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The stress on military preparedness and military values that led to the creation of the Wild Tiger Corps was also evident in many other aspects of King Vajiravudh’s national policy and nationalistic program. The justification for this stress was Vaji­ravudh’s oft-repeated assertion that Siamese freedom was in real danger.

Was it? With the advantage of hindsight it is tempting to say no. For no new demands for Siamese territory or other concessions were made by the powers during Vajiravudh’s reign. But from the per­spective of 1910, it was by no means clear that new demands might not be forthcoming at any time. A loss of territory, after all, had occurred just the year before Vajiravudh came to the throne; another, two years before that; yet another, three years before that—and so back through the nineteenth century. The new king who came to the throne in 1910 had no reason at all to assume that the 1909 loss was to be the last.

80Nor were foreigners very sanguine about Siam’s chances for survival. One writer saw for Siam the inevitable doom of the “small and feeble” nation that formed “a barrier between two portions of a powerful and aggressive empire.”1 He added that Siam “occupies the uncomfortable and precarious position of a fat walnut clinched firmly between the jaws of a nut-cracker, the jaws being formed by British Burmah and French Indo-china. And for the past thirty years those jaws have been slowly but remorselessly closing.”2 Prince William of Sweden, although more hopeful, still found it “difficult to say” what “the future destiny of the country may be.”3 An American educator termed Siam’s liberty “precarious, unquiet, and charged with responsibility.”4 And, representing at least one official view, the Russian minister to Siam claimed, in a private letter to his foreign minister, that the British in the 1910s had said “quite openly that the fate of Siam was predestined, that sooner or later this country would be either a British colony or it would be divided between England and France.”5

Even as late as the years following World War I, rumors period­ically cropped up that the British were about to make new territorial demands of Siam in the Malay Peninsula;6 such rumors were un­doubtedly responsible for the advice given the King in 1919 by his minister to France that Vajiravudh should not proceed with plans to visit Europe. Such a visit, said the minister,

may be made a lever to obtain some advantage from us. This danger is very persistent in my mind, for there has already been a precedent in the case of His late Majesty. On the eve of his departure a demand was made to Him for the secret treaty in the Malay Peninsula. I have a feeling that only an opportunity is sought to present the same demand again.7

A missionary concluded in 1923: “The encroachments of foreign nations make it uncertain how long there will be an independent Siam.”8

Not all observers were as gloomy as these about Siam’s future. But no wise monarch would ever take only the most encouraging prophecies of his country’s future as his guide.

Within government circles in Bangkok, the dangers to the coun­try’s independence seemed manifold. It was apparent that some British colonials in Malaya were not satisfied with the borders that had been established in 1909; one pamphlet published privately in 1923, for example, pleaded passionately for the British to take over Pattani.9 Although there is no evidence of official British interest in further border rectifications, King Vajiravudh was aware of the 81attractiveness of his remote southern provinces and made several journeys to the South to let his Muslim and Malay-speaking subjects see him and to demonstrate to them that he was their king too. He wrote that the southern provinces were beautiful, were underpopu­lated, and had much untapped wealth, and he encouraged Thai of the Bangkok area to invest in the South. For, he pointed out, things of value could not be kept secret long, and the South, if not exploited by the Thai, would be taken over “by other people” who would recognize its value.10

Fear of French acquisitiveness was particularly strong. The vitu­perative comments by French colonialists about Siam before Vajira­vudh came to the throne are too numerous to quote. One will suffice, that of a French columnist who was quoted in the Bangkok Times of February 24, 1904, as saying:

Carthago delende est—for the honour, for the prestige, for the peace of France and of French Indochina, Siam must be destroyed, it being impossible for her to play an imperial role at the same time as ourselves. Inevitably the day will come when this people—brigands, robbers of men and holders of slaves—will tire the patience of the English as well as our own.

No doubt this remark (as well as other similar ones) was read by the 23-year-old Prince Vajiravudh. Although the treaty of 1907 labeled the Thai cession of three provinces to French Cambodia at that time as the “final settlement” of all border questions,11 history had shown the inadvisability of absolute reliance on treaty verbiage. The caution with which the Thai approached the economic development of their own northeastern provinces was undoubtedly in part a result of fear of French reactions. A railroad line built into the Northeast would, it was clear, prove a boon to this perennially impoverished region, and it was repeatedly favored by Thai officials. But, in addition to the problem of financing such an enterprise, the view prevailed that building a railroad would “stir into activity certain political elements in France and Indo-China which are now dormant.”12 One French reporter even ventured the view that the Thai would not spend any money “developing territory that to-morrow may cease to be Sia­mese”; he said that “dread of a French occupation of the right bank of the Mekong” and of the valley of the Mun River would prevent the Thai from building any railroads in the area “for fear of France taking possession of those lines on short notice.”13 Stories continually reached Bangkok of French intentions of building a road or railway opening up French Laos and Siam’s adjacent northeastern provinces 82to French economic penetration; the existing pattern of trade of this region, flowing westward, was obviously a matter of some annoyance to the French.14 The Thai kept close watch on the Northeast, and reports that Northeasterners resented the French and loved the Thai, that the French were having continual trouble with dacoits and were barely able to govern their Lao territories,15 undoubtedly heartened the Thai. The policy with regard to the problems of the French in their territory, however, was not to interfere and in fact to aid the French by refusing to allow anti-French political activists to enter Siam and deporting any who managed to skip over the border.16

Another source of worry with respect to Westerners was the Western community in Siam itself. There was continual rivalry among the Western diplomats; each contended for special influence, partic­ularly by trying to manipulate the system of foreign advisers to his country’s advantage. In this situation, the Siamese government at­tempted to play the role of special friend to all. It was not an easy role to play because of “the rabid competition between foreigners in outbidding one another whenever there is anything to be obtained,”17 The prizes most bitterly competed for were posts in the ranks of foreign advisers. The system of appointing foreign advisers to the various ministries and departments had started during the reign of King Chulalongkorn as a temporary expedient to forward the work of governmental modernization until such time as sufficient numbers of Thai could be trained to manage government affairs on modern lines.18 Foreign governments were aware of the leverage gained by having their own nationals in the ranks of the Siamese government service; a rough index of a foreign government’s political influence was the number of posts that the government had been able to win for its nationals. From the start, Britain had the largest group of advis­ers and technical experts. The Thai, however, attempted to keep some balance by apportioning the key advisory posts among several foreign nationals: that for finance to a Briton, justice to a Frenchman, foreign affairs to an American.

Whenever an advisory post became vacant, the scramble for preference began. No prize was beneath contempt. In 1910–1911 there was a long series of exchanges between the British minister and Siamese government officials over the Siamese intention of appointing a Dane rather than a Briton in the Royal Survey Department. The British, stating that they were reluctant to conclude that the Siamese “desire to put a slight on His Majesty’s Government,” asked that the Siamese government “consult” with the British before taking a step “which seriously affects the interests of His Majesty’s Government 83in Siam.” British pressure in this instance was particularly heavy-handed, and the Siamese government let it be known that it “did not feel itself obliged to consult another Government about its employ­ment of officials.” After several months’ delay, the Danish appoint­ment was made.19 A similar pressure was put on the Thai by the French in 1917 to appoint Frenchmen to managerial posts vacated by Germans in the Siam Commercial Bank. The French minister stated that he would regard such appointments as “testimony of confidence.”20 French persistence in this matter brought the affair to the attention of the King, who in a long letter to the French minister pointed out that, although he was anxious to accommodate the minister, other appointments had already been made and that for the King to revoke them now would be “awkward,” would lay the King “open to serious criticism of arbitrariness, an accusation which even I cannot afford to ignore.”21 The French minister had charged the Thai with giving preference to the British and had implied that His Majesty was strongly influenced by the British minister. The King went to some lengths to point out that the British minister and he never met private­ly, but that the British minister sometimes wrote the King “to present his own personal views in certain matters”; he invited the French minister to do likewise.22 The Siamese government in general main­tained its essential freedom in appointment of foreign advisers; it realized that yielding too readily to foreign pressures would be even more dangerous than never yielding at all. In response to German pressures in 1911 for more power than their Thai counterparts in one enterprise, the King advised his officials that

we cannot forget that the government is a Thai government, we are Thai, I am a Thai king who, if I were to use my power to oppress my own Thai people for the benefit of foreigners, would be going too far. If I did so even once it would not be long before respect and trust of the government would come to an end and I would be unable to do anything in the future. It would be like putting a rope around my own neck.23

There are indications that the influence of foreign advisers dimin­ished during Vajiravudh’s reign. For example, the new appointee to the post of “General Adviser” in 1916 was demoted to the rank of “Adviser in Foreign Affairs.” The King made his reason clear. In a private letter he explained that, since the new appointee was “not only my junior in age, but also in education and experience, I could not see why I should have adopted him as my mentor in all affairs.”24 By the end of the reign one foreign adviser wrote that in the last few 84years foreign advisers had been eliminated from positions of actual control of government affairs; he accounted for this trend by the growth of Thai expertise, courage, and ambition.25

Thai suspicions and fears of foreign diplomats were not occasioned only by disputes over foreign advisory posts. Foreigners in general were not trusted. The background of the French minister to Siam as a colonial administrator in Indochina was resented, and this resent­ment was not kept secret. In a letter to the King, the Thai minister in Paris wrote that the French Foreign Office knew “very well our objection to men of such experience.”26 The recall of the French minister in 1918 under a cloud was a matter for considerable royal rejoicing.27 There were even suspicions that foreign legations were not above meddling in local affairs. Here again the French seem to have been most suspect. For example, when the head of a Chinese secret society which was rumored to be planning a revolt against the government was elevated to be headman of those Chinese who were French subjects, Prince Chakrabongs wondered whether the French did not favor “these arrangements” because they knew the Siamese were gaining in strength and so favored “some disorder to cut-down our strength.”28 In 1912 the French urged that a Chinese labeled an “undesirable alien” by the Thai be allowed to return to Siam. The Siamese Minister of Foreign Affairs confided to the General Adviser: “I cannot help thinking that it must be with a sinister purpose if the French Government will insist upon the return of this man to Siam.”29 The French did insist, and the government yielded.

All in all, it is impossible at this point to tell how real the threats to Siamese independence were during the reign of King Vajiravudh. Certainly there were danger signs, especially during the earliest years of the reign. And, whatever the realities may have been, whether or not any designs on Siam’s future were actually being drawn in Paris, London, Berlin, or even Tokyo, the Siamese felt they could not be complacent.30

Complacency with regard to outside threats had indeed never been the keynote of Thai foreign policy. From the early nineteenth century on, the Siamese government had been particularly sensitive to the realities of growing Western power. The concessionistic foreign policy pursued by Kings Mongkut and Chulalongkorn originated out of their appreciation of Western power. And the vast program of reform and modernization of government conducted by King Chulalongkorn was meant to strengthen Siam internally so that it would be better able to meet outside threats.

Part of King Chulalongkorn’s program of internal reform had been 85to build Thai military might. Even before a Ministry of War was organized, Western drilling techniques, uniforms, and armaments had been adopted. The organization of the military administration—a complicated task because the traditional administration drew no sharp lines between military and civil affairs—occupied much of Chula­longkorn’s attention. By 1892, however, a Ministry of War had been created, and in 1894 the first conscription law was passed, a law that laid the foundations for a modern military force.

A mark of the great importance Chulalongkorn attached to the military is the fact that over half of all the sons he sent abroad to study were required to receive military training.31 And these sons, on their return home, were in a very short time awarded the premier positions in the armed forces. For example, by 1910 Prince Chira had become Commander in Chief of the Army; Prince Paribatra, Commander in Chief of the Navy; Prince Abhakara, Deputy Commander in Chief of the Navy; Prince Chakrabongs, Army Chief of Staff; and Prince Purachatra, Inspector General of Army Engineers.

This policy of adding to the real strength of the military was continued by Vajiravudh. One of the King’s earliest acts was to further the work of his father in streamlining the military establishment by combining all army leadership posts under the Minister of War and separating out the navy under a newly created Ministry of Marine.32 The favor to be awarded the military forces was also shown at the coronation celebrations. One whole day was given over to military programs. Some 30,000 troops participated, the largest force ever assembled in the capital.33 Practical measures for improving military strength were taken throughout the reign, following much the same pattern as that established by King Chulalongkorn. Ships were bought for the navy. Army maneuvers were held annually—and usually attended by the King. New weapons were bought even when these led to budget overruns.34 Vajiravudh gave every sign that he intended to make sure that Siam would stay abreast of modern military developments.

The establishment of an army aviation corps was one outstanding example of royal emphasis on military modernity. In 1912, three Thai officers were sent to a French flying school. By the end of 1913 the three had received their flying certificates and returned to Siam. Airplanes were bought. An army airport was started at Don Muang. And new pilots were trained. Aerial displays were given for the benefit, and delight, of the King, the princes, and the people.35 After watching the first such display, Vajiravudh in his diary entry for January 13, 1914, drew a broad conclusion: “I am delighted that we 86Thai are not bested by the Westerner; truly we can do whatever they can do.”36 By 1920 Siam had over 100 pilots, airmail service had begun, and the airport at Don Muang was called “one of the finest aviation camps in the world.”37 The French in Indochina and the Australians both commented on their “humiliation” because of the leadership of “a little country like Siam” in the aviation field.38 Avia­tion seems to have caught the Thai public’s imagination as it had caught the interest very early of Prince Chakrabongs, the Army Chief of Staff. Although no national drive for public financial support was ever officially launched, voluntary contributions continually poured in to the Ministry of War for the purchase of new planes. Interest seemed heaviest, logically enough, in the more remote provinces, and the army paid tribute to this interest by naming new planes for provinces which had subscribed money.39 An American pilot who stopped in Siam on a round-the-world flight in 1920, on his return to New York talked first about Siam and remarked that “Siam is leading most of the countries of the world in aeronautical develop­ment.”40

Still another demonstration of Vajiravudh’s attention to the prac­tical strengthening of the military is a volume he wrote on trench warfare in 1916, obviously in response to the trench war then being waged on the Western front in Europe.41 In addition, the King wrote countless articles on various aspects of warfare by land, sea, and air.

There is no doubt that Vajiravudh believed in military power. Perhaps his clearest statement in this regard is preserved in the lines of one of his plays:

Those with power usually get what they want.

