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History of Curriculum and Ethics in Siam: 1935-1970

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Chapter IV

Primary Curriculum and Ethics Instruction During 1935 - 1970 (B.E. 2478 - 2513)

In the previous three Chapters we have seen that in Siam[1], throughout the periods with which we are concerned, the kings had absolute power and were treated recognized as the ‘Lord of life’. They who seemed to bewere ultimate authorities in all aspects of the country’s development, including education. Even though the education ministry was established in 1894, educational policies were still under controlled ofby the kings through the. ministers of the education whom he assigned. However, in 1932 a military coup brought the era of absolute monarchy to an abrupt end and replaced it with a constitutional monarchy in which the king was confined to a largely ceremonial role. 

Few years after co-operation with the new administrative power under the institutional system, king Rama VII felt uneasy to compromise his different political opinion with the political leaders that brought to his abdication in 1935. Therefore the constitutional government had absolute power over the country. The ‘modernization period’ of educational reform thus initiated in 1935 and which continued till 1970, was a period of transformation, as the political revolution triggered changes in every aspect of Thai society.

The administrative power was transferred from king to Prime minister and his cabinets. Though the minister of education was remained the same in the beginning of this period, but one out of six pillar policies of the cabinet was to provide equal education to all, hence wWe would expect that ethics instruction could hardly have escaped these political is socialand social upheaval untouched. The question is therefore just how far and in what ways ethics instruction was transformed during the modernization period.

1. The Modernization Period 1935 – 1970 (B.E.2478-2513) 

In 1935, after the abdication of King Rama VII, King Rama VIII was offered the crown. A young man on his ascent to the throne, he reigned for 11 years, most of which he spent outside the kingdom, for his education and especially during the period of World War II. He died in mysterious circumstances in 1946. Besides, he was under the constitution monarchy system; his impact on Thai education was thus invisible.

His brother, Rama IX, followed him on the thrown and has held it to the present day – the longest reigning monarch in the world. However, since we are concerned with educational issue in primary curriculum and the ethics instruction in this period, the discussion will end at the year of 1970 which is in the first 25 years of Rama IX’s reign. In this modernization period, primary curriculum was developed based on western idea and theory. There was a Royal Announcement and four primary curricula used in this period, which are the following:

  • Royal Announcement 1936 (B.E. 2479)
  • Primary Curriculum 1937 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : B.E.2480)
  • Primary Curriculum 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa: B.E.2491)
  • Primary Curriculum 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : B.E.2498)
  • Primary Curriculum 1960 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa Tonton and Tonplai : B.E.2503)

Ginsburg says that to examine the educational reformation efforts in any country, the global structural and ideological context must be investigated on how they constrain it is necessary to investigate how the global structural and ideological contexts constrain and enableand enable individual and group actors’ transactions concerning education.[2] From such a perspective the situation of Thailand is peculiar. As mentioned earlier that in this period, the absolute monarchy system was replaced by the constitutional monarchy system. Consequently, the central administrative system and politics were changed into democratic system based on the western view.

However, although though the constitution was the supreme law of the Kingdom of Thailand, the country has had 18 charters and constitutions[3] since the coup backed the change from the absolute to constitutional monarchy in 1932, and this reflects the high degree of political instability and frequency of military coups faced by the nation. After each successful coup, the military regimes abrogated existing constitutions and promulgated interim ones. Somehow, this circumstance affected the national socio-economics, religion, and education. The question is how far and in what ways ethics instruction in primary curriculum was affected by all such a fluid political situation.

1.1. Politics and Administration 1935 - 1970 (B.E.2478 - 2513)

After the 1932 revolution by People’s Party, King Rama VII or King Prajadhipok was forced to grant the first constitution on 10 December 1932 by the three main coup leaders with, [4] who were educated who were scholarship students and educated in France and Germany where the national revolution and social crisis was floated over in nineteenth century. after French Revolution and social crisis. These reformers or coup leaders, who were known as the "promoters," were representatives of the younger generation of western-oriented political elite that were educated to be helpersbe instruments of an absolute monarchy that they viewed as archaic and inadequate to the task of modern government.

The principals in the coup identified themselves as nationalists. All of them became prime ministers and the major figures in Thai politics for the next three decades. Pridi Phanomyong[5],, one of the country's leading intellectuals, was the most influential civilian promoter, who became a prime minister in 1946/B.E.2489. His chief rival among the other promoters was Pibul, or Luang Plaek Pibulsongkram[6], an ambitious junior army officer who later attained the rank of field marshal and was the prime minister during 1938/1944 and 1948-1957/B.E.2481-2487;2491-2500. Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena[7], the senior member of the group, who was sent by royal schorlarship to study in Germany and Denmark from 1903 till 1912, he became the prime minister in 1933-1938/B.E.2476-2481 represented old-line military officers dissatisfied with cuts in appropriations for the armed forces.

After the triumph of the coup, these three exercised power as members of a cabinet, the Commissariat of the People, chosen by the National Assembly that had been summoned by them. To compromise both modern and conservative opinion, a retired jurist, Phraya Manopakorn Nithitada[8], was chosen as the president of the first committees assembly, and the first prime minister after the political change during 1932-1933/B.E.2475-2476. Since the country has been ruled by prime minister and his cabinet under constitutional system, king has no absolute power as before.

 However, in this period, there were some remarkable circumstances related to kings’ life that more or less provided some political stresses such as king Rama VII’s abdication and the mystery death of king Rama VIII. Interestingly to learn how kings’ position and mission could be, and how the government under democratic system took place in the period of significant political change.

1.1.1. King Rama VII’s Abdication

Due to the coupSince 1932, king Prajadhipok or king Rama VII, to avoid violence, surrendered his absolute power to the coup leaders, then the country has been governed under democratic system where the king has no power under the constitution but he remains as the symbol of national identity and unity. Since then king Rama VII had co-operated his mission with the new governors till 1934 he went abroad for a medical treatment. Whereas he was abroad he proposed to the government some conditions in serving as constitutional monarch. However, the government would not agree with his opinion, and so on March 2nd, 1935 he announced his resignation and issued a brief statement criticizing the administration. In it he wrote,

“I wish to surrender my formerly absolute powers to all people, not to turn them over to anyone or any group to use in an autocratic manner without concerning the people’s voice.”[9]

In his letter, he blamed the government of having no hold for democratic principles, employing methods of administration incompatible with individual freedom and the principles of justice, ruling in an autocratic manner and not letting the people have a real voice in country’s affairs.

