes, with re­gard to the Wild Tigers that are not made explicit in the King’s writings or speeches. Some of these purposes may even have been unconscious. When the King spoke to the Wild Tigers of very broad nationalistic aims and ideals, for instance, it seems hardly possible that he expected the corps to convert these ideals into reality. The corps at the outset was too small in numbers, too limited to the Bangkok bureaucratic elite, to convey these ideals to provincial and village Siam. It would appear that the King gave his speeches to the Tigers—on a regular weekly schedule for a long period of time—in large part because he needed an audience for his ideas, and the corps, his own creation, gave him an audience that was congenial and receptive.

The Tiger Corps was indeed congenial to the King; it functioned as a kind of club for His Majesty and was an extension of the club atmosphere he had earlier tried to establish as a prince at Saranrom Palace. Although all ministries and departments of government in a sense “belonged” to the King, in another sense none did. The Wild Tiger Corps, however, transcended bureaucratic offices, was super-ministerial, and was the King’s own. Vajiravudh composed the Tigers’ mottoes, he wrote the Tigers’ songs, he designed the Tigers’ uniforms, he led the Tigers’ parades, he organized the Tigers’ maneuvers, he established the Tigers’ oath, he wrote the Tigers’ rules of discipline—he engaged himself in every minute detail of Tiger activities. And he loved doing all these things. Faced with a government led by older ministers who were set in their ways and had the prestige of having worked closely with King Chulalongkorn in formulating state pol­icies, Vajiravudh hoped consciously that the Tigers would help him bring this old order into his grasp. One cannot help but feel that unconsciously, however, he leaned on the Tigers to provide him with the sense of total control that the regular government was not providing him. It is too simple to say that the Tiger Corps was a toy for a frustrated monarch, but it undoubtedly had something of that meaning.

Vajiravudh in one early speech denied vehemently—perhaps too vehemently—that the Wild Tiger Corps was his “party”:

But, all of you, don’t misunderstand. Don’t think that, for my personal advantage, I am ordering or pressuring anyone into joining the Wild Tiger Corps. Don’t make the further mistake of thinking that if someone 35doesn’t join the Wild Tigers he won’t be able to advance in government service. For this is not my group. I give you my word I have no such desires and wishes. I regard the whole of the Thai people as my group.21

In fact, of course, the corps did function as the King’s group, and it was clearly so regarded by some individuals in the government whose later opposition to the corps constituted a serious problem for King Vajiravudh.

The special relationship of the Wild Tigers to the King was made explicit in June 1911 when the corps was given the assignment of protecting the King, of forming a kind of elite royal guard.22 The traditional royal guard, drawn from the regular army, was maintained. But in addition to this guard, the King expected the Wild Tiger Royal Guards, a company composed of his closest courtiers, to keep a cordon surrounding him when he went to crowded places. If for any reason the Tiger Royal Guards were not sufficient in number, other Tigers were to help perform this service. It has been suggested that this royal use of the Tigers betrayed a lack of confidence in the army.23 Although this would be hard to prove, at least for 1910–11 it is a possibility. It seems more likely, however, that this use of the Tigers as an elite royal guard merely reflects the fairly common desire, by no means peculiarly Siamese, of a new monarch to keep closest to him as protectors those whom he particularly trusts—probably the same desire that led the young King Chulalongkorn in 1868 to create an elite company of guards from among his court pages to ensure his personal safety.24

Initial Organization and Activities of the Corps

As the King’s special creation, the Wild Tiger Corps from the outset was provided with extremely detailed definitions of its administra­tion, its drills and exercises, its dress, its insignia, its rules. The corps regulations and orders were all written either by the King personally or by his chief lieutenants following his instructions. These regulations were, during the history of the corps, constantly being changed, amended, expanded, clarified.

First of all, it was declared that membership in the corps would be voluntary. Legally it was. But the King knew that “the Siamese as a people are ready to follow an example or a leader”; by his becoming the corps’ leader and gaining the “hearty approval” of his ministers of state, “the success of the movement was assured.”25 Although the King repudiated the idea that success in the Wild Tigers assured success in the bureaucracy, undoubtedly many men joined in 36the hope that somehow their display of patriotism and self-sacrifice would come to the notice of the King and help their careers. Mere proximity to the king in Siam, in fact, was (and still is) regarded as portentous; the “magic” of the king had beneficial powers that were stronger the closer one got to him.26 On men who were not so positively influenced, negative pressures undoubtedly had their effect. A foreign commentator stated that, in fact, membership in the corps became obligatory, so that anyone who was not enrolled “was regarded as a suspicious and untrustworthy person.”27 This statement may well be too strong, but there is certainly evidence that some overzealous officials put pressure on their subordinates to join in order to make a good impression on the King.28 To what extent the King was aware of this practice is not known. On one occasion he denied the need for one group of officials to be released from Wild Tiger drill, on the grounds that the corps was voluntary and no special release was required; members could be excused on the legitimate grounds of pressing government work, or they could resign.29 On another occasion, however, the King ordered the Min­istry of the Palace to have a list prepared of all officials in the Secre­tariat Department who had not yet become Wild Tigers. Although no explanation for the order was given, the implications are obvious.30

To be accepted into the corps, the applicant had to be a Thai citizen, at least eighteen years of age, of good character, a civilian, and a Buddhist. (There was some later relaxation of the rules, e.g., ac­ceptance of non-Buddhists.)31 A member also had to have the requisite entrance fee of fifty baht (about twenty dollars at the time) and the funds to buy a uniform and to pay the annual dues of thirty baht (about twelve dollars). A member’s status remained probationary until he had drunk the waters of allegiance in a special ceremony before the King. At this ceremony the Wild Tiger received a “com­mission” from the King, a mark of dignity equal to that accorded regular members of the civilian and military bureaucracy. The ranks in the corps, which resembled those in the military, were awarded by the King on the basis of the person’s presumed knowledge of Wild Tiger qualifications, that is, military drill, and it was not unusual to see, in the words of a foreign commentator, “striplings of twenty … commanding gray-haired men of fifty.”32 The special criteria for rank in the Wild Tigers are shown in the composition of the first 122 appointments to the corps on May 6, 1911. Nineteen officers were appointed. Seven of these were court pages; none were nobles of the highest title; and only one was a prince of conferred (krom) 37title. Among the enlisted men, however, were one noble of the highest title and nine princes of conferred title.33

In addition to regular members, there were a number of other categories of members: reserve, subsidiary, special, probational, outside, and suspended.

