King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)October 23rd is a national holiday in Thailand to
mark Chulalongkorn Day. The public holiday commemorates one of Thailand�s
most revered kings, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who passed away on October
23rd 1910 at the age of 57. He had ruled what was then Siam, for 42 years.
in 1853, Chulalongkorn came to the throne when he was just 16 years old. His
long reign proved to be one of foresight and modernisation. At a time when
colonial powers such as Britain, France, Holland and
Portugal were extending their influence in Asia, King Chulalongkorn managed
to keep Thailand independent with a clever mixture of diplomacy and
King Chulalongkorn is one of Thailand�s most revered and important kings.
During his reign from 1868 to 1910 he brought many reforms to Thailand that
helped to modernize the country. The King modernized
government and streamlined the administration of the country by dividing it
into provinces and districts. He abolished slavery and replaced the
traditional lunar calendar with the Western calendar. Siam was a Buddhist
country but he made it clear that other religions (including Islam and
Christianity) should have the freedom to practise without fear of
persecution. Communications in the country were improved greatly with the
introduction of postal services, the telegraph and the construction of
Thailand�s first railway (from Bangkok to Ayutthaya).
Although he lived a life of great privilege, King Chulalongkorn went out of
his way to find out what life was like for the common people of Siam. He
would sometimes disguise himself and walk amongst his subjects unrecognized
so that he could find out what life was like for them. He earned the title
of �Great Beloved King� and it wasn�t just in Siam that he made an impact.
Ushering in a new age for Thailand he was very interested in the West and
learned much of the western governments and politics while extending
friendship to such countries as America, Great Britain, France, and Russia.
King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai King to travel extensively, visiting
neighboring countries often and Europe two times.
Of his many reforms while King the most important was
the abolition of slavery. As he took the throne over 1/3 of the Thai
population at the time were slaves. Slavery was for life and the children of
slaves were also slaves which kept the slave population growing.
A Thai could buy their way out of slavery but the price was excessive and
for the most part beyond the slaves means to pay, making them a slave for
On August 21st 1874 King Chulalongkorn issued the Royal Slave Ablation Act
which was the beginning of the
end for slavery in Thailand. The act allowed for children born of slaves in
or after 1868, the year of his coronation, had the right to reduce their
slave price every year and by the time they were 21 if they had not already
bought their freedom they would be freed. The Act also fixed the price of a
slave to be half as much as it was originally. All other slaves were to have
their debt lowered to 1 baht a month until they had their freedom.
The act sought to prohibit children being born into slavery and slave
trading in general.
Virtually every province in Thailand has at least one memorial to King
Chulalongkorn and on October 23rd each year these become the focus for
offerings in his honour. Portraits of King Chulalongkorn are believed to be
a good luck charm for businesses and many shops and businesses carry images
of the present king alongside his grandfather, King Chulalongkorn. His
picture can also be found on the back of Thailand�s 100 Baht note.
Thailand�s first university was founded in 1917 and the Bangkok seat of
learning was named after the king. Today, students affectionately refer to
the venerable institution as, �Chula