Anyhow, the resignation from the throne of king Rama VII gave a good chance to the constitutional government to select the next king on their choice. Instead of choosing Prince Chulachakrapongse,[10] who was on the first ranking of royal family to success to the throne, the parliament, by the convince of Pridi, selected Prince Ananda Mahidol, the youngest son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sri-Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani), who was only 9 years old and studying in Switzerland to be the next king. His young age and absence from the country were the causes of the selection that would grant to the government an absolute freedom in ruling the country without king’s power or interference. Accordingly, Prince Ananda Mahidol was in the throne as king Rama VIII in 1935. 

1.1.2. King Rama VIII and Assassination (1935-1946)

After king Rama VII’s Abdication, prince Ananda Mahidol was elected by the government to succeed king Rama VII, his uncle on March 2, 1935 as king Rama VIII. However, with his 9 years old, he continued his studying and staying with his family in Lausanne, Switzerland. He visited Thailand at the first time in 1939 when he was 13 years old. As seen in the news, television, including the story of See Phandin (Four Reigns), many people were excited to see their young king who had grown up in European country after Siam had been without a resident king for many years. Having heard about his news and seeing his good looking, the people admired king Rama VIII greatly, therefore after his first visit the country and departing to study again, thousands of people went to see him off at the airport, wished him and looked forward for his return.

Seven years later (1946), at the age of 20, King Ananda Mahidol was back to Thailand together with the Princess Mother, Sri-sangval, and his younger brother, Prince Bhumibol[11]. By this time, he visited some communities His visits in Bangkok and the surrounding areas were heartily welcomed whereas his informal and warm contact were impressed by the people in those areas. One important place of his visits was "Sampheng"[12], a district in Bangkok that King Rama I gave to the Chinese community after the establishment of Bangkok as the capital of the country in 1782.

Before Chinese people were living in the place where King Rama I would construct the royal residence (Grand Palace at present) on, therefore, Chinese residents were asked to move and settle down in Sampheng. Since then, there had been clashes between the local people who had lived at Sampheng before and the Chinese people who moved into that area. Thus the visit of King Rama VIII and prince Bhumibol, his brother, not only be appreciated but also released the tension conflict and reconciled among the local Thais and Chinese communities. This might be the last memorial mission of king Rama VIII.

On June 9th, 1946, unexpectedly a few days before his return to Switzerland to achieve his education, he was mysteriously assassinated with a gun shot in his room at Boromphimarn Palace.[13] Certainly, the news of the King’ death in such circumstance shocked the people and made them cried. The entire country dressed in black and miserable prevailed in every corner of the nation.

The first official announcement was mentioned that king Rama VIII shot himself accidently, later due to some investigations, his close servers were killed for this guilt. likewise, Pridi, who was elected by the parliament to be the prime minister one day before the king’s death, was accused to get involved. Nevertheless, the cause of his unexpected death has remained in doubt and been officially unexplained up to now.

The reign of king Rama VIII was 11 years and under the new democratic system and since he was very young and spent most of the time in studying aboard that required a Council of Regency, so as a powerless king, he didn’t conduct many tasks in his kingship. Nevertheless he still earned love, respect and be memorized by people for his gentleness, sincerity, and intellectual. After his death, his brother Prince Bhumipol Aduldej was invited to succeed as King Rama IX.

1.1.3. King Rama IX (1946-present)

Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej[14] was born in 1927, in the United States. He first came to Thailand in 1928 and finished his primary education at Mater Dei school, a catholic school in Bangkok. In 1933, after the political change in Thailand, he left with his family for Switzerland. After his brother, king Rama VIII’s death, he ascended the throne on June 9, 1946 as king Bhumibol or Rama IX. However, he returned to study in Switzerland till 1950 and went back to Thailand for the Coronation Ceremony on May 5, 1950. 

On that day he announced that “I will reign the country with Dharma for the benefit and happiness of the people”[15]. His word reflected on his private missions in developing people’s welfare especially for poor people. As a king of democratic system, he is under the constitution and no administrative power, his signature of approval for political affair is required as only official tradition. Since he came to the throne after tragic difficulties such as absolute monarchy’s failure, king Rama VII’s abdication, and lately his king brother’s assassination, moreover, he was invited from the constitutional government to be in the reign, therefore, he or less has been aware of his missions in king’s position. He spent most of the time in visiting ruler people that made him found more than thousand agricultural and natural protection projects to help the poor. 

Though he is under constitution and has less power than the absolute monarchy, according to his vision or guidance, many projects are initiated by cooperating with local people, government agencies, and NGOs. As a result, he gains enormous popular respect and moral authority in his long reign, more than 60 years. In addition, he was from time to time drawn to get involved with some political crises or national conflicts. It can be said that, to some extent, the king Rama IX indirectly helped and influenced political issues that considerably of his national concern by his moral power.

Due to the political change in 1932 with the constitutional system in 1935, the monarchy’s power in administration was transferred to prime minister and his cabinet. It is interesting to take a look at the democratic government that would be the key of development and reformation of the country in all aspects including educational reform.

1.1.4. Government and Administrative Structure

As this period of modernization under the constitutional monarchy system, all official works of the country were conducted by the prime minister and his cabinet. Even though the country was seemingly a “democracy” from then, in fact the government was dominated by the military dictatorship in an authoritarian manner. Civilian leaders were often deposed by military coups. In this period of 35 years the country had three prime ministers who were Field Marshalls who got power from the coups.

