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History of Thailand Page 4

King Mongkut, Rama IV, who ruled 1851-1868, was the first Thai king to understand Western culture and technology, and his reign has been described as the "bridge spanning the new and the old."

TMongkut realised that traditional Thai values would not save his country from Western encroachment, and thus initiated the policy of modernisation that he believed would bring Siam in line with the West and reduce hostilities with foreigners.

Mongkut's son, Chulalongkorn, was only 15 when he ascended the throne. But he reigned over Siam as Rama V for 42 years - and transformed his country from a backward Asian land into a modern 20th century kingdom.

King Chulalongkorn's successor, Vajiravudh (1910-1925), was Oxford-educated and thoroughly Anglicised. His western-inspired reforms to modernise Siam considerably affected the structure of modern Thai society.

Prajadhipok (Rama VII) was personally concerned with improving the welfare of his subjects. He was aware of the rising demand for greater participation in government by a small foreign-educated faction, but felt that the Siamese were, overall not ready for democracy. In 1927, he publicly commented that the people must be first taught political consciousness before democracy could be effectively be introduced. However, a coup d'etat in 1932 ended the paternal but absolute rule of the king. the coup was staged by the People's Party, a military and civilian group masterminded by foreign-educated Thai, whose chief ideologist was Pridi Panomyong, a young lawyer trained in France.

The king accepted the provisional constitution by which he "ceased to rule but continued to reign." In December 1932, the king signed the Parliament Constitution which promised universal suffrage and general elections every four years. On the abdication of King Prajadhipok, Ananda Mahidol returned home to a tumultuous welcome in 1945. With his death just one year later, he was succeeded by his younger brother King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the present monarch.

We will reign with dharma (righteousness), for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people, was the coronation pledge of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. True enough, the king provides the stability and continuity lacking in the turbulent cycle of Thai politics and a young democracy. Tirelessly touring the land with Queen Sirikit to inspect and improve the welfare of the people, the King inspires universal reverence. As a constitutional monarch, he maintains neutrality at times of crisis.

- Information from Tourist Authority of Thailand Travel Manual

History of Thailand Page 3 Money Exchange Vasu, Siam Commercial Bank,