|H.M.King Chulalongkorn's achievements
On October 23 of every year, the Thai nation celebrated the accomplishments of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great. He is a figure of ultimate veneration among the Thai people.
This Great King brought Siam into the modern age. Building on the natural bounty which the country had in abundance, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn wisely studied western nations' culture and philosophy. What he found good, he introduced into the Siamese culture.
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn during second visit to Europe in 1907.
He is also known for beginning a Siamese cultural renaissance, encouraging the arts and traditional Thai ways, some of which were forgotten. To elaborate on His works would fill volumes. Here is a basic outline of this beloved king's accomplishments.
1. Improving the country by traveling incognito and bringing ideas in from foreign countries. King Chulalongkorn often traveled incognito among his subjects to find out what the commoners thought should be done to improve the country. He used this knowledge to improve the country.
2. He established the first railway system in Thailand, from Bangkok to Khorat, Bangkok-Petchburi, Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Had Yai. He had bridges and roads built to enable the modernization of Siam. The roads built were Rachadamnoen and Yaowarat. The bridges were the Chalerm La and Chalerm Lok, and introduced the first automobiles into Siam. He also established the first post and telegraph office.
3. Public Utilities such as electricity and public water were introduced by King Chulalongkorn.
4. He established the first 'public health facility' which later became the Thai branch of the Red Cross. He established Siriraj Hospital, the Suan Mali Orphanage and an obstetrics institute.
5. He established the Ministry of the Treasury for the use of tax revenue. He also established the first mint and treasury bill printing department. He abolished the use of old 'bullet' money. He designed the concept of the 'Baht', each consisting of 100 satang. He established the first bank in Thailand, the Siam Commercial Bank.
6. King Chulalongkorn the Great established the first agricultural irrigation system in the country. He brought new vegetable and fruit species in from foreign countries, the most famous being rubber. He established the first veterinary hospital for draft animals and cattle. He originated the 'top rice grown in the country' shows.
7. Although an absolute monarch, he encouraged democratic principles by shifting power from the palace to various ministries which He established. These were the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Roads. This gave decision making power to officials in these ministries.
8. Abolishment of Slavery. This was one of King Chulalongkorn's most carefully thought out decrees. He devised a 33 year 'step by step' system under which slaves would be given their freedom in such a manner as to not cause them or the Kingdom any hardship. The long period during which this was done allowed slaves to be educated and enter the 'general' population without any adverse effects.
9. In religion, King Chulalongkorn became the 'Protector of All Faiths' in the Kingdom. Total religious freedom was allowed. His Majesty remained a Buddhist and Benjamabophit Temple was the 'Royal Temple'.
10. King Chulalongkorn believed that education was the beginning of development for Siam. He felt that until the entire populace was literate, industrialization would merely benefit 'the few'. This in mind, He organized the educational system, He established many schools. Formerly, most people were educated by monks, and the only education was reading, writing and Buddhist studies. He made education for women a priority and established Royal Scholarships for especially bright children from all sectors of society. All of these scholars were sent overseas for further study after they finished their required studies in Siam.
11. King Chulalongkorn abolished many practices which He felt were not suitable for the times. He did away with the tradition of the 'second king' and originated the concept of 'crown prince.' He abolished the custom of having to crawl and kow-tow to royalty. He felt that a bow was the only thing that the Crown should expect from its subjects. He declared that men must wear shirts when walking on the streets. He abolished marriage between Princes and Princesses, even if they were the children of different queens.
12. King Chulalongkorn wrote well-known and still studied works of literature. Roi Kaew and Roi Kong are his two major books of poetry. He also wrote literature meant to be entertaining and educational such as Ngoh Pah. His diary of His trip to Europe Klai Ban ('Far from Home') is still read today.
13. Thai dance was encouraged and supported by His Majesty King Chulalongkorn. He also was a patron of Lakorn Nork (drama for the common people) and Lakorn Nai (drama for the palace) as well as 'ancient drama'.
14. In foreign relations, King Chulalongkorn was a true pioneer. He was able to fend off the colonial powers such as Great Britain, France, Holland and others by the use of wise diplomacy. He allied Siam with Germany and Russia, thus giving Her two extremely powerful allies who vowed to protect her against colonial incursion. He made sure that allies' borders were far away from Siam.
King Chulalongkorn in Russia, 1896. Front row (left to right): H. I. H. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia (sister of Emperor Nicholas II), His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Her Imperial Majesty Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and H. R. H. Crown Prince Vajiravudh (later His Majesty King Vajiravudh). Back row (left to right): H. R. H. Prince Svasti Sobhon (half-brother of King Chulalongkorn), Count Muravieff (Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs), H. R. H. Prince Jayanta Mongol (half-brother of King Chulalongkorn), and H. R. H. Prince Chirapravit Voradej, Prince of Nakorn Jaisri (son of King Chulalongkorn).
Deeply loved by the Thai people for his devotion to the
progress of Siam, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn the Great took a very
prosperous and peaceful country and added the best parts of Western technology
to it. This legacy was to last until the coup of 1932. His devotion to
the Siamese people is attested to by the many likenesses of Him which may
be seen throughout the Kingdom.
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