They were Field Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Prime Minister, 1938-1944; 1949-1957), Field Marshall Sarit Dhanarajata (Prime Minister, 1959-1963), and Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn (Prime Minister, 1958, 1963-1973).[16] There were six civilian prime ministers leading the country approximately 4 years out of 35 years of this modernization period, all the rest of the years was under Military leaders.[17] In summary, prime minister position was changed 15 times in 35 years and the political scenario in Thailand was always volatile. Many coups d’etate took place and a number of constitutions were created. Military leaders and dictators had always influenced Thai politics.

The governmental structure of Thailand has undergone gradual and practical evolution in response to the various changes. Even so, the basic concepts of constitutional government and monarchy laid down in the 1932 constitution remain more or less the same. We could list them in the following way. In the first figure[18] (Figure 1) the structure of the parliamentary system is given as an example. And later on we also point out the other details of the administrative system. 

The first and foremost concept of the charters and constitutions is the status of the monarch as Head of State, Head of Armed Forces, and Upholder of the Buddhist Religion and all other religions. The King, as Head of State, exercises his legislative power through the parliament, executive power through the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, and judicial power through the courts. He is empowered with the right to be consulted and to advise and even warn the government when it appears not to administer the state affairs for the good of the people. So the main points of the constitution are that the highest administrative power belongs to the people not the King and that the power is to be exercised through the people's representatives.

The second concept is about legislative branch, which is a bicameral parliamentary system composing of the House of Representatives (MPs), and the House of Senators.

The third concept is the executive branch. As per every constitution, the Prime Minister is head of government and chief executive. The Cabinet is responsible for the administration of 14 ministries, as well as the Office of the Prime Minister. A number of cabinet committees have been set up consisting of relevant ministers, such as the Cabinet Economics Committee and the Cabinet Social Affairs Committee etc. to coordinate major policies concerned.

Besides the ministers who were responsible for each ministry, there were a number of ministers holding the portfolio of “Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office.” They were in charge of various responsibilities undertaken by this office which in itself ranks as a ministry and largely deal with formulating the national policy.[19]

According to the framework of a constitutional monarchy, the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The country is divided into 75 provinces, excluding Bangkok Metropolis which is the capital of the country. Each province, which is administered by an appointed governor, is sub-divided into districts, sub-districts or tambons (groups of villages) and villages. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is administered by an elected governor and is divided into 50 districts.

Once the first democratic form of government was founded and the constitution was put into effect, conflict began to erupt among the members of the initial ruling coalition. There were four major factions competing for power: the older conservative civilian faction led by Phraya Manopakorn Nititada[20]; the senior military faction led by Phraya Phahol[21]; the junior army and navy faction led by Luang Plaek Phibunsongkhram and the young civilian faction led by Pridi Phanomyong.[22] In spite of such power struggles, there were some remarkable political events occurred in this period.

1.1.5. Political events

The pursuit of nationalism. The military, led by Major General Plaek Pibulsongkram[23] as Defence Minister, and the civilian liberals led by Pridi as Foreign Minister, worked together harmoniously for several years in the beginning of Constitutional system. But when Pibulsongkramn became the third prime minister in December 1938 this co-operation broke down, and military domination became more overt. 

Pibulsongkram was an admirer of Benito Mussolini, and his regime soon developed some fascist characteristics. In early 1939 forty political opponents, both monarchists and democrats, were arrested, and after rigged trials eighteen were executed, which was the first political executions in Siam in over a century. Many others, among them Prince Damrong and Phraya Songsuradej, were exiled. Pibulsongkramn launched a demagogic campaign against the Chinese business class. Chinese schools and newspapers were closed, and taxes on Chinese businesses increased.

Siam to Thailand. Also in 1939, Pibulsongkramn changed the country's name from Siam to Prathet Thai, or Thailand, meaning "land of the free." Modernization was also an important theme in Pibulsongkramn's new Thai nationalism. From 1938 to 1942 he issued a set of twelve Cultural Mandates. In addition to requiring that all Thais salute the flag, know the National Anthem, and speak the national language, the mandates also encouraged Thais to work hard, stay informed on current events, and to dress in a western fashion. By 1941 it became illegal to ridicule those who attempted to promote national customs.

The program also encompassed fine arts. Fiercely nationalistic plays and films were sponsored by the government. Often these depicted a glorious past when Thai warriors fearlessly gained freedom for the country, defended their honor, or sacrifice themselves. Patriotism was taught in schools and was a recurrent theme in songs and dances. At the same time, Pibulsongkram worked rigorously to rid society of its royalist influences - traditional royal holidays were replaced with new national events, royal and aristocratic titles were abandoned. Ironically, he retained his aristocratic surname. Even the Sangha was affected when the status of the royally sponsored Thammayuth sect was downgraded. 

World War II and Thai politics. In 1940, most of France was occupied by Nazi Germany, and Pibulsongkram immediately set out to avenge Siam's humiliations by France in 1893 and 1904, when the French had redrawn the borders of Siam with Laos and Cambodia by forcing a series of treaties. Anti-French demonstrations were incessantly held around Bangkok, and in late 1940 border skirmishes erupted along the Maekong frontier. On January 9 1941, Thailand attacked southern Vietnam, giving Tokyo a reason to move on Sài Gòn (Hồ Chí Minh City). In 1941, the skirmishes became a small scale war between Vichy France and Thailand. The Thai forces dominated the war on the ground and in the air, but suffered a crushing naval defeat at the battle of Chang Island (Koh Chang). The Japanese then stepped in to mediate the conflict. The final settlement thus gave back to Thailand the disputed areas in Laos and Cambodia.

Pibulsongkram's prestige was so increased that he was able to bask in a feeling of being truly the nation's leader. As if to celebrate the occasion, he promoted himself to field marshal, skipping the ranks of lieutenant general and general. This caused a rapid deterioration of relations with the United States and Britain. In April 1941 the United States cut off petroleum supplies to Thailand. Thailand's campaign for territorial expansion came to an end on December 8, 1941 when Japan invaded the country along its southern coastline and from Cambodia. After initially resisting, the Pibulsongkram regime allowed the Japanese to pass through the country in order to attack Burma and invade Malaya. Convinced by the Allied defeats of early 1942 that Japan was winning the war, Pibulsongkram decided to form an actual military alliance with the Japanese.

