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Constitution Day

by Kevin Cain

Today, Thailand has 20 constitutions and charters since the change from absolute monarchy in 1932.Up to the 24th of June 1932, the Kingdom had an absolute monarchy, when a bloodless revolution took place by a group of young intellectuals seeking democracy. The group was named the People's Party and was led by Luan Pradit Manudharm.The monarch at the time, King Rama VII agreed with the revolutionaries' demands and handed over the first constitution of Thailand although the King was still to be regarded as the head of state,head of the armed forces and the upholder of all religions.

The power of the King emanates from the Thai people, even after the revolution,took place continued to hold a great admiration to their monarch. His position is protected by the constitution, being regarded by his people as a symbol and character of stability for the country as a whole.The constitution in Thailand acts like it does in any other democracy, it provides the basis for the rule of law for the Kingdom.

Before 1932 the Rattanakosin Kingdom and the four previous kingdoms, collectively known as Siam, had an uncodified constitution. In 1908, King Rama V actually stated that “In ancient times the monarchs of the Siamese nation governed their people with laws which were originally derived from the Dhamasustra of Manu, which was then the prevailing law among the inhabitants of India and the neighbouring countries”.What King Rama V was inferring, long before the bloodless revolution, was that the Kingdom was governed by ancient laws of another people. He was preparing the way for some new sort of law, one that would be more aligned to the modern country he now ruled over.

However, democracy is not all plain sailing, the difficulties of democracies and constitutions all come down to the interpretation of the constitution by different factions. Arguments and discussions can arise due to different understandings of the usages and customs and how the constitution should be implemented.Some people would regard this as absolute democracy and it is the foundation of many of the laws around the world.

It could be said that Thailand has the best of both worlds, with a constitution and a strong monarchy. Infact as the introduction of democracy to Thailand was by the Monarchy itself, the 10th of December is more of a celebration of the granting to the people by the Monarchy, the right to have a constitution. In Thailand's case democracy was given and not taken, hence the harmony between the Monarchy and the people.

Although this year the celebrations may be slightly muted, for understandable reasons. Most of the ceremonies will take place around the great monuments and the premier government buildings. Usually in Bangkok this would be at the Democracy Monument and at the Royal Palace, although confirmation has yet to be given about this.