Thailand celebrates Chakri Day, April 6th

Chakri Dynasty - Chronology of the present-day dynasty of Thailand

H.M. King Buddhayodfa the Greatrama1.jpg (11861 bytes)
(Rama I) 1782-1809

The first King of the Chakri Dynasty, moved the capital city from Thonburi to Bangkok and built the Grand Palace that houses the Emerald Buddha. Helped release Thailand from Burmese control, after Ayuthaya succumbed 14 years earlier.

H.M. King Buddhaloetlarama2.jpg (9971 bytes)
(Rama II) 1809-1824

The first great poet king of the Chakri Dynasty, renowned for his literature.

H.M. King Nangklaorama3.jpg (10785 bytes)
(Rama III) 1824-1851

Extensively encouraged international trading and education, enhanced promotion of Buddhism, and build many temples.

rama4.jpg (10521 bytes)H.M. King Mongkut
(Rama IV) 1851-1868

Modernized Thailand in both commerce and education. Known as "Father of Thai Scientists" and famous for his astrology.

rama5.jpg (12618 bytes)H.M. King Chulalongkorn the Great
(Rama V) 1868-1910

One of the most beloved and revered kings, He abolished slavery, extensively contacted the Western world, modernized the government, education, transportation, and communication. His diplomacy skills saved Thailand from being colonized during colonial period.

rama6.jpg (11207 bytes)H.M. King Vajiravudh
(Rama VI) 1910-1925

A great poet king. Continued the work of Rama V in modernizing Thailand. Promoted education and established the Boy Scouts in Thailand

H.M. King Prajadhipokrama7.jpg (11610 bytes)
(Rama VII) 1925-1935

Granted the Constitution to Thailand in 1932. Thailand changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy.

H.M. King Ananda Mahidolrama8.jpg (10601 bytes)
(Rama VIII), 1935-1946

A direct grandson of King Rama V. Known as the father of modern Thai medicine.

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej therama9.jpg (11999 bytes) Great
(Rama IX) 1946 to the present

A true monarch of the people and guiding light for the whole Thai nation. Saved Thailand from many crises, dedicated to raising the living standards of the poor, especially in remote regions.

Early monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty shaped the Thailand of today

The absolute monarchs of the early Chakri Dynasty had a huge role in the development of Thailand.

The influence of colonialism on Southeast Asia was a major factor in the development of each country. Thailand’s escape from Western colonization was due to two farsighted kings who were well educated and who understood Western thought.

However, the foreigners did substantially influence the economic and social growth of the country. The trade that grew as a result of the many treaties with Western nations pushed over the first domino of modernization.

The absolute monarchs, Rama IV and Rama V in particular, displayed incredible foresight in their decisions. Colonialism was a huge threat in Southeast Asia during those early years, and Thailand is the only country in the region never to have been colonized. It was kept as a buffer state between French Indochina and the British controlled Burma. The country managed to maintain its independence because the kings realized that their country could only escape Western control by developing and westernizing the country. This led to major redevelopment of the country, reorganization of the government and increased primacy of Bangkok.

The Chakri Dynasty began in 1782 when the capital of Bangkok, or Krung Thep, was set up in a loop of the Chao Phraya River, after the golden capital of Ayutthaya was burned by the Khmer. Absolute monarchs reigned the country until 1932 when a democratic uprising changed the monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. Two of these absolute monarchs in particular had a vital role in planning ahead for their country. King Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned from 1850-1868 and King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) who reigned from 1868-1910 were the two kings that played the most important roles in Thailand’s escape from colonization. Rama IV and Rama V were experts in diplomacy as they strengthened Siam and prevented colonial powers from taking over their country. In doing so they built an infrastructure, modernized the economy and westernized Bangkok, creating the city as it is known today.

King Mongkut

King Mongkut was the first monarch receptive to Western influence, although still wary of Western dominance. He was crowned at age 48 after having been in the monkhood for 27 years. This was a huge advantage for King Mongkut as the education he received in the wat helped him understand the West and therefore he knew how to deal with them tactfully. He realized that if Siam was to be able to meet the Western world on equal terms, then they must have the modern technology to do so.


The education King Mongkut received as a monk was invaluable. He learned English which enabled him to read books on modern science, geography, history and mathematics. His English skills also earned him respect from visiting foreign diplomats. As a monk, King Mongkut was able to travel around in Siam and meet people on equal terms. This gave him an open, humane attitude toward his subjects because he saw himself as an ordinary human being, and thoroughly understood the problems of his people.

