The Thai monarchy is little knowm outside of Southeast Asia. All that most Westerners know is that there was a Thai monarchy as a result of the wonderful play and movie: "Ana and the King of Siam"/"The King and I". The Chakrias are the current reigning dynasty. The dynasty has reigned since 1782. In the more than two centuries there have been nine reigning kings, a remarkably small number. Each of the Chakria kings has taken the name Rama. The famous king in the "King and I" was King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Chulalongkorn took many steps to modernize the country and prevent seizure by the European colonial powers. Thialand (then called Siam) was located between British Burma to the west and Frech Indochina to the east. He abolished slavery among other modernizing steps. He was succeeded by two of his sons, first Vajiravudh (1910) and Prajadhipok (1925). King Prajadhipok died unexpectedly (1935). The crown then passed to to Prajadhipok's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. King Mahidol was assasinated (1946). The throne then passed to his younger brother--Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He is greatly revered in Thailand although his real power is limited. The king and Queen Sirikit married in 1950. King Adulyadej is still the Thai monarch, the longest reigning living monarch. The royal couple have four children, including the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is heir to the throne.
The famous king in the "King and I" was King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). Chulalongkorn took many steps to modernize the country and prevent seizure by the European colonial powers just as portrayed in the book. Thialand (then called Siam) was located between British Burma to the west and Frech Indochina to the east. Thailand was the last bit of southeadt Asia to remain independent at the heighth of the colonial era. Prince Chulalongkorn (Phra Chulachom Klao Chaoyuhua)was born (1853). He was the first son of Queen Ramphai Pamarapirom (Thepsirindra) and the ninth surviving son of King Mongkut (Phra Chom Klao). Prince Chulalongkorn ascended the throne as Rama V (1868). He was only 15 years old. Chao Phraya Sri Suriyawongse served as Regent. King Rama V proved to be one of Thiland's longest reining (42 years) and most important monarchs. The King oversaw a series of reforms that brought his country into the modern world and was able to forstall European colonian intervention. He sought to cooperaste with the major European colonial powers (Britain, France, and Rusdia) as well as America. He sent the royal princes (I'm less sure about the Princesses) to be educated in the West, the first Siamese king to do so. He saw the advisability of learning from the West as a way of preventing Western domination. He was the first Siamese monarch to travel widely, not only to neighboring countries, but to Europe.
King Chulalongkorn pursued reforms that reached deeply into Siam national life. He remained an absolute monarch, but pursued a range of progressive reforms. Some of the most important reforms were: abolishing slavery, modernizing transport and communications (railways, post, and telegrams), set up public utilities including public helth works, and establishing an educationsl system. The King also made a range of governmental reforms, including setting up a Western-style cabinet and ministerial system (1892). The King conducted a carefully conceived foreign policy, in particular playing the British and French off each other. France seized land claimed by Siam when it created Indochina, but the King suceeded in maintaining the country's independence.
King Chulalongkorn was succeeded by two of his sons, first Vajiravudh (1910). Prince Vajiravudh was born (1881) and Queen Saovabha, one of his four wives. Vajiravudh received the title Krom Khun Thep Dvaravati (1888).
He like his siblings was educated in the Royal Palace in Siamese and English. He continued his education in Britain, at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (1891). He joined the Durham Light Infantry Regiment upon graduation. His half-brother Crown Prince Vajirunhis died (1894). As the next oldest, Vajiravudh was appointed Crown Prince. He studied law and history at Christ Church, Oxford (1899). Appendicitis prevented him from graduating (1901). He returned to Siam (1902). He became a monk in (1904). This unlike Catholic orders was a temporary matter and did not affect his status as Crown Prince. King Chulalongkorn traveled to Europe to seek treatment for lung disease (1906). Chulalongkorn made Vajiravudh the Regent of Siam whole he was in Europe. Crown Prince Vajiravudh's oversaw the the construction of an equesterian statue of his father. King Chulalongkorn died (1910). Crown Prince Vajuravudh succeeded his father as king.
Even before his coronation, King Vajiravudh moved to make rforms he had been planning for some time. He organized Siam’s military on more Western lines and set up military academies. He created the rank of General for the first time in Siam. He appointed his uncle Prince Bhanurangsi Savangwongse as the country's first Siamese general.
King Prajadhipok suceeded his older brother (1925). The military seized power in the bloodless Siamese revolution (1932). This transformed the government from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. King Prajadhipok at first accepted this change, but subsequently abdicated due to difficulties dealing with the Government. Upon abdicating, King Prajadhipok issued a brief statement criticising the military regime. He died unexpectedly (1935).
With the death of King Prajadhipok, the crown then passed to the King's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. He was just a boy at the time. The National Assembly recognized as king (March 1935). He was a 9-year-old boy going to school in Switzerland.
This meant that at a time when World War II was approaching, the monarchy was unable to influence public policy.
The military led by Defence Minister Major General Phibun at first cooperated with civilian liberals led by Pridi as Foreign Minister. They worked together for a while. General Phibun became prime minister (December 1938). He ended cooperation with civilian politicans and moved toward a more obvious military dictatorship. He admired Benito Mussolini, more than Hitler. The Phiburn Government as a result took on some Fascist trappings. Phibun ordered the arrest of 40 political opponents (early 1939). They included both monarchists and democrats. And after predetermined public show trials, 18 men were executed. These were the first political executions in the country for over a century. Many others, includiung Prince Damrong and Phraya Songsuradej, were exiled. Phibun also launched a xneophobic campaign against the Chinese minority who dominated the country's business sector. He ordered Chinese schools and newspapers closed. He increased taxes on Chinese businesses. Thailand became a Japanese ally during World War II and adhered to the Axis. They supported the Japanese war effort, but with a few exceoptions did not take an active role in the fighting. Japanese troops attacking Burma were allowed to move through Thailnd as well as supplies.
The King returned to Thailand (December 1945). He was by all accounts popular with the Thai peope. Some onservers believe his heart was not in being king. Th King only 6 months later was found shot dead in his bed (June 1946). It was initially beieved to have been a tragic accident. Medical examiners subsequently ruled it a murder. Authiorities arrested three royal pages. They were tried under irregular conditions, found guilty, and quickly execured. The young King's mysterious death has been the subject of much controversy in Thailand.
The throne with the assasinationm of King Ananda Mahidolthen passed to his younger brother--Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). He is greatly revered in Thailand although his real power is limited. The king and Queen Sirikit married (1950). King Adulyadej is still the Thai monarch, the longest reigning living monarch. The royal couple have four children, including the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is heir to the throne.
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