Siam #1 (1883)

Siam #1 (1883)

Siam #1 (1883)
Siam #1 (1883)

Siam (สยาม), or as it was officially called until 1939, the Kingdom of Rattanakosin (อาณาจักรรัตนโกสินทร์ — [āːnāːt͡ɕàk ráttanákōːsǐn) was a country at the center of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia with borders defined by its interactions with Western powers, portions of which coincide with the present-day Kingdom of Thailand (ราชอาณาจักรไทย — Ratcha-anachak Thai). It was founded in 1782 with the establishment of Bangkok as the capital city. The maximum zone of influence of the Rattanakosin Kingdom included the vassal states of Cambodia, Laos, Burmese Shan States, and some Malay kingdoms. Following the losses of territory to France and the United Kingdom between 1869 and 1909, Siam attained the current borders of Thailand with a total land area of 198,120 square miles (513,120 square kilometers), bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

Prior to the rise of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, the region of Siam was ruled by the Kingdom of Sukhothai (อาณาจักรสุโขทัย) from 1238–1438, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (อาณาจักรอยุธยา) between 1351 and 1767, and the Kingdom of Thonburi (อาณาจักรธนบุรี). The nation was renamed the Kingdom of Thailand in 1939 and officially the Royal Kingdom of Siam (พระราชอาณาจักรสยาม) from 1945-1949 and has been known as Thailand since then.

The kingdom was founded by King Rama I (Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok) of the Chakri Dynasty. The first half of this period was characterized by the consolidation of the kingdom’s power and was punctuated by periodic conflicts with Burma, Vietnam and Laos. The second period was one of engagements with the colonial powers of Britain and France in which Siam managed to remain the only Southeast Asian nation to maintain its independence.

Internally the kingdom developed into a modern centralized nation state. Significant economic and social progress was made, marked by an increase in foreign trade, the abolition of slavery and the expansion of formal education to the emerging middle class. However, the failure to implement substantial political reforms culminated in the 1932 revolution and the abandonment of absolute monarchy in favor of a constitutional monarchy.

The country has always been called Mueang Thai by its citizens. By outsiders prior to 1949, it was usually known by the exonym Siam (Sayam, also spelled Siem, Syâm, or Syâma). The word Siam has been identified with the Sanskrit Śyāma (श्याम, meaning “dark” or “brown”). The names Shan and A-hom seem to be variants of the same word. The word Śyâma is possibly not its origin, but a learned and artificial distortion. Another theory is the name derives from Chinese. Ayutthaya emerged as a dominant center in the late fourteenth century. The Chinese called this region Xian, which the Portuguese converted into Siam. A further possibility is that Mon-speaking peoples migrating south called themselves syem as do the autochthonous Mon-Khmer-speaking inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula.

The signature of King Mongkut (reigned 1851 – 1868) reads SPPM (Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha) meaning “Mongkut King of the Siamese”, giving the name Siam official status until June 24, 1939, when it was changed to Thailand. Thailand was renamed Siam from 1945 to May 11, 1949, after which it again reverted to Thailand.

According to French scholar George Cœdès, the word Thai (ไทย) means “free man” in the Thai language, “differentiating the Thai from the natives encompassed in Thai society as serfs.” A famous Thai scholar argued that Thai (ไท) simply means “people” or “human being”, since his investigation shows that in some rural areas the word “Thai” was used instead of the usual Thai word “khon” (คน) for people.

While Thai people will often refer to their country using the polite form prathet Thai (ประเทศไทย), they most commonly use the more colloquial term mueang Thai (เมืองไทย) or simply Thai, the word mueang, archaically a city-state, commonly used to refer to a city or town as the center of a region. Ratcha Anachak Thai (ราชอาณาจักรไทย) means “kingdom of Thailand” or “kingdom of Thai”. Etymologically, its components are: ratcha (Sanskrit raja “king, royal, realm”) ; –ana– (Pali āṇā “authority, command, power”, itself from an Old Indo-Aryan form ājñā of the same meaning) –chak (from Sanskrit चक्र cakra– “wheel”, a symbol of power and rule). The Thai National Anthem (เพลงชาติ), written by Luang Saranupraphan during the extremely patriotic 1930s, refers to the Thai nation as prathet Thai (ประเทศไทย). The first line of the national anthem is: prathet thai ruam lueat nuea chat chuea thai (ประเทศไทยรวมเลือดเนื้อชาติเชื้อไทย), “Thailand is the unity of Thai flesh and blood.”

Map of Siam, 1889
Map of Siam, 1889

There is evidence of human habitation in Thailand that has been dated at 40,000 years before the present, with stone artifacts dated to this period at Tham Lod Rockshelter in Mae Hong Son. Similar to other regions in Southeast Asia, Thailand was heavily influenced by the culture and religions of India, starting with the Kingdom of Funan around the 1st century CE to the Khmer Empire. Thailand in its earliest days was under the rule of the Khmer Empire, which had strong Hindu roots, and the influence among Thais remains even today.

Indian influence on Thai culture was partly the result of direct contact with Indian settlers, but mainly it was brought about indirectly via the Indianized kingdoms of Dvaravati, Srivijaya, and Cambodia. E.A. Voretzsch believes that Buddhism must have been flowing into Siam from India in the time of the Indian Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire and far on into the first millennium after Christ. Later Thailand was influenced by the south Indian Pallava dynasty and north Indian Gupta Empire.

According to George Cœdès, “The Thai first enter history of Farther India in the eleventh century with the mention of Syam slaves or prisoners of war in” Champa epigraphy, and “in the twelfth century, the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat” where “a group of warriors” are described as Syam. Additionally, “the Mongols, after the seizure of Ta-li on January 7, 1253, and the pacification of Yunnan in 1257, did not look with disfavor on the creation of a series of Thai principalities at the expense of the old Indianized kingdoms.” The Menam Basin was originally populated by the Mons, and the location of Dvaravati in the 7th century, followed by the Khmer Empire in the 11th. The History of the Yuan mentions an embassy from the kingdom of Sukhothai in 1282. In 1287, three Thai chiefs, Mangrai, Ngam Muang, and Ram Khamhaeng formed a “strong pact of friendship”.

After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 13th century, various states thrived there, established by the various Tai peoples, Mons, Khmers, Chams and Ethnic Malays, as seen through the numerous archaeological sites and artifacts that are scattered throughout the Siamese landscape. Prior to the 12th century however, the first Thai or Siamese state is traditionally considered to be the Buddhist Sukhothai Kingdom, which was founded in 1238.

