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Constitution Day 2023

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  • Constitution Day 2023

    Thailand Public Holidays
    Thailand Holidays

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    Constitution Day

    The Thai people have referred to their land as “Mueang Thai” (land of the free) from time immemorial, though foreigners once were accustomed to call Thailand “Siam.” The monarchy is also a tradition that goes back for centuries. The earliest Thai kingdoms of note were the Kingdom of Sukhothai, founded in 1238 A.D., and the later Kingdom called “Ayutthaya,” which lasted from the 1300’s until it was destroyed by Burma in 1767.

    The modern kingdom, however, began when the Chakri Dynasty arose in 1782, its capital being Bangkok and its first king Rama I. These were all absolute monarchies, and the constitution of 1932, as well as later constitutions, limited the power of the monarchy and place more power in the hands of the people’s representatives in government.

    During the 1920s, Thailand was thrown into both economic and political upheaval. Then in 1932 the armed forces, police, and intellectual class approached king Rama VII and demanded his power be limited. Not only a democratic spirit but also the king’s extreme youth led to the loss of confidence in his ability to lead the nation. At first, the king refused, but at last, on 10 December 1932, he acquiesced. The king was essentially stripped of all power, but his position as king was protected.

    Following a bloodless coup, the constitution of 1932, as well as later constitutions, theoretically limited the power of the Thai monarch and placed the power in the hands of the people’s elected representatives in government. Since December 10, 1932, there have been 20 constitutions (or charters) written for Thailand.

    The monarchy has endured through each of the rewrites. But it was during the reign of the Rama 9, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, ruling from 1946 to 2016, that put an enduring stamp on the Thai monarchy, and clawing back some of the high regard the Thai monarch lost in the years before the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

    During King Bhumibol’s reign the palace, occasionally, stepped across the grey line into the muddy swamp of Thai politics. It was also during his reign that the practice of prostrating in front of the King was re-introduced, abolished back in 1868 by Rama V, King Chulalongkorn. During King Bhumibol’s reign the Palace ran an effective charm offensive to reinvigorate Thailand’s enthusiasm for their monarch and followed the personable King in his travels and captured his work with his subjects in photos and coverage in Thai media.

    The current monarch Rama X has quietly wrested back some of the powers of Thailand’s King in a series of edicts that transferred the wealth of the Palace coffers into his name and took over direct control of 2 battalions of the Thai Army.

    A brass plaque, commemorating the Siamese Revolution of 1932 in Sanam Luang, the public space and parade grounds for the Grand Palace next door, was mysteriously removed in 2017 and replaced with one bearing “royalist” inscriptions. An attempt to re-install a copy of the original plaque in September 2020 by members of the Free Youth movement – the student-led anti-government protest movement – was also removed in the evening after it was installed.

    So Thailand’s annual holiday, Constitution Day, on December 10 each year, has a long and controversial history that stretches back to 1932. It is an official public holiday and all Thai public offices are closed.

    For those in Thailand on Constitution Day, three ideas on what to do are given below:
    • In Bangkok and throughout the country, attend the Constitution Day parades, watch the fireworks events, and see the numerous representations of the present and past kings of Thailand on display everywhere. Also note that government buildings will light up at night, and there may be some public seminars and exhibits instructing people about how Thailand’s poltics work.
    • See the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. It occupies a circular plaza in the middle of a busy turnaround highway. It has an image of the Constitution of 1932 in the centre at the top of a turret and four tall, platform-based “golden wings” surrounding it.
    • See the procession in Dusit, which is sometimes attended by the king and high-ranking government officials. The central point in the celebrations is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, which is the very spot where King Rama VII sat down to sign Thailand’s original constitution back in 1932.