Members of the corps were immediately recognizable as different from any other group in Siam. The colors of the original dress of the members were an appropriately tigerish black and yellow. The hat was black felt, wide brimmed, turned up on the right side and secured by a black and yellow cockade, in the center of which was a badge shaped like a tiger’s face; it also had a black leather chin strap and a yellow hat band with black tiger markings. The tie was black satin; the trousers were black with yellow braidings; the boots were black; and the cloak was black with yellow lining. This was the “ordinary service uniform”; there were numerous variants for mounted guards and other special and provincial units, and there were different uniforms tor field exercises. There was a bewildering procession of changes in the details of Tiger dress over the years. And, it should be remembered, Tigers were required to purchase their own uniforms.

Other special identifying symbols included special flags for corps units; three units were awarded flags at a formal ceremony on February 17, 1912, for example.34 Even individual officers had flags designed for them with suitable symbols: a Lieutenant Bua (lotus) was given a flag with a lotus cluster; Prince Damrong was given a flag with a genuflecting angel, his special identifying symbol.35

The basic unit of the Wild Tiger administration was the company. By the end of 1911 there were four companies in Bangkok, and each provincial government circle (monthon) had at least the beginnings of a local company. Companies in the capital were to consist of 266 men; those in the provinces were to be half that size. Figures are hard to come by, but there were probably about 4,000 corps members by early 1912.36 The overall administration, headed by the King as captain general, was in Bangkok.

Administrative divisions of the corps constantly changed, but one distinction was made from the outset between the ordinary Wild Tiger units (in Bangkok or elsewhere) and those units designated “Royal Guards,” sometimes translated “His Own.” The Royal Guards units were much closer to the King and were drawn largely from his palace retinue.

All corps units were expected to have drill fields and clubhouses. The clubhouse functioned as the meeting hall for lessons and lectures, 38and as unit headquarters for enlistment and record keeping. The clubhouse was also to serve as a social hall, as a gathering place for members in off hours, and as a site for indoor games. In the clubhouse would then develop the kind of social atmosphere that the King had learned of in England, the atmosphere of camaraderie, of group loyalty and esprit that Siam, he felt, so sorely needed. The first club­house, located near Dusit Palace, was opened on July 22, 1911, with a benediction by the Prince Patriarch and other monks, followed by the contribution by His Majesty of a dinner party for officers and a motion picture show for all.37

The principal activities of the Wild Tigers were to learn and put into practice proper discipline, to learn how to march and drill, to participate in various ceremonies and fetes, and to practice field exercises on maneuver.

The rules of discipline laid down by the King in several orders were precise and rigorous. They covered modes of attire, modes of requesting leave, and modes of saluting.38 They also prescribed the penalties for infractions, which varied from payment of fines to expulsion from the corps. Ten “tardy” notices a month, for example, resulted in a fine not to exceed ten baht (about four dollars at the time); a second similar offense resulted in demotion to the suspended-member category.39

Great stress was placed on military drilling and marching. The Wild Tigers were expected to meet daily at 4:00 p.m. and, on most days, drill for two hours or so.40 Other drills apparently also took place; officials of the Ministry of the Interior, “anxious to join the Corps,” had preparatory drilling in July 1911 from seven to nine every morning.41 Drill masters with experience were borrowed from military units. Before special events, drilling was particularly inten­sive. An inspection of the Chiangmai unit was preceded by drilling “every morning and evening,” and as a result, it was reported, “many of the members feel their bones aching.”42

One provincial official of the time, who praised the Wild Tigers, recalled in his autobiography an incident that shows the seriousness of the King’s interest in drill and the burden it put on civil officials. The official entered the corps early and soon became an officer. In 1913 he led his troop to a large Wild Tiger gathering in the capital. He marched his unit proudly before the King at the royal parade grounds. Vajiravudh, visibly upset, stopped the troop. He ordered the official to repeat his march and correct the error. The march was repeated. It was repeated over and over, but never to the King’s satisfaction. The official was about to faint. The King, still angry, 39told the official that the fault was not that of the troop, but of its leader. He ordered the troop dismissed and then commanded the official to drill by himself. Commented the official: “If anybody had been there to see, they would have thought me out of my mind.” Finally, in sheer exhaustion, the official said, “I’m just not able to do it and beg your leave.” The King relented and told the official of his error: he had been taking three steps too many. That evening, to show that his anger was not personal, the King came to the official’s quarters, drove him to a shop, and asked him to choose some clothing at the King’s expense.43

Marches and parades of properly drilled Wild Tigers were held frequently. The first public march, on June 17, 1911, was led by the Royal Bodyguard Band, followed by the standard bearer. Heading the Royal Tiger Company was His Majesty. This parade attracted thousands of onlookers.44 A similar parade on June 29, in which some 800 men marched “smartly,” again attracted thousands.45 Important ceremonies, such as the coronation and celebrations of the King’s birthday, regularly included parades of Wild Tigers as well as of the regular military.

A special effort was made during the coronation days to give prominence to Wild Tiger participation. An all-out effort was made to bring as many Tigers to the capital as possible. Reportedly some 4,230 officers and men came.46 The Wild Tiger day was December 9, and the field display before foreign and local guests began at 3:00 p.m. with marches and flag presentations. At 4:40 the King made his entrance on horseback, accompanied by the mounted company of Wild Tiger Guards. Salutes, flag raising, music, and speeches followed. Enthusiastic cheers, a “rush-up” to attend the King, and a royal presentation of a pin of remembrance of the day concluded the affair.47

Shortly after the coronation, there were two important Wild Tiger fetes: the final coronation party on December 10 and a historical pageant of Wild Tiger traditions early in January.

The Wild Tiger party was held in the clubhouse grounds, which were converted into “a veritable enchanted land” with numerous booths, stalls, and entertainments.48 One booth, the product of the Fourth Royal Bangkok Company, was fashioned in the form of a large tiger’s head; its open mouth was the entrance, its stomach a cafe, and its sides the exits.49 At the stalls, besides food and drink, Wild Tiger souvenirs of handkerchiefs, badges, and booklets were given away. The evening closed with a fireworks display in which the outstanding set pieces were the King’s monogram and a tiger’s head with the motto of the corps.50

40The Pageant of Wild Tiger Traditions was an elaborate affair, lasting for three days (January 3, 4, and 5, 1912). The pageant was officially presented to the King in honor of his birthday. In fact, however, the King himself was the chief planner, stager, and organizer of the pageant; he was indeed, as he was formally designated, the “Master of the Pageant.”51 Other top officers of government were called upon to lend their special talents: Prince Damrong, the Min­ister of the Interior, was historical assistant; Prince Paribatra, the Minister of Marine, was musical director.52

The pageant, held outdoors on the Wild Tiger drill field, lived up to its advance billing as “a magnificent spectacle.” Said a foreign observer of the players:

With their excellent scenic arrangements they gave a good idea of the history of Siam from the earliest times to the present day. The costumes were historically correct, and no pains had been spared to make the performances as realistic as possible. Nor were battle elephants wanting, richly hung with costly trappings and jewelled ornaments.53

The pageant announcement made it clear that the King’s concept of Wild Tiger traditions was as broad as the country itself, “since the ‘Wild Tigers’ of old were the makers of Siamese history.”54 Altogether nine historic episodes were enacted, and the last episode on the last night was followed by the trooping of the colors and the singing of a patriotic song, “Love of Our Race and Our Fathers’ Land.”

