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Nationalism in Siam under King Vajiravudh was riddled with paradoxes—as it probably has been in all places and in all times, for nationalism is essentially a phenomenon of the emotions rather than of reason. A population stirred to loyalty to the state is the goal, and the ways to that goal are various and often seemingly incompatible. A nationalistic people needs to be proud of its nation. And the elements of that pride must, in large part at least, be universals, that is to say, elements widely agreed upon as desirable throughout the world. A nationalistic people must feel that it excels in significant ways, that what it excels in—an empire on which the sun never sets, an ability to tame and populate a wilderness, a refine­ment in the arts and culture—elicits the praise and envy of other peoples. In addition to universals, a nationalistic people may focus its pride on qualities that are unique, that no other people considers noteworthy or worthwhile. But an exclusive diet of the special is an austere diet little apt to satisfy nationalistic appetites. Nationalism characteristically has fed on both the universal and the particular.

127And so with the new and the old. Since nationalism is a modern phenomenon, its tokens have taken modern forms. Excellence or preeminence in the desiderata of the industrial age has been the goal. Miles of railroad lines, gross production of coal and iron, numbers of cotton mills, total tonnage of merchant ships, firepower of armies are the criteria for pride. But nationalism need not consist entirely of the new. The old also has its place. The new tends to equate with the universal; the old, with the unique.

In developing a nationalistic program for Siam, King Vajiravudh had to include the universal and the new, to which he could also add the unique and the old. The former will be considered in this chapter; the latter, in chapter 8.

In the fields of the widely acknowledged new sources of national pride, Siam could hardly hope for preeminence. For these fields were virtually all pioneered by Western nations; the standards of value of the modern world were Western values, arising out of the context of centuries-long development in Western culture. They were values that had been forged in the blast furnaces of the Industrial Revolution into the constituents of unprecedented wealth and power. The best that Siam could hope for in these fields was some progress, some significant advances that would win the nation respect.

And so Siam under Vajiravudh built railroad lines and telegraph lines, constructed roads and bridges, improved ports, established military and civil aviation. The modest program of technological advance started by King Chulalongkorn was continued and expanded by Vajiravudh. Whenever possible—as, for example, in the field of aviation—maximum capital was made of modern advances for nation­alistic purposes.

The use of the modern Thai military as a point for new pride is clear. Above and beyond the belief in the practical utility of the armed forces as armed forces, King Vajiravudh obviously saw the army, the navy, and, indeed, the Wild Tigers and Boy Scouts as proud emblems of Siam’s growing modernity. With due allowance made for Siam’s size, its military might, said Vajiravudh, was approaching equality with the West.

The ultimate in national pride, the King implied, would come from real power defined in Western terms of economic and military strength. Power produced pride. But it was also true—and here the King spoke unequivocally—that pride produced power. The road to power for a small, underdeveloped, and ununified country such as Siam was extremely long and lonely. Such a road could not be traversed without stamina and spirit. It could not be traversed without 128a national will. So, while power should be pursued in a practical way with whatever means were at hand, the national will also needed development. Development of a national will would bring real power much faster. And development of a national will, further, would be easier to accomplish, would require at least less capital if not less energy. Such seems to have been the pattern of Vajiravudh’s conscious and unconscious thought.

The outstanding instances of the Westernization programs initi­ated by Vajiravudh, outside of the military, belong predominantly to the category of the accomplishable, the attainable. They were often programs for introducing symbols of Westernization. Even though the new elements were little more than symbols, they could win foreign praise, they could raise internal morale, and they could lead to equation—in a limited way—with the West. Perhaps even, miracle of miracles, the “symbol” might prove in the end to be the “secret.” The unknown wellsprings of the mysterious West might serendipi­tously be found to lie, for example, in the Western predilection for surnames.


In traditional Siam, as in the rest of South and Southeast Asia, sur­names were unknown. For most people the only appellation was the given name. There was a wealth of such names.1 Some were pure Thai words for various fruits and flowers,2 personal characteristics, and the like. Less frequently, Sanskrit or Pali words were used. Many of the latter had grandiloquent or religious meanings—for example, “peerless,” “merit,” “superb.”

It can be assumed that, for purposes of personal identification, the Thai in traditional times were well served by given names. Society in those times was village oriented, and there was little population movement. Further, Siam lacked social organizations such as the clan, for which in many societies special means of organizational identi­fication have been devised. The preponderance of outside cultural influences from India, where surnames are not used, rather than from China, where the names of ancient progenitors have long been passed on from generation to generation,3 reinforced the habit of reliance on given names and enriched the vocabulary from which such names could be chosen.

Not for all individuals in traditional Siam, however, did identifi­cation rest on personal names alone. People who “counted” in tradi­tional society—that is, the elite, who were either members of the royal 129family or appointed nobles—were identified by an elaborate system of titles made up of ranks and conferred names. These titles functioned in much the same way as personal names. A commoner born as Sing (“Lion”) could rise in the bureaucracy to the appointed rank of čhaophraya with the specific conferred name Bο̨dintharadecha. His rank and conferred name (Čhaophraya Bο̨dintharadecha), rather than his given personal name, would be the name used for him. Similar ranks and conferred names existed for members of the royal family. The conferred name usually indicated in some way the individual’s duties or functions, and when a person was promoted to a new rank, he was usually given a new conferred name as well. At any given time no two individuals would ever bear the same title; identification of members of the elite, from lesser clerks to high ministers of govern­ment, was thus precise and unequivocal. The use of such a system of titles deemphasized the individual, since an individual, as he rose in the bureaucracy, would be known by different names at different stages of his career.

A clue to Vajiravudh’s interest in the subject of name reform was provided by an essay he wrote in 1906. The then Prince, writing under a pen name, gave essentially practical reasons for favoring surnames: surnames would be a great convenience in precisely iden­tifying people and showing their family background.4

This early trial balloon was followed in later years by some favorable editorials in the press on the subject of surnames. There is no doubt that the English-language press, at least, favored reform in the Siamese name system. It even gave nationalistic reasons for such a reform. One correspondent in 1910 suggested that surnames indeed constituted “one of the signs by which one may judge of the progress of civilization in a people” and that in this area Siamese civilization could stand improvement.5 A year after Vajiravudh came to the throne an editorial in the Bangkok Times recommended adop­tion of family names as a means for placing more emphasis on the individual and his family connection and thus advancing “the patriotic spirit which is moving the country today.”6

The decree announcing the awarding of surnames was issued—with very little prior notice of its coming—on March 22, 1913.7 It thus was an early act of the King, coming only two years and four months after the start of the reign. The preamble of the decree gave only a brief statement of the reasons for its enactment. It said that the King wished to ensure that government records of births, mar­riages, and deaths would be clear and reliable and that identification 130of individuals and their line of descent would be free from possible error. These goals he believed would be achieved by the universal adoption of surnames in the state.

The obvious benefit of surnames, cited by various Thai authors,8 was their great utility in personal identification. The growth in population had led to a great multiplication of repetitions of given names. One commune might have ten people named Di; how could the good Di be told from the bad one?9 Clearly this was a problem for society as a whole, and most particularly for government. A government that was anxious to build its central power needed to establish a close connection with its people, and a close connection required precise identification of individuals.

A fuller explanation of the social utility of surnames has been given by a former royal official. He cites three main functions of surnames. First, surnames are the basis for the continuation of a pa­ternal line of descent. Second, surnames promote family identity, a love and friendship that extends from family members of high rank down to those of low position. And, third, surnames are a good attri­bute of people no matter what their race or lineage because the family name is “like a flag of victory promoting the pride of people who are members of the family.” The family name is something family members are spurred on to protect, to keep unblemished, to glorify by individual achievements and beneficial intrafamilial contacts.10

The social value of surnames was clearly spelled out by King Vajiravudh himself. In his birthday speech of January 1914, he succinctly summed up the specific social aims of the new law: “It is hoped that this law will prove a social benefit and an aid in the maintenance of family tradition. It will also serve as an incentive to every one to uphold not only personal honour but the honour of the family as well.”11 In an essay, he explained the more far-reaching results that he hoped for. The cohesion of the family, the growth of love and respect along family lines, the proper governance of a family —all of which, he said, would be promoted by the use of surnames—would be means for instilling respect for government. A family, the King stated, is bound together by love. Younger members of the family respect their elders because they know that their elders act only for the benefit of the family as a whole. The strengthening of such attitudes on the family level could not help but find expression in attitudes toward government. Inculcation of love in the family would inevitably promote inculcation of love toward the head of the government of the nation.12

Administrative and social usefulness were arguments for the 131surname decree, but, as with so many of the King’s actions, inter­national prestige was never far from the King’s mind. Vajiravudh’s syllogistic reasoning is clear: Western countries were progressive; Western countries had surnames; Thailand, to be progressive, must also have surnames. The King came closest to stating the equation that surnames equal progress in an essay comparing surnames with clan names.13 He wrote: “Now we have surnames and it can be said that we have caught up with people who are regarded as civilized.”

The King’s essay comparing surnames with clan names demon­strated two important aspects of the King’s nationalism: first, his desire to equate the Thai with Westerners; second, his desire to distinguish the Thai from the Chinese and to prove that the Thai were ahead of their one-time-superior neighbors in the march toward progress. Clans, the King stated, marked an early stage in human progress and arose out of the need for primitive groups in a Hobbesian world to protect themselves. Such was the nature of the Scottish clan, the Chinese sae,14 the American Indian totem. But the march of pro­gress had moved beyond the clan to the larger unit of the nation. And in the nation clans were a disruptive force that had to be eliminated. “Nations,” the King stated, “that have become civilized in the modern sense, even if they traditionally used clan names from ancient times, have changed to the use of surnames.”15 Only the Chinese, as a nation in the modern world, still clung to the use of “the old-fashioned clan names.” The King admitted that in earlier times the Chinese had been more advanced than the Thai and that the Thai, for this reason, had looked up to the Chinese, had been glad to learn from the Chinese.16 But times had changed. The Chinese had grown self-satisfied, had fallen behind in the advance of civilization, were deter­minedly holding on to customs now out of date. The Thai, the King implied, must turn to new leaders. And, in the matter of surnames, by so doing Siam had “succeeded in surpassing its neighbor which still has no surnames but only the clan names that were their ancient custom.”17 The Thai surnames, then, had nothing to do with Chinese clan names, and the King showed considerable irritation with those whose ignorance or superficial knowledge or sympathy with the Chinese led them to suppose that the royal decree on surnames was inspired by the outmoded Chinese custom.18 Such people should certainly realize that the King was perceptive enough to know better.19

The decree of March 22, 1913, was a clear document of twenty articles that set forth the details of the law. Its main provisions were as follows: Surnames were to be adopted by all Thai. The surname was to be the permanent name of the family and was to be handed 132down in the male line. A married woman was to bear her husband’s surname. Neither given name nor surname was to be changed without securing prior permission from the district (amphoe) official The family head, that is, the oldest living male of a family, was to choose the family name. This name had to be a suitable one: it must be in keeping with the person’s position (certain names were to be re­stricted to royalty or to the nobility and were not to be used by commoners); it should not have coarse connotations; it must not require more than ten letters to write; it must not duplicate any other surname in a district or neighboring district. District officials were to help the people choose surnames, and, to this end, circulars were to be issued listing possible names. Names were to be registered in the district office, and a certificate of registration was to be awarded the family head. There was to be no charge for this registration. The decree was to become law on July 1, 1913, and six months thereafter all heads of families were to have complied by registering a name with the district office. At the end of the six-month period no official document was to be prepared that did not set down the surname as well as the given name of individuals mentioned in the document.

The decree of March 1913 constituted the basic law, but there were elaborations in the writings and actions of the King. The surname idea was Vajiravudh’s; it became one of his pet projects. He could not restrain himself—as in so many other of his favorite projects—from getting personally involved in the detailed working out of the idea. He developed systems for differentiating social classes by means of the surnames. He decided how names should be transliterated into Roman letters. He personally devised and awarded many names for members of his court.

Surnames, the King had early decided, were not to be chosen at random or haphazardly. The family name should be a token of family pride, and every effort should be made to find as root for the name some distinguished or noteworthy progenitor. Certain names were reserved for high princes. These names were composed of elements derived from an ancestor’s name to which was added na Krungthep (“of Bangkok”).20 High provincial officials who stemmed from regional hereditary princely families were surnamed na plus the name of the locality—for example, na Chiangmai and na Songkhla. Members of the nobility were frequently given names pointing to the official position the family held.

The King freely offered his services to members of the court who wanted personal royal attention in devising a proper surname. The 133petitioner was urged to supply the King with information on his parentage, his family’s usual occupation, and the like. Vajiravudh then meticulously set to work. Often he chose an ancestor’s given name, a place name, or an occupation as the base for the surname. If the King thought the root word he had settled on was too homely, he drew on his fund of knowledge of Pali and Sanskrit and brought forth the name in more resplendent form. Someone whose family had been associated with horses or the cavalry would find the simple Thai word ma rendered as Atsawa. If someone’s ancestor had been called Lek (“little”), the substitution would be apt to be Čhula. Foreigners who wished to be naturalized as Thai could also petition for Thai surnames. The names awarded usually had some connection in meaning or sound with the original foreign names. For example, a Chinese named Tan was renamed Tantha; a Westerner named Lawson was renamed Lawasan.21

When the King personally devised a surname, he prepared a document setting forth the name, the reasons for his choice, and the way in which the name should be transcribed in Roman letters. One petitioner, a noble with the title Čhaophraya Thewetsarawongwiwat, was advised to take the name of a royal progenitor, Prince Kunčhο̨n, spelled Kunjara in Western letters.22 Such documents are still pre­served by many Bangkok families. And the spellings devised by the King, which are transliterations of Thai writing rather than phonetic renderings, are also usually adhered to.23

When the decree was announced, the Bangkok Times hailed the news and opined that “the change can be brought about without great difficulty.”24 This optimism was unwarranted. As it turned out, numerous difficulties arose. The deadline in the original decree was not met. Other deadlines were set: April 1, 1914; April 1, 1915; April 1, 1918.25 All proved to be too optimistic. By the end of the reign in 1925, it appeared that enforcement of the decree had been indefinitely postponed.26

The main difficulties in enforcement arose in rural areas. Urban Thai, Bangkok Thai, especially those associated with the government, seem to have taken to surnames readily enough. Educated Thai could understand the reasoning behind the decree and, further, were the element in the population most anxious to please the King. The King’s personal interest was a powerful stimulus; apparently King Vajira­vudh himself devised or awarded more than 3,000 names.27 In the countryside, however, among the farmers who comprised some 90 percent of the population, the decree was more difficult to enforce. The majority of the farmers were illiterate, and surnames meant 134nothing to them. Apparently there were breaks also in the admin­istrative machinery leading from Bangkok to the villages. At the top of the administrative ladder the law was effective, but as it was passed down from ministerial office to province to district to commune to village, enforcement became progressively laxer and laxer. As late as 1924 the Ministry of Interior was still having trouble in getting its own officials to comply with the law. By this date the ministry had made possession of a family name a prerequisite for all new appointments to the positions of commune head and village chief.28 But it seems clear that many of these lowest officials in the hierarchy, the officials who maintained the closest relations with the general population, were themselves unappreciative of the surname decree. A newspaper report of 1924, which complained of the lack of effort in urging people to adopt surnames, stated: “The average kamnan [commune head] and phu-yai-ban [village chief] say frankly that they have neither duty nor responsibility in the matter….”29 Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that the average farmer did nothing to acquire a second name.