A fist is justice; the larger the better.

The small-fisted must stoop and crawl,

Waiting in doubt and fear, not daring to rise.

What the powerful say is never wrong,

Or, even if wrong, the fist makes it right.

Even children contradict the small fist that cannot prevail;

It needs the loan of a big fist to put things right.42

Yet the King was fully aware that it would be impossible for Siam to build the sort of power that could stand against a determined European enemy. His thought was to build as strong a force and as independent a force as the country could afford in order to act as a deterrent to foreign cupidity. In a government liberally sprinkled with foreign advisers in virtually all departments, the King was proud that Siamese policy with regard to the army and navy had “always been 87to run them ourselves as much as possible.”43 Although the military was one of the first branches of government to use Western expertise, it was, for reasons of pride and security, the first to abandon reliance on Westerners.

Vajiravudh was firmly convinced that Siam must build its own independent force and rely on its own military strength; it must not rely for its defenses on the expressed good intentions of any other state. In an essay published early in the reign, he summarized his position succinctly:

Every small nation must place its trust equally in its courage and its utmost efforts for its own people. Trusting or hoping for help from others is the best guarantee of failure …. Thailand must find its strength in its own Thai people. Thai weapons must protect Thai borders. And if the Thai nation hopes to survive, it must rely on its own strength and on the true patriotic feelings of those who are truly Thai.44

Nationalistic Militarism

There was a crucial difference between the military outlook of King Vajiravudh and that of his predecessors, and that difference is revealed in the above quotation. The difference is Vajiravudh’s view of the military as a means for building national esprit, for welding together a unified and patriotic people, for creating a symbol of national pride.

One target of the King’s program of militaristic nationalism, or nationalistic militarism, was the military itself. The same kinds of appeals the King made to the Wild Tigers he made to the military; in fact, the “Wild Tiger spirit,” the spirit of self-sacrifice for love of country, the spirit the King hoped would animate the whole of the Thai nation, was, he said, essentially a warrior spirit that should find its purest expression in the soldierly ranks. In a speech on the respon­sibilities of the people to the nation, Vajiravudh pointed out that it was the particular responsibility of young men to serve in the armed forces and do the essential job of defending the country. It was impossible, he said, for a society to operate with each individual defending himself from internal and external dangers. The society needed armed forces, police, and gendarmerie in order to ensure peace and make it possible for people to pursue their livelihoods. And these protective agencies needed to be staffed by young men, men who were both strong in their youth and still free from family responsibilities. This obligation of all young men was a kind of “expression of gratitude to their elders.”45 And the “elders” in the society, the parents of the young men, should help instill in their offspring soldierly values, the desire to serve the nation as fighters for its freedom. Parents should 88willingly sacrifice their personal comfort by urging their sons to serve—for the welfare both of the sons and of the nation. To encourage or aid a son to avoid military service was not an expression of love, for it denied the son the good training he would receive and it en­couraged the son to spend his time in wasteful ways. Vajiravudh told the parents that boys naturally “like being soldiers”; it should not be difficult for parents to abet that natural inclination.46

In speeches to the military forces, the King consistently placed himself in their ranks as a fellow soldier and friend. All deserved the special honor and respect that devolved on Thai men who defended their ancestral bequest of freedom. And this honor was shared equally by officers, noncommissioned officers, and foot soldiers. On the occasion of presenting to an army troop a “flag of victory” similar to those he gave Wild Tiger units, the King stated that his gift was “proof that my heart, that of your general, is with every one of you soldiers, every day, every hour, both at midday and at midnight.”47

Among the many patriotic songs, poems, and plays written by the King, several are meant particularly to inspire the soldier. In a play written in 1912 appear the lines:

When you are about to die, don’t deplore the life you are losing;

Think only that you are giving your life for your country.48

In a later play occurs the thought: “Dying on the field of battle is the most splendid way of all for men to die.”49 In still another play appear in Thai translation the well-known lines of Macaulay:

How can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers

And the temples of his gods?50

And in a poem extolling bravery in battle one stanza reads:

When the hour of death draws nigh,

Show you are men of a brave race.

Man leaves but a trace in history,

So valiantly face your foe to die.51

The kind of esprit he hoped to build in the armed forces would, the King felt, make a vital difference in Thai military effectiveness. Two illustrations used by the King make his point. One, developed in a speech of January 28, 1914, before an audience of soldiers and Wild Tigers, told the story of a ruler of Afghanistan who was planning a war against the British. The ruler was informed that British soldiers 89were of low class and were unpopular in India. The British viceroy in India, hearing of the war plans, invited the Afghan and his army of 8,000 men to see a review of British troops. The ruler came and spent a week—a restless week, for he did not trust the loyalty of his men. All the British, however, slept well, and they paraded smartly and put on a fine martial show. The Afghan ruler was astonished at British efficiency and asked the viceroy how he managed to shape a randomly chosen rabble into a cohesive body of loyal fighting men, a feat he could not match even by handpicking his army. The viceroy asked his guest what Afghan soldiers fought for. He was told they fought for rewards, men to enslave, and booty. “That is my answer,” said the viceroy, for, in contrast to these selfish goals, each British soldier “thinks only of the honour of his company, each company is for the regiment, each regiment for the army, and the army is for the Sovereign. Thus everybody’s ideal becomes one … every man is imbued with the same desire to uphold the power and dignity of his Sovereign.” The Afghan ruler saluted his host and avowed that “nothing in the world can contend” against men so dedicated.52 Having told his story, Vajiravudh pointed to the obvious moral that the spirit of patriotism that animated the British, and that had saved Siam in its perilous moments in past history, would also save Siam in the future. A second illustration used by Vajiravudh to show the real military strength of patriotism and loyalty was drawn from the modern history of Japan. Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, truly a David-versus-Goliath battle, came about chiefly, said Vajiravudh, because the Russian soldier did not know what he was fighting for.53 The spirit of the Japanese soldier, on the other hand, had been raised to fever pitch. It was the fusing of the ancient martial values of bushido with the modern military techniques of the West, both brought into service in the single cause of the emperor, that had produced the “extraordinary signs of loyalty and patriotism” that had made Japan’s record in two modern wars the cause of “a great deal of wonder and admiration.”54 Again the moral was clear: a little state whose soldiers were united and fearless had little to fear.

To illustrate his point that a little state could indeed defend itself, Vajiravudh in one speech drew a parallel between men and ants:

If you see an anthill, although you are much larger than the hill, do you go trample on it? It doesn’t take much thought for you to decide that you dare not. You get a stick to destroy it or burn it. You find a hoe or a spade to dig it out. Perhaps the ants will move away before you do anything. I’m not suggesting here that you go fight giants. I 90ask you only to put yourselves in the position of the ant whose nest is about to be stamped on by an enemy. If such an enemy comes to bother us we can give him some nasty bites.55

Among the practical steps taken by Vajiravudh to enhance morale in the armed forces were revisions of the law on conscription. The Military Service Law in effect when Vajiravudh came to the throne had been enacted in 1905. Under its provisions all men between the ages of eighteen and forty were liable to two years of compulsory service. By 1910 the law had received much criticism because there were various loopholes in it that made it possible for many men, especially those of the upper classes, to avoid service. Prince Chakra­bongs commented that, because of the loopholes, “the army could only get men who could do absolutely nothing, and who had no pretensions as to their capability of doing anything.”56

A series of steps was taken from 1910 to 1917 to reduce the number of exempt categories. First, students in secondary schools who were over the age of eighteen were made liable to conscription.57 Second, the exemption of government employees was ended.58 The final step eliminated all other exempt categories except those of the medically unfit, monks with ecclesiastical rank, and hill tribesmen.59 The “escape” categories that had been available particularly to the wealthy and elite classes were deliberately removed in a campaign to make military service more democratic, to reduce the stigma that had become attached to military service, to stem the flood of young men into minor clerical positions in the government in order to avoid service—in short, to “bring home to every one that the life of a private is an honourable calling.”60 This last point was made often, for the government realized that until the principle was accepted that “there is nothing dreadful in the sons of gentlemen serving in the ranks”61 Siam was not likely to get a patriotic army in which every young man would be willing to serve “in order to defend his Fatherland in time of stress.”62

But the King’s message of military values went far beyond the military itself—and even beyond the Wild Tigers and Boy Scouts. It went to the nation at large. The values of discipline, loyalty, and unity inculcated in the army, navy, police, Wild Tiger Corps, and Boy Scouts were, in the King’s view, necessary values for the total population. And the rallying cry of defense for the nation’s freedom was one that he wanted to be picked up not just by the thousands in uniform but by the millions in the towns and fields.

The theme of the need for every man to defend the nation was 91developed by the King in countless essays, speeches, poems, and plays. In an essay of 1911, typical of many striking the same note, Vajiravudh started by pointing to the great Thai inheritance be­queathed by Thai warrior heroes of the past. We are glad, said the King, to have been born of a race so brave, whose men—and women—loved their king, nation, and religion so much that they were not afraid of dying to maintain Thai freedom. “We who have received such an inheritance, can we let this inheritance be destroyed?” Are Thai today to be the profligate sons of hard-working fathers? No, we cannot waste what our ancestors worked so hard to give us. At this point in the essay the King began to use a rhetorical device that he turned to very often; he used the word “Thai” in its two meanings, one referring to the race or nation, the other meaning free:63 “We were born in the Thai race, we were born free [Thai], we must die free [Thai]; if we become slaves, we will no longer be Thai [free].” So the Thai today must face up to whatever dangers may come to the country. Whoever is not willing to sacrifice his life for the country, said the King, “let him give up being a Thai, let him not call himself a Thai and so shame his fellow countrymen. Anyone who is not completely willing to sacrifice his life to preserve his king, his country, and his religion should abandon his motherland and go live alone, for he loves himself more than his nation.”64

Typical of the King’s poems dealing with this theme is the following, which was composed by Vajiravudh while he was still Crown Prince and was sung on many occasions during the reign:

Free-born men

Let us not forget our race and our faith;

Let us not have been born in vain

Of a free nation.

How could a man who respects himself

Remain idle?

Each one ought to work,

That all may be ready!

In a country without love and union

The best work cannot bear fruit;

And if a nation is breaking up and near its ruin,

How can the private individual hope for prosperity?

If foreigners should rule over us,

We should be slain and ill-treated;

They would oppress us from morning till night,

As is the way of conquerors.

Do not imagine that they would respect our position and name, 92

Or that they would consider our birth;

We ourselves should suffer

And be put to shame before the rest of the world.

Therefore, comrades, may we be loyal to the King

And true to our country and our faith:

May we offer our lives without regret

That the freedom of “the Free” be not lost!

Let us stand united,

And certain victory is ours!

Let us be brave and firmly determined

To protect our liberty till heaven and earth pass away!65

The civilian no less than the soldier, said Vajiravudh, must be willing to defend the nation. For, he asked in a speech, are not civilians also Thai? “What language do civilians speak so that they need not perform the duty of defending their nation and their land? Even wild animals know how to protect their nests and lairs. If we do not defend our homeland, are we not worse than they?”66 And in another speech the King stated: “If we love the nation, we must protect the nation.” If the Thai lose their freedom, there will no longer be a Thai race. Whatever the cost in lives to preserve freedom, that cost must be paid. For the survivors in a free Thai state, no matter how few, will be Thai and the Thai race will go on. But if the nation is destroyed, it will not matter how many people live. In effect they will be dead, for they will no longer be Thai; “wherever they go they will be sorrowing like fatherless children.”67

The theme of total national commitment to defense is also an important element in several of the King’s plays. It is central to the plot of one play, whose title in English would be The Soul of a Warrior. The play concerns an older man who has little respect for the military or military values. Siam is invaded, and the hero discovers the values of self-defense. In a speech after his enlightenment, he tells his daughter:

In times to come when you have children at breast, teach them never to abandon their race, teach them to be willing to sacrifice their lives rather than abandon their leaders, teach them to be steadfast in love of our king. Have them love our country and hold firmly to Buddhism, more willing to die than to be lacking in any of these duties.68

Beginning of World War I; Siamese Neutrality

Just four years after King Vajiravudh mounted the throne, World War I broke out in Europe. The rumblings of war, of course, had been 93heard much earlier. The growing political and economic rivalries of the major European powers, the fierce competition that had been so manifest in the imperial contests for power throughout the “un­claimed” world in the late nineteenth century, had come more and more to focus on the gray zones of political claims on the European continent itself. This narrowing of the target, which had started some time before Vajiravudh became king, had, indeed, helped save Siam. World War I was, then, seen by the Thai as a breathing space in time, a respite, a new and probably brief chance to accrue strength and rally the people before the day of peace in Europe, which, by all logic, would coincide with the day of resumption of power plays in the weak world outside. Vajiravudh summed up this feeling dramatically in a speech to the Wild Tiger Corps:

Foreigners already have their eyes on our rich country. Even if they do not grab our land but only send off many of their people to live here, to eat our food, to suck our blood, what do we do? Let them come and then prepare ourselves? But then there would be no time to prepare! We must be prepared before they come. We must be prepared before anyone makes plans to come. We’ve talked about it, so now let’s truly prepare. We must prepare now while they are fighting and have no time to think of us. We must be prepared! The time is now.69

World War I presented Siam with a whole new range of policy options and propaganda opportunities. And Vajiravudh was deter­mined to make the best use of such options and opportunities. On the policy level he was determined that Siam should follow a course that would yield the greatest advantages in terms of international standing. On the propaganda level he was stimulated to use the war to lead his people further along the path toward the nationalism that he had already charted as his primary goal.

The first order of business as declarations of war multiplied with each new day in early August 1914 was for Siam to clarify its inter­national position. This was done on August 6 with a royal proclama­tion for the observance of “a strict and impartial neutrality.”70 This policy was in full accord with the King’s private views.71 Neutrality, indeed, was the only course possible for Siam at the time. The King and his highest officials were thoroughly acquainted with affairs in Europe, with the political and economic rivalries that had led to the outbreak of war, with the delicate balance of power in Europe that made guesses as to the final outcome extremely difficult. The pro­fundity of Siam’s knowledge is well illustrated by a series of talks given to the Wild Tigers by Čhaophraya Yommarat in August, Sep­tember, 94and November of 1914.72 Chaophraya Yommarat described in great detail the history of German unification under Bismarck, the Franco-Prussian War, the growing alliance between France and Russia, the German advances in military and economic strength, the British concerns over German naval and economic competition, the involve­ment of whole populations in xenophobic nationalism. He spoke realistically about the impossibility of determining who the eventual victor would be, especially since Siam had to rely on English and French sources for news. Again he was the realist when he pointed out that international law was not like national law in that there was no supernational court of justice; justice was whatever the strongest power determined it should be. At least some of these comments were made in the presence of the King. All of these views were undoubtedly shared by the King, and the King may even have “suggested” before­hand the topics his minister should speak on. The King himself, however, said little about the war, at least not publicly or in his own name.