There were other not-so-formal social activities of corps members during the initial year. A cryptic newspaper item told of at least one: “His Majesty the King took part in two plays at Phrapatom last week, when a number of members of the Wild Tigers comprised the audience.”55

In addition to discipline, drill, and social diversion, which were year-long corps activities, members were expected to make a con­certed effort to attend and fully participate in annual military ma­neuvers. In the first year of corps history, these maneuvers were held in stages from January 20 to March 2, 1912. The center of the ma­neuvers was Nakhο̨n Pathom (about thirty-six miles west of Bangkok), where the King had built a “winter palace,” theater, parade grounds, and Wild Tiger clubhouse.

The purposes of these maneuvers, in addition to the obvious aim of preparing the Tigers to play their role of supporting the army in time of war,56 were succinctly spelled out by the King.57 First, par­ticipation in war games would heighten civilian appreciation of the 41Thai soldiery, would convince civilians that soldiers’ duties were onerous and required endurance. Such appreciation would lead to greater harmony between civilian and soldier. Second, the shared efforts and hardships experienced in the war games would bring civil servants closer together. Instead of just meeting in their official capacities, in which true characters are masked, real bonds of sym­pathy, understanding, and trust would emerge from the fellowship that field exercises would elicit. Third, war games would bring out the true man in each person, the man who had faced adversity and trial, who had endured them rather than be shamed before others, and who in the end would take pride in his achievement and so become a better person and worker for it.

The essential format of the war games was simple. One contingent of Tigers was designated the defender; the other, the aggressor. A neutral party judged each action and issued a final report on who won and why. The first engagement took place on January 20 and 21 at Nakhο̨n Pathom between two of the Bangkok companies, one designated the red team and the other the green. The green team, acting as aggressor, was defeated by the red, whose second-in-command was the King.58

A much larger exercise was conducted between February 2 and 6, when various provincial units were added to the Bangkok com­panies. All in all, almost two thousand people were involved. The importance the King gave to these maneuvers can be judged from the fact that a special royal request was sent to every government ministry for the release of all men who could be spared.59 The response was good; for example, Prince Devawongse of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released twenty-nine of his staff and kept only ten in Bang­kok.60 In those maneuvers the yellow team, defending Nakhο̨n Pathom, was headed by the Minister of Local Government, Čhao­phraya Yommarat; the red team, attacking from Ban Pong, was headed by the King. After four days, the red team was declared the winner and the exercises came to an end.61

In subsequent weekends through February, maneuvers of smaller scale took place. On February 10 a unit of Royal Tigers led by the King attacked the bungalow of Prince Damrong, defended by the Prince and a local Tiger unit. A newspaper reported that the issue was somewhat indeterminate, but the Prince “would have appeared to have escaped any serious injury since he was seen out motoring the following afternoon.”62 On subsequent weekends, maneuvers were held at Nakhο̨n Pathom and at Hua Hin.63 The King appears to 42have spent all of February at Nakhο̨n Pathom, being joined there by various units from the capital and elsewhere for the weekend maneuvers.

In addition to enduring the rigors of the war games themselves, the Tigers were subjected to the various deprivations of camp life. They were allowed to bring only two sets of clothes; no luggage was allowed, nor was there any place for storing personal articles of value. The Tigers rose at 5:00 a.m. If there were no games during the day, they drilled and played field sports. In the evenings they prayed, sang patriotic songs, and went to bed at eight o’clock. Leaving camp was forbidden; all gates were monitored, and guards were posted in town to catch truants. Men who were used to the comforts of home and servants found that they even had to wash their own clothes. Of course food, medical services, and lodging—such as they were—were supplied free, and money not spent on liquor and entertainments was money saved.64 But full acceptance of the war games depended on belief in their high purpose. Some men undoubtedly did share the King’s enthusiasm. It seems likely, though, that most accepted the experience passively.

The Boy Scouts

One branch of the Wild Tigers which was certainly not lacking in enthusiasm was the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scout organization was established by royal decree on July 1, 1911; in the decree it was clear that the scouts, literally the “Tiger Cubs” in Thai, were to be a junior edition of the adult corps, with the same aims as the parent body. The decree stated:

Boys in their adolescent years should also receive both physical and mental training of the sort given Wild Tigers so that when they become older they will know their proper duties as Thai men. Everyone should do what is useful to the nation and country, to the land of one’s birth. And the instilling of the proper spirit must begin when one is still young. A tree that is to be shaped into a pleasing form can be most easily trained when it is young and supple.65

The King, who was scout chief, spelled out these aims further in an address on December 5, 1911, when he enumerated the scout prin­ciples as loyalty to the sovereign, love of nation, and loyalty to the community.66 And in an address on December 3 he pointed out that his wish was to inculcate in the minds of the younger generation the high patriotic qualities of the Wild Tigers.67

The training of the Boy Scouts in Siam closely mirrored that of 43the Wild Tigers; they drilled, paraded, took part in the war games. In the maneuvers at Nakhο̨n Pathom in early February 1912, only three units were cited for outstanding performance of duties; one was a Boy Scout unit, and another was a Boy Scout and Tiger unit combined. The scouts threw themselves so enthusiastically into the maneuvers that it appears one group of them actually succeeded in capturing the King.68 According to one source, the King saved himself from “capture” at the last moment by having the royal trumpeter blow the royal anthem, which forced the “invaders” to stand at attention while His Majesty proceeded to slip away.69

The devotion of the Boy Scouts is well illustrated by a letter of one Thai scout which was published in the London Daily Mirror. The scout, describing the rigors of camping, told of the scouts’ cooking for themselves, “even though some of us did not know how to,” and tramping knee-deep through muddy paddy fields, and ended with:

I once had to run in the mud, and when I got out of the difficulty I felt so tired that I could hardly breathe and could not run any further. But, being ashamed before the other scouts, I leapt down into a trench without being seen, and there I rested until I recovered.