For those in the general population who did attempt to comply with the decree, there were also problems. A newspaper report illustrates the dilemma faced by many:

If the average farang [Westerner] was suddenly fronted with the problem of selecting a surname for himself and his family, with a world of names to choose from, he would naturally be somewhat bewildered, and one may be sure a deal of human nature would be displayed in the choice. How many of us would after due deliberation select the ordinary names we now bear? Who among us would expect his wife to be content with a plebeian patronymic when there is a bookful of high-sounding pos­sibilities?30

Some Thai commoners chose their names well, too well from the government’s point of view, by seizing on names with royal or noble connotations. To check this tendency, lists of forbidden names had to be compiled and disseminated.31

As far as is known, there was only one objection to names on principle. An article in a Thai publication late in 1925 raised the question of whether the possession of surnames might not lead to favoritism: a high official might tend to be prejudiced in favor of a job applicant or a legal suppliant who bore the same family name. This objection was dismissed in the English-language press with the statement that “With or without surnames there are ways of pressing the claims of relationship on those in place and power….” In fact, 135the argument continued, the possession of surnames should discourage favoritism, for the name advertised the relationship for all to see.32

Problems of surnames in the countryside did not cease even among those who had chosen and registered names and acquired the legal documents recording the new possession. For the whole process was still meaningless to the average peasant. The surname did not answer any need of his; it did not fill a vacuum in his cabinet of desires. It was tolerable; it, at least, did not cost anything.33 But it was no more loved or even remembered than Americans love or remember their social security numbers. The ordinary villager who got a paper with his surname on it, said one newspaper account, brought it home and stuck it into the bamboo-plaited wall or in the thatched roof, and in no time at all the document was gone—eaten by rats or termites. If the villager should be asked what his surname was, he would not know.34

In the years since the first proclamation of surnames in 1913, surnames have become universal in Thailand. The law on surnames is enforced; government records include surnames. Characters in novels and short stories are supplied with surnames. Newspaper accounts give surnames. And individuals, even in villages, apparently know their surnames. There is no doubt that the family name has become a permanent feature in Thai life, so much so that many Thai are probably unaware that there was ever a time when surnames did not exist. Yet it would be inaccurate to assume that surnames perform the same function in Thai society that they do in Western society. For the most immediately recognizable part of a Thai name remains the first name. And this is the name that is most frequently used. A newspaper article may begin by referring to Mr. Sanya Dharmasakti, but later references will always be to Mr. Sanya. The predominance of the first name extends even to Western writings on the Thai: Pridi, Thanom, Seni are all more familiar than Phanomyong, Kit­tikachorn, or Pramoj. In the village, adults are apt to know their own family name and those of a few close neighbors, but school-age children often do not.35 The surname functions as a means of making government records accurate; it functions to identify individuals precisely. On the personal level, it may be felt to be a kind of royal ornament, perhaps a kind of honorable title, in the tradition of the titles once granted by the king to government officials.36

The larger social purposes that King Vajiravudh hoped would be served by family names seem not to have been served. The Thai traditionally have felt no strong familial ties in time; there has been little or no interest in genealogy. Nor is there now. King Vajiravudh 136hoped that Thai bearing the same name, a name derived from an honored progenitor, would develop a kind of family pride. This sense of lineage ties and lineage responsibilities might then serve as a stimulus to national drives and national unity. No such sense of lineage seems to have resulted from the adoption of surnames. No perceptible change in attitudes toward the past or the future has been noticed.

The success of Vajiravudh’s reform lay in the acceptance of a Western model by domesticating it. A foreign concept was trans­formed and made Thai. By providing surnames with high-sounding Sanskrit roots, Vajiravudh gave the reform the familiar ring of traditional conferred names; in a sense he was elevating the entire population to the prestige of royal position.

The failure of the reform lay, it would seem, principally in Vajiravudh’s own definition of success. It is difficult to imagine that the unity, power, and devotion to the nation that Vajiravudh admired in the West could have been achieved in any appreciable degree by adopting the Western custom of surnames. Hardly so much could be expected from what was essentially a convenient habit.

“King Rama”

The system of names, ranks, and titles in traditional Siam was enor­mously complex. It was difficult even for Thai to understand; most Westerners despaired of understanding it.37

Siamese leaders were well aware of the difficulty Westerners had with princely and noble names, ranks, and titles, and from the time of King Mongkut attempts were made to explain the system and even to simplify it. For the kings and officials knew that what the West could not understand, it would be sure to deprecate.

It was primarily to win Western approbation that several changes in the system were made in the Sixth Reign. One was to provide translations for princely ranks whereby the three highest such ranks would be termed His (or Her) Royal Highness, His (or Her) Highness, and His (or Her) Serene Highness.38 Some thought seems to have been given to reformation of the names and titles of appointed nobles throughout the bureaucracy; at least Prince Damrong was charged with the task of preparing a “rationalization” scheme for such official designations. Prince Damrong submitted a huge draft along with a note saying that true rationalization embracing all ministries of government would be impossible to achieve.39

The most important change in the area of official appellations was the adoption by the King of a new “dynastic” name on November 13711, 1916, the sixth anniversary of his first coronation.40 The name Ramathibο̨di in Thai, to be translated King Rama in English, followed by the proper reign number, was to be used as a simple means for designating the kings of the Chakkri dynasty. The dynastic founder, formerly termed Phra Phutthayο̨tfačhulalok, became Rama I; his successors became Ramas II, III, IV, V. King Vajiravudh was to be known as King Rama VI. Older name systems were not to be aban­doned: the use of the very long official “royal style and title” was to continue; so was the use of personal names, which had been instituted by King Mongkut. But preference was to be given to the new scheme. Although no clue as to the origin of this name scheme appears in the available literature, it seems clear that it was inspired by European custom. England had its succession of Georges; now Siam had its succession of Ramas.

After the adoption of the Rama name, all medals that bore abbre­viations for King Vajiravudh were changed so that the abbreviations would stand for King Rama VI. By 1919 the King had even come to use Rama R. (a shortened version of Rama Rex) as his personal signa­ture.41

Some changes, apparently inspired by the European model, were instituted in modes of address. The terms nangsao for “Miss,” nang for “Mrs.,” and khunying for “Lady” (the wife of a high-ranking noble) were prescribed by royal rescript in 1917.42 A similar system for children was instituted in 1921, but the distinctions it made between the offspring of government officials and those of commoners raised an outcry in the local press and the system was quickly aban­doned.43

The Flag

Symbols. Lions and unicorns rampant. Black eagles with feathers unfurled. Stars and stripes. What is a nation without its emblems, its immediately recognizable symbols? Vajiravudh was well aware of their importance. In one speech he stated it very clearly: “What­ever the task undertaken, there must be something to symbolize its meaning so that the spirit will be involved.”44

A country’s primary symbol is its national flag. Siam had one, a white elephant on a red field, the design from King Mongkut’s days. But to King Vajiravudh it seemed not dignified enough. And shame of shames could and did result when out of inadvertence or ignorance the flag was raised upside down. Such a misadventure occurred in September 1916.

The misadventure was associated with the King’s trip up river 138to the northern provinces. It had long been customary for Bangkok kings to make a royal progress by boat to the palace retreat at Bang Pa-in, near Ayutthaya, during the lull in government business in September. In 1916, however, rains had been particularly heavy and there was fear of destructive floods. The King decided to journey farther to the north than was usual in order to appraise the flood dangers for himself. The boat trip would also constitute a holiday, and the visit to new places would give him a chance to see some of his up-country subjects, and be seen by them, for the first time.

The royal party reached the town of Utthaithani on September 15. The local people, whose opportunities to welcome a royal guest were rare indeed, outdid themselves in preparation. A royal pavilion had been specially built. Everywhere there were banners and flowers. And flags. The national white elephant flag. Or, more commonly, since elephant flags were expensive and hard to come by, simple streamers of cloth of the colors of the elephant flag, red and white.

On the following day the King and his party proceeded by land to visit a local temple and to give the people of Utthaithani a chance to pay their respects to their monarch. On the way Vajiravudh noticed that there were relatively few national flags; he also had misgivings about the use of strips of red and white cloth in lieu of a flag, feeling that these partook too much of “Chinese custom.” But the genuine displays of popular affection stilled his misgivings.

Along the route lay a small peasant house whose owner, somehow, had found a small flag. The King stared in disbelief. The flag was flying upside down, with the elephant supine, all four feet pointing heavenward. The King quickly turned away and made no remark then or later. But, according to a member of his party who remembers this incident at Utthaithani and whose description is relied on here, the incident was the crisis that ended in the adoption of a new national flag shortly thereafter.45

Whatever the importance of the incident at Utthaithani, there were other reasons for Vajiravudh’s interest in changing the flag design. For one thing, the King had always taken a special interest in such symbols as medals, decorations, and uniforms, and the flag fit into this category. All flags, even those of ministries or departments, had to be submitted for the King’s approval, which was by no means automatic.46 Flags were given great prominence. The theme of many of the King’s addresses was the flag as the symbol of national spirit. One could look on a flag, he said, as merely “a piece of cloth” or as “a rag on a pole.” But in fact, because of the association of ideas, a 139flag was transformed in men’s eyes into a rallying point for the entire nation.47 The King made clear that the flags that he presented as colors to military and Wild Tiger units were to be regarded as be­tokening the King’s own presence. In one typical address Vajiravudh told a story about the god Indra’s instructions to his soldiers in a battle: when they became exhausted, they were to look at the flag of their general, for that would make them recover their strength. Siam, the King said, had three flags—the king, the nation, and Buddhism. Of the flag that symbolized the nation he said:

The Thai flag is no one’s slave! It has never been anyone’s slave! We’ll never let it become anyone’s slave. We will never let this flag be dirtied in the dust, be besmirched in the mud. We may stain it with our blood, but it is impossible for us to let it be soiled by dust or mud!48

The national flag was, of course, especially important. It was, or ought to be, the symbol par excellence of national glory. But Siam had a flag that was termed by one Westerner a “distinctive emblem”49 and described by another as “picturesque.”50 Perhaps it was the picturesque that bothered the King. The elephant flag may have been seen as too exotic, too quaint for a young nation that wanted respect, honor, and esteem for its progressiveness.

Further, the elephant flag had some practical disadvantages. The flags were printed, and printed materials had to be bought from abroad. Importation made them relatively expensive. The design was often poorly executed, frequently making the elephant an un-definable species of quadruped. If a simpler design were adopted, one that could be made locally, one that it would be impossible to hang improperly, the national flag, rightly displayed, could become common and universally known throughout the country.

The matter of changing the flag design was broached to govern­ment ministers. On May 27, 1916, the Minister of Marine, Prince Paribatra, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Devawongse, collaborated on a report that advised against any flag change, at least for the moment. Their argument was based on tradition: the old flag was well known all over the world; it was highly respected by the Thai people; it was associated with the prosperity of the kingdom and the dynasty. As to the King’s dissatisfaction with the execution of the elephant design, the navy could either release an approved design to foreign manufacturers or else see to the local manufacture of a suitable product.51

140The matter rested for a time. The King experimented with various designs, including a pattern of red and white stripes that he ultimately rejected as too plain.

Siam’s entry into World War I seems to have decided the flag matter once and for all. At a meeting of the Council of Ministers on August 18, 1917, Prince Chakrabongs announced the King’s resolve to adopt a new flag and the council went along.52 The new design, decreed on September 28, was the striped tricolor that remains the national flag of Thailand today.53

Vajiravudh produced the design. He found it beautiful. He found it practical. He noted that the colors—red, white, and blue—put Siam more fully in harmony with the Allied nations, Siam’s brothers in arms, most of whom had standards of red, white, and blue.

The King expanded on the symbology. The colors had meaning: they represented the triumvirate of nation, faith, and king (the Thai version of “god, king, and country”), the mainstays of the united and strong Thai people. And to express his satisfaction with a deed well done, Vajiravudh wrote a poem:

Let me speak of the meaning

Behind the three colors.

White is for purity and betokens the three gems

And the law that guard the Thai heart.

Red is for our blood, which we willingly give up

To protect our nation and faith.

Blue is the beautiful hue of the people’s leader

And is liked because of him.54

Arranged in stripes, these three colors form the flag

That we Thai love.

Our soldiers carrying it forth to victory

Raise up the honor of Siam.55

Patriotic Holidays

The court calendar of traditional Siam was replete with rites and ceremonies. Most of these ceremonies were Brahmanic in origin and were conducted within the palace; they were derived from Indian practices based on the belief that the conduct of proper rituals by the king or through his auspices would ensure prosperity.

Significant changes in the court ceremonies were brought about by King Mongkut in the mid-nineteenth century. The changes were in two main directions: first, to add Buddhist ceremonies or provide for Buddhist participation in Brahmanic ceremonies; and, second, to 141add ceremonies giving prominence to Siam’s royal house. The latter ceremonies had the effect of adding a patriotic element to what had once been exclusively magico-religious court affairs. Thus, for the first time, ceremonies were inaugurated to honor the previous mon­archs of the Chakkri dynasty and to celebrate both the king’s birthday and the anniversary of the king’s accession. In bringing into being ceremonies of this patriotic sort, Mongkut was inspired by the prac­tices of nations of the “progressive” West.