For Vajiravudh, a keen student of international law himself, was determined to observe the strictures of neutrality with the utmost circumspection. In a speech to the Wild Tigers on August 9, he set forth his concept of neutrality—“neither rejoicing nor sorrowing on account of the victory or defeat of one side or the other”—and the proper behavior of a neutral: “… it is best for us Siamese not to speak too much. With regard to the war, the more words spoken, the greater the difficulty to recall them; if less were spoken, less would remain to be recalled, while if none were spoken at all, that would be the easiest of all.”73 And the King followed his own advice scru­pulously. The King’s public pronouncements on the war were meager indeed. In his annual addresses of 1915, 1916, and 1917 Vajiravudh spoke of the war only in terms of Siam’s impeccable neutrality; even the speech of 1917—the year that Siam entered the war—contained only the laconic remark “It gives Me much satisfaction to state that the friendly relations between the Kingdom of Siam and all Foreign Powers continue to be cordial and firmly maintained.”74 And one of Vajiravudh’s first acts after the war broke out was to compel all Siamese princes in military training in European states to resign their foreign commissions “in order to prevent any possible breach of neutrality on the part of Siam.”75 High princes and officials in Bangkok of varying political biases continued, apparently, to attend parties and affairs given by the German community,76 as well as by nationals of the Allied Powers, with the King’s approval. And each new declara­tion of war by a major power, including that by the United States on 95April 6, 1917, was followed by a new Siamese declaration of neutral­ity.77

Yet the formal course of neutrality Siam pursued did not mean that the war was ignored or that Siam was not constantly reevaluating its policies. The war, rather, was used as justification for a new nationalistic campaign, and the policy of neutrality itself was even­tually abandoned, after adequate unofficial preparation by the King, when events in Europe seemed to show that neutrality was no longer advantageous for Siam.

The direction the new propaganda campaign was to take was indicated in a speech by the King on August 9, 1914, in which he urged Wild Tigers and soldiers “to learn a good lesson from this war, and profit by its examples.” The lesson was not how to fight, but how to unite to meet the common peril. In England, France, Russia, and Germany internal factionalism had come to an end as parties and classes submerged their differences in order to fight their common enemy. The King asked his listeners if they would “be ready to drop all personal quarrels in order to turn and face our common foe together.”78 Obviously, to Vajiravudh the war gave new meaning and urgency to his nationalistic messages.

All the familiar programs of the years before 1914 were main­tained in 1915, 1916, and 1917. Wild Tiger speeches, drills, and maneuvers continued. Military exercises continued. In some cases old efforts were intensified; for example, the army in 1916 for the first time called up reserves to take part in the war games.79

Creation of the Royal Navy League

In late 1914 one new campaign was started that became the King’s prime interest, the beneficiary of countless writings and organizational efforts; it was given attention comparable only to the attention the Wild Tiger Corps had received in its earliest years. This new pet project of the King was the national subscription of money from the general public to buy the Thai navy a new warship, a light cruiser, to be called Phra Ruang after the legendary heroic founder of Thai independence.80 In support of this project the King wrote two plays, countless essays, and several poems on the importance of navies, on naval warfare, and on the importance of making contributions to Siam’s defense;81 he sponsored or encouraged various benefits, including some twenty-six theater performances, to raise money for the cruiser fund; and he gave lavishly out of the privy purse to swell the coffers of contributions. 96

Appeal for Contributions to Cruiser Fund (Advertisement in Dusit samit). The drawing is by the King; the text was originally in Thai.

97The campaign for the cruiser fund started in late October, less than three months after the war began in Europe. Presumably it originated with a group of officials who, seeing Siam’s weakness by sea, decided that Siam needed a new warship to protect its coasts and river banks. Recognizing that the government could not afford to buy such a vessel the officials decided to lead a drive to enlist funds from the general public. The officials presented their plan to the King, who accepted it, named the sponsoring group the Royal Navy League of Siam, consented to be the patron of the league, and gave the name Phra Ruang to the vessel to be obtained.82 In fact, however, the cruiser fund idea was the King’s from the very start; the official story that the idea originated with a group of government servants was undoubtedly put forth to avoid the awkwardness of having His Majesty initiate a drive to give himself a warship.83

Without doubt the King believed in the military benefits of the campaign he launched. In his view the Siamese army was well advanced; the navy, however, was still relatively weak. Although an enemy invader could be met by land forces, an invader by sea would find Siam vulnerable. Vajiravudh likened Siam’s defenses to a wall that was complete on only three sides, leaving the country wide open on the fourth. A householder who built a fence to keep out wild animals and robbers could hardly feel secure with fences on only three sides of his home; similarly, Siam could not be secure so long as its defenses by sea remained inadequate.84 The King summed up these ideas in several poems. One of these poems was printed in the second issue of a journal entitled Samutthasan published by the Navy League; it reads:

Come let us help, without delay,

To rouse popular enthusiasm

For the Navy League and invite

Thai everywhere to build the barrier to protect Siam.


On land we have soldiers ready to fight the invaders;

The glorious Wild Tigers wait to help in the fighting.

The gap that remains in our defense is by sea.

We lack the ships and power to protect us.

To ignore this is like leaving an open door.

If the enemy bursts in, how can we contend?

Don’t be indifferent; we urge you to be concerned.

To be unconcerned too long will lead to great difficulties.

The enemy can attack and set our homes on fire,

Reducing our homes to ashes and scattering our goods. 98

Our families will be lost, our positions ruined.

Those remaining will be shamed and will prefer death to lost honor.

Wake up! We are born Thai [free]; let us not lose the chance

To help our Navy gain the strength to defend our country.85

The equation of national power and naval strength was, in Vajiravudh’s view, demonstrated conclusively by Britain: “Any nation that has a navy it can send to battle on the sea has the power to protect its race, religion, and king.”86 The King assiduously studied naval matters, naval strategy, and naval vessels and came to the conclusion that a light cruiser, with a draft shallow enough to cross the sand bar at the mouth of the Čhaophraya River, would best suit the Siamese navy’s needs.87 The vessel he had in mind should be fast, capable of outmaneuvering larger, more powerfully armed vessels. The German ship Emden and its dramatic career early in the war much impressed the King.88 Even one vessel, as the Emden had proved, could be enormously valuable. A cruiser patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Siam would be able to gain intelligence on naval movements in the gulf and could be a respectable adversary in fighting quick campaigns.

Far more important than the military benefits of the cruiser campaign, however, were the benefits to be expected from the campaign itself in stirring Thai nationalism. Stimulating Thai nation­alism was clearly the primary objective, for the King certainly would have been able, if he had thought the need pressing enough, to purchase a naval vessel out of government funds. In his birthday speech of January 1, 1915, Vajiravudh spoke of the subscription drive as “an evidence that the Siamese people are determined, like their ancestors, to show their affection and loyalty to their Sovereign, to preserve the independence of the nation, and to uphold our Holy Religion.”89 In its editorial comments on this speech, the Bangkok Times perceived the King’s intent, that the “actual object” of the cruiser fund campaign was “after all a small thing compared with the spirit that animates the movement, the spirit of sacrifice for national security, which marks the growth of national conscious­ness.”90

To achieve the kind of national consciousness he desired, it was necessary that everyone give, that the gift be voluntary, that the gift represent an outpouring of the hearts of true Thai for the welfare of their country. And it was in such terms that the King and his officials spoke of the cruiser fund. The remarks made in a speech by the High Commissioner of Phuket were much to the point: 99

His Majesty could easily have raised the money by taxation or otherwise, but it is better for it [the cruiser] to be bought by voluntary subscriptions. So all must help, women as well as men, for they are the chief sufferers in case of war. If we pay for it we shall have an interest in it, and more regard for our country. Why do we love our children? Because of what they have cost us.91

To bring the costs, and so the love, to all, the campaign was extended into the provinces, and officials high and low were urged to give speeches to promote public understanding and rally public support. In a report on the successes of the High Commissioner of Nakhο̨n Sawan, the generosity of a boatman, a blind man, and a farm wife were particularly noted.92 And in Phuket, particular pride was taken in the large number of contributions from women, which was inter­preted as showing the truly voluntary nature of the donations, and in the success of the campaign in reaching Chinese coolies in the tin mines. The coolies were addressed in the Chinese language by their bosses, who urged them to make donations to the cruiser fund to show their gratitude for the many favors the Siamese government had shown Chinese immigrants. In the speeches to the miners, it was particularly stressed that the size of the gift was less important than the act of giving itself; the important thing was that everyone should give.93 This point was often made; as one official put it, no gift would so please the King as a ten-satang (about four cents) contribution to the cruiser fund.94

In his own writings the King on occasion played on the theme of pride and shame. Writing under the pseudonym Asvabahu, the King said that he had been asked if he would make a contribution; there was but one answer for a “true Thai” to give, and for Asvabahu in particular, well known for his patriotic writings, “I could look no one in the face if I didn’t contribute.” Vajiravudh went on to classify Thai who were not moved by the national appeal as sick, mentally retarded, thickskulled, addlebrained, doperidden, ignorant, misled, or selfish. Everyone, he said, could afford to give a little, and little by little the fund would grow. Everyone could make some small sacrifice for the nation’s welfare. And in an obvious dig at the Bangkok elite, he specified: men with many concubines could give up one; men who ate out often could eat at home for a month; men who played billiards every night could sacrifice games three nights a week; men who liked loose women could sleep at home for a while; those who liked the movies and an after-movie supper could give these up for a week or two; those who liked fancy clothes could dress in homespun 100for a change. Through such deprivations the drive would succeed and the day would arrive when the Phra Ruang would steam up the river for all to see. On that day of fulfillment, those who had given, who would be part owners of Siam’s pride, would rejoice. And those who had not given would be filled with shame. In fact, said the King, the entire prestige of the nation was bound up in the cruiser-fund campaign. Failure of the campaign would earn the Thai the reputation of giving only lip service to national love, of not being “civilized” enough to see the benefits of naval defense. So, concluded the King, “we must help each other succeed” and on the day of success all Thai subscribers would be able to greet “our ship” with “full hearts and full voices shouting ‘Chaiyo! Chaiyo! Chaiyo!’”95

This same vein of pride and shame is developed in a play, Mahatama (The Mahatma), that Vajiravudh wrote specifically to support the cruiser campaign. The chief character, Son Setthi, opposes giving contributions to a warship fund. He falls asleep and, in a dream, learns that the fund drive has failed and that enemy warships, meeting no opposition, have easily conquered the country. An enemy soldier sarcastically praises Son: “You did a good job in destroying the Thai nation; I thank you heartily.”96 Near the end of the dream, as the shamed Son is led out to be shot, he says:

Before I die I want to say one thing. I am sorry I have been the worst citizen possible. It is not right for me to be called a Thai. I am not at all sorry to lose my life now, for if I went on living I couldn’t face anyone. If I have any regrets it is that I won’t get another chance to help my nation. If I had only known that this was the way it would come out, I would have contributed 5,000 baht to the warship fund. If I had done that, I would have no regrets now about dying.97

At the end of the play Son wakes from his dream and gets the second chance his nightmare denied him.

Other techniques the King used in his cruiser campaign propagan­da were designed to work upon the Thai “natural traits” of apathy and generosity and the Thai love of fun and a good show. The apathy or even-temperedness of the Thai, Vajiravudh said, made it difficult for them to be readily roused to action. The Thai people tended to postpone action, to fail to appreciate urgent needs; they had to be reminded again and again of their obligations.98 And so the reminders came, in lighted street signs, for example, that spelled out “Have you contributed to the cruiser fund?”99 and in newspaper advertisements that read: 101

have you given your donation yet?

if not,

what are you waiting for?

why do you tarry?

siam has no time to lose! 100

As for Thai generosity, the King said simply that the Thai were not stingy; they had only to be affected and they would give freely. Their liberal donations to Buddhist temples proved their unselfishness. The Thai, he said, should see donations to the cruiser fund as merito­rious acts showing unselfish concern for all Thai citizens, loyalty and gratitude to the sovereign, and, in the end, understanding that the temples built by merit would be protected by a meritorious navy.101 The appeals to the Thai love of fun in the cruiser subscription drive took many forms—concerts, performances of plays, publishing of stories—but none was more popular than the miniature naval engagement staged for a temple fair in January 1916. Models of naval vessels, three battleships, one cruiser, and four destroyers, propelled by gasoline or electricity, sailed across a small pond, saluted the King, and then took part in a naval engagement, which a newspaper described as “a most realistic affair” in which “mines explode, a village is wrecked and the effect of gun fire on shore defences is plainly visible to spectators.”102 The elaborate show, which involved much detailed planning and took 200 men to stage, was meant to be fun, but it was also meant to illustrate the usefulness of cruisers and to convey the message that appeared at the end of the 26-page program of the spectacle: “Help Thailand—our country.”103

The cruiser fund campaign, in monetary terms, got off to a grand start. Aided by donations of the King, from various sources, that amounted to 200,000 baht, by April of 1915 the fund had reached the figure of 1,000,000 baht. In another year, the 2,000,000 baht figure had been reached. Although the campaign had lost some glamor and the rate of contributions had slowed down, it was clear by 1917 that the Siamese people would one day be able to buy their king the warship he could then bestow on the royal navy.

Entry of Siam into the War

The policy of neutrality that Vajiravudh had adopted in August 1914 had met general acceptance in educated Siamese circles. Although some German-educated princes and nobles were undoubtedly pro-German, and some English-educated princes and nobles were 102pro-British, the sympathies of neither side were so strong as to create a party in favor of Siam’s direct involvement in the war.