As a reward, Japan allowed Thailand to invade and annex the Shan States in northern Burma, and to resume sovereignty over the sultanates of northern Malaya which had previously been lost in a treaty with Britain. In January 1942 Pibulsongkram declared war on Britain and the United States, but the Thai Ambassador in Washington, Seni Pramoj, refused to deliver it to the State Department. Instead, Seni denounced the Pibulsongkram regime as illegal and formed a Seri Thai Movement in Washington. Pridi, by then serving in the role of an apparently powerless regent, led the resistance movement inside Thailand, while former Queen Ramphaiphanni[24] was the nominal head of the movement in Great Britain.

Secret training camps were set up, the majority by the populist politician Tiang Sirikhanth in the northeast region of the country. There were a dozen camps in Sakhon Nakhon Province alone. Secret airfields also appeared in the northeast, where Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force planes brought in supplies, as well as Special Operations Executive, Office of Strategic Services, and Seri Thai agents, while at the same time evacuating out prisoners of war. By early 1945, Thai air force officers were performing liaison duties with South East Asia Command in Kandy and Calcutta[25].

By 1944 it was evident that the Japanese were going to lose the war, and their behaviour in Thailand had become increasingly arrogant. Bangkok also suffered heavily from the Allied bombing raids. This, along with the economic hardship caused by the loss of Thailand's rice export markets, made both the war and Pibulsongkram's regime very unpopular. In July 1944 Pibulsongkram was ousted by the Seri Thai-infiltrated government. The National Assembly reconvened and appointed the liberal lawyer Khuang Aphaiwong as Prime Minister. The new government hastily evacuated the British territories that Pibulsongkram had occupied and surreptitiously aided the Seri Thai movement, while at the same time maintaining ostensibly friendly relations with the Japanese.

The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945. Immediately, the Allied military responsibility for Thailand fell to the British. As soon as practicable, British troops were flown in and these rapidly secured the release of surviving POWs (Prisoners of War). The British were surprised to find that the disarmament of the Japanese soldiers had already been largely completed by the Thais. The British regarded Thailand as having been partly responsible for the immeasurable damage dealt upon the Allied cause and favored treating the kingdom as a defeated enemy. However, the Americans had no sympathy for what they considered to be British and French colonialism and supported the new government. Thailand thus received little punishment for its wartime role under Pibulsongkram.

Post World War II. Seni Pramoj became Prime Minister in 1945, and promptly restored the name Siam as a symbol of the end of Pibulsongkram' s nationalist regime. However, he found his position at the head of a cabinet packed with Pridi’s loyalists quite uncomfortable. Northeastern populist politicians like Tiang Sirikhanth and Bangkok upstarts like Sanguan Tularaksa were not the sort that the aristocratic Seni preferred to associate with. They, in turn, viewed Seni as an elitist who was entirely out of touch with Thailand’s political realities. Pridi continued to wield power behind the scenes as he had done during the Khuang government. The regent’s looming presence and overarching authority rank led the proud, thin-skinned Seni, fueling a personal animosity that would poison Thailand’s postwar politics.

King Rama VIII’s mysterious death. In December 1945, the young king Rama VIII returned to Siam from Europe, and on 9th July 1946 he was found mysteriously shot dead in the palace. Three palace servants were tried and executed for his murder, but Thai society has preferred not to dwell on the event rather than to investigate its causes. 

Democratic elections were subsequently held in January 1946. These were the first elections in which political parties were legal, and Pridi's People's Party and its allies won a majority. In March 1946 Pridi became Siam's first democratically elected Prime Minister. In 1947 he agreed to hand back the French territory occupied in 1940 as the price for admission to the United Nations, the dropping of all wartime claims against Siam and a substantial package of American aid. 

The king was succeeded by his younger brother Bhumibol Adulyadej. In August Pridi was forced to resign amid suspicion that he had been involved in the regicide. Without his leadership, the civilian government floundered, and in November 1947 the army, its confidence restored after the debacle of 1945, seized power. After an interim Khuang-headed government, in April 1948 the army brought Pibulsongkram back from exile and made him Prime Minister. Pridi in turn was driven into exile, eventually settling in Beijing as a guest of the People's Republic of China.

Cold War. Pibulsongkram's return to power coincided with the onset of the Cold War and the establishment of a Communist regime in North Vietnam. He soon won the support of the U.S., beginning a long tradition of US-backed military regime in Thailand (as the country was again renamed in July 1949, this time permanently). Once again political opponents were arrested and tried, and some were executed. During this time, several of the key figures in the wartime Free Thai (Seri Thai) underground – including Thawin Udom, Thawi Thawethikul, Chan Bunnak, and Tiang Sirikhanth – were eliminated in extra-legal fashion by the Thai police, run by Pibulsongkram’s ruthless associate Phao Sriyanond. There were attempted counter-coups by Pridi supporters in 1948, 1949 and 1951, the second leading to heavy fighting between the army and navy before Pibulsongkram emerged victorious. In the navy's 1951 attempt, popularly known as the Manhattan Coup, Pibulsongkram was nearly killed when the ship he was held hostage aboard was bombed by the pro-government air force.

In 1949 a new constitution was promulgated, creating a Senate appointed by the king (in practice, by the government). But in 1951 the regime abolished its own constitution and reverted to the constitution 1932 arrangements, effectively abolishing the National Assembly as an elected body. This provoked strong opposition from the universities and the press, and led to a further round of trials and repression. The regime was greatly helped, however, by a postwar boom which gathered pace through the 1950s, fuelled by rice exports and U.S. aid. Thailand's economy began to diversify, while the population increased and urbanization expanded.

New Thai leaders. By 1955 Pibulsongkram was losing his leading position in the army to younger rivals led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat and General Thanom Kittikachorn. To shore up his position he restored the 1949 constitution and called for elections, which his supporters won. But the army was not prepared to give up its power. As a result, in September 1957 it demanded Pibulsongkram's resignation. When Pibulsongkram tried to have Sarit arrested, the army staged a bloodless coup on September 17, 1957, ending Pibulsongkram's career for good. Thanom became Prime Minister until 1958, then yielded his place to Sarit, the real head of the regime. Sarit held power until his death in 1963, when Thanom again took the lead.

