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10th December 2013

Constitution Day

Only a few monarchies today have remained absolute, with all the powers vested in the reigning king or queen. The concentration of political power from one ruler has transitioned to a group of advisers or a council, and this was what happened to Thailand on December 10, 1932 when a young inexperienced King was to take the throne.

The Democracy Monument in the Centre of Bangkok
The Democracy Monument in the Centre of Bangkok

The End of Absolute Monarchy in Thailand

A young and inexperienced Rama VII, popularly known by his peoples as King Prajadhipok, was seen as too young and inadequate to lead the country as a monarch when he was appointed to the Throne. As a result, a coalition was created between Thailand intellectuals and the military (collectively named the People’s Party) led a bloodless coup against the reigning king, the outcome was the erection of a provisional constitution which transferred the political power from the monarch to the people of Siam, this allowed them the overturn the King’s veto.

As seen from the praise and reverence shown to the present King, this constitution of over 80 years has not diminished the stature of the monarch, in fact, on almost every national occasion, the monarchy is still largely figured, be it on billboards or portraits hung from buildings. On civic occasions like this the monarch’s yellow is sported and supported by both Thais and visitors, with yellow dominating the festivities.

Thailand still has the world’s toughest “lese majeste”, or law that protects the king and his family from being maligned, verbally or otherwise.

The Constitution and the Monarchy

When Rama VII signed the constitution on December 10, 1932, he may have given most of his power to the people, however, he still remains the Head of State and also the Head of the Armed Forced. This is not to say that the King has the last word in all of Thai Politics, his veto can still be over-ruled by a vote of parliament, speaking on behalf of the Thai people.

This power also crosses over to the realm of the religious, as subsequent ruling monarchs have been given power to uphold all religions, despite the monarchy’s – and the country’s – thousands-year-long devotion to Theravada Buddhism.

People Power

To increase and encourage the people participation in understanding the role and positives of a democratic society, various seminars and exhibitions are promoted across the country. After all, the Siamese ancestors (ancient Thais) have been ruled for many centuries by minor monarchs, occupying the various Kingdoms (now provinces of Thailand)

Participation on these affairs allows common Thais to understand better rights that have been granted to them by the constitution.

In celebration of this milestone in the country’s history, government offices, schools, businesses and historic edifices are adorned with the blue, white and red of Thai flags and portraits of Thai kings. The people take to the streets during the day, to participate in civic parades, listen to speeches by key government officials, and watch their country’s military power in full regalia.

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