Thai History

The Petition For Changing The Governance Of Thailand
January 8, 1885


Description automatically generated with low confidence




M.L. Saksiri Kridakorn


Like much of the world, 

SE Asia was subjected to the forces of colonialism by Western powers throughout the 16th century and continued through much of the 19th century.  By the 18th century, most of SE Asia had been colonized by the British, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, and French.


Thailand was the only country in SE Asia to have escaped this fate.  With the British to the West and the French to the East each looking for ways to gain Thai territory, the two Western powers nearly came to battle on several occasions.  However, the terrain would have made it a very costly and difficult campaign.  The two powers found it more efficient to agree on how they should divide up Thailand.  Clearly, Thailand being able to stay independent to this day was not by chance or lack of desire of the European powers to conquer Thailand. 








 The French, in particular, were always looking for excuses to strong-arm Thailand. The Siamese-Franco war in 1893 was one such incident. Not unlike China and other countries, Thailand was no match for European military power. To keep her independence, Thailand had to give up territory and pay retributions or face the French military might 







This map shows how Thailand had to give up its territory throughout the years to Western Nations.






New missionaries arrived


Cambodia became

A French Protectorate

The Franco-Siamese War


French Expansion

Loss of territories

Trading territories of independence

 In 1863, France and King Norodom of Cambodia signed a treaty of protection with France, which transferred the country from Siamese and Vietnamese overlordship to French colonial rule. A new treaty was signed between France and Siam on 15 July 1867.  


Link France–Thailand relations    

 In 1863, France and King Norodom of Cambodia signed a treaty of protection with France, which transferred the country from Siamese and Vietnamese overlordship to French colonial rule. A new treaty was signed between France and Siam on 15 July 1867  


In 1893 the French authorities in Indochina used border disputes to provoke a crisis.  French gunboats appeared at Bangkok and demanded the cession of Lao territories east of the Mekong.


Although Siam lost a third of its territory, the strategy of acting as a buffer zone between the two colonial superpowers preserved its independence



Page 1


Back to home page







Thai History


As was the common practice at the time, King Chulalongkorn, relied on his siblings to serve and help govern the country. One of the most devoted subjects in his service was his younger half-brother, Prince Naresara. Prince Naresara was the son of Queen Consort Glin who took an active interest in the upbringing of all the children of King Rama IV.  

During the reign of King Rama IV an English governess, Anna Leonowens was hired in 1862 to come to Siam and teach English and Western customs to the children.  Queen consort Glin herself took part in many of the classes and activities conducted by Anna.  Prince Naresara was one of the brightest students who studied with Anna.  When the time came, Prince Nares was ready to perform his duties for King Rama V starting as ambassador to England and the United States. 

It was through his service as ambassador to these foreign lands that convinced Prince Naresara that Siam had to make some major changes in order to keep up with other countries and maintain its independence. Together with 3 other royal descendants and 7 government officials, the group drew up a petition for the King to consider a reformation and modernization of the principle of governance of the country. This petition constitutes an important inflection point in the history of Thailand for it was a real first step towards Thailand’s modernization.

The petition, dated January 8, 1885 (equivalent to the Thai Ratanakosin year 103 รัตนโกสินทรศ), began with a preamble professing the petitioners’ love and loyalty for the country and the desire to make Siam into a progressive country for both the kingdom and the people.  The last paragraph in the preamble was specifically written to point out the threat that the Western powers were beginning to pose to the country.  If Siam does not reform and modernizes it could leave open an opportunity for these Western countries to invade and occupy her land under the pretense of bringing modernization to the country. 




The 4 royal descendants and 7 government officials from London who signed the petition.





Category:Naresr Varariddhi - Wikimedia Commons

The petition, although not immediately implemented, was the beginning of the government reform in the reign of King Rama V.  Some examples of the reforms are the abolishment of slavery, countrywide development of human resources by implementing an education system throughout the country, sending students to study abroad, and the hiring of foreigners in various governmental functions Including modernization of laws and the legal system.

The reformation committee members consisted of high-level royal descendants and a new generation of civil servants who had the opportunity to study and work in foreign countries. Especially countries in the West which allowed them the opportunity to see the prosperity of those countries and to develop the vision to see that Siam should institute a reform and modernization program in order to become as progressive as other developed countries.

The first name (outlined in red)  that appeared on the petition was that of Prince Krisada Bhiniharn Naresara Varariddhi (May 7, 1855-Aug 10, 1925).  At the time 30 years old, Prince Nares was the Siam ambassador to England at Court  St. James (1883-1887) and former ambassador to the United States of America (1884).  Next was his half-brother Kromkhum Pittayalapobritthada advisor to the ambassador to England and the USA.  Another brother on the committee was Prince Svasti Sobhana who was studying law at Oxford University and served to prepare the petition for the other 3 elder brothers to check.  The last royal descendant on the committee was Prince Prisdang who was the ambassador to France in Paris, a Maj. General,  and also held other duties at other courts in Europe.


The government officials from the Foreign Affairs Department who also signed the petition consisted of Phrayadamrongratchapolkhan (Nok Kaew Kochseni), assistant to the ambassador to England; Luang Dejnaiwen (Sun Satraphai), the embassy assistant to the ambassador in Paris; Sanay Humprae, secretary to Prince Prisdang; Khunpatipan Phijit who came to Paris in 1882 along with his attache and  Captain Plien Hasdisevi, assistant to the military attache in London; and Luang Wiset Salee who followed Prince Nares to London in 1883. The last government official who participated was Saad Singhaseni who came to England with Prince Nares.


Prince Naresara served the kingdom in many capacities including Prime Minister until he passed away in 1925.  For his many years services to the kingdom in various capacities,  Prince Naresara Varasiddhi was bestowed the royal family name of กฤดากรกรุงเทพ​ (Kritakara or Kridakorn na Krungthep) on 16/4/1915 by King Rama VI when Thailand adopted the Western convention of using last names.  Later on 24/3/1926 King Rama VII altered all royal last names suffix to อยุธยา (na Ayuthaya).  The Na Ayuthaya literally means “(na)at city-name”.  The original usage of Krungthep (literal meaning: Capital City) was deemed to be ambiguous and not specific to a place.  Therefore it was changed to a specific city of historic importance, Ayutthaya .


The people in this committee who petitioned King Rama V  formed one of the most important groups of people in the history of Thailand. They were the first to have progressive ideas and visions needed to develop Siam into a modern society.  They were also able to see the country’s shortcomings and proposed solutions to correct them.  All of which led to the modernization of Thailand during the reign of Rama V.





There were 7 reforms in the petition

1.    To change the governing system from an absolute monarchy under which the king ruled on every government matter to a constitutional monarchy under which the King is the head of the nation but does not have to personally rule on all matters.

2.    To set up a cabinet consisting of high-level government officials as decreed by the king to govern the country under the royal assent in addition to setting laws to govern the succession to the throne.

3.    To eliminate corruption in government by setting up salary structures commensurate with the responsibilities of the position.

4.    To set up a legal system that provides equity and justice to all citizens.

5.    Reform or eliminate all the laws and customs/traditions that are barriers to the reformation and modernization of the country or have no real benefits whether they be current laws or ancient customs.

6.    Allow freedom to express opinions in public for all citizens.

7.    Create a system to appoint persons with suitable qualifications for government positions as well as punishment for those who are found to be dishonest in the performance of their duties.


Back to home page


Written by M.L. Saksiri Kridakorn


Page 2