The changes in royal ceremony introduced by King Mongkut were continued in effect, with only periodic modifications, by Kings Chulalongkorn and Vajiravudh. Vajiravudh modified the accession anniversary program on occasion by adding to it the simultaneous celebration of other events—the opening of the Bangkok water works in 1914, the introduction of the “Rama” name in 1916, the com­memoration of the armistice and League of Nations in 1919, and the honoring of Siam’s military forces in 1921. And he made his birthday celebrations more elaborate than those of his predecessors, with more events scheduled and wider participation, particularly of the popula­tion in the provinces.

Vajiravudh’s main contribution to the ceremonial schedule was to add two new patriotic days: Chulalongkorn Day and Chakkri Day.

Chulalongkorn Day, October 23, the anniversary of the King’s death, grew out of the public festivities during his reign on his day of accession, November 16. These festivities were celebrated on an unprecedented scale in 1908, the year commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the reign, and an equestrian statue of Chulalongkorn, paid for by voluntary public subscription, was unveiled in that year. In 1910, the year of his death, November 16 continued to be cele­brated, but as a day of mourning. In 1911 attention to Chulalongkorn was, of course, centered around the day of his cremation, March 16; in the fall, preparations for Vajiravudh’s second coronation took precedence over everything else. By 1912 Vajiravudh had decided to preserve a special day for his father, but he chose to move the date from November to October 23, the date of Chulalongkorn’s death. Chulalongkorn Day thus originated. In Bangkok the rites centered around the equestrian statue of the King, in front of which King Vajiravudh, and others, presented memorial wreaths. The tribute to Chulalongkorn was in large measure a popular and spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment, but the government supported the occasion by providing entertainments and by closing public schools for the day. The significance of the day was made clear to the school children; the Bangkok Times editorialized: 142

… the pupils have explained to them why the occasion is observed. It is well that youth should be taught to praise and honour the great dead; and just as Victoria Day is largely an opportunity for bringing home to youth at school something of the meaning of the British Empire, so Chulalongkorn Day may well survive to a later generation as an aid to inspire youth with the spirit which the Rulers of Siam in our time have done their utmost to foster.56

Special rites and festivities for Chulalongkorn Day continued through­out the Sixth Reign, and the day continues as one of Thailand’s national holidays.

Chakkri Day, Vajiravudh’s second contribution to the ceremonial schedule, was deliberately fostered as Siam’s “National Day.” The essential purpose of Chakkri Day is to pay obeisance to the deceased monarchs of the Chakkri dynasty. The practice of paying such obei­sance, before statues of earlier Chakkri kings, started during the reign of King Mongkut; ceremonies of obeisance were conducted on several occasions during the year. King Vajiravudh singled out April 6, the date of the accession of the first Chakkri king, as the day on which the honoring of his predecessors was to be the central event. In 1918 the statues of the preceding five kings were moved from a building within the confines of the palace grounds, an area forbidden to the general public, to another building in the accessible precincts of the royal temple, Wat Phra Kaeo. The new site was suitably renamed Prasat Phra Thepbidο̨n (“Palace of the Holy Ancestors”), usually called the Royal Pantheon in English.57 On April 6, an elaborate ceremony was performed in the pantheon and the day was declared an auspicious day “both for the Chakkri Dynasty, and also for Siam as a Nation.”58 On April 7 the pantheon was opened to the public for general devotions.

In 1919 the ceremonies were repeated, and April 6 was for the first time termed Chakkri Day and observed as a national holiday.59 The observance of Chakkri Day was thus established.

The final elevation of Chakkri Day occurred almost as an after­thought. In June 1920 the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, wanting to make a list of the national days of various countries, asked Prince Charoon, the Thai minister in Paris, what day Siam celebrated as its national day. Prince Charoon could not decide whether the proper answer should be the King’s Birthday (January 1), New Year’s Day (April 1), or the Day of the King’s Accession (November 11), so he put the question to Prince Devawongse in Bangkok.60 Prince Devawongse proceeded to ask Vajiravudh, and the King’s reply was that Charoon’s three guesses were all wrong; the Thai day 143comparable to the French July 14 or the American July 4 was April 6—Chakkri Day.61 Perhaps because of Prince Charoon’s ignorance, Chakkri Day in 1921 was preceded by an announcement from the Ministry of the Palace on the significance of the day. Also, to make the day more popular, the festivities on April 6, 1921, were made more elaborate than in prior years; they included continuous per­formances by military brass bands from 4:00 p.m. to sunset.62


“Hooray!” “Viva!” “Sieg Heil!” “Bravo!” “Olé!” A comparable term for expressing enthusiasm for a football team, a political leader, or a king was unknown in old Siam. There was little room in the traditional culture for such terms. Kings and other great persons were revered, not cheered.

The few occasions when popular enthusiasm could be given voice were affairs associated with religion. At the ordination rites for a young monk or at temple circumambulatory rites (wian thian), the mass of people might express their joy by shouting “Ho hiw!” or, to show more joy, a lengthened “Ho-o-o-o-o hiw!”

With the increase of public exposure for kings in the Western style, and the desire by kings for more “public spirit” and expressions of patriotism, the need arose for a more appropriate cheer.

If only because of his Wild Tiger appearances and speeches, Vajiravudh quickly outdistanced his father in frequency of public appearances. And in the first years of the reign, the “Ho hiw” cheer was apparently used before the King. But in January 1914, after a very important nationalistic speech to a Wild Tiger audience on the valor of the Thai ancestors, Vajiravudh instructed the Tigers in how to give a new yell, “Chaiyo!” It is probable that some experiments with the yell had already been conducted,63 but the performance of the unfamiliar cheer was still deficient. Vajiravudh taught the Tigers how to space out the syllables, chaiyo, and how to deliver the cheer in unison. The Tigers ended up with a loud and clear “Chaiyo,” delivered three times, that was completely to the King’s satisfaction. From that time forward “Chaiyo!” became the Siamese equivalent of “Hurrah!” and was used repeatedly after the King’s addresses and at his various other appearances before Wild Tigers and other groups.64

According to one Thai commentator, the King preferred “Chaiyo” to “Ho hiw” because the latter cheer was so closely associated with Buddhism that it did not seem proper for purely secular occasions. Other reasons may easily be imagined. For one, chaiyo means victory; 144it thus had connotations well suited to the nationalistic and militaristic purposes of the King. For another, Westerners found the sounds and tonal pattern of the old yell exotic—eerie or funny rather than inspiring.65 Vajiravudh most certainly would have been sensitive to such Western reactions, would have been anxious to adopt a yell more acceptable to Western ears.


In his search for the Western key to unlock nationalistic outpourings, King Vajiravudh came close to success in his stress on sports.

When Vajiravudh came to the throne, the status of sports in Siam contrasted sharply with that of sports in the England that the King had known as a prince. English schools, clubs, and military units all had their cricket and football teams and countless other athletic groups that vied with each other in seemingly endless matches. Final events attracted national attention and enthusiastic crowds; in 1897 a crowd of 65,000 witnessed the football contest for the English Cup played at the Crystal Palace in London. In Siam the scene was totally different. Team sports were virtually unknown. Traditional athletic events, such as takrο̨, boxing (Thai-style), and swordplay competi­tions, were contests between individuals rather than groups. Indi­viduals played as individuals and not as representatives of schools or other such social units. Although Western team sports, as well as other foreign sports such as gymnastics and jujitsu, had entered Siam by 1910, they were not widely played and attracted little attention.

Very early in the reign Vajiravudh adopted the policy of sponsor­ing sports and athletics as part of national policy. The training of both the Wild Tigers and the Boy Scouts included athletic events of various sorts. The English-language press commented in 1911: “At the moment physical culture seems to be becoming a matter of national interest.’’66

The reasons for the King’s interest are apparent. The King strongly believed in physical fitness, hardiness, and stamina; he equated these with manliness and the “warrior” spirit that Thai men were not demonstrating to their fullest potential. Further, he believed that Thai men wasted much of their leisure—and their strength—in gambling, drinking, and even opium smoking. The government took steps to limit the accessibility of these harmful attractions; gambling dens were finally outlawed completely by 1917. But removal of corrupting and wasteful temptations was not enough; attractive and worthwhile substitutes had to be supplied. Sports and athletics were 145decided on as those substitutes. The King pointed out that Thai soldiers, for example; had had few forms of relaxation in the past. Military training did require men to expend energy, but this was work, not fun. Drinking was one resort, but it was expensive, and it led to troubles for civilians (whose heads got broken), for the police, and for officers. The army’s sponsorship of sports was provid­ing soldiers with a new form of relaxation that was fun and not criminal.67 Sports had advantages, furthermore, that went beyond the physical. Creation of a team of players meant greater unity for the group: it tied a school together; it made army men, or navy men, or a Wild Tiger unit, or any group represented by a team, into a unified, loyal whole. And for rival teams competing in a sportsmanlike way, it brought increased knowledge, mutual respect, and a feeling of camaraderie. After team matches had been introduced, the King commented: “The feeling of being friends and companions between soldiers and Wild Tigers arose primarily from their playing football together.”68 A final product of inculcating enthusiasm for sports, it was hoped, would be to weld the entire nation together; as the Thai interest in and proficiency in sports grew, a welling up of confidence and pride, national pride, would result. To the extent that sports could further nationalism, Vajiravudh’s prime goal, it was worth a serious effort.

The first actions to promote sports were taken in the schools. On his annual visits to the Royal Pages College and to Suan Kulap School, and on his periodic visits to the War College and other Bangkok schools, the King viewed various athletic events and awarded prizes to outstanding players. The Suan Kulap visits began in January 1913,69 and every January thereafter the King came to the school, devoting a major segment of his time there to viewing various athletic events. These events, in which athletes and teams from other schools also participated, had by 1917 grown to include three cup prizes for track contests and three for football championships.70 On December 27 and 28, 1913, Vajiravudh spent an entire day at the Royal Pages School, arriving at 3:00 p.m. and leaving at 4:00 p.m. the following day. Much of this time was occupied in viewing athletic events. For the first time at the school a sports match was scheduled—between the Royal Pages School and King’s College. While there is no proof that the King had promoted the match, he was openly pleased at seeing his two schools come together in sport and fellowship and he exhorted the students to uphold the reputations of their schools, for by so doing they would be upholding the honor of the country.71

Another early approach in expanding interest in sports was developed 146through the Ministry of the Interior. This approach was aimed at the provinces and was directly linked to the desire to discourage gambling. On October 28, 1913, the minister called together the lord lieutenants of the six provinces closest to Bangkok. A proclamation had been issued shortly before the meeting prohibiting “free gam­bling,” that is to say, open public card playing, which had theretofore been allowed on the three great national holidays. The minister urged the lord lieutenants to do their utmost to “revive the national sports as a popular institution at holiday time.”72 The advice was quickly taken up. A few days after the conference, news from Nakhο̨n Pathom announced that a “great feature” of the celebration of the King’s Ac­cession (November 9 through 13) would be a series of athletic events. At the New Year’s festivals in Ayutthaya and Phitsanulok in April 1914 similar efforts were made. The Lord Lieutenant of Ayutthaya made the new policy explicit by delivering a speech against gam­bling.73 Reports from other provinces, including some concerning the third great holiday, the King’s Birthday, indicate that the policy was generally and immediately put into effect.

The pro-sports policy, pursued in only moderate measures through the first five years of the reign, came flamboyantly alive in 1915. In the fall of 1915 the King became a football enthusiast. And, in immediate consequence, all of Siam was gripped by football fever.

The source of the King’s sudden enthusiasm for football can only be speculated on. In the summer of 1915 he made a journey to the southern provinces. While in the South he attended a number of functions in which sports contests, including football games, were featured. Football seems to have gained, by this time, a fair amount of popularity in the South, perhaps because of the influence of the more football-conscious British colony of Malaya nearby. In any event, in late July during the later part of the King’s tour, the King’s attendants arranged a series of football games between teams made up of members of the royal retinue matched against teams from Nakhο̨n Sithammarat. The King obviously enjoyed the matches, and his ideas of utilizing sports on a national basis seem to have crystallized at this time. After seeing the football games in Nakhο̨n Sithammarat the King wrote:

I am happy with this English game and wish it would spread widely. Perhaps this is because I was educated in England, but I hope you won’t think this is the only reason. I hope you who are of the same race and generation as myself will agree that football will be useful to the Thai 147people. We should help each other to make this game that the British have demonstrated the utility of endure long in Siam.74

Within four days after his return from the southern tour the King had arranged for a series of eight matches between various units of the Wild Tigers, the army, and the police.75 These appear to have been test-out and practice games. By the end of the month the King, obviously feeling that his Thai boys were ready, challenged the most avid “footballers” in Siam, the British, to a match. The Thai players were to be the team of the Royal Hunters Company of Wild Tigers; the adversaries, a team of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.76 While the Sports Club legally and officially was not a foreign club (the King, indeed, was the club’s honorary president, and Thai were free to become members), in fact the club and, in particular, its athletic activities were dominated by the British. Thus football mania in Siam was to be kicked off by a competition with a distinctly nation­alistic coloration, the Thai opposed to the British.

The match took place on September 5 and resulted in a Sports Club win. But the disappointment of the Thai in the results of the match did not cool their ardor for the game. Royal high favor for football led to organization of many new teams—by the palace guards, by the police school, by teachers, by Wild Tiger units. In early Sep­tember newspapers reported that “there is not a football to be bought for love or money in Bangkok.”77

The next move by King Vajiravudh was to institute a gold cup competition for Thai teams. The competition began on September 11, 1915, and ended, three rounds and twenty-eight games later, on October 27 with the Royal Naval College team the winner of the cup. This series of matches became an annual affair; the cup was later to be named the Warrior Cup. The organization of the Warrior Cup competition brought into being a King’s Cup Committee to supervise the event. The committee also issued a brochure that spoke of Vaji­ravudh’s “aim in giving special encouragement to the game of football. The King wisely desires to promote in every way opportunities for healthy open-air exercise, and considers football to be a game suitable for the development of the nation’s manhood and warrior spirit.”78

In November yet another organization was created, the Football Association of Siam, which was to serve as the general governing body for football affairs. Vajiravudh became patron of the association, and his favorite courtier, Phraya Prasit (later to become Čhaophraya Ram), its president. The Football Association of Siam, as its first task, 148organized yet another cup competition, the King’s Gold Cup, to be played for by a team representing the association and a team of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. This game was to be preceded by still another match between Thai and Westerners organized by the Sports Club for the Sports Club’s own cup. In 1915 the King’s Cup contest ended in a draw and the Sports Club cup went to the Siamese team. On the Siamese victory the English-language press commented: “His Majesty was really delighted with the result…. There was no mis­taking the popularity of yesterday’s win…. The big crowd went away thoroughly happy.”79 The final match of 1915, also sponsored by the Sports Club, was for the club’s Pollard Cup. The round of games started on December 24 and ended on January 6, 1916. The Siamese team also won this contest, handily and gratifyingly.

