Once King Ramkamhaeng established the first Thai hegemony in this Golden Peninsula since the fourteenth century, the Malay States rights down to Singapore were administered on the behalf of King of Siam by the governors of Ligor (Nakorn Srithammaraj) and Singora (Songkhla). The British East India Company's administration had an eye on Phuket as a favorable port, but fortunately the company decided in favor of further south -Penang, in 1786, four years after the capital was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. Siam was still busy with the wars against Burma at the same time the Sultan of Kedah wanted to assert his independence, and therefore played the British off against Siam. Years and years later, the British used the same tricks by playing other Malaya states against Siam. Meanwhile, Siam could gain justice and fairness on a trading and judicial agreement by giving away the Malaya States to British protection. On the western boundary, Siam had to deal with Burma, long before British landed on the Andaman Coast. Once the British took over Burma, Siam had no more wars with them, however, the western territories were not given back by British (except a brief period during World War II when our Japanese friends handed back the four Malay states - Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah and Perlis - to us.)
The policy of maintaining national independence by means of diplomatic negotiation and modernizing the country along Western lines continued and expanded successfully in most aspects by King Mongkut's successor, King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V (1868-1910). Despite the treaties they had made with Siam, France and England pursued an imperialist policy against her and encroached upon her territories. Siam had to relinquish parts of her territory to the two powers in order to maintain her independence.
At the time the young capital, Bangkok, was growing, France had gradually seized Vietnam and wanted to expand into Cambodia and Laos. It was clearly known that the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos were small and weak. In order to survive and progress they had to be guided, protected and ruled by Siam. The French used all kinds of tactics to annex region by region in Indo-China. For this reason, the French had to pursue their attacks many, many times toward the local resistance. (NOTE : Not the whole kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia, only some western bank of Mekong River - Chaiyaburi, western Cham Pasak , Siem Reap, (without Ankor Wat - very odd), Battenbang and Sri Sobhon were reverted to Siam during World War II when the Japanese invaded Asia.
While King Chulalongkorn undertook the difficult task of diplomatic negotiation with those two powers in order not to lose too much territory and sovereignty, he was also devoted his attention to the modernization of his country in as many aspects as possible, utilizing the best Western technology available at that time.
From his several trips abroad, to some of the colonies of the Western powers and to Europe itself, this great, beloved monarch brought not only fresh ideas to Siam but also specialists in various branches of knowledge, such as lawyers, diplomats, economists, architects, engineers, artists and craftsmen. For this reason, the modernization during this reign may also be called "Westernization".
From a diplomatic standpoint, the Royal Visit of King Chulalongkorn the Great is of historical significance for it essentially placed Siam on the world map of the nineteenth century. More importantly, the establishment of relations and the subsequent exchange of consular and diplomatic envoys between Siam and various European countries in the following years would play an important role in protection the sovereignty of the Siam and ameliorating the effects of colonialism on Siam in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. His Majesty established very special relationships with the Emperors of Russia and Germany. They had both compassion and sympathy for King Chulalongkorn and his citizens. Despite territorial concessions and the signing of unequal treaties during those difficult years, Siam ultimately weathered the storm of colonialism and emerged as an active participant of the international community by becoming a founding member of the League of Nations at the end of the World War I.
Siam had an experience bloodless with coup d'etat, instigated by French - educated Thai intellectuals supported by the military, on June 24, 1932 that the country administration was changed from the absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. On June 24, 1939, the name of the country was changed from Siam to Thailand. On October 8, 1940, the government demanded France to return to Siam all territories in Laos and Cambodia which they took away during the reign of King Chulalongkorn and the war of Siam and Indochina broke out Japan intervened the Thai- Indochina as a mediator, resulted in gaining back territories we demanded. On the other hand, December 8, 1941 Japan entered the second World War and Thailand became her ally on December 11, 1941. The war ended in 1945 but the Free Thai Movement, who worked underground against Thai government's illegal war declaration, January 25, 1942 on U.K., USA, France, etc. managed to convince the alliance not to punish Thailand. When Thailand applied to be 55th member of the United Nations on December 15, 1946, the security council set the condition that Thailand must return all territories that British and France occupied (see # 4 , 11 12 , 13 of the chronicle on next page, were briefly restored to Thailand in 1943 but these reverted to during World War II) to France and Great Britain.
Along with the map on this page and a chronicle on the next page, readers may wonder how a little country like Siam or Thailand survived remaining independent among Asian countries. Siam is unique for not having been a colony, this may be credited to the diplomacy of the Siamese princes under enlightened monarchs but more so to the desire of the British and the French to maintain territorial buffer between their empires in Southeast Asia. There were many answers indeed to this question.
Copyright © 1995-2014 Welcome to Chiangmai and Chiangrai magazine All rights reserved.