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Thailand (Thai: ประเทศไทย, RTGS: Prathet Thai), officially the Kingdom of Thailand (Thai: ราชอาณาจักรไทย, RTGS: Ratcha Anachak Thai), formerly known as Siam (Thai: สยาม; RTGS: Sayam), is a country located at the center of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by British Burma to the north, French Indochina to the north and east, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malayan Union, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma.
Thailand, along Japan and China, is one of the few Asian states that has not been a colony.
Before 1930 Thailand was an absolute monarchy and mostly a traditional society. Its long succession of rulers in the past four centuries exploited the rivalry and tension between French Indochina and the British India. As a result, the country remained a buffer state between parts of Southeast Asia that were colonised by the two colonial powers, Great Britain and France. Western influence nevertheless led to many reforms in the 19th century and major concessions, most notably the loss of a large territory on the east side of the Mekong to the French and the step-by-step absorption by Britain of the Shan and Karen people areas and Malay Peninsula.
Thailand's selective modernisation mandated from above had created by the early 20th century a class of Western-educated Thais (not necessarily rooted in democratic values, with some leaning toward authoritarianism) in the commoner and lower nobility classes. These were influenced by the ideals of the French and Russian revolutions and staffed the middle and lower ranks of the nascent Siamese bureaucracy.
The Great Economic Depression 1930 had a great impact on Thailand due to being a pre-industrial country chiefly dependant on agricultural exports and most of its trade was imports. As foreign markets closed and erected trade barriers, diminished demand, and the national budget heavily runned in deficit. The monarchy and elites were ill prepared for the Crisis. Social unrest took root, along dismissal of redundant civil servants and cutting the salary of those that remained. Political weakness and ineffectiveness lead in 1930 to a revolution carried out by the Khana Ratsadon (KR, People’s Party). This group of military and civilian officials resulted in a transition of power, when King Prajadhipok was forced to grant the people of Siam their first constitution, thereby ending centuries of absolute monarchy.
One of the goals of the Revolution of 1930 was to modernize Siam following the Japanese Meiji Restoration or as its ideologues and architects put it ‘’a modern Siam following Siamese Traditions’’. An opposite camp looked at Nationalist China for a more radical renewal and perhaps installing a Siamese Republic. These two camps would compromise conflicting forces inside the KR, along a growing influence of the Royal House taking sides with any group that guaranteed the continuation and survival of the Monarchy. Later, the military became also an important actor lobbying with any group that promoted or considered its interests.
Several failed coups occurred between 1931 to 1942, mainly organized by republican factions within the KR and independent political groups such as the communist and socialists. The former two however accepted in 1942 the legitimacy of the Thai monarchy.
Between 1932-1939 the government revoked the treaties granting the extraterritorial rights of 12 countries. Thailand was able to regain complete independence with regard to legal jurisdiction and taxation for the first time since the unequal treaties were signed under duress during the reign of King Rama IV.
During this period political competition was between the various factions of the KR. However none gained the upper hand in the conflict. All governments implemented or approved State policies that were conflicting or incongruent with previous ones. The few successful policies established a modern educational system, mandatory primary education, a grand scale of public works projects (canals, roads and railroads connecting Bangkok with the main ports and provincial capitals), improvement of irrigation, modernization of banks and private industries, state intervention or promotion of economical activity, and a major modernization and expansion of the military. This last policy inadvertently increased the political and bargaining power of the military. At first the military was the only group loyal to the King, but with the infigh of the factions of the KR the military became interest in politics leading to some former officials to integrate the KR or form part of the political opposition.
The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1946) and Great Pacific War (1942-1946) split public opinion in pro-Japanese or pro-chinese factions. Already a pro-japanese Nationalist Government was named in 1936. The Supreme Government Council as it was then styled, became more authoritarian, and with it less prone to internal dissents. It also began to have a more direct control of elections sweeping aside local electoral chiefs. In this period the use of force to lock down opposition from other factions of the KR or other groups became more widespread and violent. Its nationalist policy and the need to rally political support lead to the creation of the People’s National Salvation Front (PNSF) with the sole purpose of becoming the only legal party in Thailand. In 1938 the Supreme Government Council dissolved the Parliament and decreed the election, by interest groups and the provinces, of Consultative Legislative Council and annulled the royal assent for all legislation.
The regime promoted nationalism to the public by using propaganda methods borrowed from authoritarian regimes in Europe, and nationalism was equated with Westernization. To make clear to the world that the country belonged to the Thai, in 1939 the name of the country was officially changed to Muang Thai (Land of the Free), or Thailand. That same year the Supreme Government Council introduced "Thailand for the Thai" economic plan, which levied heavy taxes on foreign-owned businesses, the majority of them Chinese or Khmers, while offering state subsidies to Thai-owned enterprises.
It also revived irredentist claims, stirring up anti-French sentiment and supporting restoration of former Thai territories in Cambodia and Laos. Seeking support against France, the government cultivated closer relations with Japan. The Thai nationalists looked to Japan as the model of an Asian country that had used Western methods and technology to achieve rapid modernization.