The King played a prominent role in the actual work of promoting football—the organizing of teams, arranging of matches, and awarding of cups. And a very significant part of the popular enthusiasm came from the King’s display of direct interest by his constant attendance at games. In the Warrior Cup series of twenty-eight games scheduled almost daily from September 11 to October 27, the King went to every game but the last, and that game was played on the day after the championship had been won.80 On more than one occasion Vaji­ravudh watched in pouring rain, staying until the last whistle. In 1915 he personally presented the winning prize at all cup events and gave special medals to players of the winning teams. There is little doubt that he considered football not only good for Siam but also good fun for himself. The King’s interest drew other high dignitaries, princes and nobles, to the games. Even the Queen Mother came to one match, to have “a look at the game which is now rousing so much enthusiasm.”81

The character of the football season in Siam was fairly well set in the first year of play in 1915. The essential matches were the Warrior Cup competition to determine the Siamese champions, and the two “international” competitions, the Sports Club cup and the King’s Gold Cup. Other all-Thai matches, for a junior cup and a senior cup, were added. There was some desire to internationalize the game further by engaging in matches with foreign teams. When a British warship, the Whiting, came on a visit to Bangkok in September 1918, a match was quickly arranged between the British navy team and a team representing the Siamese navy. The match, held on September 12, was attended by “a huge crowd.” The game, after “a hard, ding dong struggle,” ended in a tie; the crowd was not displeased, and 149the match was called “one of the happiest and most successful events in the present naval visit.”82 There was some discussion periodically of arranging matches with teams in British Malaya. In 1917 a Penang team, saying it had heard of “the ability the Siamese have shown in the game since His Majesty the King showed his personal interest in it,” suggested the visit of a “Siamese eleven” to Malaya and the Straits Settlements.83 The Thai did not follow up on this suggestion. A more precise suggestion was made in 1919 by a Bangkok business­man who proposed to the King’s secretary that a Siamese team play a Chinese team from the Straits Settlements.84 The proposal was put to the Football Association, which decided against the match on po­litical grounds. Playing a “Chinese” team, the association concluded, would tend to crystallize racial feelings in Bangkok; local Chinese, who were coming to feel more and more “Thai,” might be impelled to sympathize with the foreigners. A truly representative foreign team, including Westerners, Chinese, and Indians, would be an entirely different matter.85 The proposal thus was politely declined as “too premature.”86

Royal promotion of football continued unabated in 1916. For example, of a series of games played on October 18, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, and 31 and November 1, 3, and 6, the King missed only two games.87 He was present at all cup games. By 1917 royal attendance began to drop off, but by this time football had definitely caught the public fancy, and games continued to attract large and enthusi­astic crowds through the remainder of the reign.

The aim of using football to counteract public apathy was certainly achieved. But not always in the manner intended. On one occasion in 1915 the King had stated:

In my opinion, there is nothing that helps the formation of friendship more than taking part in or watching of sports and games, since there is that absence of formality which characterizes more serious functions, and people who meet in the field of sport become friends more readily than at more formal gatherings. Friendship thus begun without the feeling of constraint is more likely to be lasting than otherwise….88

And in a government booklet on football appeared the words:

Football is a clean and open fight, not an occasion for taking unfair or secret advantage which is the essence of meanness. Neither in victory nor in defeat ought there to be any thought of revenge on the one side or of jeering at the vanquished on the other. That is to say, Football is a game which steadies a man and makes him a sportsman.89

150Such ideals proved easier to proclaim than to realize. In Siam’s first football year the competition for the King’s Gold Cup between the Thai and the British saw displays of temper and “a determination to win anyhow” that went beyond sportsmanship.90 Said one paper of the game, “the less said the better.”91 One columnist, less reluctant to comment, wrote of spectator involvement, strained relations, “good fellowship” turned sour, and “very ugly remarks” against both sides, and recommended that games between the nationalities be aban­doned.92 It is noteworthy that the next game the Thai played against a Sports Club team was noted for its excessive gentleness, leading the press to wonder if “some one” had “whispered” to the Thai players.93

In succeeding years there were periodic reports of excessive zeal and partisanship, particularly in games between rival Thai teams. While overexuberance between Thai and Westerners could be looked on as contributing to a nationalistic arousal, bitter rivalries and divisions among Thai teams could hardly be seen in the same light. Most games seem to have been fairly played, but on occasion there were ugly displays and even violence. The most violent outburst occurred on August 17, 1919, on the occasion of a playoff for the senior cup between the Royal Pages and the Naval Cadets. The press called the game a disgrace, with fouls occurring every minute of the game; it reported that the Cadets, urged on by the crowd, played liked “a band of hooligans.” When the crowd began to encroach on the field in support of their losing favorites, the referee called the game. The crowd then got ugly, throwing bricks and stones and injuring several people, including the referee.94

The August 17 game marked the nadir of football in Siam and revealed several problems aside from that of inculcating the British kind of sportsmanship ethics. The main problem seems to have de­rived from partisanship of the King himself. The King, forgetting his nationalistic objective, identified himself with certain teams. One was the team of the Royal Pages, directed by Phraya Prasit, who was also President of the Football Association of Siam. The Pages team was very good. Two years earlier, after winning a crucial game, it had had its win disqualified on the basis of an infraction of the rules. Vajiravudh was privately incensed at the decision. The Pages, in a pique, even left the Football Association for a time.95 The influential backing the Royal Pages received permitted them to organize an expert team, and good football players were deliberately recruited to join the Pages so they could add to the strength of the team.96 The end product of this favoritism—and favoritism for the Pages, as one Thai 151pointed out, had been the cause of trouble in Siam earlier in the reign97—was to arouse strong antagonism to the Royal Pages team.

Several changes followed the episode of August 17: Phraya Prasit resigned as president of the Football Association; navy teams were royally reprimanded. Eventually, much of the bad feeling wore away.

All in all, it appears that encouragement of football and other sports did succeed to a degree in furthering Vajiravudh’s goals. Western observers at the time were impressed. A long-time British resident concluded that “… by the end of the second season [1917], the enormous crowds of people of every age and rank, shouting themselves hoarse and sometimes breaking the ropes even in the presence of royalty, showed conclusively the entire success of this device for dispelling the erstwhile apathy.”98 An American writer was even more sweeping in his praise. In an article in the New York Times the writer gave full credit to the English-educated Vajiravudh for deliberately introducing football as an instrument of national policy. And the policy had worked, he said: football, together with the Boy Scout movement, had “made over” the Thai nation; it had changed the youth “from a life of enervation and luxury to one of vigorous athletic competition”; it had produced a “moral regeneration that reduced to a minimum the two greatest vices of Siam,” opium and gambling; it had awakened the Siamese youth to a “patriotic impulse and a sense of national obligation.”99

The American writer undoubtedly went too far and claimed too much. But some claim for sports is justified. Never before in Siam’s history had masses of thousands of people gathered to cheer on “their side,” to dare cheers even at the risk of incurring royal displeasure. Feelings were aroused, mostly in Bangkok but to some extent also in the provinces. Not all these feelings were nationalistic or patriotic in a broad sense. But some were. And almost all feelings of loyalty to a group larger than a family were new to Siam and could be built upon to fashion national patriotism.

Status of Women

In furthering the cause of nationalism, women in Siam came into the King’s program in two principal respects. First, Vajiravudh felt strongly that women as well as men must be imbued with a sense of nation. Second, he believed that the status of women in Thai society should be elevated so that Thai women could be compared favorably with their sisters in the West. In both respects, Western ideas affected the King’s attitude.

152Insofar as nationalism was concerned, the main thrust of the King’s arguments seemed to be directed toward men. When Vajira­vudh used terms such as “warrior spirit,” he obviously had men in mind. He, therefore, on occasion made special reference to women so that no one would assume that the need for nationalism was confined to men. Such references appear in several of his plays, essays, and speeches. Women, he made clear, should also love their nation. And this love could be expressed in a number of ways. In wartime, for example, women could serve as nurses. Women could also contribute to fund drives such as that for the cruiser fund. Says one heroine: “I am a woman. I cannot be a soldier or a Wild Tiger. Since I cannot pay homage to His Majesty with the strength of my body, I must do so with money.”100 Vajiravudh’s heroine understands the reasons behind her devotion to her country: “Although I’m only a woman, I’ve sense enough to see that if our Thai nation is destroyed, that will be the end of us Thai.”101 The heroine is even willing to defy her husband, who is opposed to nationalistic fund drives; she thus exhibits, with the obvious approval of the royal author, that devotion to nation outranks devotion to one’s spouse.102 The principal way in which women could exhibit their nationalism, however, in the King’s view, was by doing a good job at their main work in the home. They should provide their husbands with happy and comfortable surroundings so that the men could at work apply themselves to their fullest capacities.103 They should teach their children proper values, including love of nation.104 And in times of stress they should support their menfolk, never undermining their bravery or willing­ness to fight.105

On the status of women, Vajiravudh’s policy had several circum­stances in its favor. First, the traditional position of women in Thai society was high. It was a fact that the vast majority of Thai women, those of the countryside, had social rights and status equal to men in all important respects. Most Westerners were convinced that such women occupied “as high and honourable a position as the women of the people in any country.”106 In the words of one contemporary Britisher: “… the women of the lower orders have always enjoyed absolute freedom.”107 The King knew this and commented that the equal status of women in rural areas meant that, in this respect, “our Thai country people are much closer to ‘civilization’ than people in Bangkok or large towns.”108 Another favorable circumstance was that some steps toward the elevation of upper-class women had already been taken during Chulalongkorn’s reign. Queen Saowapha had been 153much honored by the King; she had emerged out of the harem to take part in various public functions, and she had established girls’ schools and sponsored the training of Thai nurses.

Although Vajiravudh was able to build on programs of the past, he moved much more boldly than his father had. The King’s interest was apparent as early as his coronation, and Thai women were called upon to play a role in court functions of the time “to an extent that took their own breath away and astonished the public.”109

Vajiravudh made the purpose of his reforms in the status of women abundantly clear, and in doing so he also made clear his reliance on ideas of the West. The status of women in a society, he stated in an essay specifically on the subject, is a symbol of the degree of civilization in that society.110 Where women are elevated, there is civilization; where they are not—where they are slaves, workhorses, or chattels of men—there is not. The “jungle people” of Malaya, Borneo, and Africa, he said, treat their women as slaves. In England, by way of contrast, men and women are more or less on equal terms. In ancient India, noted for its high civilization, men and women were equal in many respects; the decline of India coin­cided with the coming of the Muslims and the degradation of women, including the imposition of purdah. The history of mankind was spotted with the record of men’s mistreatment of women. In some societies men took many wives. In some, men even ensured their hold on women by resorting to extraordinarily cruel tactics such as the footbinding in China that made it impossible for women to run away. Men even used religion as a weapon; men, the priests, in­structed women to be acquiescent as part of their religious duty. While Buddhism, said the King, included no such religious instruction, in other ways Siamese women of the upper class were taken advantage of by men. And foreigners criticized the Thai for their treatment of women. The King concluded:

This situation is most shameful! Are we Thai so callous—with the hide of an elephant or a rhinocerous—that we are not disturbed? Even if you yourself are not a bad person as are some of our nationality, and many of them are nobles, shouldn’t you help by speaking up and com­plaining? Can you silently look on while the outside world speaks of our customs as those of a jungle people? Please understand that others are taking our measure! Please do think this over.111

In his essay on the status of women, Vajiravudh enumerated two major and two minor restrictions on Thai women. The major restrictions ­154were the limited freedom women had to socialize with men on equal terms and the practice of polygamy. The minor restrictions were women’s black teeth (a consequence of betel chewing) and their short hair styles. In other writings, the King added one other major restriction, limited access to education, and one other minor restriction, the wearing of the trouserlike phanung.

The King’s desire that women be given freedom to meet and mix with men socially was evidenced in word and deed. He deplored the argument that men had put forth that, if women attended public affairs together with men, they might become exposed to suspicion and become objects of gossip. He sarcastically remarked that there was indeed some danger of giving women a chance to meet men: they might find out just what special creatures men really were!112 To promote social intercourse between men and women, the King regu­larly included women in theater parties and other social affairs he attended. His half-sister, Princess Walai, frequently accompanied him to such affairs.

In November 1920 Vajiravudh became formally betrothed to Princess Vallabha Devi, a daughter of Prince Naradhip. Although this betrothal ended in an annulment four months later, the alliance with the Princess, and with other women who followed, gave the King an opportunity to set an example for elite society. The Princess during the four-month engagement went everywhere with the King. The press reported some twenty-seven functions they attended to­gether, including dinner parties, theater performances, horse races, school inspections, and football matches.113 By this tactic His Majesty gave a royal nod in favor of the association of the sexes.

One innovation in Bangkok elite circles that created quite a stir in the 1920s was Western social dancing. The Teachers Club staged a debate on the subject early in 1920, and a less formal debate con­tinued to be waged in the columns of the local press, both Thai and English.114 The pros argued for dancing as a means of promoting social intercourse; the cons protested that dancing would lead only to the further degradation of Thai women. One Thai writer editorialized that Europeans “know how to behave when dancing; we don’t.”115 While the argument continued, social dancing apparently became increasingly popular. Although the King took no part in the debate, nor, as far as is known, on the dance floor either, the government-sponsored annual fair did provide a dancing hall, which “helped on the movement,”116 and the King and his fiancée did attend dance exhibitions (one on October 30, 1920, in which a Thai couple displayed the steps of the foxtrot and tango)117 and formal balls. (The press had 155noted at the time of the betrothal that Her Royal Highness was “fond of dancing.”)118 Again, the sign of royal approval was unmistakable. By early 1921, Bangkok society was in the grip of a “dancing craze,” and the annual fair provided a dance hall “on a much larger scale than formerly.”119 Even after the displays of royal favor, arguments on dancing continued. But so did the dance.