Following the decline and fall of the Khmer empire in the 13th–15th century, the Buddhist Tai kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lanna, and Lan Xang (now Laos) were on the rise. However, a century later, the power of Sukhothai was overshadowed by the new Kingdom of Ayutthaya, established in the mid-14th century in the lower Chao Phraya River or Menam area.

Ayutthaya’s expansion centred along the Menam while in the northern valleys the Lanna Kingdom and other small Tai city-states ruled the area. In 1431, the Khmer abandoned Angkor after Ayutthaya forces invaded the city. Thailand retained a tradition of trade with its neighboring states, from China to India, Persia, and Arab lands. Ayutthaya became one of the most vibrant trading centers in Asia. European traders arrived in the early 16th century, beginning with the envoy of Portuguese duke Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511, followed by the French, Dutch, and English. The Burmese–Siamese War (1765–1767) left Ayutthaya burned and sacked by King Hsinbyushin Konbaung. In 1767, after dominating southeast Asia for almost 400 years, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was brought down by invading Burmese armies.

Despite its complete defeat and occupation by Burma, Siam made a rapid recovery. The resistance to Burmese rule was led by a noble of Chinese descent, Taksin, a capable military leader. Initially based at Chanthaburi in the south-east, within a year he had defeated the Burmese occupation army and reestablished a Siamese state with its capital at Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya, 20 kilometers from the sea. In 1768, he was crowned as King Taksin (now officially known as Taksin the Great). He rapidly re-united the central Thai heartlands under his rule, and in 1769 he also occupied western Cambodia.

He then marched south and re-established Siamese rule over the Malay Peninsula as far south as Penang and Terengganu. Having secured his base in Siam, Taksin attacked the Burmese in the north in 1774 and captured Chiang Mai in 1776, permanently uniting Siam and Lanna. Taksin’s leading general in this campaign was Thong Duang, known by the title Chaophraya or Lord Chakri was himself a decedent of Mon people. In 1778, Chakri led a Siamese army which captured Vientiane, also Luang Phrabang, a northern Lao kingdom submitted, and eventually established Siamese domination over Laotian kingdoms.

Despite these successes, by 1779 Taksin was in political trouble at home. He seems to have developed a religious mania, alienating the powerful Buddhist monkhood by claiming to be a sotapanna or divine figure. He was also in trouble with court officials, Chinese merchants, and missionaries. The foreign observers began to speculate that he would soon be overthrown. In 1782, Taksin sent his armies under Chakri, the future Rama I of Rattanakosin, to invade Cambodia, but while they were away a rebellion broke out in the area around the capital. The rebels, who had wide popular support, offered the throne to General Chakri, the ‘supreme general’. Chakri who was on war duty marched back from Cambodia and deposed Taksin, who was purportedly ‘secretly executed’ shortly after.

Chakri ruled under the name Ramathibodi (he was posthumously given the name Phutthayotfa Chulalok), but is now generally known as King Rama I, first king of the later known Chakri dynasty. One of his first decisions was to move the capital across the river to the village of Bang Makok (meaning “place of olive plums”), which soon became the city of Bangkok. The new capital was located on the island of Rattanakosin, protected from attack by the river to the west and by a series of canals to the north, east and south. Siam thus acquired both its current dynasty and its current capital.

Rama I who was himself of Mon, Thai and Chinese descent restored most of the social and political system of the Ayutthaya kingdom, promulgating new law codes, reinstating court ceremonies and imposing discipline on the Buddhist monkhood. His government was carried out by six great ministries (Krom) headed by royal princes. Four of these administered particular territories: the Kalahom the south; the Mahatthai the north and east; the Phrakhlang the area immediately south of the capital; and the Krom Mueang, the area around Bangkok. The other two were the ministry of lands (Krom Na) and the ministry of the royal court (Krom Wang). The army was controlled by the King’s deputy and brother, the Uparat.

The Burmese, seeing the disorder accompanying the overthrow of Taksin, invaded Siam again in 1785. Rama allowed them to occupy both the north and the south, but the Uparat, vice-king, his brother, led the Siamese army into western Siam and crushed the Burmese forces in a battle near Kanchanaburi. This was the last major Burmese invasion of Siam, although as late as 1802 Burmese forces had to be driven out of Lanna. In 1792, the Siamese occupied Luang Prabang and brought most of Laos under indirect Siamese rule. Cambodia was also effectively ruled by Siam. By the time of his death in 1809, Rama I had created a Siamese overlordship dominating an area considerably larger than modern Thailand.

King Bodawpaya of Burma started to pursue his ambitious campaigns to expand his dominions over Siam. The Burmese-Siamese War (1785–1786), also known in Siam as the “Nine Armies War” because the Burmese came in nine armies, broke out. The Burmese soldiers poured into Lanna and Northern Siam. Siamese forces, commanded by Kawila, Prince of Lampang, put up a brave fight and delayed the Burmese advance, all the while waiting for reinforcements from Bangkok. When Phitsanulok was captured, Anurak Devesh the Rear Palace, and Rama I himself led Siamese forces to the north. The Siamese relieved Lampang from the Burmese siege.

In the south, Bodawpaya was waiting at Chedi Sam Ong ready to attack. The Front Palace was ordered to lead his troops to the south and counter-attack the Burmese coming to Ranong through Nakhon Si Thammarat. He brought the Burmese to battle near Kanchanaburi. The Burmese also attacked Thalang (Phuket), where the governor had just died. His wife Chan, and her sister Mook, gathered the local people and successfully defended Thalang against the Burmese. Today, Chan and Mook are revered as heroines because of their opposition to the Burmese invasions. In their own lifetimes, Rama I bestowed on them the titles Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon.

The Burmese proceeded to capture Songkhla. Upon hearing the news, the governors of Phatthalung fled. However, a monk named Phra Maha encouraged the citizens of the area to take up arms against the Burmese, his campaign was also successful. Phra Maha was later raised to the nobility by Rama I.

As his armies were destroyed, Bodawpaya retreated. The next year, he attacked again, this time constituting his troops as a single army. With this force Bodawpaya passed through the Three Pagoda Pass and settled in Ta Din Dang (Three Pagoda Pass.) The Front Palace marched the Siamese forces to face Bodawpaya. The fighting was very short and Bodawpaya was quickly defeated. This short war was called the “Ta Din Dang campaign”.

