Kingship in Siam. พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Phya Anuman Rajathon   

 

ANUMAN RAJATHON, PHYA. KINGSHIP IN SIAM. JSS. VOL.42 (pt.1) 1954. p.1-10.

 

 

 

                                              KINGSHIP IN SIAM

                                                            By

                                        Phya Anuman Rajathon

 

1.      A state   in  the  modern  sense  implies  the  existence  of  three
attributes:  (1)  a   community   of   people  united   together   by  some
common  tie,  (2)  fixed   territory   and    (3)  full   sovereignty.  For   our
purpose,  we   need   only   deal   with   the   first   attribute.   It   is   but
natural that a community of people must  possess  certain means  of
expressing    itself    through    certain  mediums. If  every  member  of
the community were to be allowed to give his opinion simultaneously
on   a   given  question,  the   result   would  be  confusion. Hence  the
necessity of appointing representatives of the  people, who  are given
delegated powers by certain groups of  people  to  represent  them in
the field of  legislature. It  is  to  be  noted  that  these  representatives
of the people  are  elected  individually  by  certain  groups  of  people
and they do not, in fact, represent the whole people.

        In   the  modern  structure of  a  state, apart  from  the  legislature
there   are   two   other   independent    organs    performing   different
functions. I    refer    to   the   Executive   and    the   Law  Courts.  Each
organ  exercises  very  important functions  of  the  state  but  none  of
them can be said to incorporate all the functions of the  state  and  so
none of them can properly be regarded as representing  the state  as
a whole.

2.     When  a  law  is  enacted, it becomes  necessary to proclaim it to
the people. A  state  also  cannot  exist  by   itself  without coming  into
contact with other states. When such a  contact  is made, it  becomes
necessary to devise certain means by which the will of  the  state  can
be communicated. Hence  through natural  and  logical  development
a symbol of unity came  into  being. This  symbol  of  unity  represents
the   highest   authority   in   the   land   so   that    law   and   order  can
be   proclaimed   within  the  territories  and  contact  and   intercourse
with   foreign   countries   can   be   made   abroad. In  a  republic   you
have  the  President, in  a  monarchy  the  King. The  forms  of  govern-
ment may be different, but  both  President  and  King  fulfil  the  same

 

 

 

 

 

2                                   Phya Anuman Rajathon

 

functions and are regarded, at least in the eye of the  law, as  being
in the highest degree the best type of the very people they
represent.

3.     In this country,from time immemorial,we have been   governed
by a King. If we  take  into  account  the  conditions  of  the  past,  we
shall find  that  there  were  reasons  for  this. In  the  earlier   period
of  our  history, people  had  to   fight  for  their  very   existence. They
had  to  find  a  leader  that  would  give  them  unity  and   protection.
This   leader  became  their  King. If  the  community   is  threatened
by an invasion,the King has to lead his people to battle and  defend
them   from   their   enemies. From   this   it  can  be  seen  that  dire
necessity urged the people to choose a King to be their leader both
in   time   of  peace  and  in  time  of  war  and  that  kingship  in  this
country was being practised on the patriarchal  basis. Even now  in
the  formal  name of   the   King, there appear the words "Anekchon-
nikorn samosorn sommot " (อเนกชนนิกร สโมสรสมมต ) which means
"elected   by   the  people". As   a   matter  of    fact,  the   tradition   of
election or approval of a new  king  has  been  faithfully  followed  in
practice up to this  day. On  the  accession  of  King  Prajadhipok  to
the throne, a meeting was held of the leading members of the royal
family and high officials and  they  unanimously  offered  the  throne
to the new king. Since  the  adoption  of  a  constitutional  monarchy
in 1932 succession to the throne has to be in accordance  with  the
Law of Succession B.E. 2467 as well as with the approval of Parlia-
ment.

          From a  stone  inscription of the Sukhothai period in the reign
of  our  famous  King  Poh Khun Ramkamhaeng (13th century), we
are  in  a  position  to  know   something   of   the   Thai   tradition in
force at that time. I can do  no  better  than  quote  a  passage  from
an  address   made  by H.H. Prince  Dhani  Krommamun  Bidyalab
entitled "The  Old  Siamese  Conception of  the Monarchy" (see the
Journal of the Siam Society vol. XXXVI. Part 2, December 1947 ).