Second Siamese Revolution or Coup of 1943
The increasing suppression of opposition and internal dissention in the PFSN, official censorship and travel restrictions and crackdown of the remains of the KR and the introduction of legislation and decrees in order to make the PNSF the only party, starting by making it mandatory for public service to be affiliated and the creation of aligned farmers and workers associations started in the so called ‘’New Process’’. It also includes a more vigorous implementation of Thailand for the Thai" with the harassing of Chinese and other minorities (Khmers, Malays, and Karens). The Armed Forces, the last independent group until then, was intervened in the dismissal of officers of uncertain or lukewarm loyalty to the regime and promotion of supporters. Also a more loyal army corps, the Capital Reserve Unit, was formed under direct of command to the Prime Minister, bypassing the Army Command Staff. Preparations for a frontier war with French Indochina were drawn. To have a war ready staff, officials were sent to Japan to serve as ‘’observers’’ in the Second Sino-Japanese War.
However mounting tensions began with the establishment of an office to spy and checked loyalty of all members of the Armed Forces, specially in the Royal Army and the disband of the Royal Guards having its former functions assumed by the Capital Reserve Unit.
In 1942, the Supreme Government Council issued a new State Law of royal Succession and Household giving power to the Council of Ministers in designating the Regency Council, removal of the King, appointment of heir and control of the Royal Household and a new Privy Council that would ‘’assist’’ the King in his State functions. These measures brought together the internal opposition of the Army, along criticizing of a war with France and alliance with Imperial Japan, banded several groups in organizing a coup against the Government.
The revolution of 1943, organized by the military overthrew the pro-Japanese Supreme Government Council and immediately broke off with Imperial Japan and opened relations with the Second Chinese Republic. In the first years social and political reforms were championed, specially towards workers and farmers. The legacy of State intervention of the economy was keep.
The provisional government nulled all decrees and laws contrary to the restored Constitution of 1932 and restored the Palace Law of Succession. However it vowed to promulgate a new Constitution. A Constitutional Assembly (partly elected, partly designated) was placed in charge of redacting a new Constitution keeping the role of the King. Due to sympathies to the Second Republic of China, Thailand’s new ally, the text was akin to the Chinese constitutional theory and practice. In 1943 a referendum approved the new Constitution.
Constitution of 1932
Before 1930 Thailand was an absolute monarchy. After the First Revolution, the Constitution of 1932 organized the kingdom as follows:
- The king is the head of State and head of the ruling Royal House of Chakri. He is the figurehead and symbol of the Thai nation. the King is head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, as prerogative of royal assent, and the power of pardon. The Constitution also states that the King is the upholder of the Buddhist Religion, and Defender of the Faith. In accordance with the constitution the king is no longer the originator of all laws in the kingdom; that prerogative is entrusted to the National Assembly of Thailand. All bills passed by the legislature, however, require his royal assent to become law. The monarchy's household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Crown Property Bureau respectively, these agencies are not considered part of the Thai government and all personnel are appointed by the king. The Palace Law of Succession governs the succession to the Throne.
- The Prime Minister, as head of the Government and the executive branch.The Prime Minister, as the leader of the Council of Minister, as the prerogative to appoint or remove any Minister he so chooses. The Prime Minister can be removed by a vote of no confidence of the National Assembly. The Cabinet of Thailand or the Council of Ministers of Thailand is a council composed of Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, who run the cabinet ministries of the Kingdom. The Cabinet is also responsible for the formulation and execution of policies of the government. Members of the Cabinet do not necessarily need to be a member of the lower house.
- The legislative branch (also called the Parliament of Thailand) was first established in the ‘Temporary’ Constitution of 1930. The National Assembly of Thailand is a bicameral legislature and comprises two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
- The Judiciary of Thailand as mandated in the Constitution is made up of three tiers: the Courts of First Instance, the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Justice.
Constitution of 1942
In 1945 a new constitution was approved based on the Chinese Five-power Constitution. The government of the Thailand has six branches (executive, legislative, judicial, control, examination and religious).
- The Executive is composed of the King and Council of Ministers:
- The King - head of State and head of the ruling Royal House of Chakri. He is the figurehead and symbol of the Thai nation. the King is head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, as prerogative of royal assent, and the power of pardon. The Constitution also states that the King is the upholder of the Buddhist Religion, and Defender of the Faith. In accordance with the constitution the king is no longer the originator of all laws in the kingdom; that prerogative is entrusted to the National Assembly. All bills passed by the legislature, however, require his royal assent to become law. The monarchy's household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the Crown Property Bureau respectively, these agencies are not considered part of the Thai government and all personnel are appointed by the king. The Palace Law of Succession governs the succession to the Throne.
- Council of Ministers - led by the Prime Minister as head of the Government - acts as the executive branch.The Prime Minister as the prerogative to appoint or remove any Minister he so chooses. The Prime Minister can be removed by a vote of no confidence of the National Assembly. The Cabinet of Thailand or the Council of Ministers of Thailand is a council composed of Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, who run the cabinet ministries of the Kingdom. The Cabinet is also responsible for the formulation and execution of policies of the government. Members of the Cabinet do not necessarily need to be a member of the lower house.
