Function of Thai Throne
Seated on the Royal Throne underneath the nine-tiered Great White Umbella of State, His Majesty the King pours a libation, makes a pledge to abide by the Tenfold Moral Principles of the Sovereign, and pronouncess the Oath of Accession :
"We will reign with righteousness, for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people".
    "We will reign with righteousness, for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people"
    Those are the traditional words pronounced by each Thai King on the day of his accession to the Throne. Although seemingly simple enough in content yet those words reflect very well the essence of Kingship which has developed through the long and varying history of the Thai nation. That history is marked by two outstanding features : Thailand, also known for a long period as Siam, has always managed to retain its independence while nations all around fell prey at one time or another to colonialist powers, and Thailand has always had a King on the Throne as the nationís leader. It is therefore not surprising that the two features are often held as being intertwined, which makes the study of the function of the Thai Throne all the more vital to a biographical sketch of any Thai King.
    On emerging into full nationhood with its capital at Sukhothai in the thirteenth century, the pioneers of independence chose to elevate the wisest and most capable among them to be King, thus symbolizing the Throne with the dual concepts of independence and unity. The King, in turn, having been entrusted with the task not out of any divine right, but by the consent of his fellow peers, felt an inherent obligation to rule the country "with righteousness", not for the glory of himself or his family but "for the benefits and happiness" of the people in his trust. From the very beginning, therefore, a Thai King is judged by the sole criterion of how much benefit and happiness he could bring to the country.
    With the change of capital from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya, the Khmer concept of divine Kingship made its influence felt on the regal institution of Thailand, and the Ayutthaya Kings incorporated many of the divine features into the function of the Throne. Such addition might also have come about through the need to increase the symbolic power of the Throne owing to the enlargement of the countryís boundaries, thereby cutting off a large number of the population from constant contact with the capital as well as from the personal relationship with the King as could be obtained in the more limited Sukhothai era. The concept of the King being the first among his peers and owing his function to the consent of the governed, however, was not erased and the divine Kings of Ayutthaya still rose and fell mainly through how righteously and how well they ruled for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people.
    After the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767 and the brief reign of King Taksin at Thonburi, the present Chakri Dynasty of Bangkok was established in 1782 and carried on the tradition of Thai Kings as handed down from Ayutthaya. Western influences however, became more powerful in Southeast Asia during the fourth and fifth reigns of the Dynasty and Thai Kings were wise enough to see that some adaptation to Western standard would become necessary in order that Thailand might survive in independence. Princes and courtiers began to be sent to study in Europe where democracy was the rule and in Thailand itself power began to be decentralized as well as divided among capable people outside the immediate circle of the King.
    In 1932, however, a group of people quickened the process by staging a bloodless revolution which changed the country into a Constitutional Monarchy in the European model. The then King Prajadhipok or Rama VII continued to reign as a Constitutional Monarch but only for a few years before he was forced by ill health to abdicate. King Ananda Mahidol was chosen to ascend the Throne at a tender age and spent his life mostly at study abroad. His unfortunate death in 1946 at the age of 20 brought his younger brother, Bhumibol Adulyadej, to the Throne and for the past fifty years, it has been left to King Bhumibol Adulyadej to give the meaning as well as set the practical standard to the role of a Thai King within a democratic framework.
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