       "The   old    Thai   had   their  own  traditions  of    Kingship.  The
monarch was of course the people's leader in battle; but he was also
in peace time their father whose advice was sought and respected

 

 

 

 

 

                                           KINGSHIP IN SIAM                                            3

 

in all  matters  and  whose  judgment was  accepted  by  all. He  was
moreover accessible  to  his  people,for we are told by an old inscrip-
tion that in  front  of  the royal palace of Sukhothai  there  used  to  be
a gong hung up for the people  to  go  and beat upon whenever  they
wanted personal help or redress. The  custom  survived  with  slight
modifications  all   through  the  centuries  down   to   the  change  of
regime    in    1932.  Under   Kings  Rama  VI   and   Prajadhipok,  for
instance, instead of the gong, there used to be stationed at the front
gate of the Grand Palace  a  gentleman-at-arms  or "tamruac   luang",
whose duty it  was  to receive any  written  petition  which  a   subject
could submit to his King. "

       The  name  of  King  Ramkamhaeng or rather the name by which

he  was  called  by his  people, i.e. Poh Khun  Ramkamhaeng, bears
out the  above statement . Poh  means father, and Poh  Khun  would
mean something like Father Ruler.

4.     Relationship   between   the   rulers   and   their  subject   on   the
patriarchal  basis  in the course of time led to the conception of kingly
virtues. Here  again  I   would   like   to  quote  another  passage  from
the   address   made   by   H.H.  Prince   Bidyalab   entitled  "The   Old
Siamese Conception of Monarchy".

       "What formalised this patriarchal   kingship was   the   constitution
of the "Thammasat"(from the Pali"Dhammasatha") which we got from
the Mon. Its  origin  may  be  very  old.  Its   inspiration   was  doubtless
older,  for    it    can    be    traced   to  "Digha  Nikaya"  of   the "Tripitaka"
which Rhys Davids assigns to  the Vth  century  B.C. The"Thammasat"
describes its ideal of a monarch as a King of Righteousness, elected
by   the   people  (Mahasammata). According  to  the ''Thammasat" the
ideal  monarch abides  steadfast  in  the  ten kingly  virtues, constantly
upholding   the   five   common  precepts and  on  holy days  the set of
eight precepts, living   in   kindness   and   goodwill  to  all  beings. He
takes pains to study the Thammasat and  to keep  the  four  principles
of  justice, namely, to   assess  the  right   or   wrong  of  all  service  or
disservice rendered to him, to  uphold   the   righteous  and  truthful, to
acquire  riches  through   none  but  just  means  and  to  maintain  the
prosperity of his state through none but just means".

 

 

 

 

 

4                                      Phya Anuman Rajathon

 

The ten kingly virtues above-mentioned are :
( 1 ) Almsgiving, i.e. charity to individuals,
( 2 ) Morality, i.e. proper observance of the moral precepts,
( 3 ) Liberality, i.e. the giving  away  of  something  that  belongs  to

us for public benefit,

( 4 ) Straightforwardness,

( 5 ) Gentleness,

( 6 ) Self-restriction, i.e. an attempt to rid oneself of all evils,
( 7 ) Non-anger,

( 8 ) Non-violence, i.e. with no desire to hurt or retaliate on anyone,
( 9 ) Forbearance,
( 10 ) Rectitude.

The five precepts mentioned above are in concept  very  like
the ten commandments, but they are more in  the  form  of  recom-
mendations which may be adopted by  any individual. On ordinary
days a good law-abiding individual  would  normally undertake  to
abide by the 5 precepts, viz.

( 1 ) I undertake not to kill

( 2 ) I undertake not to steal

( 3) I undertake not to commit adultery

( 4 ) I undertake not to tell an untruth

( 5 ) I undertake not to take intoxicating drinks.

Then on holy days, it is thought that the  undertakings  might
be increased to eight, and three more undertakings are sometimes
made, i.e.

( 6 ) I undertake not to take meals at improper time
( 7 ) I undertake not to dance and not to use perfumes
( 8 ) I undertake not to sleep on a high bedding.

