Businesses to observe holiday,
close Monday April 7
Chakri Day (April 6) was first instituted by H.M. King
Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in the year 1919 to commemorate all the Kings in the
Chakri Dynasty, which started with Rama I and continues to this day with
Rama IX, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great.
The reigning Kings in the House of Chakri brought peace
and tranquility to the people within Thailand’s borders and successfully
protected the Kingdom, maintaining sovereignty and integrity through crucial
periods threatened by European colonization and two World Wars.
In commemorating “Chakri Day” the national flag is
proudly displayed by the people of Thailand and both government officials
and members of the community participate in traditional ceremonies, making
offerings of flowers and garlands at the many statues of Kings in the House
The Chakri Dynasty, or the “House of Chakri” followed
the reign of King Taksin the Great, when He abdicated due to poor health.
The Chakri Dynasty was ushered in on 6 April 1782 when a close aid of King
Taksin, General Chakri, marched back into Thonburi and assumed the throne as
H.M. King Buddhayodfa the Great. Each Monarch thereafter has had “Rama”
as part of their title.
Since this year the holiday falls on a Sunday, most
offices will close on Monday, April 7 in observance of the special day.
Chakri Dynasty - Chronology of the present-day Dynasty of Thailand
King Buddhayodfa the Great (Rama
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.
King Buddhaloetla (Rama II) 1809-1824
The first great poet king of the Chakri Dynasty, renowned
for his literature.
King Nangklao (Rama III) 1824-1851
Extensively encouraged international trading and
education, enhanced promotion of Buddhism and built many temples.
King Mongkut (Rama IV) 1851-1868
Modernized Thailand in both commerce and education. Known
as the “Father of Thai Scientists” and famous for his astrology.
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.
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
King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) 1925-1935
Granted the Constitution to Thailand in 1932. Thailand
changed from Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy.
King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), 1935-1946
A direct grandson of King Rama V. Known as the father of
modern Thai medicine.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (Rama IX) 1946 to
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, 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
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 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.
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
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.
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 was an impetus for 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 pra- gmatic 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.
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
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
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.