Chiang Mai celebrated one of its greatest monarchs as military, foreign diplomats, police, judicial and city officials marked Chulalongkorn Day.
Gov. Charoenrit Sanguansat presided over the Oct. 23 ceremony at the King Chulalongkorn Monument. Candles and incense were lit, prayers made and a wreath laid to mark the passing of the king, also known as Rama V.
King Chulalongkorn was only 15 when he ascended to the throne in 1868, ruling until his death in 1910. He transformed the country, at the time called Siam, from a backward Asian land to a modern 20th century nation.
When he assumed power, Siam had no schools, roads, railways, hospitals or well-equipped military forces. To achieve the enormous task of modernization, he brought in foreign advisors and sent his sons and other young men abroad for education.
His most noteworthy achievement in Siam was the abolition of slavery, devising a complex method of “freeing” slaves so that older ones would not be left in poverty with no place to live. Younger slaves were to be released in stages, responsibility falling to the owner to see that they had a way of supporting themselves.
After his death, King Chulalongkorn was named Piya Maharaj, “the beloved great king” and he is commemorated every Oct. 23, the date of his death.