King Rama V (1868-1910)


King Phra Chula Chomklao Chaoyuhua was the eldest son of King Rama IV and Queen Dhepsirintaramat and loved by them both. He was born in Bangkok on September 20, 1853.  He was nicknamed "Phaw Yai" (Big Daddy) by his father. 

King Chula Chomklao, popularly known as Chulalongkorn the Great was the fifth King of the Chakri Dynasty. He ascended the throne on October 1, 1868 and died on October 23, 1910 after ruling the country for 42 years and 23 days.  The first few years of his reign were under a regency. King Chulalongkorn is perhaps the most revered of all the Chakri kings. During his long reign, Thailand prospered in all respects to a point that European countries found it impossible to colonize it while neighboring countries fell under foreign domination.  King Chulalongkorn's foreign policy was to preserve Thai independence at all costs that he once ceded 120,000 square kilometers of undefendable Thai territory in the south to the British and in the north and northeast to the French.  These two superpowers, however, realized the importance of an independent Thailand serving as a buffer state between the colonies and so withdrew. His many undertakings also showed clearly that he wanted the country to be governed under a democratic system even though he himself was an absolute monarch.

The king 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-which exist to the present day.  Not only was he the first Thai king to travel abroad (he made several visits to the Straits Settlements, the Malay States and the Dutch East Indies) 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 South-East Asia.  The price he paid of losing certain border territories was amply rewarded, for Siam was never colonized-the only country in the region to maintain its sovereignty throughout the period of colonial expansionism.

On October 23 of every year, a national holiday, people from all walks of life pay homage to this great king by laying wreaths at his Equestrian Statue setting up at the Royal Plaza.



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