Today — October 23 — is the national holiday of Wan Piya Maharat (วันปิยมหาราช) or Chulalongkorn Day. It marks the anniversary of the death of King Chulalongkorn, known in the West as King Rama V, the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. His full name as king was Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poraminthra Maha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาจุฬาลงกรณ์ พระจุลจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว) but the Siamese of his time referred to him as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang (พระพุทธเจ้าหลวง, the Royal Buddha. Born on September 20, 1853, King Chulalongkorn became the ruling monarch following the death of his father, King Mongkut, on October 1, 1868, and reigned until his own death on October 26, 1901, at the age of 57.
Chulalongkorn’s reign was characterized by the modernization of Siam, governmental and social reforms, and territorial concessions to the British and French. As Siam was threatened by Western expansionism, Chulalongkorn, through his policies and acts, managed to save Siam from colonization. All of his reforms were dedicated to ensuring Siam’s survival in the face of Western colonialism, so that he earned the epithet Phra Piya Maharat (พระปิยมหาราช, the Great Beloved King). He is widely regarded at Thailand’s greatest ruler with the possible exception of King Bhumiphol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) who died on October 13, 2016, and who was laid to rest during an extravagant funeral which finished late last October.
King Chulalongkorn was also instrumental in organizing Siam’s first postal service, stating in 1881 that,
“…the introduction of modern postal and telegraphic systems for using in the country would greatly help to develop trade and commerce as well as to ensure and accelerate the dispatch of official and individual correspondence…” The monarch appointed one prince and one high-ranking official to oversee “…the organisation of a Local Letter Post for the City of Bangkok as an experiment with a view to expanding same throughout the country.”
As it is a holiday (and I have been asked to perform a few tasks related to it), rather than putting together a lengthy account of Rama V’s numerous accomplishments, I am providing links to previous articles I’ve put together on the subject of King Chulalongkorn and the first Siamese stamps.
- Chulalongkorn Day / วันปิยมหาราช (A Stamp A Day, October 26, 2016) — an extensive biography of King Rama V
- Siam #1 (1883) (A Stamp A Day, June 25, 2017) — a history of the Rattanakosin Kingdom and background on the first Siamese stamps
- Siam’s First Stamps (Asian Meanderings, August 4, 2013) — background of Siamese stamps, including some of the earlier palace stamps, etc.
- Thailand Post Day / วันที่โพสต์ในประเทศไทยวันที่โพสต์ในประเทศไทย (A Stamp A Day, August 14, 2016) — more early Siamese postal history
In 2012, Thailand Post began preparing for the upcoming 130th anniversary of the Kingdom’s first postage stamps to occur the following August. The magnificent art-deco former General Post Office building in Bangkok, currently named Grand Postal Building, was undergoing renovation in anticipation of the THAILAND 2013 World Stamp Exhibition to be held in the capital during the anniversary celebration week. The first eight (Michel #3251-3258) of a total of 24 stamps promoting that particular stamp show was released on October 2, 2012, under the concept “Arts and Happiness” to promote value of Thai artisans’ works. Further sets of eight were issued on March 22, 2013 (Michel #3285-3292), and on the exhibition’s opening day of August 2, 2013 (Michel #3316A-3323A).
More philatelic-oriented stamps would follow of the course of the next two weeks. Today’s featured stamp was released on August 4 (Michel #3325) titled “A Memory of Thai Postal History” to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the issuance of Siam #1. The 5-baht stamp portrays the 1883 1-solot denomination with a magnifying glass zooming on it, together with the General Post Office Building, Garuda carving found on the corners of the GPO’s rooftop, an early Siamese postman and the 130 Years of Thai Stamps logo in the background. These were designed by Mr. Thaneth Ponchaiwong and printed using lithography in mini-sheets of 10 stamps each. Thailand Post issued 700,000 copies of this stamp, perforated 13½.
On the same date, August 4, 2013, Thailand Post also issued a set of three 5-baht stamps (Michel #3326-3328) and a souvenir sheet containing a single 5-baht stamp portraying the newly-renovated General Post Office Building. Designed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum, the stamps picture one of the stucco stamp sculptures from the GPO’s main lobby (six more of these appear on the souvenir sheet); the cast metal Garuda on the front doors of the GPO (this stamp is included in the souvenir sheet); and the façade of the General Post Office building. Each of the three regular stamps were printed using offset lithography and hot-stamping. They issued in sheets of ten. The souvenir sheet came in three varieties, two were perforated 13¼ but one of these was missing the white bar at the bottom with the bar code (Michel #BL314I and BL314IIA), and one imperforate (Michel #BL314IIB).
Finally, on the final day of the exhibition — August 14 — a single 10 baht stamp (Michel #3336) was released to mark the 10th anniversary of Thailand Post Company Limited which succeeded the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) in 2003 for the issuance of stamps and conveyance of the mails. At the time, this was the largest stamp released in the Kingdom, measuring 62 x 62 millimeters. Designed by Mr. Udorn Niyomthum, 700,000 copies of the stamp were printed using lithography by Chan Wanich Security Printing Company Limited, Thailand. They were issued in sheets of four, perforated 14¼.