Fortunately for me I was not conspicuous by my absence. If I was found out while being in the trench, what should I do? I had to make a hole in the ground and put my head in for shame.70

The enlistment of boys in the scout movement was phenomenally rapid. By December there were more than 2,000 in 63 units in the capital alone;71 by 1922 the number had increased to 21,500 in 177 units.72

The boys’ enthusiasm was matched by government efforts of support. Scoutmasters had to go through special training and be examined on, among other things, the proper methods of instilling the spirit of the Wild Tigers, i.e., nationalism.73 Instruction in scouting principles had entered the regular school curriculum by 1913.74 Scouts who had rendered outstanding service, such as helping put out fires, aiding the police to arrest criminals, and rescuing people from drowning, had their names inscribed on scrolls of honor. And men who had completed their scouting days were entered into the reserves, exhorted to retain their principles, and given a special medal as a gift from the King to serve as a constant reminder, a talis­man, an amulet to help the wearer adhere to the good and to ward off evil temptations.75

The stress on nationalism persisted in the Boy Scout movement 44throughout the reign. Indeed the question once arose in the press as to whether the “good deed for the day” aspect of international scoutism was “being urged” upon Thai boys at all.76 While there was always some attention paid to doing valorous deeds for the good of the nation, it appears that not until fairly late was there any explicit advice given scouts to perform small useful acts. Not until 1920 were scouts urged to help children cross streets or to pick up bits of broken crockery on the footpaths and to ask themselves at bedtime “What good deed have I done today?”77 Attention to crafts such as carpentry, tailoring, mat making, and mechanics seems also to have come late78 and may have been part of an effort to stimulate Thai interest in the manual arts, hitherto largely left to the Chinese.79 The marches, drills, exercises, sports, and war games, however, remained central. Years after their scouting days, men remembered particularly these aspects of scouting.80 One Thai writer recalled in particular the song scouts sang in their marches:

All of us Scouts are completely at the service of Your Majesty

Who established both the Tigers and the Scouts for the good of the Thai.

We are most loyal and determined to help our nation and faith,

To defend our Thainess and the honor of our king

So the Thai will be Thai forever and never be brought to dust.81

Reactions against the Corps

There are indications of some rumblings and grumblings about the Wild Tiger Corps almost from the moment of its inception. The defensive tone taken in some of the early orders, and some modifi­cations made in the corps, indicate that some of these criticisms reached the ears of the King. The earliest complaint, that uniforms were too expensive, was cited in a document refuting this charge, which stated that, although there were three Wild Tiger uniforms, only one, the field uniform, was really necessary and that it cost only forty-six baht (about eighteen dollars at the time).82 The early establishment of a “suspended-member” category was apparently motivated by the need to accommodate individuals who were unable to live up to the drill and discipline regimen of regular members.83

The strongest expression of antipathy to the corps appeared in the remarks of a group of young army officers who were arrested in February 1912 for complicity in a planned coup d’état.84 The coup group of 1912 and its motives deserve to be discussed fully (and shall be in the next chapter); it is obvious, however, that the hostility to 45the Wild Tigers expressed in extreme form by this group was present to some degree in various circles of the bureaucracy.

The members of the coup group of 1912 were extremely jealous of the Wild Tigers. The Tigers, first of all, were obviously very close to the King’s heart; he spent much time, attention, and money on them. The young army officers felt that the army, and they them­selves, were not being properly appreciated. In their view the Tigers represented a waste of money and energy, since the army represented the real defense of the nation. On the other hand, it was also a sore point that military men were not allowed to join the regular Tiger Corps (a few high officers were designated members of a “special” category); the theory was that the military did not need the kind of training the corps members were receiving. Also, many of the courtiers closest to the King, who dominated the Royal Guards Company of the corps, were individually resented for their “superi­ority.”85

How much of this resentment, this antipathy, this criticism was general, of course, cannot be known for certain, for the press treated the subject very gingerly indeed. But that it went beyond the 1912 coup group is clear. One coup leader reflected that he, then a drill master but not a member of the corps, felt tired for the old men he had to march and said that he knew they were “forced” to be part of the corps.86 Another indication of the generality of criticism is the report of a foreign observer who undoubtedly was relaying some of the adverse comments he heard in Bangkok in early 1912.87

The adverse criticisms that had circulated underground before­hand and were brought to the surface by the discovery of the coup plans clearly influenced several discussions within the Wild Tiger Royal Guards in 1912. The first meeting was held on March 12, presumably to provide at the King’s request an evaluation of the Wild Tiger organization as it neared the end of its first year of activities. It is undoubtedly significant that the King did not attend this meeting. At the meeting, the guards did cite some of the Wild Tiger achievements but also suggested that means be found to open the membership to the less affluent and to men in the military.88

A second series of meetings was held in late March. Again the King was absent. A special committee of five members was chosen by general election to take the sense of the meetings and draft pro­posals for change to be submitted for a final decision by the King. Although the five-man committee had no executive power, its com­position, the result of a vote of 6,669 members, is revealing. The five “winners” were, in order of popularity, Prince Chakrabongs, 46Prince Damrong, Prince Paribatra, Čhaophraya Yommarat, and Prince Charoon. The leading vote-getter had the reputation, deserved or not, of being opposed to the Wild Tigers. None of the five, with the exception of Čhaophraya Yommarat, could be considered Wild Tiger enthusiasts.89

The Wild Tiger meetings of late March were spirited and open. The members voted against property restrictions for members; they voted for allowing entry to army officers; they voted for medical examinations for prospective members; they voted for institution of an examination for the promotion of officers; they voted for the automatic transference of a Tiger to reserve status after six months’ service; they voted to cut the entrance fee from fifty baht per year to ten baht. Some matters were discussed but not voted on because the King’s views on these matters were already known. For example, the sentiment was in favor of cutting drill time, but it was already known that the King favored making drill compulsory only once a week; the view was also expressed that the King’s favorite Palace Guard Company should be eliminated, but the King’s declared intention of retaining this elite guard made discussion of this issue pointless.90

On April 12, King Vajiravudh called a general Wild Tiger meeting on his own to discuss the various proposals. His Majesty was ob­viously incensed at what had taken place in late March; he chided the members for calling a meeting “which greatly exceeded its powers” by discussing matters beyond its purview. He accused those who had participated in the March meetings of “sinning behind my back.” But, he said, he would let “bygones be bygones.” As to the specific recommendations, some he could accept, some he could not. Annual dues could not be cut until a survey was made. As for withdrawal from the Wild Tigers, he would allow special withdrawals for those pressed by work or pressured by superiors. But he added, in a note of sarcasm, that if he did not have the duty to head the Wild Tiger movement, he might consider going into the reserves himself, “for I have much government business to do.” The tone of the rest of the meeting remained icy. The King presented his new rules for entry into the Tiger reserves and invited expres­sions of opinion on these rules, but he prefaced his invitation by saying, “I don’t have to ask your views.” Čhaophraya Yommarat was the only commentator, and he ventured to say that the rules were good. As for the committee of five, the King summarily dismissed them with the remark that too many were princes who had too much 47else to do, and, in the interest of speed and efficiency, he would undertake the task of revision himself.91