- The Legislative is composed of a bicameral National Assembly composed of Senate and Chamber of Representatives, the later elected by universal suffrage. Senate has mix representation of elected senators and life senator named by the King. The National Assembly, as the power to amend the constitution.
- The Supreme Judicial Council serves as the highest judicial organ of Thailand. They are nominated and appointed by the King, with the consent of the National Assembly. The Supreme Judicial Council is charged with interpreting the Constitution. It also supervises lower courts, which consist of the Supreme Court, the high courts, district courts, the Administrative Court, and the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Public Functionaries;
- the Inspection and Audit Council is the audit branch that monitors the other branches of government. Its members are elected by provincial, municipal representative councils.
- Public Service Council is in charge of validating the qualification of civil service personnel and examination examen. Its members are nominated and appointed by King, with the consent of the Inspection and Audit Council.
- The Constitution required that the State is to patronize and protect Buddhism and other religions. The Religious Affairs Commission registers religious organizations and recognizes a new religion if a national census shows that it has at least 50,000 adherents, has a uniquely recognizable theology, and is not politically active. There are five recognized religious groups: Buddhists, Muslims, Brahmin-Hindus, Sikhs, and Catholics. Government registration confers benefits, including access to state subsidies, tax-exempt status. The Supreme Sangha Council is the supervising body of the Thai Buddhist communities. Although there is no official state religion and the Thai constitution guarantees religious freedom for all Thai citizens, the king is required by law to be Theravada Buddhist and majority the Thai people are Buddhist and the State officially endorses Buddhist activities and practises.
Although a constitutional monarchy since 1930, the only political party for a several years was the Khana Ratsadon (People’s Party). The Khana Ratsadon was initially a group of military and civil officers, and later a political party. However due to infighting the party split, because the party had too many factions with conflicting interests and political belief. Being the de facto political party it usually recursed to vote rigging or use of local electoral chiefs to have working majority in the elections. however the KR was far from being characterized as a modern mass political party. Instead, it was more an elite party, drawing its members from the royalty, landowners, business interests, educated middle class, civil servants, or the military.
The major political factions of the KR divided between civil and military factions, pro-western or nationalist modernize, Meiji or Chinese modernization, Japanese or Chinese political alliance, Free trade or state intervention. Although, some factions were no more than a small cliques that competed with larger ones under a powerful and wealthy patronage. A key player was the local electoral chief, usually of rural zones, that delivered votes to the faction that sponsored him.
In 1930s the People’s National Salvation Front (PNSF) was formed with the intention of being the sole legal party.It attracted hard nationalist and military cliques from the KR
Many other parties were formed, but main ones that had some kind of expression and real permanent existence were the Thai Nation Party (center-right nationalist, its similar to the Young Chinese Association), the National Development Party (left wing nationalist, its similar to the Chinese KMT), the Social Mass Party (socialist) and the Communist Party of Thailand. These four parties formed part of the National Thai Front.
Until 1943 the KR and its various factions were the dominant party. The Revolution of 1943 abolished all parties, save the ones supporting or organizing the revolution (e.i. members of the National Thai Front) or created by the new reformist military clique (i.e. Social Unity Party, similar to the KMT).
The agriculture in Thailand is highly competitive, diversified and specialized. Rice production in Thailand represents a significant portion of the Thai economy and labor force. Rice is the country's most important crop. Thailand is one of the major exporter in the world rice market. The most produced strain of rice in Thailand is jasmine rice, which is a higher quality type of rice. However, jasmine has a significantly lower yield rate than other types of rice,
Other agricultural commodities produced in significant amounts include fish and fishery products, tapioca, rubber, grain, and sugar. Exports of industrially processed foods such as canned tuna, pineapples, and frozen shrimp are on the rise. The northern Thailand is home to Black Ivory coffee.
From the early twentieth century, Siam's economy gradually became globalized. Major entrepreneurs are ethnic Chinese who became Siamese nationals.
Exports of agricultural products (especially rice) were very important and Thailand has been among the top rice exporters in the world. The Siamese economy suffered greatly from the Great Depression, a cause of the Siamese revolution.
The Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces (จอมทัพไทย; RTGS: Chom Thap Thai) is the King, however this position is only nominal. The Armed Forces is ostensibly managed by the Ministry of Defense of Thailand, which is headed by the Minister of Defence (a member of the Cabinet of Thailand) and commanded by the Supreme Command Headquarters, which in turn is headed by the Supreme Commander of the Supreme Command HQ.
The Royal Thai Armed Forces consists of the following branches:
- Royal Thai Army (กองทัพบกไทย)
- Royal Thai Navy (กองทัพเรือไทย, ราชนาวีไทย)
- Royal Thai Air Force (กองทัพอากาศไทย)
- Royal Guards, a branch of the Royal Thai Army
The Royal Thai Police (Thai: ตำรวจแห่งชาติ) is the national police of Thailand.