Sarit and Thanom were the first Thai leaders to have been educated entirely in Thailand, and were less influenced by European political ideas, whether fascist or democratic, than the generation of Pridi and Pibulsongkram. Rather, they were Thai traditionalists, who sought to restore the prestige of the monarchy and to maintain a society based on order, hierarchy and religion. They saw rule by the army as the best means of ensuring this, and also of defeating Communism, which they associated with Thailand's traditional enemies, the Vietnamese. King Bhumibol returned to Thailand in 1951, and his present elevated status thus has its origins in this era.

The regimes of Sarit and Thanom were strongly supported by the U.S. Thailand formally became a U.S. ally in 1954 with the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). While the war in Indochina was being fought between the Vietnamese and the French, Thailand (disliking both equally) stayed aloof, but once it became a war between the U.S. and the Vietnamese Communists, Thailand committed itself strongly to the U.S. side. Concluding a secret agreement with the U.S. in 1961 Thailand sent troops to Vietnam and Laos, and allowed the U.S. to open airbases in the east of the country to conduct its bombing war against North Vietnam. The Vietnamese retaliated by supporting the Communist Party of Thailand's insurgency in the north, northeast and sometime in the south, where guerillas co-operated with local discontented Muslims.

The political environment of Thailand changed little during the middle '60s. Thanom and his chief deputy Praphas maintained a tight grip on power. The alliance between these two was further cemented by the marriage of Praphas's daughter to Thanom's son Narong. By the late 1960s, however, more elements in Thai society had become openly critical of the military government which was seen as being increasingly incapable of dealing with the country's problems. It was not only the student activists, but also the business community that had begun to question the leadership of the government as well as its relationship with the United States. Thanom came under increasing pressure to loosen his grip on power when the king commented that it was time for parliament to be restored and a new constitution put into effect. After Sarit had suspended the constitution in 1958, a committee was established to write a new one, but almost ten years later, it had still not been completed. Finally in 1968 the government issued a new constitution and scheduled elections for the following year. The government party founded by the military junta won the election and Thanom remained prime minister.

Surprisingly, the parliament was not totally tame. A number of MPs (mostly professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and journalists) began to openly challenge some of the government's policies, producing evidence of widespread government corruption on a number of large projects. As a new fiscal year was being debated in 1971, it actually appeared that the military's demand for more funds might be voted down. Rather than suffer such a loss of face, Thanom carried out a putsch against his own government, suspended the constitution and dissolved the Parliament. Once again Thailand returned to absolute military rule.

This military approach that used to work well in Pibulsongkram’s in 1938 and 1947, and Sarit’s in 1957-58 would prove to be unsuccessful. By the early 1970s Thai society as a whole developed a level of political awareness where it would no longer accept such unjustified authoritarian rule. The king, using various public holidays to give speeches on public issues, became openly critical of the Thanom-Praphas regime. He expressed doubt on the use of extreme violence in the efforts to combat insurgency. He mentioned the widespread existence of corruption in the government and expressed the view that coups should become a thing of the past in the Thai political system. Furthermore, the junta began to face increasing opposition from within the military itself. Being preoccupied with their political roles, Thanom and Praphas became more remoted from direct control of the army. Meanwhile many officers felt outraged by the rapid promotion of Narong (his son in law) and it seemed that he was going to be Thanom's successor. To these officers, it appeared that a political dynasty was being created. Consequently, Thanom was ousted from his premiership by the student uprising and had to leave the country in October 1973.

Major incidents. In the post-political revolution period after the abdication of King Rama VII, there were some major events [26] as follows.

2 March 1934: King Rama VII abdicated the throne. The National Assembly concurred with the cabinet proposal to proclaim Prince Ananda Mahidol as King Rama VIII on 7 March 1934.

10 September 1938: The government failed to secure a vote in Parliament and resigned due to the tense global situation but the Head of Council of Regency did not accept the resignation.

11 September 1938 Dissolution of Parliament for re-election of representatives within 60 days.

10 December 1938 Major General Luang Pibulsongkram was appointed Prime-Minister, Minister of Defense and Interior and, in July 1939, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

29 January 1939 The government arrested a group of people on a charge of treason and publicly announced that this group intended to harm prominent persons in the government in order to change the government regime and had intended to proclaim Prajadhipok or Krom Phra Nakhonsawan Vorapinit as King and turn the system back to an absolute monarchy.

11 September 1940 Former Thai territories were reclaimed from France and there was an outbreak of fighting (the Indo-China War).

8 December 1941 Japanese troops marched into Thailand and on 11 December 1941, the Thai government and Japan signed an alliance agreement which covered both offensive and defensive collaboration. This agreement provoked a resistance movement by a group of people against Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram both inside and outside the country. This movement was known as the Seri Thai (Free Thai) Movement and it first began to form in the United States and Great Britain. It aimed to protect Thai independence and prevent the country from disaster in case Great Britain and United States won the war.

22 July 1944 The government failed to secure a vote in the Parliament. Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram resigned.

1 August 1944 Mr. Pridi Panomyong was proclaimed the Regent of Thailand and appointed Mr. Khuang Abhaiwongse as Prime Minister on the same day.

15 August 1945 Japan surrendered. On 16 August 1945, Mr. Pridi Panomyong, the Regent of Thailand issued a Peace Proclamation, repudiating the declaration of war on Great Britain and United States under the government of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram.

17 August 1945 Khuang Abhaiwongse's government resigned from office, opening the way for the establishment of a new government.

1 September 1945 Mr. Tawee Bunyaget was proclaimed Prime-Minister. On 17 September 1945, Mr. Seni Pramoj became Prime-Minister and resumed diplomatic relations with the Allies.

15 October 1945 Parliament passed a resolution for new elections.

24 March 1946 Mr. Pridi Panomyong became Prime-Minister.

10 May 1946 Promulgation of the constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 1946, the third Thai constitution.

