Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam
Chapter 7: Thailand
Somboon Siriprachai A short political history Like any other traditional society, from the time of Sukothai (the ﬁrst kingdom and ﬁrst city of Thailand, circa 1260–1350 AD) to the coup d’état of 1932, the king was at the centre of Thai political structure. The king held extensive power – responsible for the administrative, judicial, military, religious and cultural life of the country. He also appointed central and provincial oﬃcials, issued edicts on a variety of subjects, made decisions on legal issues, oversaw preparations for war, protected the Buddhist faith and provided generous support for the arts, which was essential for any king of Thailand. Many Thai monarchs were leading intellectuals and poets, and others, for instance King Mongkut (1851–67) and King Chulalongkorn (1868–1910), preserved Thailand’s independence from the West in an era of colonial expansion. The journey of modern Thailand began when King Chulalongkorn initiated the reform programme, which included the introduction of Western-style education and public health systems, railways and public security apparatus such as police. Under the Sakdina (Thai feudalism) regime, which had survived for centuries, the Thai monarchy was unable to present its great power in the twentieth century. By the 1920s, the storm of change in the political system was emerging among military oﬃcers, civilian oﬃcials and students who had studied abroad, particularly in France. The coups of 24 June 1932 brought the military to a dominant position in the Thai political structure, and the Provincial Constitution of 27 June...
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