Insofar as a general sentiment can be identified, it was rather more pro-German than pro-Allied. The reasons for such sentiment are clear. The Germans had no imperial record in Siam, in great contrast to the flagrant records of both the British and the French, whose empires in Malaysia and Indochina had been augmented at Siam’s expense. Further, the German community in Siam was well liked. The Germans had a better reputation than any other foreign group for learning the Thai language (few Thai spoke German) and for mixing with the Thai socially—to such an extent that many Germans intermarried with the Thai and some even became naturalized Thai. German trade with Siam had expanded greatly in the years im­mediately preceding the war, and German products were regarded as top quality.104 German technicians and experts employed in the Railway Department, the Department of Communications, and the Siam Commercial Bank were favorably regarded for their skill and efficiency.

From the very start of the war, however, Siam, because of its geographic position, had to be much more cautious of provoking British or French suspicions of unneutrality than of provoking German suspicions.105 And the British and French were extremely sensitive to possibly unsympathetic views and much more likely to apply pressure on the Thai than were the Germans. Even before the end of 1914 the Thai, having learned that the French in Indochina were accusing them of partiality toward the Germans, planted a story in the Saigon press to the effect that, despite the “strict neutrality” of the Siamese government, the Thai citizenry, far from being pro-German, was horrified at German “acts of sacrilege and vandalism” in Belgium and French territories.106 The Bangkok Western-language press in 1914 consisted of three English-language newspapers, the Bangkok Times, the Daily Mail, and the Siam Observer, and all leaned toward the Allies. The local Germans, after lodging an unproductive objection to this state of affairs with the Siamese government, began to issue their own paper, the Umschau. The British minister in August 1916 objected to the Umschau. In a fine instance of diplomatic tight­rope walking, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed out to the British minister that any objection that he might make to the Germans would only occasion a countercomplaint by the Germans against “certain of the other local papers, which … are distinctly favorable to Great Britain and its allies.”107

One area in which the Thai did cooperate fully with the British 103was action against the supposed activities of Germans in abetting the conspiracies of Indians in Siam aimed at undercutting British power in Burma and India. The British were extremely sensitive on this subject. They brought some seventeen Indians to trial for sedition in Burma in 1916. During the trial proceedings, which started in March and ended in August with guilty sentences for most of those accused, some testimony indicated that seditious activities had also been conducted in Siam.108 The British kept the Thai alerted to the Burma evidence and also to news and rumors of similar activities. They asked the Thai in March 1915 to take action against supposed Indian agitators on the Siamese southern railway and in August 1916 to patrol the west coast of Siam to watch for a possible shipment of arms from Siam to Burma through “unscrupulous” Japanese agents of the Germans. The Thai complied with both requests.109 Wildly extrava­gant newspaper stories, starting with one in 1915 about thousands of Indians being trained in Siam by Germans to invade Burma and ending with one in 1917 that linked the German conspiracies in Burma and Siam to the Zimmerman Plot to get Mexico and Japan to dismember the United States, were featured in the Bangkok Times as well as in the New York Times and the London Times.110 The Thai, while denying the truth of the exaggerated accounts, took all British official requests seriously and were commended by the British for “the services they have rendered.”111

By the end of 1915 and through 1916, however, the Siamese King and many Siamese officials began to display a friendliness to the French and British that, although it did not constitute a withdrawal from neutrality, seemed to be greater than the geographic and political realities required. Late in 1915, for example, the King sent money to the widows and orphans of the Durham Light Infantry Company, the unit in England in which he had once served. The King justified this action on the grounds that it would still British suspicions that the Thai were pro-German.112 And when, in September 1915, Vajiravudh was offered an honorary generalship in the British army—a favor he returned by conferring an honorary generalship in the Siamese army on George V—he accepted, according to a statement he later gave his ministers, for the same reason.113 Other public acts friendly to the Allies sprinkled the calendar of events in 1916—for example, royal presences (and presentations of gifts) at fairs, parties, and plays for the French Red Cross, the Russian Red Cross, the British Red Cross, and the Allied Red Cross.

More subtle indications of a pro-Allied bias can be perceived in the pages of the journal of the Royal Navy League, Samutthasan. The 104sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 evoked a long article in the August issue by the King, writing under the pseudonym Ramachitti, who deplored the act as a violation of international law.114 In the September issue Ramachitti translated a series of American notes protesting German practices of submarine warfare. In a commentary appended to the translation, he labeled the United States as the only major power not in the war and the outstanding protector of the rights of neutral states; supported the American protests, stating that, indeed, nothing in war could justify the abandonment of morality and the killing of innocent people; and said that the Thai, as Bud­dhists, could not help but agree with this moral stance.115 Subsequent issues of Samutthasan, and occasionally the newspapers, contained other articles by the King, always writing under a pseudonym, that were distinctly critical of and uncomplimentary to the Germans. None were violently anti-German, however. And certainly none called for a declaration of war. In fact, even if the King had not used the stratagem of a pseudonym, none could be regarded as a real departure from neutrality.

One of the King’s young courtiers, recalling this period of time decades later, has noted that Vajiravudh consistently maintained a public position of neutrality and kept silent about whatever personal opinions he may have held. The courtier says that he later discovered, however, that the King had been conducting an extensive personal correspondence with various European friends during this period, asking for their opinions and adding the intelligence from these replies to what he already knew in order to help him make up his mind on future Siamese courses of action.116

Early in 1917 the signs that a change in policy was being con­sidered became unmistakable. Precipitating the change was the altered position of the United States. The Germans resumed unre­stricted submarine warfare on February 1, 1917, and two days later the United States severed its relations with Germany. Barely had the news of this American action reached Siam than Prince Devawongse, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote to Vajiravudh’s private secre­tary for foreign correspondence, Phraya Buri, raising questions about the effect this American move toward a declaration of war would have on Siam’s position. In his letter of February 9, Prince Deva­wongse set forth his opinions on what a Siamese declaration of war might mean. For one thing, it would allow the Siamese to seize the German merchant vessels that had taken refuge in the port of Bangkok; if they could be seized before the Germans damaged them, this would be a gain that would be about equal to the loss Siam would incur by 105German confiscation of Siam’s considerable bank assets in Germany. A declaration of war against Germany would have distinct dangers, however. First, the Germans had done nothing specific against the Thai to justify such a declaration. And the members of the German colony in Siam, who, the Prince said, numbered about 300 (in fact the total was closer to 200) and would become enemy aliens if war were declared, would pose a threat. Some might fight the Thai and destroy property; particularly to be feared were those who were in charge of the railroad line then under construction in northern Siam. Others might foment trouble among sympathetic Siamese military officers or among those Chinese merchants who had had close business connections with the Germans. Siam might find itself with a civil war on its hands. An alternate course of action would be to follow America’s lead and simply break off relations. Such a step would free Siam from obnoxious treaty provisions with at least one major European power. Even such a limited step, however, was dangerous and ought not be undertaken until the Siamese military forces had signified that they were fully prepared to meet any emergency. The minister throughout his note, with all his words of caution, sounded as if he were arguing for a more conservative approach than he imagined the King would favor. He ended by pointing out two facts: first, that Britain, whose views the Prince regarded as vital in such matters, was not encouraging Siam to follow America’s lead; second, that America’s call for neutral states to follow its example had not led to a clatter of scissors snipping diplomatic ties. Each state, he said, was deciding its own policy on the basis of its own advantages, as indeed it should.117

The Prince’s recommendations undoubtedly had weight, and Siam confined its reaction to the American move to protests against the violations of international law implicit in the German submarine campaign. These protests were communicated in March to the German government and to the Austro-Hungarian government by the Siamese minister in Berlin. A further protest against a German policy of making subjects of neutral countries who were serving on Allied merchant vessels liable to seizure as prisoners of war was sent to the Germans in mid-April. None of these communications were made public, however, until the end of April 1917.118

On April 6, 1917, the United States finally declared war against Germany. The United States, depicting its role as that of champion of “the rights of nations great and small” and defender of neutral rights in general, urged other neutrals to join in the crusade. The American declaration led to still another reexamination of Siam’s position—both 106because of America’s moral leadership and, even more important, because of the great material strength that the entry of the United States would necessarily contribute to the Allies. The first Siamese act following the American declaration, however, was a restatement on April 12 of Siam’s neutrality in the enlarged conflict.119

No new foreign policy decisions were made, or even discussed, by the King through the rest of April and most of May. For during the period from April 10 to May 22 Vajiravudh was busy on a trip to Siam’s southern provinces. During the King’s preparations for his journey and his absence from the capital, two members of his govern­ment, Prince Chakrabongs and Prince Devawongse, became deeply involved in the war problem. Both princes had engaged in conversa­tions with the diplomatic representatives of England, France, and Russia in Siam and, as a result of these conversations, had taken up divergent positions on foreign policy. Prince Devawongse, seconded by the British, favored continued neutrality; Prince Chakrabongs, urged on by the French and Russians, favored active Siamese involve­ment on the side of the Allies. It was up to the King at the end of May to resolve the dispute and chart Siam’s future course of action.

The only real concern in the deliberations on the war at the end of May was Siam’s advantage. Was it in Siam’s interest to remain neutral? Was it in Siam’s interest to join the Allies? What would be the reaction of the major Allied powers to Siam’s decision? If Siam were to join, what reasons should be given for the action? What rewards might Siam, as an ally, expect at the war’s end?

In a secret memorandum of May 25 concerning Siam’s possible entry into the war, Prince Devawongse gave his views on some of these questions. The memorandum was probably prepared to bring His Majesty up to date on the subject of the war after his trip to the South. The Prince’s prime concern was how to respond to the repre­sentations the British, French, and Russian ministers in Bangkok had made to him at various dates in April and May. The French and Russian ministers had urged the Siamese to declare war. They had pointed out that the failure of Siam to publish its objections to German submarine warfare and Siam’s continued neutrality after the American appeal to neutrals were tantamount to being pro-German. And they had promised that, if Siam joined the Allies, they would help Siam gain beneficial treaty revisions, revisions that would remove re­strictions on customs duties. The British minister, in his talks with Prince Devawongse, had deplored these actions of his diplomatic colleagues and had stated that his view—and that of his government—was that Siam’s decision on the war should be made by Siam alone 107and not in response to promises or pressures. Insofar as Britain was concerned, he had said, no treaty revision could be contemplated, for Britain, unlike France or Russia, had a considerable stake in Siamese trade and so could not lightly abandon its treaty rights. He had also stated that revision of customs duties might well create difficulties for trade, which would be a disadvantage for both England and Siam. The British minister had mentioned, however, that, as a measure to placate the French and Russians, Siam might publish its notes to the Germans objecting to submarine warfare, and this Prince Devawongse, with the King’s approval, proceeded to do on April 30. With regard to his own opinions on future policy, Prince Devawongse stated: “I have believed from the start the Allies would win, but see no good reason for Siam to join in; remaining neutral is our best course.”120

Prince Chakrabongs, who did not agree with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, presumably also told the King his views.121 He prob­ably also wrote to him during this period, for Vajiravudh sometime later complained of the “many violent memoranda submitted to me by my brother concerning our foreign policy,” memoranda that supported the French and Russian position and depicted Prince Deva­wongse as overly reluctant to take any action that might provoke British resentment.122

On May 28, 1917, King Vajiravudh read to his Council of Ministers a long and critical statement on the war that was meant to clarify issues and serve as the text for a definitive decision on Siamese policy.123 After a brief historical background on Siam’s neutrality, the King analyzed in hard terms the realities of Siam’s position. First of all, he asked—and then answered—the question “What is the true position of Siam?” Siam, he said, lay between the colonial territories of England and France. This central fact had determined, from the start, that Siam could never dare to show the slightest partiality toward Germany; to do so would have meant Siam’s immediate anni­hilation. And, further, Siam had been able to declare itself neutral only because it had suited the purposes of its powerful neighbors: “If at any time they had felt our neutrality to be an obstacle, there is no need to doubt that they would have ceased to allow it to con­tinue.” Those who would argue against this reasoning and cite the inviolability of Siam’s sovereign rights should take a look at Greece. Siam, however, had two choices: to join the Allies or to remain neutral.

Siam’s choice, said the King, should always be based on what would serve its interests best. At the start of the war, when it could not be clear which side would win, Siam, as a small country that could 108not afford any vengeful enemy, had had to decide on neutrality. But now that Germany was clearly losing, it was time for advantages and disadvantages to be weighed anew.

In a future that would be dominated by the victorious Allies, Siam’s interests no longer lay in neutrality; they lay in joining the victors. As a neutral, Siam could hope, at best, to retain what it had, but it would run a large risk of losing a great deal. As a member of the Allies, Siam could hope, at least, to retain what it had, and it would stand a good chance of making real gains. As a neutral, Siam would be at the mercy of the Allies. If Britain and France decided to take over German assets and privileges in Siam—and France, said the King, already had such intentions—Siam could do nothing but yield. Siam would have to yield not only rights but honor and part of its freedom. If, however, Siam joined in the war, Siam almost had to come out better than even. The undesirable treaties with Germany, at least, would be terminated. And there was a possibility that some treaty concessions could be won from the Allied powers.

Although cool logic showed the advisability of joining the Allies, a declaration of war, said the King, could not be made in a vacuum. Reasons had to be given for a declaration. And Germany had done nothing antagonistic to Siam: no Thai nationals had been killed; no Thai ships had been torpedoed; no Thai sailors had been taken pri­soner. If Germany had committed some injury, even a slight one, the King said almost ruefully, then “I would not hesitate in advancing the view most strongly that we had just cause to rid ourselves of our neutral position.” Any declaration of war without proper reason would be understood as a “policy” decision, one made to pursue advantages. Such a declaration would from the outset, then, fail in its intended effect; Britain was already wary of the new additions to the Allied roll of nations, such as China, which expected rewards or expected to share in the ultimate victory. Further, if Siam hoped to allay suspicions of its motives, it could declare war only if it could offer real services to the Allies, and the King could not imagine at this point what those services might be.

Under these circumstances, the King suggested, Siam should wait for an opportunity to declare war to present itself and, in the mean­while, do its best to prepare for the peace by making pro-Allied statements and by taking steps to remove German nationals from posts in Siamese government departments, an action that it would be better for Siam to take on its own than be forced to take by the Allied Powers.

King Vajiravudh ended his statement with a plea to his ministers 109to discuss it freely; he said that, if they had criticisms of his sugges­tions, they should make them right away and “not suppress them and then grumble later that you had no chance to present your views.”

