Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Diplomatic History of Thailand : The Elimination of Extraterritoriality


1899 | 1902 - 1907 | 1909 | 1917 | 1919 - 1926 | 1926 | 1925 - 1932


 

 

Limiting the Right of Registration of British Subjects 1899

    King Chulalongkorn [Rama V (1868-1910) ] fully realized that it was necessary to modernize the administration of the country in order to protect the nation from foreign encroachment. A number of ministries were therefore established, beginning in 1892. To this end, the administrative system of foreign countries was used as a model. Thai students were sent to receive their education overseas and foreigners were also employed to provide assistance in technical matters. His Majesty personally visited Europe in 1897 and in 1899 Thailand participated in a conference in the Hague, which drafted the Convention on the Laws of War. This marked Thailand 's formal entry into the family of nations.

    In 1899, Thailand concluded a treaty with Britain which limited the right to register British subjects. The main points of the treaty stipulated that all British natural born or naturalized subjects, other than those of Asian descent, as well as their children and grandchildren, were entitled to be registered as British subjects. Only the children of British subjects of Asian descent were entitled to be registered as British subjects, while the grandchildren were required to assume Thai nationality.

 

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Limiting the Power of French Consular Courts 1902 - 1907

    Thailand tried to reach an agreement with France to limit the right to register French subjects, along the same lines as the treaty with Britain. In 1902, a treaty was concluded with the French Government but fell through because it did not receive the approval of the French Parliament.

    In 1904, Thailand and France concluded another convention which limited the right to register French subjects. It stated that Asians who were entitled to register as French subjects had to belong only to French colonies or protectorates. Their children also received this right. The convention did not in any way affect the right of French citizens of any generation to register as French subjects. All French subjects, including those of Asian descent, were under the legal jurisdiction of French consular courts, with the exception of cases occurring in Chiengmai, Lampang, Lampun and Nan, which were to be heard by an International Court. Thailand did not benefit fully from this convention but had to cede additional territory to France, namely, two areas on the right bank of the Mekong River - one opposite Luang Prabang and another opposite the southern part of Laos. In return, the French agreed to withdraw from Chantaburi, which they should have done ever since Thailand 's compliance with the terms of the Treaty of 1893. Therefore, the return of Chantaburi could not be regarded as an exchange of any kind and even the Preamble to the Convention did not refer to it as such.

    In 1905, Denmark and Italy signed conventions with Thailand relating to the right to register their subjects and the authority of consular courts. The conventions followed along the same lines as the treaty with France but the two countries did not demand anything in return.

    In 1907, Thailand and France concluded another treaty by which Thailand ceded to France the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap and Srisophon, which the Treaty of 1869 recognized as belonging to Thailand. In return, France made some minor adjustments in Thailand 's coastal boundary. With regard to the jurisdiction of consular courts, it was agreed that Asians who had previously been registered as French subjects and proteges should be tried by international courts until all of Thailand 's legal codes had been promulgated and had come into force. Asians who were subsequently registered as French subjects or proteges shall be under the jurisdiction of ordinary Thai courts. Both categories of Asians enjoyed the same rights and duties as Thai citizens but were exempt from military service. The preamble to the treaty referred merely to a sort of exchange, although it is difficult to conceive how this was possible since the territories supposedly exchanged were vastly different in terms of size and value. Nor could it be considered that the territories had been exchange for consular jurisdiction since the Asians who were tried in International and Thai courts all received the same rights as Thai citizens. At the same time, French citizens continued to remain under the jurisdiction of consular courts.

 

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Eliminating the Jurisdiction of British Consular Courts 1909

    In 1909, Thailand and Great Britain concluded a treaty whereby Thailand ceded Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah, Perlis and adjacent islands to Britain. In return, the British agreed that all registered British subjects, whether western or Asian, would come under the jurisdiction of the International Courts until all of Thailand 's legal codes had been promulgated and had come into force, at which time jurisdiction would be transferred to the ordinary Thai courts. All other British subjects, both western and Asian, who were registered after the date of the Treaty, were placed under the jurisdiction of ordinary Thai courts. However, it was also stipulated that a European legal adviser was to sit in the Court of First Instance in all cases in which a British subject was a defendant. Such subjects enjoyed the same rights and duties as Thai citizens but were exempt from military service. As in the cases of the French, it cannot be said that a fair exchange took place since British subjects enjoyed all the same rights and duties as Thai citizens and were even permitted to own land. Moreover, the British also acquired 4 provinces from Thailand.

    In 1913, Denmark and Thailand signed a convention relating to consular jurisdiction along the same lines as Thailand 's treaty with Britain although the Thais did not have to give up anything in exchange.

