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History of Curriculum and Ethics in Siam: 1935-1970

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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018

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. Concl


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