The Council of Ministers on May 28 essentially agreed with the King’s policy statement. Some of the ministers whose ministries had German employees spoke of the difficulties of finding replacements, but none spoke against the policy of replacement. The consensus Was that a policy of neutralism friendly to the Allies should be pursued and that eventually Siam should find an honorable way to enter the war. The ministers also agreed that if the Allied Powers officially invited Siam to enter, the government would then be able to enter with honor.124

Although he was out of town for the May 28 meeting, Prince Chakrabongs sent a strong letter of support to the King. He urged the King to put into effect immediately the policy of dismissing the Germans; suggested that Siam should not be unduly influenced by the negative feelings of the British, whom he described as a people who were always interested in “practical politics” and their own interests; and proposed that a note verbale be issued deploring the “inhuman manner” of warfare of the Central Powers and denouncing this evil in the interest of upholding “the sanctity of international right.” If the Germans objected to the note, so much the better, since that would provide Siam the desired opportunity to sever diplomatic relations. The Prince’s letter was much more aggressively prowar than the King’s May 28 statement had been. Chakrabongs criticized various ministers at length for dillydallying and for excessive caution. He advised that Siam “must find a way” to enter the war, that to “sit idly by while luck passes” would give England “a free hand” to do as it liked in Siam after the war, that Siam would be like someone “blindfolded in the center of the room” with respect to the trade arrangements that would be made at the war’s end.125

The King was obviously impressed by Prince Chakrabongs’s argu­ments, which corresponded so closely to his own.126 In a council meeting on June 1, he proceeded to announce as firm policy: (1) the dismissal of all Germans; (2) a search for a good reason to enter the war without waiting for an invitation from the Allies (the powers who were unenthusiastic about Siam’s entry had grown to two; Japan had joined Britain by June 1);127 (3) the issuance of a private “verbal note” to the foreign ministries deploring the German methods of warfare (with hope of a German objection that would allow Siam to sever relations); (4) the avoidance of any mention of hoped-for concessions from the Allies in the form of tariff concessions—Siam’s new policy 110must assume the form of a solely moral protest. Even the firmness Prince Chakrabongs recommended appeared in the wording through­out; the statement closed: “And let me remind you, no further wavering is allowed.”128

On this vital subject of Siam’s decision to enter the war, the common view in Thailand today is that Vajiravudh led the country to war because of prejudice and passion and pro-British sentiments acquired during his long residence in England. The record does not substantiate this view. Although the King may have had his private biases,129 the reports of the secret ministerial meetings clearly reveal a king who was committed to pragmatism and realism and was willing, indeed, to resist British pressures toward neutralism in order to promote his country’s welfare.

After June 1, the diplomatic and practical preparations for war proceeded apace. The heads of various ministries were asked to com­plete detailed plans for replacement of Germans, for capture of German ships, for imprisonment of enemy aliens, and for other such actions. Allied diplomats were informed of Siam’s intentions; Siamese lega­tions abroad were also informed. The reception by June 18 of a cordial reply from London welcoming Siam’s imminent entry into the war resolved the last doubts as to the policy decision.130

Only one important matter remained: to prepare the population for the policy change. And here the King stepped forward to perform the role he enjoyed most; he became chief propagandist for the new cause. But since Siam was still technically neutral and since the government was anxious not to alert the local Germans before all was ready, the King issued the propaganda under his pseudonym Rama­chitti. Using this thin disguise,131 Vajiravudh published in the news­paper Nangsu̓phim thai from July 7 to July 21a series of articles that were bitterly anti-German.132 The Germans were characterized as a people who believed that “might is right,” and their history was surveyed to show their aggressiveness, their disregard for the rights of other peoples. German transgressions in World War I, said Rama­chitti, finally compelled America, which had “for so long remained steadfast in her neutrality,” to declare war “to defend the Rights and Liberty of all mankind.” Siam could do no less than follow America’s lead. The arguments for continued neutrality were all bankrupt: even if Germany won the war, a Siamese record of neutrality would not save the country from German aggressiveness; the German “in­trigues” with “Indian seditionists” in Siam had already proved how little respect the Germans had for the neutral rights of the Siamese. And, most important of all, Siam as a Buddhist nation that believed 111in the right could not remain aloof while members of the family of civilized nations were “suffering injuries and atrocities at the hands of a ferocious giant.” The Germans, he concluded, “have shown them­selves to be monsters of depravity before the whole world, utterly without shame or fear of sin”; for Siam not to act against such evil would be “tantamount to aiding and abetting the wicked bandit.”133 And so, for the highest moral reasons and in keeping with Siam’s finest traditions, “Siam must break with Germany who is the enemy of the world.”134

On July 22, 1917, the day after these last ringing words by Rama­chitti were published, Siam declared war on the Central Powers. The wait for a provocative incident had been abandoned, and the declara­tion of war, drafted personally by the King, who deliberately bor­rowed from lofty phrases of Woodrow Wilson and others, was based on the need to help defend “the peace of the world,” “respect for small States,” and “the sanctity of International Rights.”135

To solemnify the declaration of war and put the power of tradi­tional royal magic behind it, the King performed a “First Action” rite. Wearing a “victory dress” all of red (the proper color for Sunday wear), carrying the sword of the sixteenth-century warrior king Naresuan, and bearing auspicious leaves in his right hand and tucked behind his left ear, the King proceeded at 7:00 a.m. to the Chapel Royal at Wat Phra Kaeo, where he offered candles and prayers to the Emerald Buddha. He then proceeded to the hall that housed statues of his royal predecessors and asked that the merit of their transcendent virtues might help bring victory in war to Siam and its allies. After this he went to a hall of audience and gave a short address announcing Siam’s declaration of war before the royal ministers, foreign diplo­mats, and members of the press. Last came the “First Action” rite proper. This symbolic act was performed on a special stage built at the Royal Plaza. Before the dais stood a newly planted tree represent­ing the enemy. In the ceremony the tree was first “disgraced” by being doused with wash-water from a royal footbath; then, on the King’s direct order, it was chopped down. The meaning of the rite was clear enough; Siam had taken its first action to destroy the enemy.136

In fact, however, some very practical steps had been taken several hours earlier. In the early morning hours of July 22 the declarations of war had been delivered to the German and the Austro-Hungarian legations; all male enemy aliens had been arrested; the German merchant ships in the port of Bangkok had been seized; and various strategic places—particularly along the route of the railway line to 112the north, then being constructed under the supervision of German technicians—had been put under elaborate guard.

Plans for these actions had been extremely well laid. For weeks military, police, and civilian units had been secretly preparing for the great day. All Germans and Austrians had been placed under constant surveillance. Navy construction crews had been feverishly building ladders specially designed for scaling the large German merchantmen from the small Thai navy launches.

And all had gone extremely well. Aside from some minor damage the German crews had managed to inflict on their own vessels, nothing untoward had happened. No sabotage had occurred. The railways, despite the loss of German technical help, continued to run without any delay in schedules. The King was pleased. The navy, army, and police were pleased. And foreign observers in Bangkok and elsewhere were lavish in their praise of the thoroughness and efficiency of the Thai operation. The Far East, published in Tokyo, commented on Siamese “businesslike efficiency” in executing a task “that has simply been bungled by other nations.”137 In a later birthday message to the King, the Siamese princes remarked on the submission of the enemy aliens, who were “awed by Your Majesty’s powers and greatness.” The message went on: “Everything was accomplished without neces­sitating the shedding of a single drop of blood and without causing the least trouble or inconvenience to the general public, who simply woke up from their sleep and saw victory already attained.”138

The follow-up actions with respect to the captured German ships and the prisoners of war were also handled in an orderly fashion. Thai claims to the ships were legally cleared in a prize court, and the ships were then repaired, renamed with Thai names, and put to use, some by the Thai and some by their allies, under charter terms favorable to the Westerners.139 The prisoners of war, who by August 8 included German women and children, were eventually transported by the Thai to British prisoner camps in India. This last action was insisted on by the British, and, although some Thai suspected the British of racial motives (not wanting white people to be held prisoner by Asians), King Vajiravudh, who was “elated that we have been able to intern Europeans which has undoubtedly increased our prestige a great deal,” decided that continuous imprisonment of the Germans was not necessary or politic.140

Although Siam’s major objective in joining the war was to further foreign policy aims, a secondary objective was to use the war to further internal policy aims of stimulating nationalism. Joining in the battle, the King undoubtedly thought, would shake the Thai loose of the 113lethargy and selfishness that were characteristic of a people long used to peace. Vajiravudh had expressed such sentiments in an essay of 1915:

Where there has been a long period of peace, people have had time to think of the pursuit of pleasure and the gratification of self, so that they have grown selfish; their outlook on life and things in general have become narrower and narrower, until nothing becomes so impor­tant to them as their own selves. In a way, I agree with some of the German writers who say that war is actually a blessing in disguise, because war compels one to think of something bigger and greater than one’s own self. War certainly rouses people from that dream of self-interest, from which it is extremely difficult to wake, except with the thunder of guns or the points of bayonets.141

The primary objective, it was decided, was best promoted by quiet means: Siam should not make a point of what it hoped to achieve from its allies at the war’s end. Private though this objective may have been, it was guessed at and hinted at on occasion. The prescient editor of the Bangkok Times on the day after the declaration of war, while lauding Siam for its moral stance, pointed out that essentially Siam’s action was “a matter of practical politics” and that, while the question of duties revision had not yet been raised, it was sure to be raised “when the time comes.”142 Prince Mahidol, half a world away in the United States at the time of Siam’s entry, was caught off guard and spoke freely about the benefits Siam hoped for:

First she will secure her place as an independent nation, free to work out her own destiny without fear of more powerful neighbors. Again, she will get rid of the extra territorial rights which now brand her as a nation of inferior civilization. She will be recognized as she ought to be in the great family of nations. She will, I hope, obtain a readjustment of her internal relations which will relieve her of the unequal and unfair tariff agreements under which she now suffers.143

By the beginning of 1918 King Vajiravudh was willing to state publicly that Siam’s entry into the war “enables us to hope that we may be able in the future to enjoy every right and privilege on an equality with all the other nations.”144

The Siamese Expeditionary Force

One wartime activity of Siam that served both foreign policy objec­tives and the domestic policy of nationalism was the organization of a Siamese Expeditionary Force. The original Siamese intention was not to participate directly in the war in Europe,145 but pressures 114chiefly from the French, supported by Prince Charoon, the Siamese minister to France, and by Prince Chakrabongs, led to a new decision to outfit and dispatch expeditionary units. Prince Charoon not only suggested to the King that Siam should “take some active part or make a bit of a show” but also specified that aviation and ambulance units would be the best bargains, since they would give even small Siamese forces great visibility and prestige.146 Some of the King’s ministers seemed primarily interested in keeping costs for the force as low as possible, but others, such as Prince Charoon, argued that “Siam should give as much as possible without counting the cost NOW. It will pay in the long run to do all one can and to show the other Allies that one is doing so.” Prince Charoon’s view was that some expenses “will pay in the long run. I do not say in money but in other ways.”147 The ultimate decision, made in September, was a compromise: there was to be a Siamese contingent of around 1,300 men (though the number was to be kept secret so as not to lead to disparaging com­parisons); the contingent was to consist of an ambulance section, a flying squadron, and a detachment of automobile drivers and me­chanics.148 The units sailed for France in June 1918 and served through the end of the war.

As an instrument of foreign policy, the Siamese Expeditionary Force was expected to demonstrate the sincerity of Siam’s intentions of aiding its allies and to bring the name of Siam before the world. Siamese participation as an active partner in the war effort, it was felt, could not help but increase the country’s chances of improving its treaty conditions at the war’s end. A further practical result of sending the expeditionary force would be that Siamese military units would gain invaluable field experience.

As an instrument of national policy, the Siamese Expeditionary Force was seen as a means for rallying the Thai people. The method of selecting the members of the force was itself a means of promoting patriotic feelings. Service in the force was described as a special honor; therefore, enlistment was made voluntary and opened not only to men in the armed forces but also to civilians. The call for volunteers was issued late in September. Three weeks later the King expressed his great gratification at the response, thanking all who had volunteered—many more than could be used—for their loyalty and patriotism. Further, during its months of preparation in Siam the expeditionary force received special attention from the King and considerable publicity.

Late in December 1917, the Ministry of War took the occasion of the annual “Swinging Ceremony,” a traditional Hinduist rite, to 115stage an elaborate military procession and “a splendid popular adver­tisement” for the armed forces, including, of course, the Siamese Expeditionary Force. The purpose of the procession was to show the antiquity of the military tradition in Siam and to increase the pride of the Siamese in their existing military might. The military proces­sion, complete with floats, bands, and even a large model airplane, was staged on two days and attracted large crowds.149

On January 8, 1918, the King gave a dinner party for a group of Thai officers who had been selected to constitute a military mission to go to Europe to act in liaison with the Allies in the prosecution of the war. After the dinner Vajiravudh addressed the group on their responsibility “to show to the nations whose prowess, we must confess, we have known in the past, how much we have advanced.” The members of the mission, he stated, “will be the first persons to carry with them the dignity and fame of my Army to be made known before the world, and will be the first to unfurl the Siamese flag on the continent of Europe.” These men were in effect the King’s repre­sentatives, he said, and they were chosen because they possessed the “high patriotic qualities” that are the measure of a nation’s greatness. He described the sending of this mission, and of the full Siamese Expeditionary Force later, as of the “utmost importance” not only for the King and the individuals involved, but for the entire Siamese nation. Posterity, he said, would one day be able to turn back the pages of history and “exclaim with pride: ‘Ah! they are not cowards! They enhanced the dignity and honour of the nation, did things befitting the name of Thai, and, loving freedom, were ready for every sacrifice ….’”150

To promote public awareness of the military and the war, on April 6 King Vajiravudh instituted a new order of chivalry, named the Honourable Order of Rama. The order was created particularly for individuals who distinguished themselves in military service, espe­cially those who proved themselves ready “to sacrifice their lives in defence of the independence and prosperity of the Nation and Country.” Many members of the Siamese Expeditionary Force were eventually to receive this coveted new mark of royal favor.151

On May 26 the Siamese Expeditionary Force itself was hosted by the King at dinner. His remarks on this occasion were similar to those he had made to the military mission in January. He spoke of the long time that the Thai people had been forced to feel “slighted and hurt because others looked on us as a small and inferior nation.” Now, he said, the chance had presented itself for the Thai to show the world that they had been accepted by the powers as an equal. This chance 116could be seized because the government, despite the criticisms of many, had gone ahead and developed an army. On the troops now going to Europe would rest the reputation of Siam; Siam would be judged according to how its troops behaved, on the field of battle and elsewhere. And so these troops must be on constant guard to earn for Siam nothing but praise. But, said the King, in this respect he had full confidence in each and every member of the expeditionary force.152

The dinner on May 26 had one interesting nationalistic byproduct. After the dinner, English films were shown; at the end of one film there flashed on the screen the Kipling lines “What stands if Freedom fall?/Who dies if England live?” Prince Chakrabongs told the King how moving he found these lines. And the King, when he awoke the next morning, penned the words of the reign’s most famous patriotic poem:

Love the king with complete loyalty.

