Thailand was the Kingdom of Siam until 1939 (and again for four years after World War II). Today’s political problems may involve Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts but they have deeper roots than the more immediate issues and coups of the last several years. The King Pradajhipok (Rama VII) Museum explores the end of the absolute monarchy and the turbulent years that led King Rama VII to be the first monarch to abdicate the throne.
The museum is housed in a small Neoclassical-style building just a stone’s throw from Phan Fa Bridge, the site of the bloody April 10 clash between Red Shirt protesters and government security forces.
Prajadhipok was the seventy-sixth(!) son of the highly revered King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). This also makes him brother to King Rama VI. Being so far down the line, he hardly expected to inherit the throne.
Educated at Eton in England, the King was the first to consider a constitutional monarchy. Drafts of the proposed constitution are on display at the museum.
But before he could make progress in this, he was taken from power by a coup in 1932. A new constitution was put in place by the military backed government. Feeling that the new government did not have the Thai people’s best interest in mind, the King left his now figurehead position and moved to England in 1935.
His wife was a dynamic figure and the first floor of the museum is dedicated to her while the upper two floors detail the life of the King and Thai history during his lifetime, including the coup that wrested him of his power and the years during World War II when a Japanese puppet government ran the country. Some information is also provided about the Royal Family’s support for the underground resistance movement Seri Thai (Free Thai).
History buffs will enjoy the King Pradajhipok (Rama VII) Museum immensely and anyone curious about the current political strife will learn more about Thailand’s longer struggles with democracy. It is close to two commonly visited tourist attractions: Golden Mount (or Wat Saket) and the unusual Wat Ratchanatdaram also known as Loha Prasat or the Iron Temple.