Opponents of Thai social dancing relied heavily on the argument that in a polygamous society in which women were not given proper respect, dancing became but another means for men to extend their sway over women.120 Discussions of dancing, indeed, seemed inevi­tably to lead to discussions of polygamy; one Thai correspondent suggested that the Teachers Club debate on dancing give way to a debate on the Siamese practice of keeping lesser wives.121

The King, however, kept the two subjects separate. He approved of dancing; he strongly disapproved of polygamy. Polygamy had been one Thai practice that had consistently aroused Western anti­pathy. And Siamese kings, starting with Vajiravudh’s grandfather, had been on the defensive about the practice.122 Vajiravudh, at once more familiar with Western notions of propriety and more anxious than any of his predecessors to excise customs that Westerners regarded as barbaric or uncivilized, spoke out frequently against Thai multiple marriages.

In an important essay of 1915 on the conceptual “cakes of mud” that were clogging the wheels of Siam’s national progress, the King devoted many pages to problems in the area of marriage and the family.123 He castigated “temporary marriage,” that is, informal co­habitation, as a custom that encouraged promiscuity, gave no security to women, and was subversive to morality. He wrote: “Have pity on our women and girls! Help them to obtain some justice and equality. Help them to become honoured as the future mothers of our nation.” He castigated the “parental irresponsibility” that resulted from temporary marriages in which the partners, having joined together for sexual enjoyment, gave little heed to “their duty to bring up their children so as to become useful members of the com­munity, and good, loyal citizens of Siam.” And lastly, he castigated “traffic in young women,” which he described as a new fashion worse than polygamy. The old custom had been for a well-to-do man to have a principal wife and, in the same household, a number of female servants who also served as lesser wives. The new custom favored by the “modern young Siamese” who claimed to be opposed to polygamy was to acquire a number of secret wives, often by paying the parents for them. The old custom had the virtue of being a more 156or less permanent arrangement; the new custom was highly tem­porary. Wealthy men simply used young, ignorant girls, tossing them off when they tired of them.

At one time the King suggested that improvement in the status of women would require “a correction of both the customs and laws of the country.”124 With respect to change in customs, the King hoped that his writings urging men to behave, urging parents to care for their children and not sell their daughters, urging women not to “marry” a man who kept wives the way a farmer kept chickens would have some effect.125 On the matter of legal change, there was much discussion and thought, but in the end no law emerged.

The legal discussions reveal the King’s mind exceptionally well. The King first aired his views on the need for some marriage legis­lation in January 1912 in a private discussion with Prince Damrong and Prince Devawongse.126 The Princes agreed on the need, and by June 1913 M. Padoux, the legal adviser, had drawn up a draft code to which the King reacted with extensive comments.127 The most significant aspect of the code was that it did not outlaw polygamy, and Vajiravudh, despite his personal preference for monogamy, approved. A marriage code, he said, should not reflect the King’s “personal convenience” alone. A marriage code, above all, had to reflect realities, and the reality in Siam was that polygamy existed, it had long existed, it would not cease to exist automatically on the passage of a law. Some councillors, Prince Svasti for one, disagreed with the King and advocated the institution of monogamy at least on paper. The King was vehemently opposed to a law for show:

Finally, I beg to express an emphatic opinion, that if we are going to practice Polygamy, there is no need to hide it, but if it is thought best to hide it, then do not practice it at all. It would be better to act so than to act the Pious Old Tiger; in other words, let us not be hypo­crites.

Vajiravudh marshalled other arguments. A law against polygamy, he said, would antagonize the Thai nationals in the southern provinces who were Muslim. He wrote: “I do not wish to do anything, which would force my Malay subjects of Patani and Satul to run away from the harshness of our laws, to seek refuge under the more equitable laws of the English, who (very wisely) do not interfere with the marriage customs of their subjects.” As to the plea for monogamy on moral grounds, Vajiravudh wrote that the issue was by no means clear, that Buddhism did not consider plural marriage immoral, that European and Siamese moral values were too different to be compared, 157and that “it is most difficult to judge who is on the higher plane and who on the lower.”

One modification of marital practice the King did support was the civil registration of marriages. It was true that lesser wives were disadvantaged and exploited, but through institution of marriage registration such wives would acquire status and protection by law. The law might, further, adopt the principle, which already had some social sanction, that “all children of a man, no matter by which kind of wife, should be recognized as his legitimate children….” In this way, the King wrote, “we Siamese would then actually be going in advance of Europe in the way of providing justice for children!” By September 4, 1913, a draft “Law on Family Registration” had been prepared, incorporating the King’s ideas by making no mention of monogamy but including a system of registration.

No marriage code, however, was enacted during the reign. In­dications are that the King was unwilling to assume full responsibility for a decision on such a delicate matter. And none of his councillors seemed anxious to share the burden. In a meeting of the Council of Ministers on June 4, 1917, for example, a tentative decision was made to send the draft to the Legislative Council (Ratthamontri Sapha). The problem was that the Legislative Council chairman (Prince Rabi) had resigned and no satisfactory replacement was willing to serve.128 The matter seems to have been permanently deferred at this point.

There was one other approach open to His Majesty to bring about a change in Thai marriage custom: setting the example for others to follow. This approach, indeed, had been suggested to King Mongkut in 1853 by an American missionary. Mongkut had claimed the times were not right, and he had walked away. Vajiravudh did not walk away. He fully intended to set an example of monogamy for his people. On November 10, 1920, he announced his betrothal to the Princess Vallabha Devi, and ten days later, at a party given for the King and his fiancée by Thai students who had studied abroad, he publicly announced his decision to take but one wife.129

The King did not adhere to his decision. His desire to set a moral example was outweighed by his desire for an heir. In fact, there is considerable reason to suppose that the only reason he married at all was to provide the dynastic line with a suitable and indisputable successor, a son of his own. The text of the annulment of his betrothal to Princess Vallabha Devi on March 15, 1921, owing to their “incom­patibility of temperament,” said as much. It said that His Majesty, in proclaiming his betrothal, “had no other desire than firmly and definitely to ensure the succession to the Throne with a view to the 158good of the country, the welfare of the Royal House as well as the happiness of His Majesty’s Own Person.”130 The fact that the King, whatever his reasons may have been, had failed to contract any alliances with women until shortly before his fortieth year was in itself indication that policy rather than passion motivated him. His continued bachelorhood, “regarded by the people as a national calamity,”131 must have seemed indeed tinged with possible calamity as, one by one, his full brothers began to die off. By August 1925 there remained only himself and Prajadhipok, and Prajadhipok’s health had never been good. There were, of course, half-brothers, but the feeling that the line would best be preserved by remaining with the sons of Queen Saowapha was strong.

Four women succeeded Princess Vallabha Devi. Princess Lakshmi La van was elevated to the rank of Royal Highness in September 1921 and became consort in August 1922. Two sisters were ennobled as concubines, one with the title of Phra Sucharit Suda in October 1921 and the other with the title of Phra Indrasakti Sachi in June 1922. Phra Indrasakti, who reportedly had several pregnancies ending in miscarriages, was elevated to queen late in 1922, but was demoted from that rank in September 1925. The last wife, Suvadana, was named consort and raised to royal status in October 1925, during the eighth month of her pregnancy. Princess Suvadana bore the King a daughter, Princess Bejaratana, on November 24, 1925, thirty-six hours before Vajiravudh’s death. Since tradition and the King’s own testament on succession ruled out female succession to the throne, Prajadhipok, the King’s last remaining full brother, who was named in the testament as his successor, came to the throne on November 25.

A third major restriction on Thai women was their limited access to education. Tradition had encouraged that boys receive the rudi­ments of learning in temple schools. These schools were not open to girls. School education for females, supported by Western mis­sionaries and some Thai, most notably Queen Saowapha, had started some years before 1910, but the educational opportunities for females were still severely limited. Vajiravudh was determined to advance the status of women in this respect. One significant step taken early in the reign to promote education for females was the opening of Siam’s first teachers’ training college for women in December 1913.132 A Ministry of Religious Affairs and Education report for 1917–18, point­ing to the serious lag in female education, stated that 7,411 girls were in school as compared with 389,806 boys.133 The King, in his birthday speech of 1918, had declared: “The question of female education is one of importance and necessity in view of the fact that to women 159belongs the care of children from infancy and the work of teaching and training them while in the home.”134 And in a didactic poem on the virtues of women, Vajiravudh devoted several stanzas to wom­en’s need for learning as an ornament more valuable than beauty or wealth: “For knowledge runs deep like a branch of the Indus/Which no amount of bailing can ever empty.”135 Perhaps as a con­sequence of the King’s interest, the Ministry of Education in 1918 exhibited a “new interest” in education for girls and cited a new policy of allowing girls up to the age of twelve to attend government schools for boys.136

The most important step, however, in advancing the education of women was taken in 1921. The Elementary Education Act of that year, which set forth the principle of compulsory primary education, made no distinction between the sexes. The act stipulated that, in all areas in which the law came into force, every boy and every girl was required to attend school.137 The effects of the law were dramatic: the percentage of girls in school skyrocketed from 7 percent in 1921 to 29 percent in 1922 and reached 38 percent in 1925.138

The minor hindrances to the progress of women in Siam—hair styles, dress fashions, and tooth color—were obviously all in the category of appearance. Vajiravudh looked on Thai women with Western eyes and found the old styles distinctly unattractive. He wrote: “Every book I have read by a Western writer has commented on the great oddity that, for whatever reason, women cut their hair short. And they state that many Thai women would be very pretty except for their short hair which makes them ugly.” On the Thai women’s preference for betel-stained black teeth, he wrote that it had “long been a subject of foreign criticism” and added: “I myself very much detest black teeth.”139 What Westerners thought was obviously of great importance to the King. What Westerners thought became fact to him, so that traditional Thai fashions were seen not as fashions but as facts that could be explained only as deliberate devices fostered by Thai men to keep their women in bondage. Thai men, he said, wanted to keep their women unattractive so that they could hold them back better.140 And so, the King reasoned, whatever he could do to help Thai women improve their appearance would forward the emancipation of women.

The King’s ideas on fashion were translated into action by the women with whom he associated. His favorite half-sister and some­time companion, Princess Walai, was one of the first Thai women to wear her hair long,141 and long hair “under the personal influence of His Majesty” became the favored style.142 The King’s first fiancée, 160Princess Vallabha Devi, established the skirtlike phasin as the style to be favored over the trouserlike phanung. The Princess first wore the phasin at a party on November 23, 1920. It was an immediate success. One newspaper rhapsodized that the day would “go down in history” as the day a new fashion was set for the ladies of Siam.143 By the end of 1920 the phasin had become the “national dress” for women.144 The phasin was a fine compromise from a nationalistic point of view. It looked like a skirt, it was pleasing to Western eyes, but it was a genuine Thai style that had long been favored by women in the northern provinces. It had an additional advantage over Western dress in that it did not have to be imported. Promoters of the phasin were aware that they were not putting Thai weavers and sewers at a disadvantage.

One female fashion developed late in the reign that had nothing whatsoever to do with Thai tradition: the wearing of hats. The hats of the day were large and floppy brimmed. At their first appearance in late 1920 a letter to the editor of the Bangkok Times pleaded that Siam be spared “the glorious, and notorious, hat of the European one million varieties on Siamese Ladies heads.”145 Siam was not to be spared: the appearance of the King’s companions “gloriously” behatted put the new Western mode beyond censure.

The fashion reforms sponsored by the King were eminently suc­cessful from all points of view. An article in the army magazine summed up the effects: the hair and dress styles of the King’s com­panions, as expected, were imitated widely, for “what the upper class do, the lower class will follow”; the new styles won general Thai approbation, for they tended to put “the Siamese lady more on a level with ladies of the West”; and, as for the Westerners’ reaction, “the Europeans all smile approval.”146


Taken in its broadest possible sense, education was the main concern of King Vajiravudh. For his strongest aim was to educate his nation to its nationhood. His speeches, his writings, and many of his projects, including the Wild Tigers, the Boy Scouts, and the pro-sports acti­vities, were all educational. They were meant to teach his people the values of hardiness, self-reliance, and industry for their own good and for the good of the nation. Given this didactic bent, it would be surprising if the King had not also been keenly interested in education in its more restricted usual sense. He was.

Royal concern for education did not start in the Sixth Reign. In a sense, support for education was part of Thai tradition in that 161aid to the monastic order was a recognized obligation and the order provided young boys with the rudiments of learning. This traditional aid to education was expanded by King Rama IV, who instituted the beginnings of modern (i.e., Western) education by bringing Western tutors into the palace, and further expanded by Rama V, who adopted the principle of public education for the masses and began to con­struct a school system to put that principle into effect. In the main King Vajiravudh was a continuer of educational policies already started. But some features of his program for education bore unmis­takable signs of his nationalistic purpose.

A measure of the King’s strong espousal of education can be seen in his declaration that he regarded the building of a school as an act of Buddhist merit and that, in fact, he would not follow the practice of his predecessors and build a new royal temple as a meritorious act but would, instead, build schools. The first formal declaration in favor of schools by Vajiravudh grew out of a request from a noble who had built a school and asked His Majesty to dedicate it. The King wrote: “Well done. I am certain that this meritorious act will yield better results than the building of a temple for the shelter of sham monks who don yellow robes in order to escape their obliga­tions.” The King asked the Minister of Education to prepare a royal declaration that “If anyone wishes to make merit, achieve beneficial ends, and please His Majesty, let him build schools. To build new temples is not to my liking.”147 The declaration was prepared and issued by August 1911.148

The King’s declaration was accompanied by action. By June 1911 he had established a new private school under royal patronage and supported by the privy purse. The school, which had its precedent in the school for pages at Saranrom Palace, was called Royal Pages College (Rongrian Mahatlek Luang). It was expected to be “a model school for the Kingdom,”149 whose exemplary ideals and practices would spread, in the utopian fashion, throughout Siam. In fact two other schools followed the model of the Royal Pages College: King’s College in Bangkok, which had been a special school under the Minis­try of Justice and came under the King’s patronage in 1916;150 and a new school, the Royal Pages College of Chiangmai, set up on the same lines late in 1917.151 The original Royal Pages College was given a large piece of land near the King’s Chitralada Palace, and temporary structures built in the early years were later replaced by elaborate permanent buildings in a modified temple style. The complex came to be, in effect, the memorial “temple” of King Vajiravudh; after his death the school was renamed Vajiravudh College in his honor.152 162

Royal Support for Education. A cartoon by the King to advertise the 1919 Winter Fair, the proceeds of which were designated to support the Royal Pages College. The original drawing by the King was sold to help raise funds for the college. The advertisement appeared in Dusit samit; the original text was in Thai.