Chinese immigration increased during Rama I’s reign, who maintained Taksin’s policy of allowing Chinese immigration to sustain the country’s economy. The Chinese were found mainly in the trading and mercantile sector, and by the time his son and grandson came to the throne, European explorers noted that Bangkok was filled with Chinese junks of all sizes.

During the first few years prior to the founding of Bangkok, Rama I saw the construction of the palaces and the Chapel Royal. The Chapel Royal or Wat Phra Kaew of which the Emerald Buddha is enshrined is located within his Royal Palace or the Grand Palace. With the completion of the new capital, Rama I held an official ceremony naming the new capital.

In 1804, Rama I began the compilation of the Three Seals Law, consisting of old Ayutthayan laws collected and organized. The seals are: 1. The Royal Lion of the Minister of the Interior; 2. The Trunked Lion of the Minister of Defence; and 3. The Crystal Lotus of the Minister of the Port. He also initiated a reform of government and the style of Kingship.

Rama I was also noted for instituting major reforms in Buddhism as well as restoring moral discipline among the monks in the country, which had gradually eroded with the fall of Ayutthaya. Monks had already dabbled in superstitions when he first came to power, and Rama I implemented a law which required a monk who wished to travel to another principality for further education to present a certificate bearing his personal particulars, which would prove a monk own’s legitimacy that he had been properly ordained. The King also repeatedly emphasized in state ceremonies to place devotion to the Buddha, and not over guardian spirits and past rulers, of which vestiges of ancient Animist worship had a persisted among the Thais prior to his rule.

The King also appointed the first Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism, whose responsibilities included the duty of ensuring that Rama I’s laws are maintained which was to ensure law and order within the Buddhist Sangha. Rama I’s passion for literature, which was also connected with his concern for Buddhist order within the country. He was noted for advocating Thai translation of important Pali works. and Buddhist texts lost in the chaos after the sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767, some were salvaged under the direction of Rama I. He also wrote a Thai version of the Ramayana epos called Ramakian.

Rama I also, renewed the relationship with the Vatican and the Jesuits. Missionaries who were expelled during the Taksin’s reign, were invited back to Siam. Catholic missionaries’s activities then continued in Siam. Reportedly the numbers of local Catholics increased steadily to thousands as their churches were protected, gaining freedom to propagate their belief again.

The reign of Rama I’s son Phutthaloetla Naphalai (now known as King Rama II) was relatively uneventful. The Chakri family now controlled all branches of Siamese government — since Rama I had 42 children, his brother the Uparat had 43 and Rama II had 73, there was no shortage of royal princes to staff the bureaucracy, the army, the senior monkhood and the provincial governments. Most of these were the children of concubines and thus not eligible to inherit the throne. There was a confrontation with Vietnam, now becoming a major power in the region, over control of Cambodia in 1813, ending with the status quo restored. But during Rama II’s reign western influences again began to be felt in Siam.

In 1786, the British East India Company occupied Penang, and in 1819 they founded Singapore. Soon the British displaced the Dutch and Portuguese as the main western economic and political influence in Siam. The British objected to the Siamese economic system, in which trading monopolies were held by royal princes and businesses were subject to arbitrary taxation. In 1821, the East India Company’s Lord Hastings, then Governor-General of India, sent Company agent John Crawfurd on a mission to negotiate a new trade agreement with Siam — the first sign of an issue which was to dominate 19th century Siamese politics.

It was well known that Rama II was a lover of the arts and in particular the literary arts. He was an accomplished poet and anyone with the ability to write a refined piece of poetry would gain the favor of the king; this led to him being dubbed the “poet king”. It was because of this special circumstance that the poet Sunthon Phu was able to elevate himself the noble title from “phrai” status to “khun” and later “phra“. Sunthon — also known as the drunken writer — authored numerous works, including epic poem Phra Aphai Mani.

Phra Aphai Mani statue, sunrise on Hat Sai Kaew, Ko Samet.
Phra Aphai Mani statue, sunrise on Hat Sai Kaew, Ko Samet.

Rama II rewrote much of the great literature from the reign of Rama I in a modern style. He is attributed with writing a popular version of the Thai folk tale Ramakien and wrote a number of other dance dramas such as Sang Thong. The king was a musician of renown, playing and composing for the fiddle and introducing new techniques for playing certain instruments. He was also a sculptor and is accredited with sculpting the face of the Niramitr Buddha in Wat Arun. Because of his remarkable artistic achievements, Rama II’s birthday is now officially celebrated as National Artists’ Day (Wan Sinlapin Haeng Chat) and is held in honor of those artists who have contributed to the artistic and cultural heritage of the kingdom.

Rama II died in 1824 and was peacefully succeeded by his son Prince Jessadabondindra, who reigned as King Phra Nangklao, now known as Rama III. Rama II’s younger son, Mongkut, was “suggested” to become a monk, removing him from politics.

In 1825, the British sent another mission to Bangkok led by East India Company emissary Henry Burney. They had by now annexed southern Burma and were thus Siam’s neighbors to the west, and they were also extending their control over Malaya. The King was reluctant to give in to British demands, but his advisers warned him that Siam would meet the same fate as Burma unless the British were accommodated. In 1826, therefore, Siam concluded its first commercial treaty with a western power, the Burney Treaty. Under the treaty, Siam agreed to establish a uniform taxation system, to reduce taxes on foreign trade and to abolish some of the royal monopolies. As a result, Siam’s trade increased rapidly, many more foreigners settled in Bangkok, and western cultural influences began to spread. The kingdom became wealthier and its army better armed.

A Lao rebellion led by Anouvong was defeated in 1827, following which Siam destroyed Vientiane, carried out massive forced population transfers from Laos to the more securely held area of Isan, and divided the Lao mueang into smaller units to prevent another uprising. In 1842–1845, Siam waged a successful war with Vietnam, which tightened Siamese rule over Cambodia. Rama III’s most visible legacy in Bangkok is the Wat Pho temple complex, which he enlarged and endowed with new temples.

Rama III regarded his brother Mongkut, who was said to be very popular among the British, as his heir, although as a monk Mongkut could not openly assume this role. He used his long sojourn as a monk to acquire a western education from French and American missionaries, and British merchants, one of the first Siamese to do so. He learned English and Latin, and studied science and mathematics. The missionaries no doubt hoped to convert him to Christianity, but in fact he was a strict Buddhist and a Siamese nationalist. He intended using this western knowledge to strengthen and modernize Siam when he came to the throne, which he did in 1851.