Love the nation with unswerving duty.

Love the Buddhist Trinity faithfully.

Love honor to merit the world’s praise.

On all occasions show respect

And think of your land

As the state where Thai live in peace.

We must cherish it so it endures forever.

Whoever invades the land of the Thai

We will fight to the last man, to the last mile,

Sacrificing life’s blood and life itself

Rather than lose our honorable name.

If Siam endures, survives,

Then, secure, our lives go on.

But if Siam’s doom arrives, can Thai endure?

Our family line is gone; the Thai are done.153

Popular involvement in the Siamese Expeditionary Force was pro­moted by the organization of a fund drive. Private individuals who wished to make contributions were encouraged to do so. This money was to be used to buy cigarettes, socks, and chocolate bars and in other ways contribute to the personal comfort of the Thai soldiers. The drive started in October 1917. It was nationwide in scope. Various benefit affairs, including motor races and performances of plays, were also organized to add to the public contributions. By the time the drive ended, about $100,000 had been collected.154

That the measures taken to make the Siamese Expeditionary Force 117a national symbol had been successful was demonstrated on June 19, 1918, when the force left Siam. After various ceremonies and departing speeches, the soldiers boarded the troop transports.155 It was very early in the morning, and for “security” reasons the departure of the force had not been made public; so, as the ships went up the river to turn at the Samsen bend, “there was practically no one to be seen along the river banks.” But the soldiers “cheered lustily the whole time while going along the river,” and their cheers woke up the people along the banks. By the time the ships came back down the river the “banks were absolutely full with people, all jetties and landings were crowded to a dangerous point, everybody desired to see and wish ‘bon voyage’ to the brave soldiers, who were going away to take part as representatives of the Siamese Nation in the great war.”156

To mark the first anniversary of Siam’s entry into the war, Vaji­ravudh on July 22, 1918, issued a royal proclamation repeating many of the lofty phrases he had previously used about the great cause in which all the Siamese people were involved. He praised his people for their spirit of unity, their loyalty, their patriotic love of country; these, he said, had been manifested by the troops who had volunteered their lives, by the support everyone was giving to fund drives, and by the devotion of all to the performance of their duties and the maintenance of peace and tranquillity.157

After the arrival of the Siamese Expeditionary Force in France at the end of July 1918, there were periodic favorable reports on the group’s activities. Such news as “… the French general public ex­press much admiration for our soldiers for their smart military bearing and for their discipline”158 was bound to swell the national pride of Thai at home. In Europe, the Siamese minister in Paris made special efforts to ensure that Thai troops were given all due courtesies as full partners in the war effort, were not treated in any way as inferiors, and particularly were not confused with colonial contingents, such as, for example, the Vietnamese labor battalions.159 The arrival of the Siamese motor unit at the front in September was noted in the Thai press, and the French recommendation of the Croix de Guerre for two Thai officers in November was well publicized. On December 17 the King received telegraphic news that Siamese contingents had advanced with the Allied army of occupation into Germany. Vajiravudh’s reply, printed in the local press, said in part: “It was the proudest day in my life when I learnt that my troops had advanced into enemy territory, and the memory of this glorious event will ever live in mind as an incentive to further sacrifice on behalf of my beloved nation and motherland.”160 118

Postwar Celebrations

The end of the war with the proclamation of an armistice on November 11, 1918, occasioned a long series of nationalist outpourings in Siam.

On November 19, 1918, King Vajiravudh issued a Proclamation of Victory. In this proclamation he set aside December 2, the anni­versary of his coronation, as a day of national thanksgiving for the victory that had come in part, at least, as a result of Thai invocation of the Holy Buddhist Trinity and the virtues of Siam’s previous monarchs.161

The December 2 holiday started in the afternoon on the palace grounds with ceremonies in the traditional style: a “First Action” rite was again performed, this time to signify achievement of victory; reverential prayers and invocations for continued aid were offered to the spirits of the departed royal ancestors and to the Buddha.162 After the close of the private ceremonies, the royal party proceeded to the Royal Plaza. There, in a specially constructed pavilion, the King led his people in ceremonies of public thanksgiving. These ceremonies were completely without precedent in Thai history. Thai kings were expected to conduct countless ceremonies for the public; never before, however, had such ceremonies been conducted with the public as participants. On the broad open grounds of the Royal Plaza there gathered government officials, military units, foreign diplomats, “a dense mass of the cosmopolitan people of Bangkok.” At an altar facing this assemblage of thousands Vajiravudh led the thanksgiving rites. A foreign reporter present was deeply moved by the spectacle:

At the outset all knelt—the King, the Princes, the officers of state, the assembled troops, the school children, the people on the plain. It was the greatest moment of the day—a people kneeling in prayer. None could fail to be thrilled by the spectacle. It was where the bare plain held possibilities above the temple …. The people were on their knees some few minutes, and then rose together and proceeded with the service. The chanting of the prayers of thanksgiving … by the great body of the assembled troops was most impressive. The great volume of sound seemed to come in waves ….163

The ceremony closed with the playing of the national anthem, fol­lowed by enthusiastic cheers for the King. As His Majesty left the plaza in his carriage, there were more “hearty cheers of the great multitude, cheers which were taken up and continued along a good part of the road round the Royal Plaza.”164

The success of the day and the public participation were not 119simply happy accidents. The government had wanted a display of unity, and government offices had been given a holiday, people had been urged to decorate their houses with flags, public transportation fares had been reduced by half, free refreshments had been provided—all in an effort to give sign of and substance to national spirit.165

The celebration of the day of national thanksgiving was not con­fined to Bangkok. Provinces were instructed to take part by closing government offices, distributing copies of the King’s royal proclama­tion, displaying flags, and holding their own public ceremonies.166 In the ceremonies at Ayutthaya, closely patterned after those in Bangkok, the King’s portrait was substituted for His Majesty’s person. A “beau­tifully bedecked boat” carrying signs about the victory plied the waterways to bring the thanksgiving message to villagers. About 10,000 people in the city, and many more thousands on the waterways, joined in the festivities.167 Reports from Nakhο̨n Pathom, Lampang, and Lopburi indicate that provincial cooperation was widespread.

The next wave of celebrations, those associated with the return of the Siamese Expeditionary Force units, was prepared for by the screening of films of the force. The films arrived in Bangkok in January 1919, and by March they were being shown to large crowds in the provinces.168

On May 1, 1919, the first returning contingent, consisting of some 340 members of the aviation corps, arrived in Siam. The welcoming arrangements were elaborate: buildings along the Čhaophraya River were decorated; fireworks were set off; the King, officials, troops, and families all greeted the returning soldiers at appointed places. The King gave each of the soldiers a medal commemorating his service in the war. And he addressed the returning members of the expedition­ary force as comrades and as sons who had brought honor and fame to Siam, its monarch, and its people. During the following three days many other functions were held to welcome the soldiers home.169

Shortly before leaving Europe, the remainder of the Siamese Expeditionary Force took part in three gala victory parades: in Paris on July 14, in London on July 19, and in Brussels on July 22. Com­muniques from the Siamese general staff given to the press mentioned how well the Thai troops marched, how proudly the Siamese colors were carried in the streets of Paris, how cordially the Siamese were greeted everywhere.170

In Bangkok it was decided that Siam should time its formal victory celebration to coincide with the arrival of the 800 returning members of the expeditionary force. The celebration started on September 21, 1919, a Sunday, and lasted for three days; September 22 and 23 were 120declared national holidays.171 On the first day the returning members of the expeditionary force were formally received at the Royal Plaza. The ceremonies were led by the King, who, “filled with emotion,” praised the soldiers for their sacrifices to show all the world that Siam was a nation devoted to righteousness. He added that, indeed, it was Siam’s “respect for right which has made us into a Nation, a compact Nation,” composed of people loyal to their sovereign, loyal to the nation, and steadfast in their noble faith. The King proceeded to bestow decorations on fifty-four men; five received medals of the new Order of Rama. The colors of the Motor Transport Company were also given the Order of Rama.172 Among the other highlights of the three days of events were a torchlight procession, parties at the British and French legations, a royal banquet, nightly illuminations, a gymkhana at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, and performances of plays in pavilions put up by various government ministries. Popular enthu­siasm ran high; even before the troops landed, people came down the river in small boats to see them and to cheer them with shouts of victory.173 A newspaper reported that “there was no mistaking the heartiness of the popular welcome.”174 The final day was given over to more somber rites, the interment of the ashes of the nineteen war dead in the base of a special monument then under construction. (Though none of the nineteen had actually died in battle, they were nonetheless regarded as casualties of war.)

Like the day of national thanksgiving, the victory celebration in September was nationwide in scope. The ceremonies and festivities were, however, even more elaborate and apparently involved even more provincial centers.

Another national celebration, which was similar in scope and purpose to those commemorating the end of the war, took place in October 1920 to herald the arrival of the Phra Ruang, the naval vessel purchased in England with the money that had been contributed by the people to the Royal Navy League fund drive. The reception of the Phra Ruang was declared an affair of state. Prince Abhakara had purchased the vessel, a destroyer (at the last moment the British Admiralty had refused to allow the Siamese to purchase the scout cruiser they wanted175), and had captained it back to Siam. On its arrival at Paknam at the mouth of the Čhaophraya River on October 7, the vessel was welcomed by various officials. The vessel, moored in the river, was outlined with electric lights and “made a fine display”; on shore, government buildings were lit up, and each department hosted night-long performances of plays and other entertainments.176

121The Phra Ruang came up to Bangkok on Friday, October 8; its arrival at the capital was the occasion for three days of ceremonies and festivities, including formal reception by the King and a ride by the King on the vessel up and down the river. Sunday, October 10, was the public day, and the throngs of people from Bangkok and the provinces who had made their contributions were allowed to come on board and inspect their purchase. People came by the thousands and demonstrated their delight: “The ship was crowded all day, and any handle that could be turned, or gun made to move, was operated by enthusiastic sightseers. The vessel was garlanded wherever it was possible to hang flowers….”177 To those who made a further con­tribution to the Navy League, a souvenir picture of the Phra Ruang was presented.178

The campaign to enlist popular interest obviously seems to have succeeded. One writer, answering a foreign critic who questioned Siam’s need for a navy at all, commented:

… man does not live by bread alone, nor is any nation made a reality by a cash nexus. One of the aims of this reign has been to bring home to the people that their claim to self-determination involves on their part the duty of self-defence. The gift of the Phra Ruang is one response of the people to that teaching. From that point of view it is surely worth the money paid, and all the significance that is being attached to its arrival.179

As the fitting close to Siam’s involvement in World War I, on July 22, 1921, the fourth anniversary of Siam’s declaration of war, a permanent monument to Siam’s war dead was dedicated. The monu­ment, located in a prominent place near the Royal Plaza, was beflagged with colors of the Allied Powers. All day long, wreaths were placed at the memorial by various sections of the population. The King, foreign diplomats, and some French aviators who were on a formal visit from Indochina also presented wreaths and took part in an official ceremony.180 With the ceremony of 1921, July 22 became a day of national commemoration in Siam.

Celebrations of the military that were, not exclusively associated with the war and Siam’s role in it were also held in the postwar years. The King continually made the point that the war had helped secure Siam’s future, but the future was not without threat; Siam must stay on guard and maintain its military establishment. The King seized every opportunity to dramatize the importance of the armed forces. For example, in November 1921, on the eleventh anniversary of the King’s first coronation, a great two-day military tournament 122was staged featuring displays of the skills of “every branch of the Service” from ancient hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot) combat to the building of a bridge under battle conditions by the army engineers. The tournament even included a mock engagement featuring the “bombing” of a village by the air corps and the dousing of the flames by the fire brigade, whose arrival was greeted with loud cheers by the enthusiastic audience.181 In December 1921, on the occasion of the visit to Siam of Marshal Joffre, who was received with extra­ordinary displays of courtesy and honor, the Siamese military was again shown off “at its best.” Some four thousand troops were assembled for a general inspection, and other activities were scheduled that were calculated to impress the French general with Siamese military strength and proficiency.182

Products of Participation

In the area of foreign relations, there is no question that Siam’s participation in World War I yielded practical results. Since these results were primarily the consequence of diplomacy and only indirectly related to the rising spirit of nationalism, they need not be related in detail here; a brief summary will suffice.

A large step was taken at Versailles. One objective, the formal abrogation of all German treaty rights in Siam, was easily accom­plished. Although Siam had expected no difficulty in gaining “full satisfaction” from the Germans, nonetheless Prince Charoon, the head of Siam’s delegation to Versailles, expressed the belief that the recognition by the powers of Siam’s “full jurisdiction over one of the great European states” augured well for the future: “To have this in black and white signed by all the Allied nations as well as the enemy, is indeed important for the future.”183

With regard to the more difficult goal of revising treaties with other nations in order to rid Siam of the limitations on its fiscal and juridical autonomy, the King’s advice to his delegates at Versailles was to pursue these goals astutely and delicately, “being careful not to make other delegates annoyed or angry, which would lose us our advantage.”184

The Siamese delegates followed Vajiravudh’s instructions, but found only one responsive listener, the American president Woodrow Wilson. After his conference with the Siamese, Wilson wrote the Department of State that he felt “there is a great deal of force in their contentions” and indicated his desire “to go as far as it is prudent and possible … in conforming to their suggestions.”185 The negotia­tions with the United States proceeded rapidly and successfully, and 123by the end of 1920 a new treaty had been negotiated whereby the Americans surrendered all fiscal rights (subject only to most-favored-nation treatment) and all extraterritorial rights (subject only to a five-year option to withdraw cases from Siamese jurisdiction).

