Siam (Thailand) History Part III

By | December 17, 2021

However, this provision was, over time, a cause of difficulties, above all because it applied not only to Europeans, but also to Asian subjects or proteges of Western states, and France especially had made it a weapon to extend its influence so much. that around 1893 more than 30,000 people depended on its jurisdiction. In 1868, King Chulalongkorn succeeded his father, who had been educated by an Englishwoman; he was the first king of Siam to go abroad. Chulalongkorn took care of education and in 1874 took the first step towards the abolition of slavery – a state in which the insolvent debtor fell – by facilitating the ransom of the children of slaves. Meanwhile, the international situation of Siam was becoming dangerous, because France added that of Annam (1883) and Tonkin (1885) to the protectorate over Cambodia (1863-67), while England settled in the Malacca Peninsula and annexed the Burma (1885). However, the king continued his work, hiring numerous foreign advisors and in 1892 reorganized the ministries on the European model. In 1893 following an incident between Siamese troops and customs officials on the Luang Prabang border, the French demanded the evacuation of the territories on the left of the Mekong, conquered by the Siamese in the years 1883-1885, and the demilitarization of an area of ​​25 km. on the right of the river, and, to guarantee the execution of the treaty, the occupation of Chandaburi. To obtain acceptance of their claims, two gunboats, having overcome the resistance of the Paknam fort, went to anchor in front of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. The treaty was signed on October 3. This gave rise to a tension between France and Great Britain, which ended in 1896 by a joint declaration by which the two powers forbade any intervention in the Menam valley without prior agreement and declared the Malacca Peninsula included in the area of British influence, while the whole Mekong basin was part of the French one. In 1897 the king of Siam visited Europe and in the same year he took another step towards the abolition of slavery, forbidding that one could sell oneself in payment of one’s debts, and that slaves for debt could be sold to third parties; in this way slavery gradually died out. In 1904 the two provinces of Bassac and Melou Prey were ceded to France, and after Chulalongkorn’s second visit to Europe in 1907, France renounced consular jurisdiction for its protégés, following the establishment of “international tribunals” (Siamese courts with assistance from the consul and a European councilor) and to hold garrison in Chandaburi, and in exchange he obtained the ancient Cambodian provinces of Battambangh, Sisopon and Siem reap. For Thailand public policy, please check

The declaration of war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1917 led to the abolition of the privileges of the citizens of these states in Siam; and at the constitution of the League of Nations, Siam was called to be part of it as an “original member”.

The new treaties concluded with the European states in the years 1925-26 gave Siam full freedom in financial and customs matters; the foreigners were subjected to the judgment of the Siamese courts, without prejudice to the right of the consuls to attend the judgment of their compatriots and to take the case to themselves in certain cases; right valid for 5 years after the promulgation of the new codes, in preparation.

Chulalongkorn, who died in 1910, was succeeded by his son Rama VI (Vajiravudh), who died in 1925, and to this by his brother Prajadhipok; they continued the renovation started by their father and grandfather.

The world crisis had its repercussions also in Siam; and financial difficulties gave rise to a military movement for the establishment of the constitutional regime; the king agreed on June 27, 1932 a provisional constitution, replaced on December 10 by the definitive one, which created a house of representatives, half elected by the people and half appointed by the king, and a council of state of 14 to 24 members, some of the which the ministries direct. On June 21, 1933, Phya Bahol, former Supreme Commander of the Army, overthrew the ministry and was charged with the functions of President of the Council of State.

Following a conflict with Phya Bahol and the House, King Prajadhipok abdicated on March 3, 1935 and was succeeded by his 11-year-old nephew Amanda Mahidol, under a regency council.

Siam (Thailand) History Part III