KING RAMA-V AND MODERNISATION OF SIAM/THAILAND
CHULALONGKORN was the fifth king of the CHAKRI Dynasty who was crowned under title RAMA-V . But he was known to the SIAMESE as PHRA PHUTTHA CHAO LUANG meaning by the royal BUDDHA . He was born on 20th September 1853 to the King MONGKUT (RAMA-IV) and Queen DEBSIRINDRA . He was given by his father a broad education . His tutor ANNA LEONOWENS who was an ANGLO-INDIAN who published her memoir THE ENGLISH GOVERNESS AT THE SIAMESE COURT in 1870 . And she was such a great tutor that her own account was fictionalized by an AMERICAN writer called MARGARET LONDON whose bestseller novel ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM was published in 1944 and sold over a million copies and was translated into more than twenty languages. Anyway , in 1866 he became a novice Monk for six months at WAT BOWONNIWET as per royal traditions . On his return from the WAT he was designated with the title called KOMMAKHUN PHINIT PRACHANAT . In 1867, when the king MONGKUT ( RAMA-IV ) with his son prince CHULALONGKORN ( RAMA-V ) was on tour to the MALAYA PENINSULA to verify his calculations of the solar eclipse which took place on 18th August 1868 , he with his son fell ill of malaria in which king MONGKUT died on 1st October 1868 and his son CHULALONGKORN survived anyhow . But before his death king MONGKUT on his deathbed wrote , ‘ My brother , my son , my grandson , whoever you all the senior officials think will be able to save our country will succeed my throne , choose at your own will .’ SI SURIYAWONGSE , who served as the most powerful official in the royal Court , managed the succession of CHULALONGKORN to the throne whose first coronation took place on 11th November 1868 . SI SURIYAWONGSE was appointed as Regent of SIAM . CHULALONGKORN’S second coronation as his own right as RAMA-V took place on 16th November 1873 . SUNANDA KUMARIRATANA , well-known as ‘The Wrecked Queen’ , was his queen consort of SIAM . Apart from that SUKUMALMARSRI , and 32 consort and concubine , altogether 116 in number , were there in the Royal Court of RAMA-V and from them he had 33 sons and 44 daughters .
The reign of CHULALONGKORN (RAMA-V) was characterized by the modernisation of SIAM . Governmental and social reforms dominated his regime . On international front , territorial concessions were given to the BRITISH and the FRENCH as SIAM was surrounded by the EUROPEAN colonies . And it was due to his astute policies and acts that the independence of SIAM was ensured . It was due to this fact that he earned the epithet PHRA PIYA MAHARAT (the great beloved king) . As he was an enthusiastic reformer , he visited JAVA and SINGAPORE in 1870 and the BRITISH INDIA in 1872 only to study the administration of the BRITISH colonies . He aquired many ideas regarding administration by traveling to the INDIAN cities like CALCUTTA , DELHI and BOMBAY . Later it became the idea of modernization of the administration of the government of SIAM . CHULALONGKORN’S first major reform could be seen when he established the AUDITORY OFFICE on 4th June 1873 . It was solely responsible for tax collection and containing the influence of BUNNAG FAMILY who had been solely responsible for tax collection since early RATTANAKOSIN PERIOD . Since tax collectors were under the aegis of the Nobles , the latter had a big share in such tax collections and thus sources of wealth for them as such . So , this reform caused great dissatisfaction among the nobility of SIAM . But more affected was FRONT PALACE . Since the time of king MONGKUT , the FRONT PALACE had been equivalent to a second king . One third of the National revenues were allocated to it to maintain a strong battalion of western trained troops of more than 2000 in number plus palace consorts and concubines . So , the king CHULALONGKORN appointed CHATURONRASMI to be an executive officer of the newly formed office of the AUDITORY OFFICE to monitor the tax collection for the state as such .
MILITARY AND OTHER POLITICAL REFORMS
We shall study CHULALONGKORN’S diplomatic and other efforts so far as the relations with neboughering and western countries were concerned later . First , let us start with what is called efforts made by him in the field of military and other political reforms which could give country like SIAM a sort of estability . He established a ROYAL MILITARY ACADEMY in 1887 to train his military personnel on the line of the West . Such upgraded forces provided the king an enormous power to centralize the country as such . No political structure so far had changed since the 15th century . As we know that the central government was headed by the SAMUHA NAYOK (THE PRIME MINISTER), who controlled the northern part of SIAM while the southern part of SIAM was controlled by the SAMUHA KALAHOM ( GRAND COMMANDER ) who was in charge of both- civil and military affairs . Instead of such traditional system of governance , the king CHULALONGKORN instituted a government of ministries in 1888 . At the outset , the Ministers were from royal family . But in 1892 , Ministries were established with all the ministries having equal status . Even curtailing his own power , he dissolved the Council of State as it never took decisions independently without the approval of the King because it was of the opinion that the Monarch had only the absolute power as such . And their advisory duties were transferred to the cabinet in 1894 . With the help of his BELGIAN advisor , ROLIN- JAEQUEMYNS , he established the modern SIAMESE laws and its judicial system and thus he abolished the traditional NAKORN BALA method of torture in the judicial process which was seen as inhuman and barbaric specially in the eyes of the West .
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