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Chulalongkorn Day

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Going ground in Thailand especially in Bangkok a visitor often comes across many public edifices bearing the name “Chilalongkorn”. Chulalongkorn or King Chulalongkorn the Great or King Rama V was the grandfather of the reigning King Bhumibol. King Chulalongkorn reigned from 1865 to 1910. His was a very fruitful and successful reign. The King, also known as “Father of Modern Siam”, was one of the most loved and honored kings of Thailand.

The year 2011 marks the centennial anniversary of King Chulalongkorn’s death. October 23 is Chulalongkorn Day, a national public holiday to commemorate the loss of a great king, and the advancements he had brought to the country.

King Chulalongkorn’s long reign of 42 years was an era of progressive and comprehensive reforms – political, social, educational, economical. He welcomed western modernization because he himself had traveled widely abroad many times, and even sent his ministers and children to be educated in the West. He therefore was able to lay the foundations for the modern government system and the country’s development that we have these days. A long time, a century, has passed since his death but King Chulalongkorn’s “living monuments” remain : the ministerial system, the judicial system, the national defense, the compulsory military service, the baht currency, and the tax collection system. The reforms included a variety of public utilities – educational and health in particular, the communications systems, the railway system, the post and telegraph services, the waterworks system, etc. These modern reforms had been introduced into the country because the King had wished to open up Siam to the cultures, traditions, education, political organizations, technology and skills of the West – to the Modern Age. Realizing that had he not done so, his country would have shared the same fate as many other countries especially the Asian counterparts of coming under the colonial rules of the western powers, most importantly Britain and France. Bravely and competently, he faced the threats of the modern world using very clever diplomatic strategies and relations. The result was that Siam was able to retain her sovereignty. Internally, the most educated monarch established a western – styled government which led to the present democracy and independence that the Thais have enjoyed till these days.

A lot of social reforms also took place during his reign. A very important one was the abolition of slavery. New western fashions in dressing and hair styles were introduced too. Siam had really been transformed, or modernized.

Being also a monarch who really cared to enhance the lives and livelihoods of his people, King Chulalongkorn traveled extensively throughout the kingdom to personally oversee their welfare. His good deeds had so much endeared him to his subjects, who accordingly gave him another name of “Phrapiyamaharaj” (the Great King Much Beloved).

A most loved and revered king in the Thai history passed away on October 23, 1910. The whole country mourned their great loss. The advancements he had enabled us to achieve are what we have remembered him by. October 23 or Chulalongkorn Day has thus been declared one of the most important national holidays – more so this year as it is the 100th anniversary.

Join us in celebrating this very special occasion to salute King Chulalongkorn the Great and his remarkable reign. The honoring will take place across the country. Wreaths will be laid at his Equestrian Statue at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok and at his statues in the provinces.