On April 16, 1912, one small but significant suggestion for reform was made by Prince Chakrabongs, the King’s most outspoken brother and Army Chief of Staff. He pointed out that commissions to military officers bore only the royal seal whereas commissions to Wild Tigers were accorded a royal signature. This minor distinction, said Prince Chakrabongs, was leading to the erroneous conclusion that the King held the Tigers in higher regard than he did his soldiers. Prince Chakrabongs did not suggest how the King ought to handle commissions; he urged only that His Majesty treat them all alike.92

Despite his pique, the King did bring about some reforms. Drill hours were reduced, and only one drill day a week was required of long-term members.93 Some effort seems to have been made to reduce the charge of favoritism by opening up the ranks of aide-de-camp Wild Tigers to men other than those in the palace retinue,94 And Wild Tiger commands outside that of the Royal Guards were allowed to set their own dues schedule. By the end of 1913, one command had reduced its entrance fee from fifty to five baht and its annual dues from thirty to twelve baht.95

Later History of the Corps

Although the aborted coup of 1912 and the open criticism of the Wild Tigers somewhat chastened the King, he by no means abandoned the movement. There seems to have been some diminution of Wild Tiger activity for several months after March, but by fall the pace had picked up again. A second Pageant of Wild Tiger Traditions was held in early January,96 and the annual maneuvers were given as much attention as ever in 1913. One of the clearest evidences of the King’s continued interest in the Wild Tigers was his authorship in 1913 of a play, Huačhai nakrop (Soul of a Warrior), that was essentially a propaganda piece extolling the virtues of the Tiger Corps and of the Boy Scouts.

The later history of the corps reveals two essential facts: first, that the corps continued to expand; second, that some new emphases were developed.

With regard to the elaboration of the corps along original lines, there is no need here to go into extensive detail. There were constant revisions of administrative organization—the names and numbers of units, the grouping of units. And there were frequent changes in insignia and dress; a comprehensive revision in 1917 embodying all 48such changes since 1914 took up 130 pages of the Royal Government Gazette.97 New functional units of the Tigers—including an artillery unit, an ambulance section, and a marine division—were periodically added. New clubhouses in the capital and the provinces were con­tinually being opened. Although the annual Pageant of Wild Tiger Traditions was not continued after 1913, the staging of plays and fairs by Wild Tiger groups was expanded. The King’s use of Wild Tiger units as sounding boards for his ideas on nationalism also continued.98 The practice of having an end-of-the-year evaluation of Wild Tiger activity seems also to have continued, although the reporting committees in all the years after the first one were largely made up of the King’s own men and nothing critical seems to have emerged.99 And, lastly, annual maneuvers were held without fail. The King’s undiminished interest in the maneuvers is evidenced by a letter to the Minister of the Palace in 1916 informing him not to schedule any ceremonies for February because the King planned to be away the whole month on Wild Tiger maneuvers.100 Plans for the maneuvers of 1926 were under way when the King died.

Expansion in numbers of Wild Tigers seems also to have con­tinued in later years. Although total figures are lacking, there are spotty records that show the addition of almost 2,000 new full members in 1915.101 The total membership by 1924 was reported to be over 10,000.102 Much of the growth seems to have occurred in the provinces, and news of provincial activity, such as locally or­ganized maneuvers and drills, became particularly prominent in the later years. On trips that the King made to the provinces, much attention was paid to Wild Tiger displays. The trip to the southern provinces in 1915 was made complete with marches, displays, and maneuvers of Wild Tiger units, and the King was convinced that the Wild Tiger purpose of bringing government officials closer to­gether was being fully served.103 In another trip to the South in 1917 in which Wild Tiger units again outdid themselves, the King was so pleased that he conferred the designation “His Majesty’s Own Guard” on the company at Phuket.104

The most marked change in emphasis in the Wild Tiger Corps after the abortive coup of 1912 was an obvious effort to bridge the gap between the military and the paramilitary organizations.

The Wild Tiger maneuvers of 1913 were remarkable for having military units involved in the war games for the first time. The leader of the White Team (opposed to the King’s Red Team) was, in fact, a regular army general, the Commander of the Fourth Infantry Regiment.105 Although the stated purpose in adding regular army 49units was to give Wild Tigers the experience of contending with trained troops, the unstated purpose was surely to lessen the jealousy of the regular military forces. Another formula for conciliation was adopted in 1915 and followed through the rest of the reign: after the regular Wild Tiger maneuvers were held, the King attended the army maneuvers, becoming, according to the press accounts, the first Siamese sovereign “to share the hardships of his troops in peace time.”106

The King’s attention to the regular military, already evident in 1913, was greatly intensified in the years of World War I.107 And the war years also gave the King the opportunity to see the Wild Tigers in a new light, although he denied the newness of his insights. The range of his aims remained much the same, but the relative importance of the various aims changed. Emerging as the most im­portant task for the Wild Tiger Corps by 1914 was its role of backing up the military, becoming Siam’s second line of defense. Siam’s army had to bear the chief burden of defense, said the King, but if an enemy really did come to take over the country, the army was too small to hold off long. And Siam lacked the resources and the time to build up a fully effective army. Meanwhile the Tigers would be the people’s militia, relieving the army from the burden of securing internal order so that it might concentrate on the external enemy.108

In a long essay written in October 1914 the King gave a reasoned argument for the importance of the Boy Scouts and Wild Tigers in wartime. Both, he said, were of particular importance in a small coun­try which had no large population from which to draw conscripts and so had to depend on all men to help defend the country and to do so willingly. The only thing that could substitute in war for large numbers was bravery and personal ingenuity. Volunteer trainees could be of inestimable value in protecting the countryside, in securing roads and communications networks, in supplying the army with information, in preserving internal order.109

In speech after speech during the war years Vajiravudh repeated the theme that Wild Tigers must look on the soldiers as their elder brothers, as the prime defenders of the nation whom the Tigers must support. The theme could not help but be gratifying to the regular military.110 On July 21, 1917, the day before Siam declared war, a Royal Decree on the Duties of the Volunteer Wild Tiger Corps To Preserve the General Peace was issued that spelled out the supportive military role the King had already generally defined.111

