PHRA MONGKUT KLAO CHAOYUHUA King Rama VI (1910-1925)
King Phar Mongkut Klao Chaoyuhua was born on January 1,1880, the second son of King Chulalongkorn and Queen Phra Sri Bhatcharintara. As a prince he was known as Vajiravudh. At the age of 14, he was officially designated Crown Prince of the Chakri Dynasty to succeed to the Throne.
King Rama VI was educated in England at Oxford University and his great love of literature and poetry in both Thai and English together with his scholastic abilities was later to manifest itself during his reign. The Crown Prince Vajiravudh was crowned King Rama VI on October 23, 1910. He died of blood poisoning on November 25, 1925, at the age of 45 after ruling the Kingdom for 15 years. King Rama VI had only one child - a daughter, born only two hours before he died, from Queen Suwattana.
King Rama VI was Crown Prince for as long as 16 years, up to the age of 30, which was ample time for him to prepare himself to become a good monarch. At that time, he was extremely concerned with the country's lack of high caliber people. He, consequently, put full effort into developing people from royal personages down to commoners for vital pasts in the country.
Since he was both a scholar and military genius, King Rama VI came up with unprecedented methods of training people. Many of these were in the form of writings, plays or translation words. For example in the composition "Klon Tid Law" (Mud On Wheels), he clearly pointed out that the main obstruction to the development of the kingdom was lack of competent people. All of his literary works had hidden meanings that would subconsciously teach his people to be more production to the country.
Education King Rama VI recorded in his diary in June 1910 just four months before his coronation what King Rama V, his father, said about education, "Personnel in the education department have been making a considerable number of observation tours abroad. But somehow they have become obsessed with higher education and have established several colleges without being mindful of primary education. If they take a closer look at foreign educational systems, they will come to realize that primary education is the responsibility of the municipality and not that of the Education Ministry whose duty is to make inspections only."
Concerning the Army Flying Corps (including the Air Force), King Rama VI had written on January 13,1913,"Our fighter pilots today are as good as Wunderburg who gave flying demonstrations here two years ago. Our pilots fly with ease from what I saw watching their flying maneuvers this afternoon. They are as good as any farang, which makes me very pound indeed."
After observing the flying demonstration, King Rama VI visited the telecommunications station at the Naval Ministry where he wrote, "After seeing Army fighter pilots display their marvelous flying dexterity. I was equally surprised to find that the Navy has been able to set up wireless equipment just as well. I am very proud that all of these good things have happened in my time."
During the reign of King Rama VI, there was a group of persons who tried to stage a coup d'etat to change the absolute monarchy systems to that of democracy. The coup was to be carried out on Piphatsataya day in April 1912. However, a month before the d etat it became evident that King Rama VI had already planned for the country to become a democratic one. He wrote, "If people really want a constitution and if it is well intended, then, petition for it. I shall not hold any grudges against anyone for doing so. I shall consider the pros and cons of the petition. I myself think that it is better to give a constitution and feel that for one person to hold absolute power is not judicious. If the king is a wise and able man who takes the interest of the country at heart, then it is the best of all systems there is. On the contrary, if the king is incompetent and pursues only personal interests, is unjust, cruel, or practices favoritism especially with his yeomen, the country certainly will be in turmoil and the people will be unhappy. This can be considered as taking a lot of chances". King Rama VI had also written about the role of 'People's Representatives' and its likely consequences, which he clearly elucidated in 15 typewritten pages. On November 11,1924, the coup d'etat was launched but proved abortive.
Democracy Capt Khun Thuay Han Pitak (Dr. Leang Srichanr) who was one of the coup d'etat participants wrote on his memories, "His Majesty has spared us our lives. If it was not for him, we would not be alive today."
King Maha Tiraraj Chao was very keen in introducing democratic system into the country. He established the Dusit Thani in order to let the populace experience democracy and how it worked right in the midst of the Grand Palace. He wrote many articles concerning politics under the pseudonyms of "Assawapahu" and "Ramachitti" which were disagreed with his writings even though he had the absolute power to do whatever he thought right.
King Rama VI's accomplishments were numerous, such as Siam's participation in World War I which was enormously advantageous for the country both in politics and law as it provided greater control over Westerners; the establishment of the Wild Tiger Corps; the boyscout movement; the Government Saving Bank and so forth. He was deeply loved by his subjects as being the philosophical king who jade done much for the country.
World War I and Nationalism
In July 1917, Vajiravudh sided himself with the Allied Powers and expelled the German and Austrian officials from the Railway Department and Siam Commercial Bank. He also put the properties of the Axis Power nations under government's protectorate. Vajiravudh then saw this as an opportunity to create and promote Siamese nationalism, against the so-called enemies - the Axis Powers. He changed the Flag of Siam from the elephant-banner to a tricolor one. King Vajiravudh is considered as the father of Thai nationalism, which was later built upon by Field Marshall Phibunsongkhram and Sarit Dhanarajata. He introduced the practice of using the name Rama for the Chakri kings in deference to foreign practice.
They were the only Southeast Asians in the European theatre (except for 140,000 Vietnamese troops and workers drafted by the French). Though the Siamese did not see much action, as the Siamese troops arrived in Europe towards the end of the War. In any case, the participation in the War allowed Siam to later negotiate with the Western Powers on 'unfair' treaties made before.