By the 1840s, it was obvious that Siamese independence was in danger from the colonial powers: this was shown dramatically by the British First Opium War with China in 1839–1842. In 1850, the British and Americans sent missions to Bangkok demanding the end of all restrictions on trade, the establishment of a western-style government and immunity for their citizens from Siamese law (extraterritoriality). Rama III’s government refused these demands, leaving his successor with a dangerous situation. Rama III reportedly said on his deathbed: “[T]here will be no more wars with Burma and Vietnam. We will have them only with the West.”

Economically, from its foundation, Rattanakosin witnessed the growing role of Chinese merchants, a policy that started with king Taksin, himself the son of a Chinese merchant. Beside merchants, Chinese who were farmers, endlessly came to seek fortune in the new kingdom. The Rattanakosin’s rulers welcomed the Chinese, due to their source of economic revival. Some ethnic Chinese merchants became the court officials, holding crucial positions. Chinese culture such as literature was accepted and promoted. Many Chinese works were translated by ethnic Chinese court dignitaries.Siam’s relationship with the Chinese Empire was strong. Rama I claimed his blood-relation with Taksin, worrying that the Chinese court might reject his approval. The relationship was guaranteed by the tributary missions, continuing until the Rama IV’s reign. Thus Chinese played a very crucial role in the revival of Rattanakosin kingdom.

Mongkut came to the throne as Rama IV in 1851, determined to prevent Siam from falling under colonial domination by forcing modernisation on his reluctant subjects. But although he was in theory an absolute monarch, his power was limited. Having been a monk for 27 years, he lacked a base among the powerful royal princes, and did not have a modern state apparatus to carry out his wishes. His first attempts at reform, to establish a modern system of administration and to improve the status of debt-slaves and women, were frustrated.

Rama IV thus came to welcome western intrusion in Siam. Indeed, the king himself and his entourages were actively pro-British. This came in 1855 in the form of a mission led by the Governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Bowring, who arrived in Bangkok with demands for immediate changes, backed by the threat of force. The King readily agreed to his demand for a new treaty, called the Bowring Treaty, which restricted import duties to 3%, abolished royal trade monopolies, and granted extraterritoriality to British subjects. Other western powers soon demanded and got similar concessions.

The earliest recorded mail from Bangkok was a stampless letter sent by an American missionary to his father in 1836. The signing of the Bowring Treaty on April 18, 1855, opened Siam to foreign trade and diplomatic relations were established with Britain. The British Consulate in Bangkok opened on June 11, 1856, and the British Consular Post Office in Bangkok two years later. Missionaries, expatriate merchants and other foreign residents of Bangkok requested permission to include their letters in the diplomatic pouch that traveled back and forth to Singapore every 15 days. The Chief Constable at the Consulate, H. A. Gardner, was named as Postmaster in January 1869.

Post office at the British Consulate on Charoenkrung Road, Bangkok
Post office at the British Consulate on Charoenkrung Road, Bangkok

The king soon came to consider that the real threat to Siam came from the French, not the British. The British were interested in commercial advantage, the French in building a colonial empire. They occupied Saigon in 1859, and 1867 established a protectorate over southern Vietnam and eastern Cambodia. Rama IV hoped that the British would defend Siam if he gave them the economic concessions they demanded. In the next reign this would prove to be an illusion, but it is true that the British saw Siam as a useful buffer state between British Burma and French Indochina.

The instrument of Mongkut’s religious reformation was a new Buddhist Order, the Dhammayuttika Nikaya, Although the distinctiveness of the which order was manifest in forms of practice, that is, in the ways in which order certain aspects of the discipline (Vinaya) were followed by monks, the order had a function far more important than disciplinary reform. Dhammayuttika monks became a clerical vanguard of a movement promoting a new interpretation of Buddhism, one that sought to demythologize the religion.[19] By this religious reformation order, Wat Bowonniwet Vihara become the administrative center of the Thammayut order to the present day.

Initially the Thammayut order had been confined to two monasteries. During Mongkut’s reign (1851-1868) the order also spread into Laos and Cambodia, those were under Siamese vassal states at that time.

Rama IV died in 1868, and was succeeded by his 15-year-old son Chulalongkorn, who reigned as Rama V and is now known as Rama the Great. Rama V was the first Siamese king to have a full western education, having been taught by a British governess, Anna Leonowens — whose place in Siamese history has been fictionalized as The King and I. At first Rama V’s reign was dominated by the conservative regent, Chaophraya Si Suriyawongse, but when the king came of age in 1873 he soon took control. He created a Privy Council and a Council of State, a formal court system and budget office. He announced that slavery would be gradually abolished and debt-bondage restricted.

At first the princes and other conservatives successfully resisted the king’s reform agenda, but as the older generation was replaced by younger and western-educated princes, resistance faded. The king could always argue that the only alternative was foreign rule. He found powerful allies in his brothers Prince Chakkraphat, whom he made finance minister, Prince Damrong, who organized interior government and education, and his brother-in-law Prince Devrawongse, foreign minister for 38 years. In 1887, Devrawonge visited Europe to study government systems. On his recommendation the king established Cabinet government, an audit office and an education department. The semi-autonomous status of Chiang Mai was ended and the army was reorganized and modernized.

Between 1858 and 1881 most of the mail from Bangkok was sent by diplomatic pouch to Singapore for forwarding. Initially, there was no date-stamped postmark for Bangkok. The stamps were cancelled in Singapore with either a spider-web octagon, chessboard hand stamp or the ship’s name cachet. Stamps of British India were used at first but when the first Straits Settlements stamps were issued in 1867 those were increasingly used. In 1878, the British Consulate began applying a marking which consisted of the Royal Arms with BRITISH CONSULATE at the top and BANGKOK at the bottom. Hong Kong stamps were also used occasionally as late as 1885.

The consular security marking is known to have been used between September 1878 and August 1881. It measures 25mm x 30mm and was applied in blue or black ink. At times, an oval frame is seen probably resulting from the hammer being struck with greater force than usual.

The British Consulate marking is known to have been used on five denominations of the Straits Settlements stamps issued in 1867 and 1868 — 2 cents, 4 cents, 6 cents, 8 cents, and 12 cents — and one surcharged stamp — 10 cents on 30 cents — released in 1880. The marking is also known on at least two Hong Kong stamps, the 5-cent and 10-cent denominations released in 1880. All of these stamps were printed using typography by De La Rue & Co. Ltd. of London. The paper bore the standard British Commonwealth watermark of a crown with “CC”(for Crown Colonies) in use at the time. The stamps were perforated 14.