 

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Abolishing the Extraterritorial Rights of Germany and Austria-Hungary 1917

    Traditionally, Thailand has always enjoyed trading with all foreign countries, Germany included. The commercial ties between Thailand and Germany had progressed satisfactorily all along. German products were very popular among the Thais, who had amicable feelings towards the Germans. During the First World War, however, Thailand became entangled in international politics and decided to join the war owing to the influence of Britain and the United States in the Far East. The peace treaty that ensued provided for the termination of Germany 's and Austria-Hungary 's extraterritorial rights in Thailand as of 22 July 1917. In 1924, Germany concluded a provisional economic arrangement with Thailand and in 1928 the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation based on equal rights and the principles of International Law.

 

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Revising the Treaties with Foreign Countries 1919 - 1926

    After Thailand had reorganized and modernized her internal system of administration, the root cause for the existence of extraterritoriality in the country was eradicated. Therefore, it was only fair that the foreign countries concerned should give up their extraterritorial rights. Extraterritoriality posed two major obstacles : 1) consular jurisdiction 2) the fixing of duty rates. Customs duties, for example, could not exceed 3 per cent of the value of the goods, which was a considerably low rate, when one considers that Turkey was allowed to levy a duty of 11 per cent.

    It has already been mentioned that the treaties which gave rise to extraterritoriality contained clauses permitting the amendment, but not renouncement, of such treaties with the mutual consent of both parties. Thailand therefore found it necessary to enter into negotiations with all countries concerned, starting in 1919. The negotiations themselves lasted many years before any agreement was reached. Since the matter involved the interests of foreign countries, it was not an easy task to convince them to abandon their interests. The agreement reached thus represented a compromise on both sides.

    The revised treaties contained two main points :

    1) Consular jurisdiction was to be terminated and nationals of the parties to the treaty were to come under the jurisdiction of Thai courts after the promulgation and putting into force of all Thai legal codes and a period of 5 years thereafter. If diplomatic and consular officials deemed it appropriate to evoke a case in which its nationals were accused and adjudicate the case themselves, they were empowered to do so in the interests of justice, except if such cases are pending before the Supreme or Dika Court.

    2) Thailand was free to set her own tariffs but was still under certain constraints. The Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Britain, for example, stipulated that during the first 10 years Thailand would not collect any customs duty in excess of 5 per cent ad valorem for cotton yearns, threads, fabrics and all other manufactures of cotton, iron and steel as well as machinery and its parts.

    The revised treaties included the following :

    1. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States, B.E. 2463 (1920 A.D.)

    2. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Japan, B.E. 2467 (1924 A.D.)

    3. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with France, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    4. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the Netherlands, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    5. General Treaty of Friendship with Great Britain, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    6. Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with the Great Britain, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    7. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the Spain, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    8. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Portugal, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    9. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Denmark, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    10. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Sweden, B.E. 2468 (1925 A.D.)

    11. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Italy, B.E. 2469 (1926 A.D.)

    12. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union, B.E. 2469 (1926 A.D.)

    13. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Norway, B.E. 2469 (1926 A.D.)

 

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The Convention Concerning Indochina 1926

    Numerous problems arose over the border along the Mekong River since the French considered the entire river to belong to France. They claimed that since the Treaty of 1893 had ceded all the islands in the Mekong River to France, the river itself should be owned by France. However, according to the principles of International Law, the thalweg of the river was normally considered to form the boundary line. Thailand, therefore, signed a convention with France in 1926 aimed at reaching an understanding over Indochina. The main points of the treaty are as follows :

    1. In those parts of the river in which the Mekong was not divided into several branches by islands, France accepted the thalweg as forming the boundary line between Thailand and Indochina. In those parts in which the Mekong was divided by islands, the boundary line was formed by the thalweg of the branch of the river nearest to the Thai shore. Some lands on the river were attached to the shore and could not be considered islands proper : therefore, these lands were determined to be part of Thai territory.

    2. The Treaty of 1893 had stipulated that only the right bank of the Mekong River was to be a demilitarized zone, but the Treaty of 1925 specified that the left bank of the river was also to be demilitarized. The Convention concerning Indochina thus set aside an area 25 kilometres wide on each side of the boundary line as a demilitarized zone

 

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Thailand 's Cooperation in International Affairs 1925 - 1932

    After Thailand had regained most of her independence, the Thai Government proceeded to pursue a policy of peaceful cooperation with other nations. The Treaty of 1925 with France, for example, stated that disputed questions, which could not be settled by amicable agreement through diplomatic channels, would be submitted to an arbitrator or to the Permanent Court of International Justice. In 1925, Thailand and Britain signed an Arbitration Convention and in 1928, a Treaty of Judicial Settlement and Conciliation was signed with the Netherlands. Moreover, Thailand sought to promote friendly relations on a wider scale, concluding a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the Swiss Confederation in 1931 as well as participating in the affairs of the League of Nations, particularly on social and human rights issues.

 

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