9 June 1946 King Ananda Mahidol was found shot dead.

23 August 1946 Prime minister Mr. Pridi Panomyong resigned. On 24 August 1946, Rear Admiral Thawan Thamrongnavasavad became Prime Minister and encountered problems of finance, living standards, banditry, corruption and investigations into the death of King Ananda Mahidol.

19-27 May 1947 Parliament initiated general debate on a no-confidence vote against the cabinet but the cabinet succeeded in securing the confidence vote. The cabinet was modified.

8 November 1947 Lieutenant General Pin Chunhawan lead a coup-d' etat and invited Major General Khuang Abhaiwongse to be Prime-Minister on 10 November 1947. Filed Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram returned as As Army Commander.

5 March 1948 The Coup D'etat group of 1947 was not pleased with the work of the government and thus demanded the resignation of the cabinet within 24 hours.

8 April 1948 Khuang Abhaiwongse's government resigned and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram resumed his position as Prime-Minister.

1 October 1948 Revolt of the military chiefs of staff or the Revolt of the Generals. The Military chiefs of staff planned to seize power, with intention of improving the army, preventing its decline and stopping military interference in political affairs but were arrested by government forces.

26 February 1949 The Wang Lang Revolt led by Pridi Panomyong was a reaction to the failure of the former revolt of military chiefs. This revolt was supported by the Navy but was violently suppressed by the government.

29 June 1951 The Manhattan Revolt by a group from the Navy led by Lieutenant Commander Manas Jarupa. The revolt failed and as a result the Navy lost its political influence since then.

29 November 1951 Self-Coup D'etat by Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram to abrogate the use of 1949 Constitution because it did not have an elected House of Representatives who supported the government but only nominated senators whom the government could not control.

26 February 1957 General Representative elections (This election was widely criticized for its unfairness. University students and the people prepared to protest).

2 March 1957 The Government declared a state of emergency. About noon on the same day, thousands of students and people gathered in front of the Ministry of Interior, demanding that the government cancel the state of emergency.

14 March 1957. Cancellation of the state of emergency. The Serimanangkasila Party that won the election became the government and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram became Prime Minister, using discretionary powers which created disorder in the country and distrust among the Thai people.

16 September 1957 Coup D'etat by military officers led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. On the same day there was a royal command appointing Field Marshal Sarit the Military protector of the capital.

21 September 1957 Mr. Pote Sarasin became Prime Minister and formed a caretaker government for 90 days.

1 January 1958 Lieutenant General Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister and formed a government.

20 October 1958 The Revolution led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. This revolution was a milestone in Thailand's democratic system since it overthrew the existing political institutions at that time.

28 January 1959 The promulgation of the Charter for the Administration of the Kingdom 1959

9 February 1959 A royal command appointed Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat Prime Minister. He formed a government and governed the country until 8 December 1963. (death).

11 December 1963 General Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister and set up a government.

20 June 1968 The promulgation of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 1968.

7 March 1969 Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister, formed a government and faced many parliamentary obstacles.

From the above discussions some interesting observations about the prime ministers and their terms of position after the country was under the constitutional monarchy system come to light. Firstly, 11 out of 15 prime ministers in this period were military leaders. Secondly, the first 11 prime ministers were in their position for 16 years (1932-1948). This shows the frequency of political changes that happened in Thai leadership. And thirdly, after 1948 till 1973 the country was ruled continually by 3 Marshals for 25 years. No wonder that there is a critical saying that Thai Army and Thai democracy are relatives!

1.2. Socio-Economic Situation

At that time, movements for education reform in the less developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well as in the newly formed countries of Eastern Europe were driven by many of the same pressures as in richer countries. Population growth and persistent fiscal crises required governments to search for educational policies that will reduce costs and increase efficiency so as to maintain quality standards while providing access to as many citizens as possible.[27] European governments believed that, if they were to compete successfully in the global economy, they must develop high levels of cognitive skills in their populations. At the same time, two decades of economic slowdown eroded the legitimacy of state in European countries, as elsewhere. Thus, European policymakers also developed educational reforms that would, they hope, restore some of that lost legitimacy.[28] In the beginning of this period, many countries all over the world, including Siam were also affected by Great Depression.

1.2.1. Economic crisis: Great Depression

Great Depression followed the economic ‘crash’ of October 1929 in the U.S.[29] Thousands of investors in the USA lost large sums of money and many were ‘wiped out’. The ensuing period ranked as the longest and worst period of high unemployment and low business activity in modern times. The Depression became a worldwide business slump of the 1930s that affected almost all nations. There was a sharp decrease in world trade as each country tried to protect its own industries by raising tariffs on imported goods. In 1938, the Treasury Act was promulgated in Siam to reorganize the Treasury Department and make it more efficient. Monetary reform was also initiated with the emergence of banknotes. The first Thai bank - the Siam Commercial Bank - was set up.[30]

In some nations, the economic turmoil led to political upheaval and the emergence of aggressive nationalism. In Germany, the depression provided fertile soil for the growth of Nazism. The Japanese invaded China, hoping to restore their economy by exploiting the mineral wealth and industrial potential of Manchuria. This militarism of the Germans and Japanese eventually led to World War II (1939-1945). The Great Depression ended as nations increased their production of war materials in 1941 with America’s entry into World War II sided with Britain, France and the Soviet Union against Germany, Italy, and Japan. This increased production provided jobs and put large amounts of money back into circulation.[31]

Although Siam was not so dramatically affected as the other industrialized nations, it could hardly have escaped the effects of this period unscathed. And the depression eventually brought a fascist government to power that led by Prime Minister Phiboonsongkram from 1938 till 1944. 