Throughout the nineteenth century, a postal system also existed for the Siamese royal mail. In September 1875, the younger brother of King Chulalongkorn, Prince Borom Maha Si Suriyawongse (also transliterated as Bhanurangsri Sawangwongse), assisted by ten other princes, began publishing a daily newspaper for royalty and high officials called Court. He also printed adhesive stamps for the purposes of delivering this circular. He called these “stamp Tickets” and they had perforations so that they could be torn from the sheets individually. Known as the “Rising P” or “Bhanurangsi” stamps, these are extremely rare.

In 1881, the Siamese government decided that a local letter post should be established for the public in Bangkok. This was seen as the first step in organizing a nationwide postal service. The king detailed is reasoning in a speech made that year, as reported in the Siam Advertiser:

This organization will meet with very many difficulties in Siam; the inhabitants of the country will have trouble in comprehending the usefulness and advantages of such a service and their doubts will not disappear until they have seen it in active operation. The Government, upon its side, will derive no benefit from it, because the number of correspondents is very limited in this country. If we establish it at present, it is, then, because we desire to see it keep pace with the service of the telegraph lines and because we think that it will be profitable to our commerce.

“….We have hopes that the success which this work will meet with, will contribute greatly to hasten the moment when our Kingdom can be admitted to the grand consideration of civilized nations. Siam can not, nor does she wish to be, much longer ranked among the barbarian nations.

To this end, the king appointed Prince Sri Suriyawongse as his Minister of Posts and Telegraphs.

Before the new local post could be established, the Honorary British Postmaster H. A. Gardner issued a complaint and it was realized that a system was needed by which letters could be mailed from Bangkok to foreign destinations while retaining some revenue for the postage. With the concurrence of the Siamese government, a branch of the Singapore Post Office was opened at the British Consulate in May 1882.

A stock of obsolete Straits Settlements stamps were on hand — the 32 cents overprint on 2 annas yellow dating from 1867. The stamps were handstamped with an additional overprint in black ink, with a large capital letter B confirming that the stamp had originated in Bangkok. These first appeared in the British Consulate Post Office on September 1, 1882.

The May 1882 issue consisted of seven denominations from 2 cents to 12 cents, perforated 14 with the Crown CC watermark of Crown Colonies. All of the Straits Settlements stamps used were printed using typography by De La Rue & Co. Ltd. of London. Additional denominations from 24 cents to 96 cents were later overprinted on stamps with the Crown CC watermark. Further overprintings were on stamps bearing a Crown CA watermark for Crown Agents. By the time the British Post Office in Bangkok was closed on June 30, 1885, twenty-two Straits Settlements B overprinted stamps had been issued.

Occasionally, examples of inverted B’s have been found together with even rarer double overprints with a shadow B in the background. Forgeries of the overprinted B stamps are very common.

The Bangkok 30mm diameter circular date stamp postmark was also introduced during this period. Most outbound mail was still sent to enter the postal system at Singapore (for European destinations). Some Hong Kong stamps continued to be used throughout this time for mail forwarded through Hong Kong to Chinese, Japanese, and United States destinations. A few British stamps are also known to have been used in Bangkok. Inbound mail from steamboats were kept at the post office for people to come and pick up. Siam joined the Universal Postal Union on July 1, 1885, and assumed responsibility for all domestic and international mail.

In May 1856, the United States opened its Consulate in Bangkok. The U.S. Consulate was elevated to Legation status in October 1882. Two markings are known to have been used on Straits Settlements and Hong Kong stamps (as well as the Bangkok B overprints). The Consulate marking is known on these stamps from December 1882 until May 1883; it measures 19mm and was applied in blue or violet ink. The Legation marking saw its earliest known use in March 1883 and the latest applications in July 1884. Applied in blue, violet or green ink, the marking measures 22mm.

In addition to postmarks of Singapore, the security markings by the British Consulate and the U.S. Consulate and Legation markings, a wide variety of other markings appear on the Straits Settlements and B overprint Bangkok stamps mailed from the British Post Office in Siam. There were markings by the German Consulate and a number of chop marks by local merchants and freight forwarding agents.

Prior to the release of Siam’s own stamps, another set was issued within the palace for the use of the royal family. These pictured King Chulalongkorn, Queen Sukumala and many other members of the Royal Family. One stamp was required for delivery within the city walls and two stamps were required for delivery outside the city limits. Not many of these stamps exist today, and those that do are very expensive.

In preparation for the Bangkok local post, the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs established its first post office near the mouth of Khlong Ong-Ang, a canal by the Chao Phraya River in Charoen Krung Road. This was convenient to the port as inbound mails from steamboats were kept at the post office for people to come and pick up.

The postal and postal department of Siam was located in Praisaneeyakarn, situated near the Chao Phraya River. Officials known as "Postmen" dispatched letters three times per day: 7:00 am, 11:00 am and 4:00 pm.
The postal and postal department of Siam was located in Praisaneeyakarn, situated near the Chao Phraya River. Officials known as “Postmen” dispatched letters three times per day: 7:00 am, 11:00 am and 4:00 pm.

At the time Bangkok’s river and many canals functioned as roads and streets to such an extent that it was nicknamed “the Asiatic Venice”. The local post employed numerous styles of boats, both with oars and sails, to carry the mail. On land, royal letters were carried via sedan chairs by two to four men on foot and the elephant was used to convey letters to more distant destinations within the kingdom.

A few early but unused design essays were lithographed and engraved by Thomas Waterlow & Sons Ltd. Once the final design was decided the London-based printers made die proofs and printed trials in colors different to what was eventually released. Finally a notification was issued, announcing the establishment of the Bangkok local postal service:

I. –From Saturday the first day of the waxing moon of the 9th month of the year Goat, fifth of the decade, of the year 1245 of the civil era, corresponding to the 4th August 1883 of the Christian era, letters can be transmitted by post within the following limits, viz. : —
“Samsen on the North ;
“Bangkolem on the South ;
“Talad Plu on the West ;
“and Sä Pratum on the East.

“II. –There will be three deliveries daily, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and at 4 p.m.

“III. –All letters must be enclosed in a stamped envelope, with the name and address of the addressee written on the same side.