The American concessions were real and significant, but there still remained the large task of convincing other nations to follow the same route. And Great Britain, the most powerful Western power in Asia and in Siam, was the power to convince. The British were generous in their praise of Siam and Siam’s war role. And the British minister in Siam assured Vajiravudh that the British delegates at Versailles would be “wholehearted” in their support of Siam. Since the minister was not specific as to what would be supported, the King in his reply came closer to the point: “Siam’s desires will not be really very ambitious and will be confined merely to things that really matter in order to ensure our national freedom and right to live!”186 In an effort to persuade the minister to help, the King added: “I have been called an incorrigible optimist, but somehow I have faith in the honesty of my Allies, especially in my immediate neighbours, who in my opinion must surely have already become convinced of the sincerity of Siam’s desire to live at peace and absolute amity with them.”187

The British seemed willing enough to consider tariff revision favorably, but they were reluctant to renounce extraterritorial rights.188 The British minister to Siam, and British individuals, were critical of Thai courts and opposed to placing British subjects un­conditionally under Thai law. A veritable campaign had been waged in the English-language press since at least mid-1918 about Siamese judicial shortcomings and the continual “poor advertisements of the state of the administration of justice in Siam.”189 In the spring of 1919, while the Versailles meetings were going on, the chief justice of Siam’s highest court, Prince Svasti, was involved in a scandal that resulted finally in his dismissal from the government. Prince Charoon was convinced that the Svasti case constituted a real “handicap” in negotiations with the British.190 One of the Siamese delegates to Versailles, in his conversations with an official of the British Foreign Office on Siam’s hopes for treaty revision, assured the official that Siam would do nothing drastic with its autonomy; he said, also, that the British claim that Siamese courts “do not quite work in good order” represented merely one opinion—an opinion with which he certainly could not concur. The Siamese delegate, in what would appear to have been a considerable departure from the royal in­structions calling for extreme care, made an indirect threat to the 124British by bringing up the Japanese idea of a Monroe Doctrine for Asia, but added: “Siam prefers her old friends and neighbours.”191

In Siam the policy of doing all that was possible to please the British, to win them over with favors, was continued. One remarkable evidence of this policy was the proclamation early in January 1920 of a decree barring all former enemy aliens from reentry into Siam for three years.192 By way of preparing for this policy, which may have reflected the King’s own anti-German bias, Vajiravudh, again using the alias Ramachitti, wrote a bitterly anti-German article entitled “We Don’t Need Lizards.” The article, repeating much of the atrocity propaganda of the Allies, compared the “Huns” to water lizards and declared that Siam already had a surfeit of vile creatures of that sort.193

Despite the blandishments of the Siamese, little progress was made in treaty negotiations for some time. Only two powers, Japan and France, seemed willing to follow the American lead. By 1923 a new treaty on the American model had been negotiated with Japan, and discussions with France along the same lines were well advanced. No progress at all, however, had been made with the British.

The logjam was finally broken in 1924 with the appointment of Francis Bowes Sayre of the Harvard Law School as Adviser in Foreign Affairs. Sayre took the Siamese case directly to the centers of power and decision in Europe, and in a period of nine months succeeded in persuading the ten European states with special rights in Siam to assent to new treaties.194 By August of 1925 he was able to cable King Vajiravudh that “Siam’s complete autonomy is now regained.”195

The achievements of the war in the area of the mind, in stimulating the national unity the King hoped for, are much more difficult to estimate than the achievements in the area of foreign relations. Vajiravudh apparently thought that the results were good. In his birthday speech in 1921, in commenting on the general state of Thai nationalism, he observed that there had been “a progressive realiza­tion” of the consciousness of the Thai people “of the love for their country, of the duties that the individual owes to the State, and of the notion of right and justice for nations,” all of which were tokens of a people “being truly civilized.” He added “… it has become more and more apparent that our people are realizing the importance of the defence of their country.”196

Some foreign observers also noted real effects of the militarist campaigns and of involvement in the war itself in stimulating nation­alism in Siam. Most conscious of change were the French in Indochina, who consistently throughout the reign were most sensitive to Thai 125nationalism as the source of a possible threat to the French colony. The Saigon Opinion in early 1921 commented:

The Siamese nation is at an interesting stage of its evolution. In it, as in many others, the great War has infused a new ardour, a powerful breath of national feeling, a certain degree of combativeness in order to reach the level of civilisation of the great Western Powers.

The article went on to speak of the “awakening of this small nation” and “the fever which now burns the Siamese people,” who had come to realize “that a people cannot escape defeat and humiliation unless it has the energy indispensable for the defence of its own interests.”197

The French writer in Indochina may have somewhat exaggerated the strength of Siamese national spirit, but it can hardly be doubted that some change along the lines of his observations occurred as a result of Siam’s participation in World War I.


1. E. Alexander Powell, Where the Strange Trails Go Down (New York: Scribner’s, 1921), p. 209.

2. Ibid., p. 241. 290

3. William, p. 37.

4. Lyman Bryson, “Imperialism at Home,” Atlantic Monthly 134 (De­cember 1924), 852.

5. As quoted in NA 223/18, draft of a letter by the King to Prince Charoon, June 17, 1918.

6. Singapore Free Press, as quoted in BT, January 18, 1921.

7. NA 223, Charoon to King, November 20, 1919.

8. John Nelson Mills, “Siam, the Last Stand of Buddhism,” Missionary Review of the World 46 (May 1923): 357.

9. Siamese Abuses in Patani (London: Wightman, 1923), 17 pp.

10. “Kansadet čhak phranakhο̨n,” in Phraratchaniphon thi naru, pp. 170–178.

11. See treaty in Pensri Duke, Les Relations entre la France et la Thailande (Bangkok: Chalermnit, 1962), pp. 294–295.

12. NA 29, Phraya Kalyan to Phraya Sri, April 21, 1911.

13. Opinion (Saigon), August 12, 1912, as quoted in BT, August 27, 1912.

14. Articles from Courrier d’Haiphong quoted in BT, January 28 and February 25, 1914.

15. NA 232, report on the Northeast, Chakrabongs to King, October 15, 1915; NA 29/21, Phraya Kalyan, memorandum of February 15, 1915; NA 91/17, Prince Bovaradej to King, December 7, 1919, and King’s reply, De­cember 17, 1919.

16. NA 29/21, royal order of January 8, 1915. Vietnamese revolutionaries were also extradited; see BT, September 19, 1913.

17. BT, February 13, 1912, reporting on an article in the Saigon Opinion.

18. See Wyatt, p. 256.

19. NA 117, memoranda and letters, April 7, April 12, April 24, May 17, and May 19, 1911.

20. NA 29/50, memorandum of Lefèvre-Pontalis, July 25, 1917.

21. NA 29/50, King to Lefèvre-Pontalis, August 8, 1917.

22. Ibid.

23. NA 41/6, King to Phraya Phiphat, June 13, 1911.

24. NA 223/18, King to Prince Charoon, June 17, 1918. See also BT, March 30, 1916.

25. Graham, vol. 1: 383.

26. NA 223/18, Prince Charoon to King, September 26, 1918.

27. NA 223/18, King to Charoon, June 17, 1918. The King believed that the indiscreet comments the Frenchman had made to his Russian colleague, subsequently published by the communist government in Russia, prompted his recall. Said the King, the French would have to have seen “the advisability of withdrawing him, since they must surely have felt that their representative 291was scarcely adding to the dignity of France in the eyes of the Siamese in behaving so much like a ridiculous buffoon!”

28. NA 133, Chakrabongs to King, June 3, 1910.

29. NA 29, Prince Devawongse to Phraya Kalyan, May 12, 1912. See also Prince Devawongse to French chargé, June 4, 1912.

30. Although there seems to have been little immediate fear of the Japan­ese, there certainly was distrust of long-range Japanese intentions. Japanese advisers had been hired for only a brief period; the reason they ceased being employed, said the King obliquely, was that “we ourselves began to grow apprehensive” (NA 223/18, King to Prince Charoon, June 17, 1918). Rumors of Japan’s expanding interest in southern Asia, occasionally relayed by the British, continually reached Siam. One article by a Japanese journalist (Pekin Daily News, January 14, 1916) suggesting that Japan should take over Java and Sumatra and assume the burden of leading the Malayan races to civilization, earned the King’s comment that this was no news; such stories of Japanese ambitions had been circulating in Siam for a long time. The King classified the Japanese, despite their paper alliance with Britain, as “the Germans of the East” (NA 10/28, King to Prince Devawongse, February 11, 1916). The most serious Japanese effort to play politics in Siam came in 1919, when a Japanese adviser to the steamship line Yamashita and Company secretly approached the Siamese government with a plan to help Siam form a shipping company in order to break the British trade monopoly. The adviser said that Siamese refusal would entail loss of sympathy of Japan’s most influential class, whereas acceptance would bring Japanese surrender of extraterritorial rights in Siam (see NA 10/28, Prince Kitiyakara to King, September 2, 1919).

31. Of the nineteen sons sent to Europe, at least ten received military training: Chira, Abhakara, Vajiravudh, Paribatra, Purachatra, Chakrabongs, Vudhijai, Mahidol, Chudadhuj, and Prajadhipok.

32. See BT, December 13, 1910; Natthawutti Sutthisongkhram, Phrakiat prawat khο̨ng čhο̨mphonru̓a čhο̨mphon somdet čhaofa kromphra nakhο̨n sawan wο̨raphinit (Bangkok: Krom Phaenthi Sathan, 1965), pp. 560–563. A political motive of these actions may have been to bring to the fore the young Princes Chira and Paribatra, both brothers of the King, and to remove Prince Bhanurangsi, the King’s uncle, from active leadership of the armed forces.

33. BT, December 8, 1911.

34. Ibid., July 28, 1914.

35. Ibid., January 25 and June 13, 1912; May 3, August 23, December 29, and December 30, 1913; January 14 and February 23, 1914; Bangkok Daily Mail‚ April 20 and 22, 1914; BT, June 24 and November 16, 17, 24, and 25, 1921.

36. Čhotmaihetraiwan, p. 112. 292

37. BT, July 24, 1920, quoting from H. Cucherousset’s article in l’Éveil Économique de l’Indochine.

38. BT, April 5, 1920, quoting from the Saigon Opinion; BT, April 14, 1920.

39. Ibid., April 9, July 2, July 15, November 26, and December 2, 1920; January 19, October 1, October 18, and November 8, 1921.

40. Ibid., August 12, 1920.

41. Kansongkhram pο̨m khai prachit (Bangkok: Sophon, 1916). See BT, October 27, 1916.

42. From Wiwaha phra samut, p. 86.

43. NA 223/18, King to Prince Charoon, June 17, 1918.

44. “Mu̓ang thai čhong tu̓n thoet,” p. 4.

45. Speech of June 13, 1911, Plukčhai su̓apa, p. 32.

46. Ibid., pp. 33–34.

47. NA 210/1, speech of January 1, 1915.

48. Mit thae (n.p., n.d.), p. 2.

49. Nangsu̓ an lakhο̨nphut ru̓ang “Sia sala” (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1955), p. 82.

50. Coup d’état, p. 32.

51. A poem based on Shakespeare’s “Cowards die many times before their deaths,” in Dusit samit 2, no. 16 (1919): 39–40.

52. BT, February 14, 1914; Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, p. 12.

53. Article written under the pseudonym Lekhanukan in Thawipanya, no. 3 (June 1904), 1–14.

54. A Siam Miscellany, p. 63.

55. Speech of August 14, 1915, in Ru̓ang thetsana su̓apa, pp. 205–206.

56. BT, August 13, 1913. The Prince also wrote a long, detailed, and exceedingly well-reasoned article on the principles and practices of con­scripted armies, going back to the levée en masse of revolutionary France. The purpose of the article was to justify popular conscription and to point to the defects in the Siamese law of 1905. See “Phičharana phraratchabanyat laksana ken thahan p.s. 2448,” in Samutthasan 2 (February 1915): 35–72.

57. NA 109, Notice of Changes in Conscription Law, December 27, 1910; NA 128/8, Minister of War to Prince Pravitra, December 14, 1911; BT, March 6 and 8, 1911; February 6, 1912.

58. BT, August 16, 1913.

59. Ibid., June 29, 1917. RKB 34, June 18, 1917, pp. 259–303.

60. Prince Chakrabongs, quoted in BT, August 16, 1913.

61. Prince Chakrabongs, quoted in BT, November 3, 1913.

62. BT‚ August 20, 1913.

63. Plukčhai su̓apa, p. 7. The device was not new with the King; it 293presumably traces back to a proverb in the collection of the “Proverbs of Phra Ruang,” popularly attributed to thirteenth-century King Ramkham­haeng of Sukhothai. The ancient proverb read: “Being a freeman [Thai], do not associate with slaves.” See G. E. Gerini, “On Siamese Proverbs and Idiomatic Expressions‚” Journal of the Siam Society 1 (1904): 53.

64. Plukčhai su̓apa, May 26, 1911, pp. 7–8.

65. The original version was slightly longer; see Maha Dhep Kasatarasamuha, Su̓apa (Bangkok: Mahamakut, 1968), pp. 38–39 for the longer version and p. 41 for the shorter version. The “official” English translation appeared in “The Pageant of Wild Tiger Traditions” program, reprinted in Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1953), p. 48. The translation given here appeared in Prince William’s book, p. 140; where Prince William obtained it is not known.

66. Speech to Wild Tigers, June 6, 1911, in Plukčhai su̓apa, pp. 19–20.

67. “Sadaeng khunnanukhun,” in Phraratchaniphon bang ru̓ang, p. 28; originally given as a speech to civil and military officials on May 25, 1918.

68. Bot lakhο̨nphut ru̓ang huačhai nakrop (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1950), p. 72.

69. Speech to Wild Tigers, December 5, 1914, in Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, pp. 31–32.

70. RKB 31, August 6, 1914, pp. 316–317; BT, August 10, 1914.

71. In a diary entry for early 1915 the King noted: “I intend to make the greatest possible effort to preserve neutrality.” See Čhotmaihetraiwan, p. 165.