An indication that the King’s new desire for a united effort, stimulated by the war in Europe, did effect something of a reconciliation 50with army ranks may be present in a remarkable address given by Prince Chakrabongs on the occasion of his receiving a special rank in His Majesty’s Own Wild Tiger Mounted Guards on April 9, 1917. In the speech Chakrabongs referred for the first time publicly to the “long-time rumor” that he disliked the Wild Tigers. He remarked that the rumor astonished him and must have arisen from a misunderstanding. The Prince declared, “I am a servant of His Majesty who founded the Wild Tigers. How then could I hate the Wild Tigers?” The Prince admitted that he was outspoken, that when he saw something that deserved criticism, he criticized. He went further and allowed that he had noticed deficiencies in some aspects of the corps and in some individuals in the corps. But, he said, this did not constitute an overall judgment; his overall judgment remained favorable to the corps. Finally, Prince Chakrabongs ex­pressed hope that his reception into the mounted guards would prove his good wishes and still all unfavorable rumors.112

At the conclusion of World War I the King evidently believed that the reconciliation of the Wild Tigers and the regular army was complete. The soldiers were proud of their wartime effort and were now, said the King in an address to the Wild Tigers, “holding out open arms to us like brothers, which is not what once was.”113


Evaluations of the Wild Tiger Corps in Thailand today tend to assume polar opposites of high praise or utter condemnation.

Critics who condemn the corps do so usually on the grounds that it was a useless, wasteful, gaudy show. There is no doubt that the corps cost money. But the money came largely from either the privy purse or the pocketbooks of members. Two early attempts to charge Wild Tiger travel expenses to ministries were unsuccessful; the requests were regarded as not “in the spirit” of the Wild Tiger movement.114 Apparently some corvée labor was used in the pre­paring of camp sites at maneuver grounds.115 And from time to time in the last five years of the corps various money-raising schemes were tried, including benefit play performances,116 sports displays,117 car races,118 issuance of special Wild Tiger postage stamps,119 and special lotteries and fairs.120 Out-and-out appeals for donations121 and the creation of a Society for the Furtherance of the Wild Tiger Scout Movement122 with dues of five baht per year also helped raise money. Most of these fund-raising activities were organized in 1919 and 1920 to provide funds for 10,000 rifles for use in Wild Tiger training.123

In the end, the financial argument against the Wild Tigers must 51rest on the conclusion that the corps brought little of real value to Siam. An argument can indeed be made that the corps produced rivalry and division in Thai society. Elements in the civil and military bureaucracy remained antagonistic to the corps. The elitist Royal Guards were particularly resented. Vajiravudh was aware of the jealousy his guards stimulated, but he justified the special attention they were accorded on the grounds that they were not a territorial unit but a group whose main function was to protect His Majesty. Further, he said, the guards were the “experimental” unit of the Tigers; they were the Tigers who would try out new drill methods, new weaponry.124 Lastly, the King rationalized his attention on the basis of the very hard work and special devotion to duty the guards exhibited: the King suggested that, rather than envy the guards their special insignia and uniforms, other Wild Tigers ought to emulate them in energy and hard work.125

As to the Tiger movement as a whole, at first the King was rhapsodic. In his diary for September 1911 he spoke of the popularity of the corps and its success in producing national unity. Membership in the corps had transformed weak men into strong men, drunkards into sober men, selfish men into self-sacrificing men. The King in those first months looked on the corps as his monument “more solid than any statue or stone that might have been built at much greater cost.”126 In later times the King continued to praise the movement as a success, excoriating those who opposed it. But he undoubtedly felt the corps had not realized his early high expectations. At the end of World War I he praised the defense role played by the corps and sarcastically referred to his desk-bound bureaucrats as men who were “sitting in an office playing at making black ink marks on paper” and, when and if war came, could only “splash ink on the faces of the enemy or beat their heads with paper.”127 Yet the King undoubtedly knew of reports in the 1920s that admitted failures. One such report claimed that, given the voluntary nature of the corps, little improvement could be expected. Several reports referred to the serious falling off of interest in drilling; by 1922, said the report of one official, “virtually no members at all” were coming in for training and the officers themselves were not coming in to supervise the exercises.128

On the positive side of an evaluation of the Wild Tigers, several arguments can be made.

The military aspects of the movement certainly had some effects. By and large, European observers were impressed with what they saw in the way of discipline and national unity demonstrated by the Wild 52Tiger movement. In the neighboring colony of French Indochina, the French were aware that “The King and the Siamese aristocracy have created and are maintaining a Nationalist movement that it would be a mistake to ignore.”129 Several articles appearing in the Courrier d’Haiphong and the Saigon Opinion even raised questions about Siam’s intentions and pointed to the need for France to develop the defensive military position of its colonies.130

But no evaluations of the Wild Tigers that rest primarily on its specifics—its finances, its military role—can come to grips with the substance of a true judgment. For the Wild Tiger movement was first and last a means to bring about a feeling of nationalism among the Thai people. The movement succeeded to the extent that it stirred in the Thai people a devotion to nation, a commitment to national unity. Here it cannot be denied that the movement achieved success; how much success remains the question. From the accounts and memoirs of some former members of the corps, there can be no doubt that many were stirred.131 Some men and many boys who had never before thought of dying to protect their king, nation, and religion had the concept, as expressed in the very language of the King, permanently etched on their minds. And the example of the King living, eating, and sleeping in the field with his Wild Tiger comrades proved to many the King’s sincerity.132 Yet the total group affected was, after all, small. When the corps was abolished by Rama VII, no one rose to defend it; the corps as an institution was nothing with­out its “golden bo tree shelter.”133 The essential idea behind the institution, however, had a life beyond the institution itself and its founder.


1. CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911); Sunthο̨nphiphit, “Su̓apa-luksu̓a,” p. 46.

2. CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911):19.

3. BT, May 8, 1911; CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911): 20–28, gives a list of the initial members.

4. CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911):10. For the genesis of the corps idea, see also the King’s diary for April 1911 (Čhotmaihetraiwan, pp. 32–33).

5. William, p. 67: “The inspection … resembled in every respect a rally of Boy Scouts … rich in comic interludes….”

6. See the Royal Remarks on Establishing the Wild Tiger Corps, CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911): 3–4.

