Constitution Day in Thailand

10decJune 24, 1932 is considered one of the most important dates in Thai political history. On that day a band of ninety-nine people, composed mostly of civil servants, civilian militia and sailors, banded together with Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena as the leader, to take political action. Action with the goal of protecting the populace and stabilizing the nation. This band of civilians helped changed the dispensation of power and authority in the Thai government forever. Changing the kingdom from a complete monarchy to a democracy. A democracy which would have a democratic constitution as the supreme law of the land and keep the current monarch, the King, simply as a leader under the constitution.

Three days after the revolution, Professor Dr. Pridi Banomyong (also known as Luang Praditmanutham) and his party wrote out a new constitutional law for the protection and ordinance of the kingdom. A constitution which included 39 articles. This law was presented to the King of Thailand (King Pradhipok or Rama VII) before being installed as the main democratic law of the land. On June 27, 1932 the first edition of the new Thai democratic constitution was accepted as law. It was called, “The 1932 Temporary Constitutional Law for the Governance of Siam.” It was called “temporary” because there were still several details to be sorted out by the committee members and considered by the representatives of this fledgling congress before it would be made permanent.

Later on, on the tenth day of December, 1932, His Majesty King Pradhipok declared the end of the use of this temporary constitution and installed the first new permanent democratic constitution of the Kingdom of Siam. This constitution would be the supreme law of the land, governing the lives of the Thai people as a democracy from that day onward.

The constitution of Thailand is truly the supreme law of the land, the power and authority of which cannot be altered overstepped by any one person. Other laws or actions passed cannot change it or diminish it’s power. It is an extremely detailed and orderly law, covering everything necessary for the governing of the country. It is estimated that Thailand is one of the countries which has had the most and longest constitutions in the world. Starting from the year 1932 there have been eighteen issuances. In 1997, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand had all of 336 articles. The present edition of the Thai constitution, which is still used today, was issued in 2007.

The Thai constitution contains everything needed to maintain Thailand as a democracy. A democracy with it’s own parliament (with the monarchy acting as a head) and power divided amongst the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government. Thus, Thailand uses a multi-bodied governmental system, unlike the single-bodied monarchial system of the past. Every article in the constitution is determined by the votes of the Thai people. Their votes are what determine the changes and adjustments to the articles in the Thai constitution. The constitutional congress plays the main role in writing the law of the land. It is the duty of this court to dissect, argue, and suggest modifications to the articles of the constitution before the modified articles are ready to be voted on by the citizens.

10dec2In the year 1939, during the term served by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram as prime minister of Thailand, it was suggested that a memorial be built in honor of the national harmony Thailand enjoys as a democratic country and make the younger generation remember the efforts of their forefathers in order to create this drastic governmental shift. It would be erected to celebrate Thailand’s transformation from an absolute monarchy to the democracy that it is today.

So it was, on June 24, 1940, the Democracy Monument of Thailand was completed. It is erected in the center of the roundabout between Ratchadamnoen Klang Road and Dinsor (Pencil) Road, in the city of Bangkok. The centrepiece of the Monument is a carved representation of a palm-leaf manuscript box holding the Thai Constitution of 1932, on top of two golden offering bowls above a round turret. The Constitution is symbolically guarded by four wing-like structures, representing the four branches of the Thai armed forces – army, navy, air force and police – which carried out the 1932 coup.

The wings are 24 metres high, and this is also the radius of the base of the monument, marking the fact that the 1932 coup took place on 24 June. The central turret is three metres high, representing the month of June, which is the third month of the traditional Thai calendar. There were originally 75 small cannon around the outer ring of the monument, representing the year of the coup, 2475 in the Buddhist calendar. The six gates of the turret represent the six proclaimed policies of the Phibun regime: “independence, internal peace, equality, freedom, economy and education.

The monument acts as a good reminder of the 10th of December. The important day when the first permanent edition of the Thai Democratic Constitution was released and accepted as the supreme law of the land. King Pradhipok himself declared December 10 as Thai Constitution Day.

This special occasion is marked by activities, celebrations and charitable functions set-up every year in the Anantasamakom Throne Hall (the old marble parliament building). These functions are carried out together with ceremonies to honor King Pradhipok (Rama VII) and the area around this building is adorned with Thai flags to celebrate the democratic “rebirth” of the nation. There’s also the “Dek Ruk Ratsapha” (“Children love their congress”) function which allows Thai youth to come and experience political work for themselves. The goal of this function is to increase interest and knowledge in the Thai congress and constitution with the up and coming generation.