Monday the 24th October is a public holiday in Thailand as Sunday 23rd October marks “King Chulalongkorn Day” or known in Thai as “Wan Piyamaharaj Day”. It is the memorial day of the passing away of King Chulalongkorn 1910 at the age of 57. He had ruled what was then Siam, for 42 years.
Otherwise known as King Rama V. King Chulalongkorn led several major reforms in Thailand, for example in the areas of Thai educational system, military affairs, State Railway and Slave Liberation Act without bloodshed in Thailand.
King Chulalongkorn the Great was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was the son of King Rama IV or King Chomklao and Queen Thepsirinthara, born on September 20th 1953 named as Prince Chulalongkorn.
King Chulalongkorn is considered one of the greatest kings of Thailand. His reign from 1868 to 1910 was characterised by extensive social and economic development, including the abolition of slavery and corvee (state labor service). He is also famed for his ardent Thai nationalism, and for his skill in fending off the threat of European colonialism, despite the fact that large tracts of Siam were ceded to the Europeans during the period.
King Chulalongkorn managed to prevent Thailand from being colonised by extending friendship and travelling extensively to western countries like America, Great Britain, France and Russia. Because of this, Thailand remains as the only country in Southeast Asia to have never been colonized.
Besides that, King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai King to send the Royal Princes to be educated in Europe. Throughout Chulalongkorn’s reign, radical writers had their works published for the first time. Works that were previously banned were allowed to be read by the public once again.
The King also modernised government and streamlined the administration of the country by dividing it into provinces and districts. He replaced the traditional lunar calendar with the Western calendar. Siam was a Buddhist country but he made it clear that other religions (including Islam and Christianity) should have the freedom to practise without fear of persecution. Communications in the country were improved greatly with the introduction of postal services, the telegraph and the construction of Thailand’s first railway (from Bangkok to Ayutthaya).
King Chulalongkorn reformed administrative system into Ministry, Department, Division and Section respectively. Position classification was also modernized.
Many Thais show their respects for the great monarch by placing wreaths at the Equestrian Statue, in the Royal Plaza, Dusit District, on this public holiday. Much of this part of Bangkok was originally built during the reign of King Chulalongkorn and bears the architectural mix of Thai and European styles characteristic of the era.
Besides the Royal Plaza, all other statues of King Chulalongkorn all around the Kingdom of Thailand, including at Hua Hin’s Rajabhakti Park, see memorial ceremonies. Most businesses function as usual but Government organisations are closed on this day.