Foreign Policy

King Mongkut’s foreign policy consisted of two ideas. He wanted to avoid confrontation by making concessions, and he wanted to give all Western countries equal treatment to avoid domination by one. He was responsible for the Bowring Treaty of 1855, which was a treaty of commerce and friendship with Britain. The treaty imposed concessions on Thailand that limited tariffs on trade and granted extra-territorial rights to the British. King Mongkut also established other Bowring-type treaties with the United States, France, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Norway, Prussia, Sweden and Italy.

The effects of these treaties on the capital and government systems were substantial. Although the treaties helped avert colonialism, problem areas arose within Thailand’s traditional economic and legal system. The country needed to modernize fast to accommodate the increase in trade, production and services. Canal digging and road construction began. Ships were built both to modernize the navy and to catch the overflow of trade. The army was reorganized. Many Europeans were employed to reorganize the government. These foreign ministers were all from different countries. The British advised on financing, the French helped reorganize the law system and the Americans were trusted to help advise on foreign affairs. With their help, the King modernized the country and centralized the government.

Domestic Policy

Thailand’s first mint was established around this time, along with new programs in schools that encouraged the study of foreign languages. Rice was beginning to be exported so new canals needed to be dug and new markets opened. The allowance of farangs, or foreigners into Bangkok for trade caused the construction of new buildings and roads. The New Road on the east side of the river was built at this time and new buildings were built along it to accommodate the growing businesses. Other roads were constructed soon afterwards, as the King was ashamed of the condition of the streets and wanted to change their appearance. At this time roads existed only in the center of the city and near markets, but the entire nature of the city changed. Bangkok was changed from its traditional small-scale economy to one focused on manufactured goods and exports.

King Chulalongkorn the Great

King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V) reigned for 42 years, from 1868-1910. He continued the far-sighted reforms of modernization that Mongkut had begun. King Chulalongkorn had prided himself on the methods with which he westernized Siam without subjecting it to foreign control, but King Chulalongkorn was very pragmatic in his reforms. He was critically selective of which reforms to implicate because he did not want to erase any traditional values. The most famous of his reforms was the abolition of slavery. He pronounced every person born during his reign free, and took steps to liberate the present slaves by creating incentives for their owners.

Domestic Policy

King Chulalongkorn made other important internal reforms as well. He expanded the communication and transportation system by building the first railroad, post and telegraph services. These new networks had two great effects on the growth of Thailand. First of all, every system originated in Bangkok and radiated out to the provinces, re-strengthening Bangkok’s primacy. Railroad lines were a good example of this. Not only were the provinces accessible to the city, the city became more accessible to the rural community and as a result, rapid urbanization took place. Second of all, these developments gave the Thai government much more control over the provinces. The government was able to send officials to the provinces and replace the old ruling families with those more favorable to the Chakri throne. Schools were promoted in the provinces where the Thai language was taught to give the country a common language. All of these reforms and more resulted in the national integration of the entire country. With the government in control of its outer provinces, there was less of a chance of colonial takeover. Thailand was united and the national identity that had formed made it harder for colonists to take over parts of the country.

Rama V also sent many students to study abroad for their education. He wanted them to return and be capable of replacing the foreign advisors that King Mongkut had used. King Chulalongkorn also created more government ministers using the West as a model, and thereby centralized the government even more.

King Chulalongkorn also established a variety of public utilities. Health and educational standards for the public were improved. He developed criminal and civil courts, a police force, hospitals, universities and a teacher’s college. Chulalongkorn often traveled through Thailand to personally investigate and share his subject’s conditions. These trips not only made him more aware of what was going on in his country, it also made him more popular with the people.

Result of domestic policy

King Chulalongkorn’s domestic policy was very successful. The colonists’ White Man’s Burden excuse was no longer applicable. Thailand had gained the respect of the foreigners who saw it as stable, modern, able to protect treaty rights and promote trade, all of which were ideal for the westerner’s needs.

Foreign Policy

King Chulalongkorn’s foreign policy was also very successful. He had traveled extensively in Europe in 1897 and met the European royalty on equal terms. He was the first Thai monarch to travel to the west. He knew English well and therefore had read books on Western history and was determined to resist their domination. He knew their strength and tactics and knew that Thailand could never use force against them and still be successful. Instead, Chulalongkorn based his foreign policy on establishing equal rights for all European powers. He did not want any confrontations and therefore managed to continue friendly relations with each country.

King Chulalongkorn made several land concessions to the French and British. To the French he granted Laos in 1893, which had been kept as a sort of buffer state between Siam and French Indochina. Parts of Cambodia, including Angkor Wat, had been ceded to the French in 1867. The southern Malay states were taken by the British in 1909 and thus the borders of present day Thailand were established.

In order for the country to be accepted as independent and a buffer state, the country needed to reform. Both Rama IV and Rama V foresaw this potential problem, and although it appears that they ceded many rights away, they managed to maintain their country’s independence and dignity.

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