These three additional precepts are meant rather for those in
the monastery, but occasionally and on  certain  days  laymen  also
observe   them.  As  for  the  meaning  of  improper  time  for  meals,
this  has  been  interpreted  to  mean that all meals must  be  taken
before   noon.  After   midday  no  food  of  any  kind  is  to  be  taken.
The reason for  this  might  be to  prevent  the  monks   from  giving

 

 

 

 

 

                                         KINGSHIP IN SIAM                                        5

 

further trouble to the community, who have to prepare the food for
them. Precepts (7) forbidding dancing and perfumes and ( 8 ) for-
bidding high beddings would seem to aim at austerity.

5.     From  what  has  been  said, it can be seen that  under  Thai
tradition the King is the  leader of his people in the sense that he
is  the  father  of  them  all. He  feels  with  them  in  their  hour  of
need and he  rejoices  with  them  in  their  hour  of  triumph  and
success. In fact, his life and work are bound together to the lot of
his  people. And  in order to help him to perform his duty well, he
is enjoined to observe the 10 kingly virtues above-mentioned and
the   four   principles  of   justice. If  we  study  carefully  these  ten
kingly virtues and the four principles of justice, we shall find  that
their main purpose is to ensure that the King should combine in
himself the sense of righteousness, impartiality, liberality, mercy,
and a high standard of morality, in other words that he should be
the embodiment of all the respected virtues of  the land  with  the
expectation that under the regime of such  a  being  there  would
result peace and contentment.

       Of course, in practice, human beings being as they  are, per-
fection cannot be attained. If a measure of success is  achieved,
this in itself should be a matter for satisfaction. This  is  true, not
only of this country, but of all countries all over the world.

6.     I have endeavoured to give you an idea of the background on
which our institution of kingship has been built up. Did  our  kings
live  up  to  the standard required of  them? It  is  difficult  to give a
reply to cover all the periods of history. Some  of  our  kings  were,
indeed, very good. Others did not  live  up  to the ideal required of
them. But of  the  present  Chakri  dynasty, which started from the
year 1782, it can be truly said that their reigns have been beneficial
to the people. Two kings of this dynasty deserve  to  be expressly
mentioned. I refer to King Rama IV or, as  he  is  popularly called,
King Mongkut and his son King Chulalongkorn.

 

 

 

 

 

6                                     Phya Anuman Rajathon

 

7.     When  his  father  King  Rama II  died  in  1824, King  Mongkut
was only 20 years old and was ordained as  a monk. Although  he
was  considered  to  be the rightful  heir to the throne, he  made no
attempt whatsoever to put forward his claim, and in  consequence
his brother  King  Rama  III  was  proclaimed  king.  King  Mongkut
remained   in   the   monastery for a period of 26 years.During that
time he devoted  his  time, not  only  to  the  study of  the  Buddhist
doctrine, but also to the study  of  the  history  and customs  of  his
country,  to  the  study  of  the  English  language  and, through  the
English language, of mathematics, astronomy and other sciences
still unknown in this country. He became  in  time  quite  an  expert
in all the studies he took up. He could  speak  fluently  in  Pali  and
in English. In astronomy he was able to calculate the exact moment
of a solar eclipse in 1868 visible in the south of this country.

       In 1851 King Rama III died and King  Mongkut  was  asked  so
leave the monastery to assume his duties as King. The  King  was
alive to the fact that western imperialism was  at  that  time spread-
ing to the East.China had to open her ports through the opium war.
The ports of Japan were similarly forced  open. The  King  foresaw
that,unless some timely measures were taken,a similar fate would
befall this country and no-one could  then  say  what  might  be  the
ultimate outcome. Hence, of his own  free will, the King opened up
the country to foreign trade and thereby was instrumental in saving
the country from a foreign yoke. Treaties with foreign powers  were
made during this reign and diplomatic relations were  established
with England, France and America. Printing presses  were  set  up.
Roads and canna's were  built.  Europeans  and  Americans  were
employed, some as interpreters and translators, some as instructors
of the army and police forces, which the King  began  to  model  on
the European fashion. The King also made  one  very  important in-
novation in the  tradition  of  kingship. It  had  been  the  custom  for
all the officials to drink the  water of allegiance to the King. Hitherto
no kings drank the water in token of their own loyalty to the  people.
King Mongkut started  the  practice  of  drinking  also  the  water  of
allegiance as a taken of his own loyalty to the whole people.