163Many of the King’s notions on education were put into effect at the Royal Pages College. The school was deliberately organized on the lines of an English public school: it was a boarding school with teachers living in; it had several houses; lower classmen were ex­pected to serve upper classmen. The aim was to produce an educational environment that promoted not only book learning but total mental, physical, and moral training for boys and young men. Vajiravudh stated explicitly that he did not want “walking school books” but “manly young men, honest, truthful, clean in habits and thoughts.” He wanted a school that would turn “a boy into a fine young man and a good citizen.”153 The King took a personal interest in the school; he appointed its masters and visited it several times a year. He gave talks at the school twice a year—in November near the anniversary of his coronation, and in May at the wisakhabucha ceremonies (cere­monies commemorating the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha). The November speeches stressed the im­portance of education, the need to respect and obey the masters, the overriding necessity for adherence to high ethical standards.154 The wisakhabucha speeches were usually in the style of sermons on the values of Buddhism and the ways to be a good Buddhist.155 These and other speeches the King gave to school audiences also contained nationalistic messages urging the boys to fulfill their duties to the nation by improving their knowledge, exercising their bodies, and observing proper moral behavior. “A country’s advancement,” he said, “depends on its education,” and Siam’s advancement depended on a youth with education, morality, and national devotion superior to those of their fathers. Siam, he said, had to advance in order to survive, for, with the continued advancement of other nations in the world, to stand still was to fall behind.156

The main means of inculcating nationalism among students, how­ever, was not to make speeches directly on the subject but rather to stimulate a school spirit that would become the building block for national spirit. The English concept that “no one can love his country who does not love his school”157 seems to have been absorbed by Vajiravudh as his own. The theory of larger loyalties developing out of smaller loyalties was one of the King’s abiding faiths; it was the theory behind the moves to strengthen the family and to create groups such as the Wild Tigers and Boy Scouts. Out of loyalty to a smaller group—family, club, team, or school—would grow group solidarity, regard for the interests of one’s fellows, willingness to make conces­sions, discipline, and other virtues essential for the true expression of loyalty to the nation. So within the Royal Pages College small 164sodalities—houses, debating teams, athletic teams—were fostered. These groups competed with each other. In encountering the world outside the school, however, school fellows were expected to act as one. To promote such a school spirit, schoolboys wore special identi­fying dress and competed with other schools in athletic and other events. As boarders, the boys were expected to regard the school as home, with their teachers serving as father substitutes. The honor and good name of the school, the boys were repeatedly told, depended on the good behavior of each. By contributing to the good name of the school the boys were serving their own best interests and the interests of their school, their nation, and their king. As graduates of a “good school” the boys would have earned a passport to a favorable reception in the world outside.158

One other school associated with the Sixth Reign was Chulalong­korn University. It was formally inaugurated as Siam’s first university in 1917. The basis for the university, however, had been laid many years earlier in the civil service training school in the Ministry of Interior. Early in his reign, King Vajiravudh decided to enlarge this school to serve all ministries, to support it with the surplus of money subscribed by the people for the equestrian statue of King Chulalong­korn, and to rename it King Chulalongkorn’s Civil Service College.159 By 1915 a campus had been donated by the King and buildings begun. Vajiravudh seems not to have been deeply involved personally in the details of the university, leaving its organization to an expert board of governors headed by Prince Damrong, but he did support the board and undoubtedly took pride in the prestige of presiding over the establishment of Siam’s first Western-style university.

Probably the most noted educational achievement of the reign was the enactment of a compulsory Primary Education Act in Sep­tember 1921. The act was a logical development from successive educational steps taken in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. By 1910 the fundamental decisions had been made for the organization of provincial schools under the Ministry of Interior, for reliance on local committees and local financing of schools, and for the eventual institution of compulsory education. The records show that in pro­moting public education King Vajiravudh did not assume personal leadership but relied heavily on an energetic, Western-educated official, Čhaophraya Thammasakmontri,160 who had already emerged as a prominent consultant on educational matters to King Chulalong­korn during the last years of his reign. Čhaophraya Thammasak was appointed Minister of Religious Affairs and Education in 1915, and, 165on the reorganization of the ministry in 1920, became Minister of Education. He seems to have been primarily responsible for most of the changes in education, such as the institution of model schools in every amphoe (“district”) in the country and the creation of district educational promoters (thammakan amphoe), that led to the adoption of the compulsory Primary Education Act.161

The act which was to come into effect on October 1, 1921, called for compulsory attendance at school of all boys and girls from the age of seven to fourteen. Noncompliance with the act could result in heavy penalties. All schools, whether supported by the national government, local communities, or private bodies, were to adhere to standards set by the Ministry of Education for syllabus, length of term, textbooks, and the like. National and local schools were to be tuition free, supported in the capital and in impoverished areas by the government and in most provincial areas by a school poll tax and voluntary contributions. Although the act was to come into effect on October 1, it was never intended that on that date, or indeed on any specific date, the full force of the act would come into effect. Indeed it could not. There simply were not enough schools or teachers to make total compliance with compulsory education possible. The act was initially limited to certain village groups (tambon) where reasonably adequate facilities existed. These groups were specified; by the end of 1922 they totalled 45.76 percent of the village groups in the country.162 Furthermore, even in these village groups enforce­ment of the act was not made automatic for all members of the age groups specified. Students who lived too far from a school were exempted. And in areas where facilities were limited, only children in the higher age brackets were required to go to school.163

The act did not revolutionize mass education in Siam. It was not intended to. Most of its provisions were in fact already in effect in the areas in which it was first applied.164 The act more than anything else signified the coming of age of the idea of public education. Com­mitment to the ideal of free public education for all the people was confirmed.

Public education received one new impulse during the Sixth Reign that did closely reflect the King’s concepts. This impulse was toward practical education, training in arts and crafts, rather than just book learning. Schemes for vocational training had been drawn up as early as 1899, but it was not until the Sixth Reign that the first vocational school was started. The School of Arts and Crafts was formally opened by the King early in 1914, and over the years he periodically visited 166the school, admired students’ workmanship, awarded prizes, and in other ways showed particular royal favor for this aspect of educa­tion.165 The main object of the school was to help revive the traditional handicrafts of Siam. But emphasis on practical skills went beyond the establishment of special schools; the curriculum in all schools reflected this new concern. The basic curriculum of five years was divided into two parts, the first three years retaining “ordinary school studies,” the last two years concentrating on useful studies such as carpentry, tailoring, and farming.166

The need to make education relevant to Siam’s farm population was frequently enunciated by the King and the Minister of Education. In presenting his report on discussions of the draft act on compulsory education, the minister pointed out that, while a certain level of general education was needed by the population at large, after Siam’s school children had learned the basics they would best serve their own interests and the interests of the nation by acquiring special skills in agriculture, handicrafts, and business. Siam was essentially an agricultural nation; its progress depended upon advances in agriculture. Therefore, “It is necessary that we begin to train people to acquire knowledge in the agricultural field and to increase respect for agricultural pursuits.” And so with crafts and with business. If the Thai were ever going to be able to compete with foreigners, specifically Chinese immigrants, in such fields, they must gain the requisite knowledge in school. The Thai had aptitudes and capa­bilities enough; they merely lacked the opportunity to develop those capabilities.167

The earlier educational emphasis on training for government service was deplored by both Vajiravudh and Čhaophraya Thamma­sak. Such education was producing “a nation of clerks.” It stimulated farm boys to leave the farms. It led to the abandonment of business and the trades to foreigners. The Thai weakness for “clerkism” was criticized by the King in more than one essay. He went into the subject most fully in an essay of 1915168 in which he stated:

Any man with a grain of commonsense must surely understand that for a country like Siam, the agriculturist and cultivator is much more likely to contribute to her wealth than the clerk, who after all is as much an instrument as the pen or typewriter that he uses (or misuses). As a producer his value is very low in comparison to what he consumes. And yet the clerk thinks himself superior to the farmer, and the worst of it is that we others go on allowing him to think it too!

When will our young men understand that it is quite as honourable to be a farmer, a cultivator, or an artisan, as it is to be a quill-driver?169

167The King laid the blame for clerkism in part on the schools but principally on the society at large. He deplored the general attitude of according more prestige to the lowliest and least efficient paper shuffler, who would willingly “starve on a beggarly” salary in order to live in the “gaiety of the City,” than to the “active producers of wealth for the country.” The King’s essay was an attempt to sway public opinion; the educational reforms were an attempt to expand the options—both in order to cure the national vice of clerkism.

While most of the changes in education introduced by Vajiravudh aimed at simultaneously enhancing national strength and national pride, some changes belong solely in the category of stimulating nationalism. The use of schools to recruit and train members of the Boy Scout movement, already discussed in chapter 3, is one such change. Schools were also used to disseminate the essential messages of love of nation.

Patriotic songs were written specifically for school children to sing. One, for example, went:

All of us youths are proud to be of Thai descent.

Our hearts are strong to protect the power who loves the land,

King Vajiravudh, who has encouraged us all

To offer our bodies and our lives to the royal need.

We are heedless of sacrifice to save our freedom

So that we Thai will endure till the end of time.170

Another method of spreading the idea of nation to all the country’s youth was dissemination of the King’s writings on the subject. This practice was instituted in 1911 with the distribution of copies of the King’s essay Plukčhai su̓apa (Instilling the Wild Tiger Spirit) to the schools. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Education, uncertain as to how the essay should be used, wrote the palace for instructions. Instructions were duly sent. Teachers, it stated, should read this “great treasure for the nation” to all the boys and girls, making clear any parts that the students might have trouble understanding. The essay should be read in a room containing the King’s portrait, so that the reading might be conducted in an atmosphere of respect. At the end of the reading, students should stand-and bow respectfully. The readings were to be conducted periodically on suitable occasions.171

Economic Nationalism

Some of the most virulent expressions of nationalism in late nine­teenth- and early twentieth-century Europe were in the economic sphere. The competition for empire in the Golden Age of Imperialism 168and the fierce commercial and financial rivalries of European states were to become important contributory elements in the bloody con­frontation of World War I. Nor were the postwar years to see any abandonment of the belief that each nation must pursue its own economic interest without concern for long-range consequences. Presaging the catastrophe of the Great Depression of the 1930s was the agricultural depression of the 1920s, in which the leading nations pursued policies of autarky, protecting local producers by imposing political and fiscal obstacles on foreign competitors. And national self-sufficiency not only was regarded as the answer to economic problems but became an article of faith, a basis for pride.

King Vajiravudh and many of his officials were well aware of the main economic tenets of European nationalism. The Minister of Agriculture, in a prescient memorandum to the King written four years before World War I, pointed out that “… all civilised states are putting every power they have at their disposal to support their agriculture, trade and commerce, even to the verge of war.” Siam, he said, must do likewise. And Siam must prevent foreign domination of its economy: “… we have to see to [it] that foreign wealth shall not come in to the purpose of grinding down our people as they have ground down their own….” Siam must develop an economic policy that would wean the people away from their “thriftless” habits, introduce improved farming methods, stimulate new enterprises, and, in short, bring about an “important national movement” to “increase production and promote the national wealth.” Such a movement would make “our beloved Fatherland … a recognized power among the civilised nations.”172

The basic economic philosophy presented by the minister cor­responded with the King’s own views. The practical working out of a policy of economic nationalism, however, was beset with difficulties. In fact, the common view of the reign today is that economics and finance were its areas of greatest weakness. Cited as evidence by writers of the day and subsequent writers are the budgetary deficits inherited by King Prajadhipok in 1925, the lavish expenditures on ceremonies and courtiers, the large allotments to the military as op­posed to the small outlays for internal improvements, the two foreign loans (totaling five million pounds) floated in the London market, and the periodic crises arising from rice shortages, silver shortages, bank failures, and inflation. However, a thorough study and evalua­tion of the reign’s entire economic and fiscal history has just begun.173

The easy supposition that the King’s profligacy was the root source of all the country’s economic ills is highly vulnerable.174 In 169fact, the total income of the national government was small, and while different appropriations of money would have had different effects, the effects, given the limited resources, would, in any event, have been slight. Further, a basic cause of much of the reign’s eco­nomic distress in the 1920s seems to have been the depression in prices of agricultural commodities, and this was a worldwide phenom­enon that Siam could do little to contend with. For not only was Siam unable to affect the asking price for rice, it was unable to raise tariff walls against foreign imports because the country lacked tariff au­tonomy. The essential economic difficulties of the Sixth Reign may then have stemmed from external sources.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that within limits some things might have been done to promote economic development and ameliorate economic hardships that were not done. In the field of agriculture, for example, the ministerial budget was kept at a low level and most projects proposed remained unfunded. At the start of the reign the Bangkok Times commented that the country was in need of “improved methods of agriculture” and that the ministry, “hitherto much neglected,” was beset with problems and required the leadership of a “strong man.”175 The press kept up a continuous barrage of criticisms of agricultural policy, even to the point of saying that the agricultural policy of the Siamese government was “that it has not got any such policy.”176 In a letter to the editor in 1918, a writer bluntly stated what seems to have been the common view:

The plain fact is that agriculture is not, and, so far as my experience carries me, never has been a serious interest of the state. For some time now that has been cynically emphasized by the notorious fact that the Minister does not attend office…. the Ministry has not on its staff an agricultural chemist, and has never shown the faintest recognition of the fact that there is a scientific side to successful rice growing.177

Clearly critics in the press and elsewhere believed that more should be done to help farmers organize their efforts so as to secure a more advantageous bargaining position in the market place, more should be done to secure credit facilities for farmers, more should be done to build irrigation and flood control systems.178 And these “mores” should be done by the government. The plea for government attention, for government acceptance of its responsibility, was insistent. As one editorial put it, “Whatever is done, the initiative must come from the Government.”179

King Vajiravudh was aware of the criticisms of his economic policies. His reaction was a curious mixture of denial of problems, 170criticism of the critics, introduction of some remedial measures, and, most significant from the point of view of nationalism, exhortations to his people to take economic initiatives on their own for love of country.