Letters to be transmitted by post must be deposited in one of the letter-boxes, which have been placed for that purpose at several localities throughout the town, whence they will be collected, at stated intervals, by the postmen, who will convey them to the General Post Office for ultimate delivery to their destination.
. . .
“V. –For the transmission by post every article must have affixed there to a stamp.

“These stamps may be purchased at the General Post Office on the mouth of the Ong Ang Canal, or at any other place where there is a letter-box.

At the time of the first stamps’ release, the Siamese monetary system was divided into multiples of four. The standard unit was known as the tical, a word that was also used as a measurement of weight. The term tical was the name which foreigners used for the local word baht. The word baht actually referred to a weight in relation to a weight of silver, since the monetary system was based on the weight of silver coins. The tical (or baht) was a silver coin weighing 15 grams, hence giving it a rough similarity in value to the Indian rupee. The currency broke down to 1 tical = 4 salungs = 8 fuangs = 16 seeks = 32 seos = 64 atts = 128 solots = about 2 English shillings. Thus, 32 solots = 16 atts = 8 seos = 4 seeks = 2 fuang = 1 salung; 4 salungs = 1 tical. In 1909, satungs were introduced, 100 of which equaled 1 tical. The baht finally replaced the tical as the inscribed denomination on stamps in 1912.

The first-class postage rate was 2 atts for letters weighing less than one tical (equivalent to a half-ounce); those weighing between one and two ticals cost 3 atts. An additional att was charged for each 1 tical of weight after that.Siam #1 (1883)

Siam #1 (1883)

The three lowest values — the 1 solot, the 1 att, and the 1 seo — are uniform in size, 20×25 1/2mm. The king’s profile is in an oval bordered by a colorless line mounted on an ornate rectangular frame. In each of four small circles at the corners is the number 1 in Thai script while the inscription in a small oval between the two upper circles indicates the denomination. The colors are blue for the 1 solot, carmine for the 1 att, and vermilion for the 1 seo stamp.

The 1 seek stamp, yellow, is smaller than the other values at 18x22mm. This time, the portrait is in an oval bordered by two white lines, divided by a colored line. At the bottom conforming to the lower curve of the oval is a white scroll with the Siamese inscription of the value.

The highest value of the series is the 1 salung, orange brown in color. It measures 22 1/2x27mm. The portrait is displayed on a medallion arched at the top and square below, standing out from the frame from which it is separated by a thin colorless line. Above the medallion is an ornate tablet bearing the value in Thai script.

The gauge of the perforation is subject to slight variations due to the shrinkage of the paper, but the general measure is 14 1/2. They are numbered 1 through 5 in the majority of the catalogues used by collectors and are sometimes nicknamed the “Solot” issue. There are three types of the 1 solot blue listed in the Scott catalogue, differing mainly in the background of the oval at the top.

A sixth stamp was designed and scheduled to be released with the others. This was the 1 fuang red and 500,000 were printed. However, it was received from the printer later than the others and was never officially released. The design was also used for Siam’s first prepaid postal card, released at the same time as the stamps. One postal card was sold for 1 1/2 atts.

The stamps and postal card were neither marked with the country name nor values in an international script. This necessitated the series’ replacement in 1887 to comply with the standards of the Universal Postal Union, which Siam had joined on July 1, 1885. It is the only series to refer to each of the old currency units; subsequent issues had their values denominated in att. The first stamps inscribed SIAM were seven denominations released on April 1, 1887 (Scott #12-18); an eighth, redrawn, was issued in April 1891 (Scott #11).

In 1893, the French authorities in Indochina used a minor border dispute to provoke a crisis. French gunboats appeared at Bangkok, and demanded the cession of Lao territories east of the Mekong. The King appealed to the British, but the British minister told the King to settle on whatever terms he could get, and he had no choice but to comply. Britain’s only gesture was an agreement with France guaranteeing the integrity of the rest of Siam. In exchange, Siam had to give up its claim to the Tai-speaking Shan region of north-eastern Burma to the British.

The French, however, continued to pressure Siam, and in 1906–1907 they manufactured another crisis. This time Siam had to concede French control of territory on the west bank of the Mekong opposite Luang Prabang and around Champasak in southern Laos, as well as western Cambodia. The British interceded to prevent more French pressure on Siam, but their price, in 1909 was the acceptance of British sovereignty over of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu under Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. All of these “lost territories” were on the fringes of the Siamese sphere of influence and had never been securely under their control, but being compelled to abandon all claim to them was a substantial humiliation to both king and country (historian David K. Wyatt describes Chulalongkorn as “broken in spirit and health” following the 1893 crisis) and is the basis for the change in the name of the country; with the loss of these territories Great Siam was now no more, the king now ruled only the core Thai lands. In the early 20th century, these crises were adopted by the increasingly nationalist government as symbols of the need for the country to assert itself against the West and its neighbors.

Meanwhile, reform continued apace transforming an absolute monarchy based on relationships of power into a modern, centralized nation state. The process was increasingly under the control of Rama V’s sons, who were all educated in Europe. Railways and telegraph lines united the previously remote and semi-autonomous provinces. The currency was tied to the gold standard and a modern system of taxation replaced the arbitrary exactions and labor service of the past. The biggest problem was the shortage of trained civil servants, and many foreigners had to be employed until new schools could be built and Siamese graduates produced. By 1910, when the King died, Siam had become at least a semi-modern country, and continued to escape colonial rule.

The first commemorative stamps issued by Siam were released on November 11, 1908, overprints and pictorials marking the 40th anniversary of Chulalongkorn’s reign (Scott #113-124).

One of Rama V’s reforms was to introduce a western-style law of royal succession, so in 1910 he was peacefully succeeded by his son Vajiravudh, who reigned as Rama VI. He had been educated at Sandhurst military academy and at Oxford, and was an anglicized Edwardian gentleman. Indeed, one of Siam’s problems was the widening gap between the westernized royal family and upper aristocracy and the rest of the country. It took another 20 years for western education to extend to the rest of the bureaucracy and the army: a potential source of conflict.

There had been some political reform under Rama V, but the king was still an absolute monarch, who acted as the head of the cabinet and staffed all the agencies of the state with his own relatives. The new king Vajiravudh, the son of Rama V, with his British education, knew that the rest of the ‘new’ nation could not be excluded from government forever, but he had no faith in western- style democracy. He applied his observation of the success of the British monarchy in ruling of India, appearing more in public and instituting more royal ceremonies. However Rama VI also carried on his father’s modernization plan.

