Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Diplomatic History of Thailand : Complete Independence


1932 - 1937 | 1937


 

 

1932 - 1937

    In 1932, Thailand 's system of administration was changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional government. Of the six principles declared to be the basis of the new government 's policy, independence was at the head of the list, that is, full sovereignty had to be regained and all commitments which impeded the progress of the country had to be cast aside.

    These impediments consisted of 1) the limited nature of Thai sovereignty which still persisted for the time being, 2) certain unequal obligations, and 3) certain reciprocal obligations which, in effect, constituted an unreasonable limitation on Thailand 's freedom in formulating her national policy.

    1. With regard to legal jurisdiction, most countries still had the right to evoke cases in which their nationals were defendants and to submit the matter for the adjudication of consular courts, except if the case had already reached the Dika or Supreme Court. Such consular jurisdiction would persist until a period of 5 years after the promulgation and putting into force of Thailand 's legal codes. In regard to customs tariffs, limitations were placed on the collection of import duties for certain products, such as cotton and cotton products, iron and iron products, automobiles, machinery, hats, condensed milk, and spirits. Such products would continue to be exempted for a period of 10 years, ending in 1936.

    2. Thailand 's commitment was one-sided with regard to a) drawbacks on the duties levied on imported gunny bags, b) the right to levy customs tariffs within a 25-kilometre radius of the Mekong River boundary, c) the granting of national treatment in regard to immovable property, and d) recognition of the foreign nationality of certain categories of people born in Thailand.

    3. Thailand was prohibitted from establishing monopolies or making requisitions for military purposes.

    After a constitutional form of government had been installed, Thailand proceeded swiftly to promulgate all of her legal codes, namely, the Civil and Commercial Codes Books V and VI, the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Law on the Constitution of the Courts. These were issued and put into force in 1935 and, as a result, the right of evocation of cases came to an end in 1940.

    In order to eliminate the above impediments, the constitutional government entered into a series of negotiations to conclude new treaties with foreign countries which were in accordance with the standard of civilised nations, in other words, equal treaties. The new treaties were based on the principles of reciprocity, justice, and mutual benefits. They accorded most-favoured-nation treatment in regard to commerce and navigation as well as national treatment in taxation. Such treaties were to remain in force for a period of 5 years and could thereafter be terminated by either party so that amendments could be made to clauses which were difficult to implement.

    The new series of treaties consisted of the following :

        Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the Swiss Confederation, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Convention on Resettlement with Belgium, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Denmark, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Sweden, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States of America, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Norway, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Great Britain, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Italy, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with France, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Japan, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Commercial and Customs Arrangement with France concerning Indochina, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Germany, B.E. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the Netherlands, BE. 2480 (1937 A.D.)
        Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with Portugal, B.E. 2481 (1938 A.D.)

    By virtue of these treaties, Thailand was able to regain complete independence with regard to legal jurisdiction and taxation. Thailand 's legal courts had the jurisdiction to adjudicate cases involving both Thai and foreign nationals. Customs duties and other taxes could be levied as deemed appropriate by the Thai Government. The Government was also free to make requisitions for military purposes and to establish monopolies. It had the power to retain Thai nationality for all individuals born in Thailand and to reserve unowned public lands for Thai nationals. In essence, Thailand had regained complete independence.

 

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After the Year 1937

    After Thailand had regained complete independence and sovereignty, the Thai Government focused its attention solely on promoting prosperity in the country in accordance with the policy of H.E. the Prime Minister, Field Marshal Pibulsongkram. The Government 's slogan stated that nation-building consisted of strengthening the country in every way, whether militarity, politically, economically, or culturally. To this end, Thailand should cooperate with other countries to elevate the country 's standing to a position befitting her status.

    World politics, at the time, was in a state of flux. Thailand cooperated closely with other countries in the League of Nations for the sake of world peace. It was noticeable, however, that the League of Nations gave consideration to international problems from the viewpoint of Europe and was not even able to resolve Europeanrelated problems. Monsieur Briand, the French Foreign Minister, proposed the idea of a European Union in 1930 but did not meet with success. In actual fact, Article 19 of the Convenant of the League of Nations stated that the League 's Assembly would from time to time advise its Members to reconsider treaties which had become inapplicable and to consider international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world. Nonetheless, the League of Nations was unable to lay down the procedures for consideration of the above.

    When war subsequently broke out in Europe in 1939, the Thai Government demonstrated its good intentions in the cause of peace by concluding with Japan a Treaty concerning the Continuance of Friendly Relations and the Mutual Respect of Each Other's Territorial Integrity. Non-aggression pacts were also signed with Great Britain and France on 12 June 1940, demonstrated that Thailand sought the path of peace and preferred to reach an understanding with her neighbours through negotiations.

    As earlier mentioned, Thailand had lost a great deal of her territory. The French blockade of Thailand in 1893 left considerable bitterness in the hearts of the Thai populace. The Thai Government wished to remove these ill-feelings by proposing a slight modification of the boundary on the Mekong River side. Thailand sought the return to Thai sovereignty of territories opposite Luang Prabang and Pakse, with the Mekong River serving as the boundary between Thailand and Indochina. Such attempts were, however, unsuccessful and border incidents subsequently broke out, which saw the Thais stoutly defending their country. Japan mediated in the conflict and on 9 May 1941, a peace convention was signed with France in Tokyo, whereby Thailand regained sovereignty over the two above-mentioned territories as well as Battambang and territory north of the 15th degree parallel. The demilitarized zone on both banks of the Mekong River was abolished, but one continued to be in force in the Cambodian territory recovered by Thailand. The new boundaries were demarcated on 11 July 1942.

 

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