The workings of economics and finance were something of a mystery to Vajiravudh, and on occasion he admitted as much. In 1912 he wrote, “When I come to the question of finance, I never feel quite happy about it, because I never had a head for finance.”180 In a long and scathing review of a book on political economy, the King stated that such books had only one use for him: they helped to put him to sleep. Economic theory, he held, was useless. What other conclusion could be drawn from the fact that rich men never studied political economy, and political economists were never rich men?181

The King took strong exception to the “loud laments” that the Thai peasantry was impoverished and exploited. The Thai were not poor: there was no starvation in Siam; the people even had money enough to indulge in gambling. The “so-called poor people in Bang­kok,” he said, “are quite rich” compared with the urban poor in Europe. As for people in the countryside, “Our provincial people do not lack necessities; they have got decent roofs over their heads, and ground to till and cultivate.” The only “poor” people in Siam were the extravagant spenders in Bangkok whose luxurious tastes ran beyond their means.182 The King even wrote letters to the press, under the pseudonym Asvabahu, questioning the wisdom of pub­lishing articles on “The Poverty of the People.” On the basis of his extensive travels, said Asvabahu, “I am able to attest that no other country has fewer poor or needy people than Siam.”183

The King also argued that the government had limited resources and must maintain its essential priorities. Defense, he said, was more important to the nation than economic development. If Siam became much more prosperous than it was, how could its increased wealth be defended? Acquisition of wealth was a worthwhile endeavor only if one had the means to protect it. Siam’s defenses must come first.184

The King admitted, however, that the Siamese economy needed improving in various ways. And, he argued, the government was doing what it could. Every birthday speech contained references to the new railway lines that had been laid, the financial measures that had been taken, the agricultural improvements that had been begun. In some areas the record was impressive: railway mileage at the end of the reign was more than treble the mileage that had existed in 1910. In other areas such as irrigation, little had been done by Chulalongkorn ­171and little was done by Vajiravudh until the last years of the reign.

Some innovative approaches in the economic field were tried by King Vajiravudh. They all bore a clear relationship to the King’s philosophy that Siam should learn to be self-reliant. The message of Siam for the Siamese thus spilled over into the economic sphere.

One new approach, already mentioned under education, was the introduction of an arts and crafts curriculum into the schools. By training Thai artisans in these schools, it was hoped that a new class of craftsmen would be created so that Thai would be able to buy locally made products.

A second new approach was an effort to provide farmers with a source of credit so that they would become less dependent upon moneylenders, many of whom were Chinese immigrants. A law estab­lishing National Savings Banks was proclaimed on April 1, 1913. The idea of such savings banks was the King’s and apparently had come to him when he was in England and saw such banks in operation there. The purpose of the savings banks was to encourage people in the provinces to place their modest savings in an accessible institution where their money would be safe and would accrue interest. Loan policies were also designed to favor the small-farmer provincial clientele.185 In 1916 another move in the same direction was taken with the establishment of the first cooperative societies. Some 60 societies had been established by October 1922. It appears, however, that neither the banks nor the societies were much of a success. Government support was maintained at a low level. After ten years of existence, the banks had not yet made a “very serious appeal to the people” and had had little general effect on the rural credit scene.186 The cooperative societies still belonged in the category of an experiment.187

A third approach of the government in fostering economic na­tionalism was its direct sponsorship of new economic enterprises. The first manufacturing enterprise of any size in Siam, and the only one to achieve success during the reign, was the Siam Cement Com­pany, which was founded in 1913. Siam possessed the basic raw materials for cement manufacture; the prospect of Siam’s producing its own cement caught the King’s imagination. He encouraged plans for the company and invested half of the needed capital from the privy purse. The goal was for the company to supply all of Siam’s internal needs. By the end of the reign this goal had been reached. Further, the company had expanded its work force to 300 men, and annual dividends had averaged 12 percent.188 A much smaller effort 172at paper manufacture, sponsored by the Army Survey Department, met with only mixed success.189

The most ambitious effort of the government in promoting new enterprise, its inauguration of the Siamese Steamship Company in January 1918, was an unmixed catastrophe. The idea of a Siamese merchant marine started with the seizure of the German merchant vessels on the day Siam entered World War I. Within days of the seizure, the King and Prince Paribatra, Minister of Marine, were laying plans for a fleet of Thai merchant vessels that would be owned by Thai, be captained by Thai, fly the Thai flag, and enter the export carrying trade early enough to be able to withstand postwar com­petition from the major trading nations. The navy also argued the military benefits of a merchant fleet, which could serve as a naval arm in times of war.190 The demands of international politics compelled the Thai to lease many of the most desirable vessels to the Allies during the war.191 But before the charters came into effect the Siamese navy pressed several of the vessels into merchant service. The largest ship, the Yiam Samut (formerly the Trautenfels), returning fully laden from Japan, foundered on rocks off the China coast in February 1913.192 The loss of the Yiam Samut was but the first of a series of profound shocks and disappointments experienced by the Siamese navy and, later, by the Siamese Steamship Company. In December 1920 another Thai vessel, the Kaeo Samut, was wrecked off the Siamese coast; both ship and cargo were a total loss.193 In addition to the mishaps at sea, the company experienced managerial difficulties at home. Early in 1922 the Borneo Company, a British shipping concern, was appointed managing agent of the Thai company.194 The Thai “experiment in national commercial enterprise,” as the King called it,195 had failed.

By far the most characteristic form of government sponsorship of Thai economic development, however, was exhortation. In numer­ous speeches and essays the King made the case for Thai economic self-reliance. Part of national self-awareness was awareness of the economic responsibilities of Thai to Thai.

In an essay of 1915 whose title translates into English as “Wake Up, Siam,” the King dealt exhaustively with the theme of the economic dimensions of nationalism. The essay started with a definition of the problem. At one time, Vajiravudh wrote, the Thai people produced the articles they needed. With the advent of peace and prosperity, the expansion of foreign trade, and the immigration of Chinese la­borers, the Thai came to rely excessively on foreigners. Foreign 173imports drove Thai manufacturers out of the market. Cheap foreign labor replaced Thai workmen in many crafts and industries. The Thai accepted the new emergent economy because it was convenient. The Thai, who “by nature do not like to work hard,” were content to leave manual labor to the Chinese. The Thai became lazy, giving up skills they once had, depending on foreigners for products they once made. Locally, the Chinese took over food marketing in Bangkok; they dominated the construction industry and carpentry trades. The international market supplied machinery, petroleum, benzine, coal, sugar, and cloth. Some of these imports were necessary, but not all. Petroleum for lamps could be replaced by locally produced coconut oil. Homegrown castor oil could easily supplant imported lubricating oil. Siam had once been self-sufficient in sugar and cloth and could again be. The disadvantages in economic dependence were apparent enough in peacetime; they would expand manyfold in wartime and make Siam extremely vulnerable.196

How were these economic problems to be solved? The repeated suggestions in the press that the government do something, that the government take corrective measures, said Vajiravudh, were unfair. The government’s responsibility was to protect the people and to encourage their enterprise. But the government could not accomplish miracles. It could not act alone. The government, in the last analysis, could not be “Commercial Magnate and Captain of Industry.”197 It was up to the Thai people to help themselves:

For commerce and industries to flourish and grow, the proper business men, men of integrity, to direct commercial and industrial concerns must be forthcoming as well as a sufficient number of labourers. If people in our own country would only realise this elementary truth, there would be a little more energy among our Siamese business men, and a little less fanciful talk. What is the use of always blaming the Government for not making industries flourish in Siam? What do you think business men are there for? Do you think all you need to do is to look like splendid millionaires, and loll about in your arm-chairs planning the latest additions to your gorgeous mansions? … If you do not help yourselves, how could you expect the Government to help you?198

To those who looked on the government as the father of the Thai people and then faulted the father for not caring for his children, Vajiravudh responded by pointing out that fathers did indeed have responsibilities. But were these responsibilities endless? Once a father 174had raised, trained, and educated his child, should not the child then assume his own adult responsibilities?199

It was the responsibility of all the people to improve Siam’s economic lot. Businessmen should invest in Siamese industries. Farmers should plant crops to compete with imports. And consumers should buy Thai products whenever possible. To those who said local products were more expensive than imports, he answered that the flow of capital abroad was an expense that had to be considered. “If we want to retain monetary assets in our country, we must buy only those goods made in our country.”200 The consumer complaints that foreign products were better made should prompt Thai craftsmen to perfect their skills. The Thai in general must learn the virtues of thrift, of accumulating capital. The values the King hoped to instill were exemplified by a character in one of his plays, an inventor, who refused Western bids for his invention because he wanted to sell it to a Thai businessman: “I am Thai, so I want us Thai to reap the rewards of my invention.”201 All Thai should be like this inventor. All Thai should conduct their economic lives in ways beneficial to the Thai; a patriotic people would enable Siam to become productive, self-reliant, and strong.

The King advertised his views not only in speech and on paper but also in deeds. He made regular visits to exhibitions of Thai arts and crafts, to agricultural and trade fairs, to the openings of new industrial plants, all in an effort to stimulate Thai economic endeavors by displays of royal favor. Under the King’s auspices Siam participated in foreign trade fairs and expositions, including those in Turin in 1911 and in San Francisco in 1915, in order to show to the world the best of Thai silver, pottery, lacquerware, and other products. Finally, in 1924 the King began preparations for a great Siamese Kingdom Exhibition, slated to open late in 1925. There were many foreign precedents for such an exhibition; the closest in time and place was the Malaya-Borneo Exhibition of 1922, which its promoters hoped would “be a help to the revival of trade.”202 Vajiravudh had the same hope. His fair, he believed, would bring exhibitors from around the world who would be able to show machinery that could modernize Thai farming. And it would permit Thai from all parts of the country to put their own goods on display for new international buyers.

The Siamese Kingdom Exhibition was Vajiravudh’s last important project before his death. He donated to the government a large tract of land he owned personally, naming it Lumphini Park, and began to develop it with money from the privy purse. The land was 175leveled, and a gateway, clock tower, permanent exhibition hall, and several temporary stalls were erected. Electric generators were or­dered from Germany to light the fair grounds. A brochure was prepared as a guide to exhibitors and fairgoers. The work was well advanced by November 25, when the King died. Within days the new government came to a decision to abandon the project.203


1. Although no exact number of given names has been tabulated, the impression that there is a great variety of personal names is borne out by the most casual observation. A random comparison made of the given names of 100 Thai and 100 American officials yielded 44 repeats of American names and 12 repeats of Thai names. The most frequently repeated American given name (John) appeared 9 times; the Thai favorite (Thawi) came up only 3 times.

2. For example, the names for the infinite kinds of lotus in Thailand were a source for many given names.

3. Vietnam, the one state in Southeast Asia in which Chinese culture was dominant, did adopt Chinese cognominal usage. The use of family names, however, was apparently restricted in early times to the elite classes. Even today Vietnamese usage of family names retains a Southeast Asian flavor in that the prime identifying name is the given personal name and not the family name.

4. “Chaya ru̓ chu̓sae,” Thawipanya, no. 26 (May 1906), 121–128.

5. BT, August 12, 1910.

6. Ibid., October 3, 1911. 300

7. The decree is reproduced in Thawi, pp. 358–363. In January 1912 the King broached the subject of surnames in private discussions with Prince Damrong and Prince Devawongse; see Čhotmaihetraiwan, pp. 47–48.

8. S[awai], pp. 53–54; Thawi, pp. 347–349.

9. S[awai], p. 53.

10. Chamun Amorn Darunrak, Phraratchakaraniyakit samkhan ru̓ang kamnoet nam sakun (Bangkok: Khurusapha, 1968), vol. 1: 7–9.

11. BT, January 3, 1914; Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 66–67.

12. “Priap nam sakun kap chu̓sae,” in Pramuan bot phraratchaniphon, p. 53.

13. “Priap nam sakun,” pp. 45–53.

14. Mandarin: hsing. This word, and other Chinese words the King used, are from the Teochiu, the largest Chinese dialect group in Thailand.

15. “Priap nam sakun,” p. 50.

16. Ibid., p. 51.

17. Ibid., p. 48.

18. Ibid., pp. 45, 53.

19. Ibid., p. 53.

20. The “of Bangkok” was replaced by “of Ayutthaya” in a decree of March 24, 1925.

21. S[awai], pp. 58–60.

22. The document is reproduced in Thawi, p. 353.

23. A table of Thai-Sanskrit-Roman equivalents favored by the King is reproduced in Thawi, pp. 354–358.

24. March 31, 1913.

25. In a decree of March 1915 enforcement of the decree was postponed three years. See RKB 32, March 30, 1915, pp. 33–34.

26. BT, June 2, 1924. NA 128/8, Report of the Ministry of the Interior for 1915, shows that a total of 100,979 individuals in the provinces had been awarded surnames by the end of 1915.

27. S[awai], pp. 61–115, lists the names.

28. BT, June 2, 1924.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid., March 14, 1916.

31. RKB 32, March 2, 1916, pp. 490–491.

32. BT, October 9, 1925.

33. Unless a change in name was requested; then there was a fee. The fee was twenty baht in 1922 (BT, December 19, 1922).

34. BT, October 9, 1925. 301

35. Lauriston Sharp et al., Siamese Rice Village (Bangkok: Cornell Research Center, 1953), p. 80.

36. It may be worth noting that the old royal and noble names, although not divisible into first name and second name, had a perceptible first and second element, and the first element could be used alone: for example, (Prince) Damrong instead of the complete Damrongrajanubhab; Čhaophraya Thewet instead of Thewetwongwiwat.

37. For an explanation of the main principles of the system, see H. G. Quaritch Wales, Ancient Siamese Government and Administration (New York: Paragon, 1965), pp. 22–43; Akin Rabibhadana, The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period, 1782–1873 (Data Paper 74, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell, 1969), p. 23 and passim.

38. BT, November 16, 1914. An earlier translation scheme for noble ranks, instituted in the Fifth Reign, was soon abandoned. See BT, October 5, 1911.

39. NA 6/17, Damrong’s letter, May 25, 1911.

40. See Amorn, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat, vol. 4: 61, 65–67, and BT, November 6, 1916. The formal procedure was for a group of high princes and nobles to petition the King to accept the name; see NA 221, letter of Čhaophraya Thamma of November 4, 1916.

41. NA 221, Prince Pravitra to members of the Council of Ministers, February 6, 1919. The signature Sayamin (Siam-Indra, “Indra of Siam,” meaning “King of Siam”), used from Chulalongkorn’s time, was abandoned.

42. RKB 34, July 12, 1917, pp. 326–330; BT, July 16, 1917.

43. NA 6/235, Čhaophraya Thamma to King, September 29, 1921; BT, October 11 and December 4 and 7, 1921.

44. Speech to Scout Masters’ Training School, November 14, 1916, in CMHSP 11, no. 7 (November 1916): 745.

45. Chamun Amorn Darunrak, “Het thi phrabatsomdet phra mongkutklao song plian thong chat thai,” Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1953), pp. 81–102.