 

 

 

 

 

                                          KINGSHIP IN SIAM                                           7

 

8.     King   Mongkut   was   well   versed,  in  astrology. On  his  return
from the south after seeing  the  eclipse  of  the sun, he  caught  cold
and had  fever. From his  own  calculations, he  knew  that  he  would
die on a certain date.He summoned his Ministers and advised them
that in choosing a successer to the throne they should have in  mind
only the  security  and  tranquillity of the realm. His successor  might,
be  a  younger  brother or a nephew, provided  that   it  would  ensure
peace and happiness for his people.His own son was still too young
and   the  Ministers  must  carefully  consider  whether  he  would  be
able to assume the care of the state. The King  then  dictated  a  fare-
well message in Pali to   the  Order  of  Monks. In  this  farewell  mes-
sage  he  pointed  out  that " death  should  not  be  a surprise, since
death must normally befall all  creatures  that  come  into   the  world."
He also added that "although his body   may  suffer  yet  his  mind  is
clear and tranquil. ''

It may be of interest to you to  know  what  the  contemporaries
of  King  Mongkut  thought  of  him. Sir  John  Bowring, the  Governor
of  Hongkong  who came  to  this country to negotiate the Treaty with
Great   Britain, wrote  a  book  on  this  country.  He  referred  to  King
Mongkut. as "the rare and illustrious example of a  successful  devo-
tion   of  the  time  and  talent  of  a  great  Oriental  Sovereign  to  the
cultivation   of   the   literature  and   the  study  of  the  philosophy  of
western    nations." Mr.    W.A.R.  Wood, a    former    British   Consul
General  in   this  country, in  his  book  entitled "A  History  of   Siam"
(1926) at page 278, wrote as follows: "Rama IV  was  a  very  remar-
kable man. He spoke English fluently and wrote it with great charm
of style, and though in some respects he held firmly to old fashions
and traditions, in all important matters he was always on   the  side
of progress. "

From what has been said, you can picture to yourself  a  man
of 57 years of age (that  was  the  age when Anna saw  the king  for
the   first   time), who   had  unselfishly  renounced  his right  to  the
throne at the early age of 20  and  devoted  25  years  of  his  life  to
celibacy and study, who became so proficient in all the subjects he

 

 

 

 

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took up  that   he  was  regarded  as  an  expert  in  them all, who  on
assuming the duties of kingship adopted the wise policy of opening
up his country to foreign trade and thereby saving it  from  a   foreign
yoke, whose keen sense of fairness prompted him to introduce  the
practice   for  the  King  of   drinking  to  the  loyalty  to  his  people  in
return for  the drinking by the  people  of  the  water  ef  allegiance  to
the King, who at the moment of death preserved his calmness  and
tranquillity and advised his Ministers on the choice of his successor
to choose only the best man who would be able to bestow peace and
happiness on the people without  any  regard  to  the  rightful  claim
of his  own  son. In  other  words, you  see  before  you  a   savant, a
philosopher, a man with common sense, a patriot  who   is both fair-
minded and just. Can such a man be so cruel,so grotesque and so
monstrous as he was made out to be in the books of Anna ? I would
leave the answer to your sense of justice and fairness.

Mr. Alexander B. Griswold,an American who has spent a great
deal of his time in the study  of  this country, has  written  an  article
called   ''The  Real  King  Mongkut  of  Siam". I  would  ask  leave  to
make a quotation.

" It   was   in   the 1870's, upon  her  return  to  the  west  after
spending   five   years  in   Bangkok   as   a   teacher  to  the  King's
children, that  Anna  published  her  two books "The English Gover-
ness  at  the  Siamese Court " and " The  Romance  of  the Harem ".
Though they purport to give afull and faithful account of the scenes
and characters that were gradually unfolded  to  Anna, and  though
they contain lovely descriptions of places  which those  of  us  who
have some knowledge of Siam cannot  recall   without  a  pang  of
nostalgia, they are full of  mistakes, exaggerations and  downright
falsehoods.

"Anna was a careless observer and a credulous listener. Her
frequent mistranslation of Siamese phrases show  that  she  never
mastered the language. Apparently she never thought any piece  of
scandal improbable enough to  require  checking. Like  many  Victo-
rian ladies she was always ready to suspect the worst.

