By Missy Crittenden & Abby Paine
The Chakkri Dynasty (also spelled Chakri), has been the ruling house of Thailand since 1782 (Chakkri Dynasty). Rama I, originally a military commander with the title Chao Phraya Chakri, became King of Thailand following the execution of the previous ruler, Taskin (Hume, 2018). Rama I played a very important role in the Burmese-Siamese War. Once Taskin became King, Chao Phraya Chakri spent almost an entire decade leading Thai armies, in the northern provinces, in order to repel the Burmese soldiers (Rama I). He helped to establish Siamese suzerainty over Laos, Cambodia, and throughout the northern Malay states (meaning they are unable to take international action unless approved by the Siamese ruler) (Rama I). Unfortunately, Taskin, who had at one point been a close friend of Chao Phraya Chakri, was thought of as half-insane by many of his close advisors (Rama I). This sparked a rebellion leading to his beheading, Chao Phraya Chakri assumed the throne soon after.
Rama I was responsible for moving the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok and undertook a revitalization of the Thai institutions of public life (Rama I). He is accredited with strengthening the Buddhist monkhood by convening a general synod in order to define the orthodox Buddhist scriptures (Rama I). In addition, he initiated and completed the first codification of Thai law in 1805 (Rama I). Rama I is remembered fondly by the citizens of Thailand, there is even a public holiday to commemorate him.
“Chakri Memorial Day” is a public holiday, celebrated on April 6 each year, to commemorate the founder/founding of the Chakri Dynasty (“All You Need to Know About Chakri Day”). While it is a celebration of Rama I, the people of Thailand also recognize other contributions made by previous and current rulers in the Chakri Dynasty (“Chakri Memorial Day 2020”). The day is celebrated through various religious ceremonies held at the royal chapel. The King, along with other members of the monarchy, preside over these ceremonies (“Chakri Memorial Day 2020”). The King also holds a ceremony at Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is considered the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand (“Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok”). Within the temple, the King pays respects to his ancestors that reigned before him, they all have life size statues in the temple. He then lays a wreath at the statue of King Rama I as another important sign of respect.
Death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej
The previous king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, took the throne shortly after World War II and reigned for more than 70 years (Crossette, 2016). He was a unifying figure across the country with his portrait in almost every shop and billboards stating “Long Live the King” expressing the population’s anxiety as his health declined (Crossette, 2016). Bhumibol Adulyadej transformed Thailand during his reign from a mostly agriculture economy into a modernized, upper-income country (Crossette, 2016; Holmes, 2016). After his passing on October 13, 2016, the crowd outside the Siriraj hospital cried and hugged each other (Holmes, 2016). Citizens had been wearing yellow – the king’s color – and pink – the symbol for the monarch’s wellbeing – when standing outside the hospital (Holmes, 2016). The life and Rule of Thailands’s King
Bhumibol met his wife, Queen Sirikit, in Paris and the two were married in 1950, the same year King Bhumibol was crowned Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty (Crossette, 2016). The couple had four children together, three daughters and one son (Crossette, 2016). Their son, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, was crowned king after his father’s passing (Holmes, 2016). However, he does not hold the same level of popularity and admiration as his father did (Holmes, 2016). Nonetheless, Thailand has a strict lése-majesté law that makes criticism of the royal family punishable by years in jail, which makes it difficult to determine the citizens’ true opinion of the new king (Holmes, 2016).
Maha Vajiralongkorn Controversy
Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was born to be king and attended Australia’s Duntroon military college where he trained and received multiple military titles (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). However, he shows little interest in public duties and instead has created a reputation of womanizing, extravagance, and occasional cruelty, even to his own children (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). Several of his children have had their titles stripped and now live in exile due to Maha’s bitterness (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). There have been many other instances where the new king Maha Vajiralongkorn has behaved in ways that make him unfit to rule (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). For example, he made his pet poodle Foo Foo an air chief marshal in the Thai military (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). In 2010, it was leaked that the Thai privy council openly discussed their worry about Vajiralongkorn (Thailand’s Heir, 2016). Andrew Marshall, a British journalist who has extensively covered the Thai monarchy, says, “In my view, it is probable that we will face a so-called hard landing in terms of Thailand’s transition after Bhumibol’s death. Instead of a soft landing of peaceful evolution towards a democratic constitutional monarchy, we are likely to see a violent transition.” (Thailand’s Heir, 2016).
All You Need to Know About Chakri Day. (n.d.) Thai Consulate General In Vancouver. Retrieved from https://www.thaicongenvancouver.org/Chakri-Day.htm
Chakkri Dynasty. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chakkri-dynasty
Chakri Memorial Day 2020. (n.d.) Office Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.officeholidays.com/countries/thailand/chakri_day.php
Crossette, B. (2016). Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88, People’s King of Thailand, Dies After 7-Decade Reign. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/14/world/asia/thai-king-bhumibol-adulyadej-dies.html
Holmes, O. (2016). Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after 70-year reign. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/13/thai-king-bhumibol-adulyadej-dies-after-70-year-reign
Hume, K. (January 26, 2018). The History of Thailand’s Royal Family. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/history-thailands-royal-family/
Rama I: King of Siam. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia britannica online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rama-I
Thailand’s Heir Apparent Maha Vajiralongkorn raises Fears-and Eyebrows. (2016) The Guardian. Retrieved from
Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok: Temple of the Emerald Buddha. (n.d.) Bangkok.com Retrieved from http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-temple/wat-prakaeo.html