1.2.2. Vietnam War and Social change

The Vietnam War hastened the modernization and westernization of Thai society though it occurred in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1959 to April 30, 1975. The war was fought between the communist in North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and South Vietnam, supported by the United States and others. The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of a wider strategy called containment. American Military used some part of Thailand the base during the war with Vietnam. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both north and south, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers.[32]

The American presence in Thailand for many years and the exposure to western culture that came with it impinged on almost every aspect of Thai life. Before the late 1960s, full access to Western culture was limited to a highly educated elite who most were sent by government to study aboard, but the Vietnam War brought the outside world face to face with large segments of the Thai society as never before. With US dollars pumping up the economy, the service, transportation, and construction industries grew phenomenally. The traditional rural family unit was broken down as more and more rural Thais moved to the city to find new jobs that they could earn money easily. This led to a clash of cultures as Thais were exposed to Western ideas about fashion, music, values, and moral standards.

During this war, educational opportunities and exposure to mass media increased during the Vietnam War years. Bright university students learned more about ideas related to Thailand's economic and political systems, resulting in a revival of student activism. The Vietnam War period also saw the growth of the Thai middle class which gradually developed its own identity and consciousness.

The population began to grow explosively as the standard of living rose, and a flood of people began to move from the villages to the cities, and above all to Bangkok. Bangkok’s population had grown tenfold since 1945 and had tripled since 1970, and Thailand had 30 million people in 1965. However, economic development certainly did not bring prosperity to all. During the 1960s many of the rural poor felt increasingly dissatisfied with their condition in society and disillusioned by their treatment by the central government in Bangkok. Efforts by the government to develop poor rural regions often did not have the desired effect in that they contributed to the farmers' awareness of how bad off they really were. It noteworthy that it was not always the poorest of the poor who joined the anti-government insurgency. Increased government presence in the rural villages did little to improve the situation. Villagers became subject to increase military and police harassment and bureaucratic corruption. Villagers often felt betrayed when government promised of development were frequently not fulfilled. By the early 1970s rural discontent manifested itself into a peasants’ activist movement. 

1.2.3. Peasants’ Movement 

The peasants’ movement got started in the regions just north of the central plains and the Chiang Mai area. When these regions were merged into the centralized Siamese state in King Rama V's reign, the old local nobility were allowed to grab large tracts of land. The end result was that by the 1960s close to 30% of the households were landless. In the early 1970s university students helped to bring some of the local protests out on to the national stage. The protests focused on land loss, high rents, the heavy handed role of the police, corruption among the bureaucracy and the local elite, poor infrastructure, and overwhelming poverty. The government agreed to establish a committee to hear peasants’ grief.

1.2.4. National Economic and Social Development Plans

Since the constitution was promulgated, many national plans were written to response of it. The first overall economic and social development plan, known as the First Six Year Development Plan (1961-1966), was introduced in 1961. In terms of education, the plan was based on the National Scheme of Education focusing on enhancing educational opportunities to students who lived outside the Bangkok-Dhonburi area and in the central region of the country.

In 1967 the Second Five Year Development Plan (1967-1971) emphasized the quantitative expansion of secondary, technical, professional, and teacher education in order to prepare both the middle-and high level manpower skills needed for economic development. The plan proved so successful that the manpower shortages in most fields were eliminated. There was also very great qualitative improvement at all levels of education. Teachers were better qualified and more attention was devoted to supplying adequate quantity of teaching materials and school buildings.

1.3. Culture/Religion

During and after the World War II, the country faced a lot of social problems such as robbery and theft and moral decline of the youth. Those situations were mentioned many times in prime ministers’ speeches and a lot of concerns were raised about ethics instruction and Buddhism teaching to students. Major Piboonsongkhram mentioned in his policy on 16th March 1942 (2485) that:

For Buddhism, the government will arrange a grand council held by Buddhists for the purpose of revising the Tripitaka. Good relationship between religion and government must be built for country’s development. The government will rush in ethics training in school so that students will be good citizen with quality in the future. In the meantime, wrong morality among the youth will be monitored and wiped out.[33] 

On 1st September 1945 the then prime minster Thawee Boonyaket declared his policy (2488), in which he said: “As the government was quickly set in the turning point between war and peace, and the ethics has been ignored in society more than ever before, therefore the emergency mission is to stop the crimes and bring back peace to society.”[34] After World War II, social morality had become very low. The problems related to the youth were on the rise. M.L. Pin Malakul considers the following as the causes of such evils in the society.[35]

  1. More people populated in the city where the living cost was higher, therefore parents could not support students for their needs.
  2. Students were not interested to come home, because of the poverty at home. Therefore they enjoyed their life outside which easily led them to misbehaviors.
  3. Advanced technology produced goods at cheaper prices, so people started to amass more extravagant things that brought economic difficulties to family.
  4. The use of mass media advertisements brought to people various business products, which led to an increase in business, but where the standards of business ethics was disregarded.
  5. Along with the changes in the social value system, the children began to have the freedom to expression but which allowed them to freely express their feeling. This however fostered a tendency of impatience and lack of emotional control.

6) The youth had moved away from Religion and Morality.

In addition, many articles and pictures that supported immoral behavior among youth were inserted and advanced in different public books and magazines in society. Since these reasons were considered the causes of youth’s and children’s immoral behavior, in 1947 (2490) a letter from educational ministry was sent to all educational governors of every province titled ‘Moral Correction and Principles,’ with the double intention of solving the misbehavior of the youth and to promote morality and Buddhism among them. The ministry of education was in charge of it and it demanded regular reports on the results of its implementation. From then, to enhance its effectiveness, many additional projects , such as a youth center, Buddhism book, prayer book for students, Sunday school for Buddhism learning, religion activity in school, bringing students to temple etc. were set up. This effort was clearly seen in primary curriculum of 1948 also after moral contents in ethics instruction were reduced from the former primary curricula in this period. Later on, in this period, due to political and social change during and after World War II, ethics instruction in primary curricula emphasized Nationalism whereas Buddhism and moral instruction weakened. (See Curricula of 1955 and 1960)

The administrative system for the community of Bhikkhus (monks) was altered during this period in compliance with that of the State, so that there were Ecclesiastical ministers and a prime minister. Two Buddhist Universities were established in the real sense of a university. They are: Mahamakuta University, opened in 1955 at the temple of Bovaranives; and Mahachulalongkorn University, opened in 1947 at the temple of Mahadhat that was opened in 1947. These two Buddhist Universities were managed by Bhikkhus, with a subsidy from the Government and contributions from the public. There were also Bhikkhus from neighboring countries such as Laos and Cambodia attended these universities. This was a favorable sign for Buddhism in this age of trouble and turmoil in various aspects of the society.