72. NA 1414, August 26, September 9, and November 21, 1914. Speech of November 21 also in Samutthasan 1 (January 1915): 62–69.

73. BT, August 15, 1914; Thai original in Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, pp. 15–20.

74. BT, January 2, 1917; Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, p. 198.

75. NA 2/2, Devawongse to Traidos, August 2, 1914. Prince Mahidol regarded his withdrawal from the German navy as “contrary to my military honor” (NA 2/2, telegram from Mahidol to Paribatra, July 31, 1914); the King’s rejoinder was that he must withdraw, for “I have also my honour as Sovereign to think of” (NA 2/2, King to Traidos, around August 2, 1914).

76. NA 223, letter from a German mariner’s wife, March 30, 1916, printed in Tägliche Rundschau, March 11, 1917, and sent to Siam by Prince Traidos.

77. BT, June 7, 1915; April 16, 1917.

78. Ibid., August 15, 1914; Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, pp. 18, 19.

79. BT, August 21, 1915.

80. It is not clear where the inspiration for this idea came from. Certainly public subscriptions for the war effort were in the air. See BT, October 27, 1914: “If we mistake not the people of Sweden not long since presented 294their king with a warship, and at the present moment a great many countries are providing striking examples of what can be accomplished in the way of raising money by voluntary effort under the same stimulus of patriotism.” In a speech of November 21, 1914, Čhaophraya Yommarat also speaks of such subscription efforts in foreign countries; see Samutthasan 1 (January 1915): 66.

81. An indication of the King’s literary energy on these subjects is the fact that thirty-seven titles by the King appeared in Samutthasan, the Navy League’s monthly journal, in the first year alone.

82. See King’s letter of November 5, 1914, to the President of the Navy League (BT, November 6, 1914) and the president’s reply of November 7, 1914 (BT, November 9, 1914); Thai texts in Samutthasan 1 (January 1915): 15–20.

83. Aside from the circumstantial evidence of the King’s authorship, one of the original sponsors of the cruiser fund drive confirmed in an interview that the King indeed was the author of the drive and chose the members of the “sponsoring” committee.

84. “Khο̨ chuan than pen malaeng wi,” Samutthasan 13 (January 1916): 14–27.

85. “He ru̓a yuk mai,” Samutthasan 2 (February 1915): 32–33.

86. Wiwaha phra samut, p. 158; see also references to navies and the Royal Navy League on pp. 1–2, 160, 161.

87. “Prayot khο̨ng ru̓arop tang tang‚” Samutthasan 1 (January 1915): 96–104.

88. “Chaiyo,” Samutthasan 1 (January 1915): 87–88.

89. BT, January 4, 1915; Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 117–118.

90. BT, December 31, 1914.

91. Ibid., March 31, 1916.

92. Samutthasan 12 (December 1915): 62–64.

93. Ibid., pp. 28, 31–37.

94. Ibid., 1 (January 1915): 80.

95. “Chaiyo‚” pp. 83–92. “Chaiyo!” is the Thai “Hurrah!”; see discussion in chapter 6.

96. Mahatama (Bangkok: Aksο̨nnit, n.d.), p. 132.

97. Ibid., pp. 134–135.

98. “Khο̨ chuan than pen malaeng wi,” p. 15.

99. BT, December 31, 1914; January 6, 1915. See photograph in Samut­thasan 2 (February 1915), facing p. 32.

100. Samutthasan 3 (March 1915): 5. Other advertisements appeared in BT, Dusit samit, and Nangsu̓phim thai. 295

101. “Khο̨ chuan than pen malaeng wi,” pp. 25–26.

102. BT, January 6, 1916.

103. “Kan čhamlο̨ng yut thang ru̓a‚” Samutthasan 15 (March 1916): 1–26.

104. See Amorn, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhan ru̓ang hetphon, pp. 9–14; O-phat Sewikun, Thai kap songkhram lok khrang thi 1 (Bangkok: Kasembannakit, 1968), pp. 7–10.

105. In his diary for March 1915, Vajiravudh made clear the necessity of not provoking his imperial neighbors. See Čhotmaihetraiwan, p. 165.

106. NA 139. See also BT, December 28, 1914, and NA 223/1, “Phrara­chathibai,” May 28, 1917, in which the King mentions that at various times the British in Singapore, the French in Saigon, and the Germans in Bangkok all protested at signs of Siam’s departure from neutrality.

107. NA 117/43, Prince Devawongse to Dering, August 29, 1916.

108. BT, March 25 and 27, April 13, 15, 19, 20, and 25, and August 1 and 14, 1916.

109. NA 209/2, Phraya Maha-amat to Governor of Bandο̨n, March 3, 1915; NA 209, Dering to Prince Devawongse, August 22, 1916, and Deva­wongse to Dering, September 6, 1916.

110. New York Times, November 30, 1915; BT, January 26, 1916; BT, April 24 and July 19, 1917; London Times, July 24, 1917; BT, July 31, 1917.

111. BT, August 14, 1916, citing the Rangoon Times.

112. NA 223/1, “Phrarachathibai,” May 28, 1917.

113. Ibid.

114. Samutthasan 8 (August 1915): 69–111.

115. Ibid., 9 (September 1915): 81–112.

116. Amorn, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhan ru̓ang hetphon, pp. 34–35.

117. NA 223/1.

118. The telegrams dealing with these communications are translated in BT, April 30, 1917.

119. RKB 34, April 12, 1917, p. 19; BT, April 16, 1917; Nangsu̓phim thai, April 16, 1917.

120. NA 223/1, Prince Devawongse, secret memorandum on views con­cerning Siam’s entry into the war, May 25, 1917.

121. At the end of May, Prince Chakrabongs was vacationing at his seashore home at Hua Hin. He spoke to the King there when Vajiravudh passed through on May 21. See BT, May 23, 1917.

122. NA 223/18, King to Prince Charoon, June 17, 1918.

123. NA 223/1, “Phrarachathibai,” May 28, 1917.

124. NA 223, report of the Council of Ministers meeting of May 28, 1917. Present at the meeting were Prince Bhanurangsi (Inspector-General of All 296His Majesty’s Forces), Prince Devawongse (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Prince Kitiyakara (Minister of Finance), Čhaophraya Thamma (Minister of the Royal Household), Čhaophraya Wongsa (Minister of Communications), Čhaophraya Bο̨din (Minister of War), Čhaophraya Aphairacha (Minister of Justice), Čhaophraya Surasi (Minister of the Interior), and Phraya Thammasak (Minister of Religious Affairs and Education). Not in Bangkok for the meeting were Prince Chakrabongs (Chief of General Staff), Prince Paribatra (Minister of Marine), and Prince Nares (Keeper of the Privy Seal). Absent for illness were Prince Rabi (Minister of Agriculture) and Čhaophraya Yommarat (Minister of Local Government). In the further meetings of the council on June 1, 4, 11, and 18 only two members, Princes Rabi and Paribatra, were consistently absent. In the case of Paribatra, German-educated and reputed to be pro-German, the absence may have been a deliberate expression of disapproval of the decisions being taken.

125. NA 223, Chakrabongs to King, May 29, 1917.

126. See NA 223, telegram from King to Prince Chakrabongs, May 31, 1917.

127. NA 223, report of the Council of Ministers meeting of June 1, 1917.

128. Ibid.; NA 223, royal statement at the Council of Ministers meeting concerning the policy of dismissing Germans from the government, June 1, 1917.

129. The King said to his ministers on May 28, “I have my opinions” and “I have not tried to suppress them.” In context, these remarks must refer to his pro-war views. See NA 223/1, “Phrarachathibai.”

130. NA 223, report of the Council of Ministers meeting of June 18, 1917.

131. It is difficult to prove how well known the pen name Ramachitti was at the time. But, aside from stylistic “give-aways,” an alert reader could probably have deduced the royal identity from the word Ramachitti itself, since the name means “the mind of Rama” and “Rama” was closely identified with the royal person in Siam.

132. Reprinted in Samutthasan 32 (August 1917): 96–140, and 33 (Septem­ber 1917): 30–75. Translated into English under the title “Might Is Right” (n.p., n.d. [probably 1917]), 97 pp. At the start Ramachitti claimed he had taken up “an uncompromisingly anti-German attitude” since the Great War began, a statement that has some rhetorical power but is not borne out by the record.

133. “Might Is Right,” p. 95.

134. Ibid., p. 97.

135. RKB 34, July 22, 1917, pp. 333–340; BT, July 22, 1917.

136. Amorn, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhanru̓ang hetphon, pp. 82–96; O-phat, pp. 55–65; Phraya Bamrung Ratchabο̨riphan, “Phraratchaphithi pathomkam,” Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1969), pp. 231–235. Belief that the ceremony was more than symbolic is indicated by Phraya Bamrung, who 297comments that, although men of science might scoff, in fact the fortunes of the Allied forces on the Western front began to improve after the ceremony was performed.

137. Quoted in BT, September 19, 1917. See also Amorn, Phraratchaka­raniyakit samkhan ru̓ang hetphon, pp. 115–118.

138. BT, January 4, 1918.

139. NA 223, report of the meeting of the Council of Ministers, August 18, 1917; Dering to Devawongse, August 17, 1917. Several documents in NA 35/49 deal with the discussions and negotiations pertaining to the disposition of the German ships.

140. NA 223, “Alien Enemies and Their Internment‚” no date, no ad­dressee. Two ships left Bangkok with the prisoners on February 12, 1918.

141. Clogs on Our Wheels (Bangkok: Siam Observer, 1915), pp. 73–74.

142. BT, July 23, 1917.

143. New York Times, July 24, 1917.

144. BT, January 3, 1918.

145. NA 223, verbal note to London and Paris, July 26, 1917.

146. NA 223, Prince Charoon to King (in English), July 24, 1917.

147. NA 223/18, Charoon to King, December 7, 1917.

148. NA 223/13, Charoon to Devawongse, September 1, 1917; Chakra­bongs to Phraya Buri, September 13, 1917; note of King around September 13, 1917.

149. BT, December 20, 21, and 22, 1917; Phraya yu̓n chingcha p.s. 2460 (Bangkok: Hang Hunsuan Čhamkat Siwaphο̨n, 1962).

150. BT, January 12, 1918.

151. RKB 35, July 22, 1918, pp. 169–182; BT, July 23, 1918.

152. NA 223. See also O-phat, pp. 83–84.

153. NA 223, King to Phraya Phichai, May 31, 1918.

154. See BT, October 19 and 26, 1917; July 6 and September 23, 1918; September 15, 1919.

155. O-phat, p. 88, contains a speech by Prince Chakrabongs to the troops reminding them that “the honor of the Thai nation rests in your hands.”

156. BT, August 6, 1918.

157. Ibid., July 23, 1918.

158. Ibid., August 26, 1918.

159. NA 223/18, Charoon to King, August 14, 1918. To ensure that Thai troops would warrant good treatment, special orders were issued to the troops at the front. They were advised to be friendly and helpful to French peasants; the Thai proverb “When staying at someone’s house, don’t just watch him cut the grass” was cited as a guide to behavior. See O-phat, pp. 168–173. 298

160. BT, December 17, 1918; O-phat, pp. 215–216.

161. Royal Proclamation on the Occasion of the Great Victory of the Allies, November 19, 1918, in BT, November 19, 1918.

162. BT, December 3, 1918; Amorn, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhan… ru̓ang hetphon, p. 132.

163. BT, December 3, 1918.

164. Ibid.

165. O-phat, pp. 148–149; BT, November 19, 1918.

166. NA 223, Governor of Lopburi to Čhaophraya Surasi, December 5, 1918.

167. BT, December 6, 1918.

168. BT, January 22, January 24, January 28, and April 12, 1919.

169. Ibid., May 1 and 5, 1919.

170. Ibid., July 15, 18, 21, 28, 30, and 31, 1919.

171. Ibid., August 28, 1919.

172. Ibid., September 24, 1919; O-phat, pp. 282–283.

173. O-phat, p. 278.

174. BT, September 24, 1919.

175. Ibid., June 24, 1920.

176. Ibid., October 8, 1920.

177. Ibid., October 11, 1920.

178. Samutthasan 73 (January 1921): 124.

179. BT, October 11, 1920.

180. O-phat, pp. 302–305; BT, July 21, 1921.

181. BT, November 14, 1921.

182. Ibid., December 27, 28, 29, and 30, 1921.

183. NA 54/16, Charoon to King, May 8, 1919.

184. King’s instructions to the special ministers plenipotentiary, in Amorn, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhan ru̓ang hetphon, p. 135.

185. Wilson to Polk, February 27, 1920, quoted in Victor Purcell, “The Relinquishment by the United States of Extraterritoriality in Siam,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Malayan Branch 37 (1964): 118.

186. NA 54/16, King to Dering, November 26, 1918.

187. Ibid.

188. NA 54/16, Charoon to King, March 22, 1919.

189. See BT, August 16, 19, 28, and 30, September 1 and 3, and December 31, 1918; January 3, 1919.

190. NA 54/16, Charoon to King, May 8, 1919.

191. NA 54/16, memorandum by Phraya Bibadh Kosha, London, March 26, 2991919. For Japan’s espousal of the role of champion of “Asia for the Asiatics,” see BT, April 28, 1920. There are some indications that the Siamese may have been considering Japan as a counterweight to Britain; King Vajiravudh, for example, at one time planned to make a state visit to Japan in November 1920 (see BT, February 7 and April 28, 1920). In general, however, Siamese foreign policy continued to reflect the view, as expressed by Prince Charoon, that “the English will be masters of the World” and that “We, a small country on her borders are bound to be drawn closer into her orb.” Charoon argued that there was no power “sufficiently strong to counteract the centrifugal force” of Britain. France, he wrote, was too weak, and the only other alternatives were the United States, whose interest was doubtful, and Japan. Charoon concluded, interestingly: “Of the two I need hardly say which would be preferable.” See NA 54/16, Charoon to King, October 7, 1919.

192. BT, January 19, 1920; London Times, January 23, 1920.

193. “Mai tο̨ngkan hia,” Dusit samit 2, no. 16 (1919): 65–67.

194. Sayre, Passing of Extraterritoriality.

195. Francis Bowes Sayre, Glad Adventure (New York: Macmillan, 1957), p. 122.

196. Birthday speech of 1921 in BT, January 4, 1921, and Phraratchadam­rat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 247–255.

197. As quoted in BT, January 4, 1921.

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