 

 

 

 

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"She depicts the  King  as  a  ferocious  monster,Some of  the
things she says about him may be due to honest errors,but a  great
man are deliberate fabrications-designed perhaps to satisfy her ma-
lice against a man whom she did not like,or  perhaps  to  make  her
books sensational and therefore more readily saleable',Often these
fabrications are easy to spot,as when she tells us that he locked up
disobedient wives in a subterranean dungeon in the palace-for anyone
who has lived in Bangkok knows  that  it  is  impossible to build any
sort of underground room in that  watery  soil. Sometimes it takes a
little   literary  detective work  to  expose  her  fabrications, as  in  the
case of her story regarding the new  gate  built  in  1865 in  the  wall
of the  Grand  Palace. She  tells  us  that  King  Mongkut  had  some
innocent passersby butchered and their corpses buried  under  the
gate-posts so that their restless spirits might forever haunt the place
and drive intruders away. There is, however, a  detailed  account  of
just such a sacrifice in a French missionary's report   for  1831-long
before King Mongkut came to the throne. Anna describes  the event
with exactly the same details  and   almost  the  same  phraseology.
unwarily providing further evidence  of  her  plagiarism  in   the  form
of one or two mistranslations of French  words. Obviously  she  has
moved the incident 34 years forward and  accused the  wrong  man. "

9.     King Mongkut  died  in  the  year 1868. He  was  succeeded  by
his son King Chulalongkorn, under whose able direction  the  work
of modernising the country was carried on and ultimately completed.

King Chulalongkorn knew that both his father and he himself
were  thinking  ahead  of  their   own   time. It  was, therefore, neces-
sary that the people at  large  should  be  taught  the  western  ways.
The most effective way of attaining this goal was through education.
The spread of education on a general scale was initiated. The King's
own sons and the sons of the princes  and  the nobles  were  sent
abroad to study in the various branches of government service. On
their return to the country, many of them became  quite  famous  in
their own field of work.

In 1892 the whole system of government was reorganised. The
various Ministries with their own  particular  jurisdictions  were  set

 

 

 

 

 

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up.Each Minister was made responsible for his own Ministry and
all Ministers were responsible to the King.Foreign Advisers were
engaged so that expert advice could be obtained in all branches of
administration. The King also  set  up  the  office  of  the  General
Adviser, who was to advise him on all matters  of  administration
but  with  special  reference  to  foreign  affairs. The  first  General
Adviser  was   a   former  Foreign  Minister  of  Belgium, Monsieur
Rolin   Jacquemyns,  who   was  subsequently  given  the  title  of
Chao Phraya Abbhairaja. The next General Adviser was an American,
Mr. Strobel, a Harvard man. The office of the General Adviser was
later on changed into Adviser in Foreign Affairs , but those who held
the office were, after Mr. Strobel, invariably American  and  almost
all of them came from Harvard.

It  was  King  Chulalongkorn who  initiated  the  abolition  of
slavery. He did it at a time when  the royal  princes and the nobles
were against such a measure. He, however, went  forward with  his
measure of reform and in 1905 slavery was ultimately  abolished.
It is no wonder that the people at large adored this King and he is
called " The Beloved " up to  this day. The  statue  of  this King  on
horseback in front of the Annanta Samagom Throne Hall was built
through public subscription in  token of the deep gratitude  felt  by
the people of this country.

10.     I have given you a brief account of the role of  royalty  in  this
country. Since June 1932  we  have adopted  the  form of constitu-
tional  monarchy and  the  rights  and duties of the King are gover-
ned  by  the  constitution. But  the  tradition  of  kingship  still  lives.
Our kings still abide by  the  ten  kingly  virtues  and  the  four  prin-
ciples of justice, for  they  are, in   fact,  the  guiding   principles  of
good government. The aim of all governments is to secure the hap-
piness and contentment of the people, and any government   that
attains this end can be said to have achieved its purpose. Hence
the criterion of a  good  government  is  the  result  of  its  adminis-
tration and not in the form in which it  functions. I  now  beg  leave
to make a quotation from the English poet Alexander Pope:

"For forms of government let fools contest,
Whatever's best administered is best. "

 

 

 


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