7. Collected in Plukčhai su̓apa. The edition used here is Plukčhai su̓apa lae khlon tit lο̨ (Bangkok: Mahachai, 1951).

8. Speech to Wild Tigers, May 26, 1911, in Plukčhai su̓apa, pp. 1–9.

9. Speech to Wild Tigers, June 6, 1911, in Plukčhai su̓apa, pp. 10–22.

10. Ibid., p. 17.

11. Ibid., p. 18.

12. Ibid., p. 22.

13. Ibid., p. 19. 279

14. See David K. Wyatt, The Politics of Reform in Thailand (New Haven: Yale, 1969).

15. Brochure on the Wild Tigers (in English) reprinted in BT, December 4, 1911.

16. Speech to Wild Tigers, July 4, 1911, in Plukčhai su̓apa, pp. 58–71.

17. Ibid., p. 59.

18. BT, December 5, 1911; Hο̨phrasamut, Čhotmaihet bο̨romrachaphi­sek, p. 148.

19. CMHSP 1, no. 2 (June 1911): 73–82.

20. Ibid., p. 83.

21. Speech of June 6, 1911, in Plukčhai su̓apa, p. 21.

22. CMHSP 1, no. 2 (June 1911): 79.

23. Sathu̓an Supphasophon, Phraratchaprawat phrabatsomdet phra mong­kutklao čhaoyuhua lae prawattikan luksu̓a thai (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1961), p. 24.

24. Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Khawamsongčham (Bangkok: Social Science Association Press, 1963), pp. 160–161.

25. Brochure on the Wild Tigers, BT, December 4, 1911.

26. See, for example, CMHSP 1, no. 3 (July 1911):151; a royal order on the corps stated that what the Wild Tiger gained from sacrifices of free time to practice and drill was the benefit of “the honor of belonging to the same organization with His Majesty, the princes, and high government officials.”

27. William, p. 67. See also BT, September 21, 1911, which said that membership “has been practically compulsory for the higher civil service officials.”

28. Čhamroen Sawat-chutho, “Dusit thani,” Triam udom su̓ksa, no. 3 (1951): 233; also, “Report of the Committee To Investigate Views on the Wild Tigers, March 26, 1912,” in CMHSP 2, no. 12 (April 1912): 733.

29. NA 169, His Majesty’s Royal Secretariat, February 19, 1912.

30. NA 169, Department of the Palace to Phraya Sisunthο̨nwohan, March 17, 1915.

31. CMHSP 1, no. 4 (August 1911): 232.

32. William, p. 66.

33. CMHSP 1, no. 1 (May 1911): 21–27.

34. NA 169, “Kanphraratchathan thong pračham …” (no date given).

35. CMHSP 1, no. 4 (August 1911): 325, 332.

36. It is surprising that no definite figure appears in the sources. A guess can be made from some figures in the BT, October 13 and 16, 1911, and February 6, 1912. 280

37. Sunthο̨nphiphit, “Su̓apa–luksu̓a,” p. 60. Clubhouses were later built in the provinces: mention is made of one in Nakhο̨n Pathom in September 1911 (BT, September 18) and in Ayutthaya in October 1911 (BT, October 16).

38. See, for example, the twenty-one articles on saluting when wearing a cap, when not wearing a cap, when carrying a swagger stick, etc., in the Order on Wild Tiger salutes in CMHSP 1, no. 3 (July 1911):143–151.

39. An Order To Prevent Infractions of Discipline, in CMHSP 1, no. 3 (July 1911): 151–172. See page 154 for the punishments for tardiness.

40. Regular Sunday drills were abandoned on July 14, 1911; see BT, July 15, 1911.

41. BT, July 5, 1911.

42. Ibid., February 21, 1912.

43. Phraya Satčhaphirom Udomratchaphakdi, Lao hai luk fang (Bangkok: Aksο̨nsat, 1955), pp. 68–70.

44. BT, June 19, 1911.

45. Ibid., June 29, 1911.

46. Sunthο̨nphiphit, “Su̓apa–luksu̓a,” p. 65.

47. Ibid., pp. 62–66; BT, December 11, 1911.

48. BT, December 11, 1911.

49. Nangsu̓phim thai, December 15, 1911.

50. BT, December 11, 1911.

51. Ibid., December 23, 1911. Prince William, pp. 139–140, states: “As usual when the Wild Tiger Corps was concerned, the King himself was the leading spirit of the undertaking … [he] performed the difficult duties of stage manager with praiseworthy success.” The inspiration for the pageant may go back to 1898, when the King, then a student in England, saw and very much enjoyed a “military tournament” complete with pantomime put on by British troops; see Vajiravudh to Chulalongkorn, in Thawi, pp. 72–73.

52. BT, December 23, 1911.

53. William, p. 139.

54. “Grand Pageant” announcement in NA 169.

55. BT, February 22, 1912.

56. CMHSP 2, no. 9 (January 1912):511.

57. See CMHSP 2, special number (February 1912): i–iv.

58. For details see CMHSP 2, no. 9 (January 1912): 541–554.

59. NA 169, King to Prince Nares, Prince Devawongse, Prince Damrong, Prince Kitiyakara, Prince Charoon, Čhaophraya Yommarat, Čhaophraya Wongsa, Phraya Wisut, and Phraya Anurak, undated, but presumably January 26, 1912. 281

60. NA 169, reply of Devawongse, January 29, 1912.

61. For a full report see CMHSP 2, special number (February 1912): 559–601.

62. BT, February 13, 1912.

63. Ibid., February 14, 1912.

64. Amorn, Kamnoet phraratchawang, pp. 145–149.

65. CMHSP 1, no. 3 (July 1911):101–142.

66. BT, December 9, 1911.

67. Ibid., December 5, 1911.

68. Ibid., February 6, 1912.

69. Interview with a former courtier.

70. BT, June 11, 1912, quoting from the Daily Mirror of May 13.

71. CMHSP 2, no. 10 (February 1912): 666.

72. Henri Cucherousset, Quelques informations sur le Siam (Hanoi: l’Éveil Économique, 1925), p. 48.

73. See sample examinations in CMHSP 5, no. 4 (August 1913): 147–148; 7, no. 6 (October 1914): 195–197, 197–199. A typical question asked the scoutmaster to explain how he would teach Scouts the meaning of the saying “Our nation was established because our fathers were Wild Tigers.” By 1915 a special scoutmasters’ school had been established; see CMHSP 9, no. 1 (May 1915): 233–246.

74. NA 127/8, Minister for Religious Affairs and Education to the Royal Secretary, “Letter Reporting on Developments in the Ministry for 1912.”

75. NA 169, address to Boy Scout Reserves by Phraya Wisut Suriyasak, September 18, 1913.

76. BT, February 10, 1914.

77. NA 169, Phraya Phaisan Sinlapasat, “Kham tu̓an hai luksu̓a tham kanchuailu̓a phu u̓n.”

78. BT, September 1, 1917.

79. Cucherousset, Quelques informations, p. 49.

80. Personal interviews. All interviewees remembered the Boy Scouts favorably. Even one who regarded the Tigers as “a sort of farce” called the scouts “good.”