Bangkok became more and more the capital of the new nation of Siam. Rama VI’s government began several ‘nationwide’ development projects, despite the financial hardship. New roads, bridges, railways, hospitals and schools mushroomed throughout the country with national budget from Bangkok. The newly created Viceroys were appointed to the newly restructured ‘Region’, or Monthon (Circle), as the King’s agent supervising administrative affairs in the provinces.

Another solution he found was to establish the Wild Tiger Corps, or Kong Sua Paa (กองเสือป่า,) a paramilitary organisation of Siamese of “good character” united to further the nation’s cause. He also created a junior branch which continues today as the National Scout Organization of Thailand. The King spent much time on the development of the movements as he saw it as an opportunity to create a bond between himself and loyal citizens; volunteer corps willing to make sacrifices for the king and the nation. It was also a way to single out and honor his favorites. At first the Wild Tigers were drawn from the king’s personal entourage (it is likely that many joined to gain favor with Vajiravudh), but an enthusiasm among the population arose later.

Of the adult movement, a German observer wrote in September 1911:

This is a troop of volunteers in black uniform, drilled in a more or less military fashion, but without weapons. The British Scouts are apparently the paradigm for the Tiger Corps. In the whole country, at the most far-away places, units of this corps are being set up. One would hardly recognise the quiet and phlegmatic Siamese.”

The paramilitary movement largely disappeared by 1927, but was revived and evolved into the Volunteer Defense Corps, also called the Village Scouts (ลูกเสือบ้าน). Nineteen overprinted stamps were issued between February and December 21, 1920, sold at a premium over their face values with the excess being for the benefit of the Wild Tiger Corps (Scott #B12-B30).

Vajiravudh’s style of government differed from that of his father. In the beginning of the sixth reign, the king continued to use his father’s team and there was no sudden break in the daily routine of government. Much of the running of daily affairs was therefore in the hands of experienced and competent men. To them and their staff Siam owed many progressive steps, such as the development of a national plan for the education of the whole populace, the setting up of clinics where free vaccination was given against smallpox, and the continuing expansion of railways.

However, senior posts were gradually filled with members of the King’s coterie when a vacancy occurred through death, retirement, or resignation. By 1915, half the cabinet consisted of new faces. Most notable was Chao Phraya Yomarat’s presence and Prince Damrong’s absence. He resigned from his post as Minister of the Interior officially because of ill health, but in actuality because of friction between himself and the king.

Rama VI was the first king of Siam to set up a model of the constitution at Dusit Palace. He wanted first to see how things could be managed under this western system. He saw advantages in the system, and thought that Siam could move slowly towards it, but could not be adopted right away as the majority of the Siamese people did not have enough education to understand such a change just yet. In 1916 higher education came to Siam, Rama VI set up Vajiravudh College, modeled after the British Eton College, as well as the first Thai university, Chulalongkorn University, in which modeled after the mixture of Oxford University and Cambridge University.

Primary education made compulsory, with the Chulalongkorn University, which in time became the seedbed of a new Siamese intelligentsia.

In 1917, Siam declared war on German Empire and Austria-Hungary, mainly to gain favor with the British and the French. Siam’s token participation in World War I secured it a seat at the Versailles Peace Conference, and Foreign Minister Devawongse used this opportunity to argue for the repeal of the 19th century treaties and the restoration of full Siamese sovereignty. The United States obliged in 1920, while France and Britain delayed until 1925. This victory gained the king some popularity, but it was soon undercut by discontent over other issues, such as his extravagance, which became more noticeable when a sharp postwar recession hit Siam in 1919. There was also the fact that the king had no son; he obviously preferred the company of men to women (a matter which of itself did not much concern Siamese opinion, but which did undermine the stability of the monarchy because of the absence of heirs).

King Rama VI by royal command changed the national flag of Siam in 1917. From the white elephant on a red background to a design with colors inspired by those of the Allies.
King Rama VI by royal command changed the national flag of Siam in 1917. From the white elephant on a red background to a design with colors inspired by those of the Allies.

Thus when Rama VI died suddenly in 1925, aged only 44, the monarchy was already in a weakened state. He was succeeded by his younger brother Prajadhipok. Unprepared for his new responsibilities, all Prajadhipok had in his favor was a lively intelligence, a certain diplomacy in his dealings with others, a modesty and industrious willingness to learn, and the somewhat tarnished, but still potent, magic of the crown.

Unlike his predecessor, the king diligently read virtually all state papers that came his way, from ministerial submissions to petitions by citizens. Within half a year only three of Vajiravhud’s twelve ministers stayed on, the rest having been replaced by members of the royal family. On the one hand, these appointments brought back men of talent and experience, on the other, it signaled a return to royal oligarchy. The King obviously wanted to demonstrate a clear break with the discredited sixth reign, and the choice of men to fill the top positions appeared to be guided largely by a wish to restore a Chulalongkorn-type government.

The initial legacy that Prajadhipok received from his elder brother were problems of the sort that had become chronic in the Sixth Reign. The most urgent of these was the economy: the finances of the state were in chaos, the budget heavily in deficit, and the royal accounts an accountant’s nightmare of debts and questionable transactions. That the rest of the world was deep in the Great Depression following World War I did not help the situation either.

Virtually the first act of Prajadipok as king entailed an institutional innovation intended to restore confidence in the monarchy and government, the creation of the Supreme Council of the State. This privy council was made up of a number of experienced and extremely competent members of the royal family, including the longtime Minister of the Interior (and Chulalongkorn’s right-hand man) Prince Damrong. Gradually these princes arrogated increasing power by monopolizing all the main ministerial positions. Many of them felt it their duty to make amends for the mistakes of the previous reign, but it was not generally appreciated.

With the help of this council, the king managed to restore stability to the economy, although at a price of making a significant amount of the civil servants redundant and cutting the salary of those that remained. This was obviously unpopular among the officials, and was one of the trigger events for the coup of 1932.

Prajadhipok then turned his attention to the question of future politics in Siam. Inspired by the British example, the King wanted to allow the common people to have a say in the country’s affair by the creation of a parliament. A proposed constitution was ordered to be drafted, but the King’s wishes were rejected by his advisers, who felt that the population was not yet ready for democracy.

In 1932, with the country deep in depression, the Supreme Council opted to introduce cuts in official spending, including the military budget. The King foresaw that these policies might create discontent, especially in the army, and he therefore convened a special meeting of officials to explain why the cuts were necessary. In his address he stated the following:

I myself know nothing at all about finances, and all I can do is listen to the opinions of others and choose the best… If I have made a mistake, I really deserve to be excused by the people of Siam.

