Known as The Royal Buddha or The Great Beloved King, King Chulalongkorn is considered one of the greatest kings of Siam, responsible for a number of governmental and social reforms that helped to transform Thailand from a traditional kingdom into a modern nation.
Although King Chulalongkorn was just 15 when he succeeded his father to the throne, he had already received a good grounding that ensured he was fully equipped for his new role. The young King had learnt much from his esteemed father about being a monarch, and King Mongkut had also ensured that his son had received the broadest possible of educations, including instruction from European tutors such as Anna Leonowens. As a result, King Chulalongkorn was perfectly prepared to lead Siam into the 20th century.
After studying the systems of Western governments, the King embarked on a period of social reform. In 1887, he launched the Royal Military Academy and introduced a Western style code for punishment, doing away with some of the methods used in the Siamese judiciary process as they were seen as inhumane and barbaric.
King Chulalongkorn also established Siam's first hospital based on western medical practices, and the first medical school. A staunch advocate for education the King proclaimed, "All children, from my own to the poorest, should have an equal chance of education" and so a nationwide schooling system was implemented.
A forward thinker with a modern mind, the King was quick to understand the prevailing political situation, which, at that time was dominated by Western colonial powers. Aware of the dangers that the colonial powers placed on Siam's independence, the King decided to establish friendships and create bonds with as many European nations as possible. So, in 1897, the King embarked on a nine month tour of Europe, during which he visited 14 different countries. King Chulalongkorn's learned education and fluency in English allowed him to communicate easily and ensured that Siam was recognized by the world's major powers such as Britain, France and Russia.
After returning from his European tour, King Chulalongkorn began to implement some of the new ideas that he had witnessed in the West. In 1900, His Majesty introduced the Employment Act, which stated that all workers should receive pay and not be forced to work - followed by the Slave Abolition Act in 1905, thus freeing Siam from slavery.
His Majesty also established a communication system by founding the postal and telegraphic services and by 1901, the first railway had been opened and the first electric power plant had been built.
King Chulalongkorn is even responsible for introducing the Baht as the official currency - his image can still be seen today on the modern 100 Baht note.
On October 23 1910, the King passed away from kidney disease, he was 57 years old. The Siamese nation was so sadden by the loss of their beloved King that they established a national holiday, which is held every year on the anniversary of the King's death, to commemorate His Majesty's great life and wonderful achievements.
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Article written by Christine Oatley.
Asia Products LLC Thailand Discovery Pages provides articles a variety of topics including current events, politics, and travel ideas for learning about Thailand. Asia Products LLC also offers an e-commerce store selling Thailand products on http://www.asiaproductsllc.com. He is documenting some of his more interesting travels in his Thailand Travel Pages website : http://www.apllc-connect.com.