81. Amorn, Kamnoet phraratchawang, pp. 124–125. The lyrics were com­posed by Čhaophraya Thammasakmontri; the music, by Prince Paribatra.

82. To give some idea of relative value: a provincial school teacher made from two to twenty-five baht a month; a courtier in the original list of Tiger members made sixty baht a month.

83. CMHSP 1, no. 3 (July 1911): 172–176. 282

84. The coup group was composed principally of young army officers, but not entirely; indeed, four were members of the Wild Tigers. See CMHSP 3, no, 1 (May 1912): 15–16.

85. Rian Srichandr and Netra Poonwiwat, Prawat pattiwat khrang raek khο̨ng thai r.s. 130 (Bangkok: Kim Li Nguan, 1960), pp. 20–21.

86. Interview with Netra Poonwiwat, October 22, 1969.

87. William, pp. 66–67.

88. Nangsu̓phim thai, March 19, 23, and 27, 1912.

89. CMHSP 2, no. 12 (April 1912): 713.

90. Ibid., 713–743.

91. Ibid., 743–758.

92. NA 169, Chakrabongs to King, April 16, 1912.

93. CMHSP 2, no. 12 (April 1912): 765–770; Nangsu̓phim thai, March 26, 1912.

94. CMHSP 2, no. 12 (April 1912): 758, 759–764.

95. CMHSP 6, no. 11 (March 1914): 405–412.

96. BT, January 6, 7, and 8, 1913.

97. Ibid., June 26, 1917.

98. See, for example, the nineteen speeches given from April 25, 1914, to August 28, 1915, in Ru̓ang thetsana su̓apa (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1958), and the thirty-one speeches given from February 17, 1912, to January 4, 1920, in Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa (Bangkok: n.p., 1920).

99. For 1913 see CMHSP 4, no. 12 (April 1913): 515–529; for 1915 see CMHSP 10, no. 8 (December 1915): 733–796; for 1917, BT, December 29, 1917; for 1918, BT, January 8, 1919; for 1919, BT, January 9, 1920.

100. Letter of January 28, 1916, quoted in Chamun Amorn Darunrak, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1971), vol. 1: 59–60. A participant in the maneuvers of 1917 commented on the King’s total absorption in the maneuvers every day; see Satčhaphirom, p. 98.

101. CMHSP 9, no. 6 (October 1915): 595–608; 10, no. 1 (November 1915): 679–711; 10, no. 8 (December 1915): 807–811; 10, no. 9 (January 1916): 897–916, show the addition of 1,000 members in Bangkok and 736 members in the southern provinces. The total membership to date was 4,956. This latter figure represents only full members who had taken the oath of loyalty.

102. Graham, vol. 1: 242.

103. NA 169, King to Prince Bhanubhandu, June 18, 1915.

104. CMHSP 11, no. 12 (April 1917), 1366–1370; BT, May 10, 1917.

105. Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena. See CMHSP 4, no. 10 (February 1913): 317–411; BT, February 19, 1913. 283

106. BT, March 1, 1915.

107. See chapter 5.

108. NA 169, Vajiravudh, “Kham atthibai nathi su̓apa kο̨ngphon tang tang,” February 11, 1915. This document was issued only to commanders and contains scathing criticisms of those who entered the corps for personal advantage, of those who criticized His Majesty’s Own Guard units, and of those who treated the corps as if it were but another part of the bureaucracy and not a defense organization that could determine national survival.

109. CMHSP 7, no. 6 (October 1914): 200–222. See also the lecture to the Wild Tigers of January 31, 1915, in CMHSP 8, no. 9 (January 1915): 471–473.

110. See NA 169, speech of January 4, 1915; CMHSP 10, no. 9 (January 1916): 892–894; CMHSP 11, no. 9 (January 1917): 1005–1006.

111. RKB 34, July 18, 1917: 361–370. Also in Amorn, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat, vol. 4: 2–13. See also BT, July 24, 1917.

112. CMHSP 11, no. 12 (April 1917): 1361–1363.

113. Speech to Wild Tigers, March 5, 1919, in Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, p. 146.

114. NA 169, letters of Luang Phiphat, March 1, 1912, and March 4, 1912.

115. BT, January 23, 1912; December 16, 1914.

116. Ibid., November 21, 1919; December 2, 1920; March 19 and 28, 1921.

117. Ibid., December 18, 1919; September 5, September 21, and October 13, 1921.

118. Ibid., May 1 and November 1, 1920.

119. Ibid., February 4, February 5, February 23, and July 5, 1920.

120. Ibid., November 8, 1918; July 10 and December 16, 1920; January 11 and March 11, 1921.

121. Ibid., October 28 and November 15, 1919; February 2, February 3, and October 14, 1920.

122. Ibid., February 14, 1920.

123. NA 169, G. Kluzer & Co. to Phraya Nondisena, Chief of General Staff, Wild Tiger Corps, January 20, 1921; statement of G. Kluzer & Co., February 28, 1921. See also BT, November 20, 1919, and the appeal for contributions to the Wild Tiger Rifle Fund in Dusit samit 5, no. 48 (1919).

124. CMHSP 4, no. 12 (April 1913): 515–529.

125. NA 169, Vajiravudh, “Kham atthibai…,” February 11, 1915.

126. Čhotmaihetraiwan, pp. 34–35.

127. King’s lecture to the Wild Tigers, March 11, 1918, in Phraratcha­damrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 218–221.

128. NA 169, N series 209, report of meeting of October 4, 1921; NA 284169/2521, Deputy Commander of the Bangkok Legion to the Commander of the Bangkok Legion, December 1, 1920; NA 169/1292, orders of the Bangkok Legion, October 4, 1921; NA 169/1292, Deputy Commander of the Bangkok Legion to the Commander of the Bangkok Legion, January 14, 1922.

129. BT, January 31, 1912. The article was based largely on an article by Lunet de Lajonquière in the Bulletin de l’Asie française.

130. BT, January 31, February 13, February 28, and August 27, 1912.

131. Chamun Amorn, Phraya Sunthο̨nphiphit, Mu̓n Sawatphakdi, Phraya Satčhaphirom. See works previously cited.

132. See, for example, Mu̓n Sawatphakdi, quoted by Thai Nο̨i (pseud.), in 6 phaendin (Bangkok: Khlang Witthaya, 1960), p. 147.

133. Amorn, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat, vol. 4: 162.

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