Special report: Abhakara Day

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Naval officials and worshippers on May 19 each year pay tribute to Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse or Admiral Prince Krom Luang Chumphon Khet Udom Sak, whose unstinting dedication to the development of the Thai navy earned him the title of ‘Father of the Royal Thai Navy’. 

Born on December 19, 1880, Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse is a son of King Chulalongkorn, or King Rama V.

He spent his early years studying naval warfare in England and returned to Siam to serve in the Royal Siamese Navy and contributed significantly to the advancement and modernization of the navy, resulting in the improvement in navy studies which incorporated western subjects, such as astrology, algebra, geometry, and hydrography. His other best-known masterpieces include the establishment of Sattahip Naval Base in Chon Buri and the Royal Thai Naval Academy.

Not only does the prince be respected for his major role in the advancement and modernization of the navy, but he is also much loved by commoners for his dedication to helping rural people. He was particularly interested in the study of herbal medicine and used his expertise to treat people of all classes without disclosing his royal background. As a result, he was also otherwise known as Doctor Phon.

Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse succumbed to influenza on May 19, 1923 at the age of 43. Despite decades of his passing, Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse’ contributions to the Thai navy and to society apparently imprint unforgettable memories on many Thais. More than 200 shrines and monuments of the Prince were erected throughout Thailand.

As a gesture of gratitude, the Royal Thai Navy decided to mark May 19 the Abhakara Day during which time naval officials and worshippers perform religious and charitable activities in commemoration of the Prince’s devotion to the country.