Even the King himself participated in the Buddhist education. For example, in 1956 (B.E. 2499), King Bhumiphol or Rama IX, temporarily renounced the throne for the purpose of ordination. During the period as a Bhikkhu he attentively studied Buddhism both in its theoretical and practical sides. This brought in the minds of the people a great appreciation for Buddhism and during the joyous occasion of his ordination an amnesty was declared for many prisoners. The Supreme Patriarch was the Preceptor [Upajja] in the royal ceremony of ordination.[36]

2. Education

Since the major political change of the country from the absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was marked in 1932, there was a lack of proper stability in administration. The governors and governments were frequently changed. The changes definitely influenced the educational system of the country. Also along with economic development in this modernization period, a corresponding educational development was taking place. A number of national issues influenced more or less to ethics instruction in primary education. The National Education Schemes were promulgated in 1936, 1951 and 1960 respectively. 

There were promulgation of 4 Primary curricula as follows: 1) Primary Curriculum : 1937 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : 2480), 2) Primary Curriculum : 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa: 2491) 3) Primary Curriculum : 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : 2498) and 4) Primary Curriculum : 1960 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa Tonton and Tonplai : 2503). To discuss about these matters might give us some understanding that why this period is called ‘Modernization Period’?, and how far as well as in what ways ethics instruction in primary curriculum was transformed during the period? 

2.1. The National Education Scheme

After the change of government to democracy in 1932, every national education scheme aimed at giving the people proper education that was suitable to their both intellectual and financial abilities. The National Education Schemes of 1933 and 1936 specified that there whould be three kinds of education: Intellectual or General (Bhuddisueksa), Moral (Chariyasueksa) and Physical (Palasueksa), which were all to be considered equally important. In the National Education Scheme of 1951, Practical or Handicraft Education (Hattasueksa) was added to these three, and all these four were supposed to be studied in equal proportion.

The National Education Scheme of 1960 abandoned this principle of proportionate education and adopted a new principle which focused on adjusting educational program to meet the demands of the society and individuals. In this new system national education would be organized to suit the economic policy and the administrative machinery of the nation. Education was also made, in a way, the right of every citizen, with the special stipulation that, “the State intends to give every citizen as much education as his aptitude would allow”.

This meant that no one would be deprived of education because of his or her poverty, and the state was intended to provide for all equally. As a matter of fact, the previous governments had, in practice, been working along this line of thought before 1960. And since the insertion of this concept of equal opportunity for all in the National Education Scheme, the State began to make greater effort to give financial support to students who were poor but capable of higher study.

In this period of modernization, those three National Education Schemes were publicized with the following significant issues. 

2.1.1. The National Education Scheme of 1936

As early as the late 1930s, the government deemed it appropriate to improve and modernize education planning.

Accordingly, the 1936 National Scheme of Education divided educational system into general and vocational streams. The compulsory education of 6 years of schooling was considered too long and hence was reduced to four years. The new policy of educational administration was laid down according to which the government, the municipality, and private groups would share the responsibility. Higher education was promoted and adult education as well as special education was initiated.

The following were the objectives of this educational scheme

I. The government wanted to educate every citizen so that he may fulfill his duties under the constitutional regimes, serve his country and support himself as a good member of society.

II. For the full benefit of education, children would be given both Samansueksa (General Education) and Archewasueksa (Vocational Education).

III. Education was to be imparted at different levels:

  1. Intellectual Education (Buddhisueksa): to give wisdom and knowledge.
  2. Moral Education (Chariyasueksa): to instill morality.
  3. Physical Education (Palasuksa): to promote good health.

IV. Education was to be divided into: 1) General Education, composed of basic principles of various subjects. This included a long 10 year of study, of which the first four years were considered as primary education, the next three years as the first lower secondary education, and the last three as the upper secondary education. And 2) Vocational Education, which was oriented toward various vocational skills, and was offered to the students who have completed any of the set courses of the General Education

V. Those who wish to study at the university level were required to complete their pre-university education first.

VI. Age restrictions were prescribed for various grades, which is shown in the chart of the National Education Plan below. (Figure. 2)

VII. The scheme emphasized compulsory education, which required that every child be given primary education according to the Primary Education Act.

VIII. In providing education, the State would allow the municipal authorities and private citizens to help the government set up schools.

IX. The State would subsidize private schools in accordance with the regulations to be laid down.

X. The State would help students in their study by granting scholarships depending on the rules to be made later on.

XI. All educational institutions were required to employ instructors, equipped with diplomas or degrees, or specialists suited to the subjects and classes they teach.

XII. The State retained its control the activities of all schools and would be in charge of holding examinations for teachers who wish to obtain diplomas, as well as examinations at the key stages of General education, i.e. final examinations of primary education and both parts of secondary education. The State could also hold final examinations grade 4 in primary education, grade 7 and grade 10 in secondary education. However, if the examination results of any school are proven trustworthy and reliable, the State would not provide its own examinations and would consider the school’s examination equivalent to those of the State.

Figure 2. The schooling structure provided in the National Scheme of Education 1936

2.1.2. The National Education Scheme of 1951

In 1950, the governments became much more concerned with the development of education as a part of national reconstruction and modernization in the post-war period. A committee was formed to revise the National Education Scheme of 1936 and draft a new scheme of education. Later on in the same year Lieutenant General Sawad S. Sawadikiat, Minister of Education, introduced the drafted scheme while addressing the conference on municipal (Prachabarn) Education in the following words:

The problem of Prachabarn Education is inseparable from that of Compulsory Education which form the basis of the country’s development. According to the Primary Education Act, children are compelled to attend school until they are fifteen years of age. However, any student who can pass primary grade 4 examination can leave school. It has, nevertheless been generally recognized that the knowledge obtained from 4


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