No previous monarch of Siam had ever spoken in such terms. Many interpreted the speech not as Prajadhipok apparently intended, namely as a frank appeal for understanding and co-operation. They saw it as a sign of his weakness and evidence that a system which perpetuated the rule of fallible autocrats should be abolished. Serious political disturbances were threatened in the capital, and in April the king agreed to introduce a constitution under which he would share power with a prime minister. This was not enough for the radical elements in the army, however. On June 24, 1932, while the king was holidaying at the seaside, the Bangkok garrison mutinied and seized power, led by a group of 49 officers known as Khana Ratsadon. Thus ended 800 years of absolute monarchy since its origin.

The Khana Ratsadon installed a constitutional monarchy with Prajadhipok as king at the top — a corresponding constitution was proclaimed on December 10, 1932. On the same day, the experienced and rather conservative lawyer Phraya Manopakorn Nititada, was appointed as first Siamese Prime Minister. By selecting a non-party head of government, the Khana Ratsadon wanted to avoid the suspicion that the coup had only been carried out in order to come to power itself. However, the overthrow of the monarchy did not lead to free elections, political unions were forbidden. Bureaucracy and the military shared the power in the National Assembly. The constitution was annexed to the monarchist ideology (“nation, religion, king”) as a fourth pillar.

The many unsettled constitutional roles of the crown and the dissatisfaction with Khana Ratsadon‘s seizure of power culminated in October 1933 in a counter-coup, the Boworadet Rebellion staged by royalist factions. The royalists were led by Prince Boworadet, a grandson of Mongkut and one-time minister of defense, led an armed revolt against the government. He mobilized various provincial garrisons and marched on Bangkok, capturing the Don Muang Aerodome along the way, this led Siam into small-scale civil War, The prince accused the government of disrespecting the king and promoting communism, and he demanded that the government leaders resign. He had hoped that some of the garrisons in the Bangkok area would join the revolt, but they remained loyal to the government. Meanwhile, the navy declared itself neutral and left for its bases in the south. After heavy fighting in the northern outskirts of Bangkok, the royalists were finally defeated and Prince Boworadet left for exile in French Indochina.

After the Boworadet rebellion, King Prajadhipok abdicated the throne and left Siam never to return, he exiled in England, He was replaced as king by his nine-year-old nephew Prince Ananda Mahidol (King Rama VIII), who at that time was attending school in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Khana Ratsadon believing that he would be more pliable than Prajadhipok.

In 1938, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, an open supporter of Mussolini and Hitler, began moving the government towards the right. By 1942, he had issued a series of cultural decrees (ratthaniyom) or Thai cultural mandates, which reflected the desire for social modernization, but also an authoritarian and exaggerated nationalist spirit. First, in 1939 he changed the country name of Siam to Thailand (Prathet Thai). This was directed against the ethnic diversity in the country (Malay, Chinese, Lao, Shan, etc.) and is based on the idea of a “Thai race”, a Pan-Thai nationalism whose program is the integration of the Shan, the Lao and other Tai peoples, such as Vietnam, Burma and South China, into a “Great Kingdom of Thailand” (มหาอาณาจักรไทย).

Other decrees directed the citizens only to call themselves “Thai”, urged the use of regional dialects and other languages, demanded respect for the flag, the national and royal anthem, and the purchase of Thai products. Chinese names had to be changed into Thai, candidates for the military academy had to prove that they were “pure-blooded” Thais. Finally, the use of Western clothing and customs (including hats for men and women, gloves and high heels for women, the man should kiss the woman before he went to work) was prescribed.

Stamps inscribed SIAM were released on June 24, 1939, to mark the seventh anniversary of the Siamese Constitution (Scott #233-237). On May 13, 1940, two stamps were released portraying Chakri Palace and bearing the inscription THAILAND (Scott #238-239).

The defeat of France in Battle of France was now the welcome date for the Thai leadership to begin an attack on the French colony in Indochina. This began with smaller collisions in 1940 and resulted in a war conflict in 1941. It had to accept a heavy defeat in the sea Battle of Ko Chang, dominated however on land and in the air. The Empire of Japan, then already dominant power in the Southeast Asian region, took over the role of the mediator. The negotiations ended the Franco-Thai War with Thai territorial gains in the French colonies Laos and Cambodia. In celebration of the victory, Phibun called himself Than phu nam (ท่านผู้นำ), “the leader”, to run a personality cult around him.

After the Franco-Thai war ended, the Thai government declared neutrality. When the Japanese invaded Thailand on December 8, 1941, a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan demanded the right to move troops across Thailand to the Malayan frontier. Phibun turned crisis into opportunity by ordering an armistice. Shortly thereafter Japan was granted free passage, and on December 21, 1941, Thailand and Japan signed a military alliance. The following month, on January 25, 1942, Phibun declared war on Britain and the United States. South Africa and New Zealand declared war on Thailand on the same day. Australia followed soon after. All who opposed the Japanese alliance were sacked from his government. Pridi Phanomyong was appointed acting regent for the absent King Ananda Mahidol, while Direk Jayanama, the prominent foreign minister who had advocated continued resistance against the Japanese, was later sent to Tokyo as an ambassador. The United States considered Thailand to be a puppet of Japan and refused to declare war. When the allies were victorious, the United States blocked British efforts to impose a punitive peace.

A few stamps inscribed with the name THAILAND were issued between April 1941 and November 1943 (Scott #243-259).

In December 1945, the young king Ananda Mahidol had returned to Siam from Europe, but in July 1946 he was found shot dead in his bed, under mysterious circumstances, remaining a highly sensitive topic in Thailand today. The king was succeeded by his younger brother, Bhumibol Adulyadej. The nation was renamed the Royal Kingdom of Siam and definitives bearing this name were released on November 15, 1947 (Scott #264 and 266), preceding a set of four issued December 5, 1947, to mark the new king’s coming of age (Scott #260-263). Six definitives inscribed SIAM followed on November 1, 1948 (Scott #268-273) with the final two to have this name appeared on January 3, 1949 (Scott #265 and 267). All stamps released since May 5, 1950 (King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s coronation issue, Scott #275-282) bear the name of Thailand.

Siam Flag (1855-1916)
Siam Flag (1855-1916)

2 thoughts on “Siam #1 (1883)

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