46. NA 184, report on Post and Telegraph Department flag, October 30, 1917.

47. Ru̓ang thetsana su̓apa, September 13, 1914, p. 122.

48. Speech to Scout Masters’ Training School, November 14, 1916, p. 746.

49. Powell, p. 230.

50. BT, September 22, 1917.

51. NA 184, report of Devawongse and Paribatra, May 27, 1916.

52. Prince Paribatra held out only to request that the flags of the world be first carefully scrutinized to insure that Siam’s new design would not be a duplicate of any of them. See NA 184, meeting of Council of Ministers, August 18, 1917.

53. RKB 34, September 30, 1917, pp. 436–440. The King was influenced 302by an article in the Bangkok Daily Mail, August 15, 1917, that expressed disappointment with the red and white flag and suggested the addition of a blue stripe standing for the King. See Vajiravudh’s diary entry for August 18, 1917, in Čhotmaihetraiwan, pp. 194–196.

54. According to an old Thai belief, each day of the week had its aus­picious color: Sunday, red; Monday, yellow; Tuesday, pink; Wednesday, green; Thursday, brown or orange; Friday, blue; Saturday, purple. Although Vajiravudh was in fact born on Saturday, he chose to regard Friday as his birthday; therefore, “his” color was blue.

55. Thawi, p. 435.

56. BT, October 23, 1913.

57. Somphop, Kutakhan, pp. 80–84, 117–122; BT, April 4, 1918.

58. BT, April 8, 1918.

59. Čhotmaihetraiwan, p. 200; BT, March 26 and April 8, 1919. See poem on the sixth of April in Dusit samit 2, no. 17 (1919): 84.

60. NA 250, Charoon to Devawongse, June 30, 1920.

61. NA 250, Dhani to Devawongse, July 7, 1920.

62. NA 250, announcement of the Ministry of the Palace on Chakkri memorial day, March 1921; Čhaophraya Thamma to King, March 22, 1921.

63. BT, April 15, 1913, which mentions the “tiger” cheer, probably refers to “Chaiyo!”

64. Amorn, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat, vol. 3: 48–50.

65. BT, December 6, 1911.

66. Ibid., August 23, 1911.

67. NA 216, typescript of an article on the popularity of football in Siam by Nisit Ǫkfο̨t (Oxford alumnus) dated July 22, 1915. The attribution of this document to the King is circumstantial: it was written in Nakhο̨n Sithammarat during the King’s visit there; the style is that of the King; the “Oxford alumnus” points to the King.

68. Ibid.

69. BT, January 4, 1913.

70. Ibid., January 15, 1917.

71. Ibid., December 29, 1913.

72. Ibid., October 29, 1913.

73. Ibid., April 7, 1914.

74. NA 216, typescript by Nisit Ǫkfο̨t (Oxford alumnus). See note 67 above.

75. CMHSP 9, no. 4 (August 1915): 427–429.

76. BT, August 31, 1915.

77. Ibid., September 6, 1915. 303

78. Ibid., September 28, 1915. Similar aims are reflected in an article by one of Vajiravudh’s closest courtiers. See Phraya Anirut, “Khwam čharoen haeng futbο̨n,” Dusit samit, special issue (1919), pp. 43–44.

79. BT, November 24, 1915.

80. CMHSP 9, no. 5 (September 1915): 471–475; BT, September 13 through October 30, 1915.

81. BT, September 17, 1915.

82. Ibid., September 13, 1918.

83. Ibid., October 18, 1917.

84. NA 216, F. W. Margrett to Prince Pravitra, September 5, 1919.

85. NA 216, memorandum of the Football Association of Siam, undated.

86. NA 216, Prince Dhani to Margrett, September 20, 1919.

87. BT, October and November 1916.

88. BT, November 24, 1915, King’s speech on opening of Royal Bangkok Sports Club’s new building.

89. BT, December 20, 1915.

90. Ibid.

91. BT, December 27, 1915.

92. Ibid., December 24, 1915.

93. Ibid., December 31, 1915.

94. Ibid., August 18, 1919.

95. NA 216, draft of letter by Luang Sakdi, Secretary, Royal Pages Football Club, to the press; this draft is almost certainly in the King’s handwriting. NA 216, Phraya Buri to editors of the Bangkok Times, Siam Observer, and the Bangkok Daily Mail, September 12, 1916. See also BT, September 12, 1916.

96. BT, August 19, 1919. The editor wrote: “… certain teams are specially favoured in obtaining players, and … against these teams certain other teams are not allowed to play their best.” These statements have been corroborated in personal interviews.

97. BT, September 1, 1919.

98. Graham, vol. 1: 243.

99. New York Times, February 17, 1924.

100. Mahatama, p. 12.

101. Ibid., p. 27.

102. Ibid., p. 18.

103. King’s speech to princesses, January 3, 1914, in Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, p. 76.

104. Bot lakhο̨nphut ru̓ang huačhai nakrop, p. 72.

105. Ibid., p. 92.

106. BT, December 18, 1911. 304

107. Graham, vol. 1: 245.

108. “Khru̓angmai haeng khwamrungru̓ang khu̓ saphap haeng sattri,” in Phraratchaniphon thi naru, p. 153.

109. Graham, vol. 1: 245.

110. “Khru̓angmai haeng khwamrungru̓ang khu̓ saphap haeng sattri,” pp. 146–166.

111. Ibid., p. 166.

112. Ibid., p. 163.

113. BT, March 15, 1921.

114. Ibid., February 6 and 10, 1920.

115. Nangsu̓phim thai, as quoted in BT, January 27, 1921.

116. BT, August 5, 1920.

117. Ibid., November 1, 1920.

118. Ibid., November 10, 1920.

119. Ibid., January 6, 1921.

120. Sena su̓ksa (March 1921), as quoted in BT, March 23, 1921.

121. Nangsu̓phim thai, as quoted in BT, February 12, 1920.

122. See, for example, the exchange between King Mongkut and Dr. Bradley in which, according to Bradley, the King “confessed to me that polygamy was a sin but excused himself in it because of the power of custom,” in the Journal of Rev. Dan B. Bradley (microfilm of original in Oberlin College Library), entry of January 4, 1855.

123. Clogs on Our Wheels, pp. 83–124.

124. “Khru̓angmai haeng khwamrungru̓ang khu̓ saphap haeng sattri,” p. 165.

125. Huačhai chainum (Bangkok: Kaona, 1961), p. 59.

126. Čhotmaihetraiwan, pp. 46–47.

127. The King’s views, presented here, are from NA 204, notes on the marriage laws, June 3, 1913, and additional notes, June 5, 1913.

128. NA 204, report of the Council of Ministers meeting, June 4, 1917.

129. Chula Chakrabongse, Lords of Life, p. 297.

130. BT, March 15, 1921.

131. Graham, vol. 1: 231.

132. BT, December 15, 1913.

133. Ibid., January 8, 1920.

134. Ibid., January 3, 1918.

135. “Suphasit samrap sattri,” Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1966), pp. 133–136.

136. BT, January 8, 1920.

137. Ibid., September 26 and 27, 1921. 305

138. M. L. Manich Jumsai, Compulsory Education in Thailand, UNESCO Studies on Compulsory Education (Paris: UNESCO, 1951), p. 42.

139. “Khru̓angmai haeng khwamrungru̓ang khu̓ saphap haeng sattri‚” pp. 160–162.

140. Ibid., p. 162.

141. Chula Chakrabongse, Lords of Life, p. 278.

142. BT, February 23, 1921.

143. Nangsu̓phim thai, as quoted in BT, November 27, 1920.

144. BT, December 11, 1920.

145. December 23, 1920.

146. Sena su̓ksa lae phae witthayasat, as quoted in BT, February 23, 1921.

147. NA 84/16, King to Phraya Wisut, July 7, 1911.

148. BT, August 4, 1911.

149. Ibid., December 21, 1915.

150. Ibid., June 22, 1916.

151. Ibid., December 17, 1916; December 18, 1917.

152. The Chiangmai school was closed for lack of funds late in 1925 (NA 84, Čhaophraya Ram to King, September 9, 1925), and King’s College was combined with the Royal Pages College in 1927 at the time the Pages College received the name Vajiravudh College. See decree of King Prajadhipok, April 16, 1927, in Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1960), p. 35.

153. King to Čhaophraya Phrasadet, undated, in English in Chamun Amorn Darunrak, “Rongrian mahatlek luang,” in Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1969), pp. 257–258.

154. Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 32–37 (1912), 54–60 (1913), 96–102 (1914), 143–147 (1915), 181–185 (1916).

155. Speeches of May 18, 1914, May 30, 1915, and May 18, 1916, in Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1960), pp. 45–90.

156. King’s speech to schools under His Majesty’s patronage, December 27, 1913, in Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 61–63.

157. Cited as a belief of the English middle class by E. M. Forster in “Notes on the English Character,” Abinger Harvest (New York: Meridian, 1955), p. 4.

158. Speech to Royal Pages College, November 12, 1913, in Phraratcha­damrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 58–59. M. L. Pin Malakul, “Wachirawut witthayalai,” Wachirawutthanusο̨n (1960), p. 129.

159. NA 84/5, announcement of the establishment of King Chulalongkorn’s Civil Service College, January 1, 1911. Also BT, January 13, 1911.

160. See Wyatt, p. 363, fn. 117, for biographical details.

161. See NA 127/24, Čhaophraya Thammasak to King, November 21,1917, 306and May 23, 1919; NA 96/4, report of the meeting of viceroys and governors at the Ministry of Education, December 24, 1919.

162. NA 127/8, Report of the Ministry of Education for 1922.

163. BT, September 26, 1921; Manich, pp. 39–41.

164. For example, a report from Lampang in 1919 noted that there were then enough schools and teachers in the province to make compulsory education enforceable (BT, July 17, 1919).

165. BT, January 8, 1914.

166. Ibid., May 15, 1913; NA 127/8, Report of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Education, 1913.

167. NA 96/4, report of the meeting of the viceroys and governors at the Ministry of Education, December 24, 1919.

168. “Clerkism,” in Clogs on Our Wheels, pp. 38–48

169. Ibid., pp. 42–43.

170. Amorn, Su̓apa lae luksu̓a nai prawattisat, vol. 2: 14. The words were by Luang Phithakthepnakhο̨n and the music by Prince Paribatra.

171. NA 127, Minister of Religious Affairs and Education to the King, July 1, 1911, and typed, undated document of instructions.

172. NA 119/8, Phraya Wongsa, “Memorandum on Our Domestic Eco­nomy” (in English), December 7, 1910.

173. For the first study in depth, see Pornpen Hantrakool, “Kanchai čhaingoen phaendin nai ratchasamai phrabatsomdet phra mongkutklao čhaoyuhua,” M. A. thesis, Chulalongkorn University, 1974.

174. Thai royalty traditionally had a record of “generosity.” A fair comparison, for example, would have to balance the expenses of King Chula­longkorn on his trips to Europe, the palaces and temples he built, and his large harem with the personal expenses of his son. Queen Saowapha was noted for her lavish gifts (see Smith, p. 109, and Chula Chakrabongse, Lords of Life, p. 283). Figures available seem to show no marked change in the approximately 10 percent earmarked for the privy purse during the Fifth and Sixth Reigns. For a defense of the King from the charge of fiscal ex­travagance, see Amorn, Dusit thani, pp. 326–333.

175. BT, March 5 and April 16, 1912.

176. Ibid., June 28, 1912.

177. Ibid., February 7, 1918.

178. For important articles on these subjects see BT, August 11, 1911; February 15 and 24, 1912; March 12, 1914; February 8, May 17, November 18, and November 26, 1918; February 9, March 6, May 12, and July 8, 1920; September 7 and November 5, 1921.

179. BT, February 15, 1912.

180. A Siam Miscellany, p. 14.

181. “Sapsat,” Samutthasan 9 (September 1915): 113–133. 307

182. Clogs on Our Wheels, pp. 74–80. See also speech to Wild Tigers, December 5, 1914, in Phrabο̨romrachowat su̓apa, p. 31.

183. Letter to the editor, Nangsu̓phim thai, July 17, 1915, in S[awai], p. 537, and Phraratchaniphon thi naru, p. 119.

184. “Sapsat,” pp. 131–132.

185. Thawi, pp. 345–346; Praphat Trinarong, Chiwit lae ngan khο̨ng atsawaphahu (Bangkok: Watthanaphanit, 1963), pp. 425–444; BT, April 2, 1913.

186. BT, December 29, 1921.

187. Ibid., June 12 and October 31, 1922.

188. James C. Ingram, Economic Change in Thailand since 1850 (Stanford: Stanford, 1955), p. 135.

189. Ibid., p. 139.

190. Paribatra to King, July 27, 1917, and Chakrabongs to Paribatra, August 1, 1917, in Phraprawat lae čhariyawat khong čhο̨mphonru̓a somdet čhaofa bο̨riphat sukhumphan (Bangkok: Krom Uthakasat, 1950), pp. 53–60.

191. NA 35/49, list of chartered vessels.

192. Among the more poignant of the documents on the loss of the Yiam Samut is Prince Paribatra’s letter to the King, February 10,1918, in NA 35/32.

193. BT, December 31, 1920.

194. Ibid., January 6, 1922.

195. King’s birthday speech of 1923 in ibid., January 3, 1923, and Phra­ratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, p. 285.

196. “Mu̓ang thai čhong tu̓n thoet,” pp. 1–32.

197. A Siam Miscellany, pp. 59–60.

198. Ibid., p. 60.

199. Letter to the editor, Nangsu̓phim thai, July 17, 1915, in Phraratcha­niphon thi naru, p. 120.

200. “Mu̓ang thai čhong tu̓n thoet,” p. 31. See also King’s speech of January 3, 1915, in Phraratchadamrat nai phrabatsomdet, pp. 124–125. The King developed his views on Thai economic independence very early. See the essay “Khο̨ tham,” almost certainly by the King under the pen name Thai Hua Het, in Thawipanya, no. 10 (January 1905), pp. 277–289.

201. Mahatama, p. 35.

202. BT, March 9, 1922.

203. Chamun Amorn Darunrak, “Kan ngoen khο̨ng Ion klao r. 6,” Warasan luksu̓a, special issue (July 1, 1970), pp. 94–96; Thawi, pp. 708–715.

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