The Rattanakosin Period
5. Phrachunlachomklao:
(Chulalongkorn the Great or Rama V)1868 -1910

K ing Chulalongkorn the Great was a son of King Mongkut. He ascended the throne on October 1, 1868, following his father's death. The first few years of his reign were under a regency..

K ing Chulalongkorn is perhaps the most revered of all the Chakri kings. During his long reign of 42 years, great advances were achieved for the country. The first measure he took after his coronation was to abolish slavery. He issued a royal decree that all the people born in his reign would be free, since he was determined that slavery must eventually disappear from his realm. However, to avoid disturbing the peace, King Chulalongkorn chose to follow a gradual and moderate policy so it took as much as 30 years to abolish slavery completely and successfully.

H is achievements in economic matters centered on reform of taxes and public finance. The Public Revenue Development Chamber was founded in 1874 to collect taxes and state revenue. It became the Ministry of Finance in 1910. Other than that, private banking was encouraged. In 1906, a group of private persons was allowed to establish the first bank of Thailand named "Siam Commercial Bank".

A s for education, King Chulalongkorn realized that education was important, and had to be encouraged since it would make the public knowledgeable, able and responsible, while rendering the task of government less formidable. As a result, he began to foster education by establishing a school in the Grand Palace in 1871 for the teaching of Siamese and English to members of the royal families and children and grandchildren of noblemen. This was later expanded to include commoners by the establishment of a royal school at Mahannaparam monastery in 1884. Three years later, the Department of Education was set up by royal command for the regulation of education in the capital. In 1894, the Ministry of Education was established for the regulation of nation-wide education. King Rama IV also began the provision of the "King's scholarships" to enable commoners to study abroad. In 1902, King Chulalongkorn established a school for royal pages to train noblemen in political science so as to be competent to conduct the affairs of the various new Ministries that he had founded. Teachers' training schools were also created to produce teachers for the numerous schools that had been started.

K ing Chulalongkorn actively pursued a policy of "modernizing" the country and had a number of Europeans in his service to oversee such projects as the building of the first railway in Thailand. He himself made two visits to Europe, one in 1897 and another in 1907, during which he became acquainted with most of the rulers of Europe. Bonds of friendship between himself and the various European royal families were formed - bonds that continue to the present day. In brief, he succeeded in putting Siam on the map of the world. Not only was he the first Thai king to travel abroad, but he also sent his sons to study in Europe. He successfully managed to cultivate the idea of Siam as a buffer state between the colonial possessions of the European powers in Southeast Asia. The price he paid for losing certain border territories was amply rewarded, since Siam was never colonized. She was the only country in the region to maintain its sovereignty throughout the period of colonial expansionism.

M uch beloved by his people, he died on October 23, 1910. The day has been declared as a government holiday in deference to his memory. On the anniversary of his demise on October 23 every year, homage in the form of floral tribute is paid to his Equestrian Statue in the Royal Plaza of Bangkok.

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