Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Thai: แปลก พิบูลสงคราม; [plɛ̀ːk pʰí.būːn.sǒŋ.kʰrāːm]; alternatively transcribed as Pibulsongkram or Pibulsonggram; Chinese: 銮披汶·颂堪; 14 July 1897 – 11 June 1964), locally known as Chomphon Por (Thai: จอมพล ป.; [tɕɔ̄ːm.pʰōn.pɔ̄ː]), contemporarily known as Phibun (Pibul) in the West, was the longest serving 3rd Prime Minister of Thailand and fascist leader of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.
He was born Plaek Khittasangkha (Thai: แปลก ขีตตะสังคะ; [plɛ̀ːk kʰìːt.tà.sǎŋ.kʰá];Chinese: 吴別) in Nonthaburi Province to Keed Khittasangkha (Chinese: 吴杰) and his wife. Keed was of Chinese-Thai heritage; his father was a Cantonese-speaking Chinese immigrant. Plaek's parents owned a durian orchard. He received his given name - meaning "strange" in Thai - because of his unusual appearance as a child. Plaek Khittasangkha studied at Buddhist temple schools, then was appointed to Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. He graduated in 1914 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the artillery. Following World War I, he was sent to study artillery tactics in France. In 1928, as he rose in rank, he received the noble title of Luang from King Prajadhipok and became known as Luang Phibunsongkhram. He would later drop his title, but adopted Phibunsongkhram as his surname.
Phibunsongkhram was one of the leaders of the military branch of the People's Party (Khana Ratsadon) that staged a coup d'état and overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932. Then-Lieutenant Colonel Phibunsongkhram rose to prominence as a man-on-horseback. Nationalisation of some companies and increasing state control of the economy followed the 1932 coup.
The following year, Phibunsongkhram, along with officers allied in the same cause, successfully crushed the Boworadet Rebellion. This was a royalist revolt led by Prince Boworadet. While King Prajadhipok was not in any way involved in the rebellion, it marked the beginning of a slide which ended in his 1935 abdication and replacement by King Ananda Mahidol. The new King was still a child studying in Switzerland, and parliament appointed Colonel Prince Anuwatjaturong, Lieutenant Commander Prince Aditya Dibabha, and Chao Phraya Yommaraj (Pun Sukhum) as his Regents.
In 1938, Phibunsongkhram replaced Phraya Phahol as Prime Minister and Commander of the Royal Siamese Army, and consolidated his position by rewarding several members of his own army clique with influential positions in his government.
Phibunsongkhram began to increase the pace of modernisation in Thailand. Phibulsonggram supported fascism and nationalism. Together with Luang Wichitwathakan, the Minister of Propaganda, he built a leadership cult in 1938 and thereafter. Photographs of Phibunsongkhram were to be found everywhere, and those of the abdicated King Prajadhipok were banned. His quotes appeared in newspapers, were plastered on billboards and were repeated over the radio.
After the revolution of 1932, the Thai governments of Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena have strongly been impressed by the success of the March on Rome of the Fascist movement of Benito Mussolini in Italy. As well as Phibunsongkram who seemed also an admirer of the Italian fascism. Phibun sought to imitate the Fascist Italian regime's cinema propaganda, valued as one of the most powerful propaganda instruments of Italian political power, the main purpose was mainly used to promote the ideologies of nationalism and militarism, strengthening unity and harmony of the State, and also glorifying the policy of ruralisation in Italy and abroad. With the pro-fascist leanings of the above-mentioned Thai political leaders, Italian propaganda films: newsreels, documentaries, short films and full-length feature films, such as Istituto Luce Cinecittà, were allowed to project in Thailand during the interwar period.
Furthermore, Phibun also adopted Italian fascist gesture, such as the Roman salute, he adopted the practice of Roman salute, when he had a speech to the crowds, but the salute was not compulsory in Thailand, it was always reluctanted by Luang Wichitwathakan and many of his cabinet members, which they believed that not appropriate with the Thai culture.
"Aimed to uplift the national spirit and moral code of the nation and instilling progressive tendencies and a newness into Thai life", a series of Cultural Mandates were issued by the government. These mandates encouraged that all Thais were to salute the flag in public places, know the new national anthem, and use the Thai language, not regional dialects. People were encouraged to adopt Western, as opposed to traditional, attire. Similarly, people were encouraged to eat with a fork and spoon, rather than with their hands as was customary. Phibunsongkhram saw these policies as necessary, in the interest of progressivism, to change Thailand in the minds of foreigners from an undeveloped and barbaric country into a civilised and modernised one.
Phibun's administration encouraged economic nationalism. Anti-Chinese policies were imposed, and the Thai people were to purchase as many Thai products as possible and therefore destroy the Chinese proportion in markets. In a speech in 1938, Luang Wichitwathakan, himself of Chinese ancestry, followed Rama VI's book “Jews of the East” in comparing the Chinese in Siam to the Jews in Germany, which at the time were suffering of severe discrimination.
In 1939, Phibunsongkhram changed the country's name from Siam to Thailand. In 1941, in the midst of World War II, he decreed 1 January as the official start of the new year instead of the traditional 13 April.
While ardently pro-Japanese at the beginning, Phibunsongkhram and his administration soon distanced themselves from Japan following the aftermath of the French-Thai War. This conflict lasted from October 1940 to May 1941. Following the peace talks, the Japanese gained the right to occupy French Indo-China. Being threatened by the war, Phibunsongkhram stated that the Japanese would be the transgressors. The administration also realised that Thailand would have to fend for itself when the Japanese invasion came, considering its deteriorating relationships with the major Western powers in the area.
When the Japanese invaded Thailand on 8 December 1941, (because of the international date line this occurred an hour and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor), hesitant Phibunsongkhram was reluctantly forced to order a general ceasefire after just one day of resistance and allow the Japanese armies to use the country as a base for their invasions of Burma and Malaya. Hesitancy, however, gave way to enthusiasm after the Japanese rolled their way through Malaya in a "Bicycle Blitzkrieg" with surprisingly little resistance. On 21 December Phibunsongkhram signed a military alliance with Japan. The following month, on 25 January 1942, Phibunsongkhram declared war on Britain and the United States. South Africa and New Zealand declared war on Thailand on the same day. Australia followed soon after. All who opposed the Japanese alliance were purged from his government. Pridi Phanomyong was appointed acting regent for the absent King Ananda Mahidol, while Direk Jayanama, the prominent Foreign Minister who had advocated continued resistance against the Japanese, was later sent to Tokyo as an ambassador. The United States considered Thailand to be a puppet of Japan and refused to declare war. When the allies were victorious, United States blocked British efforts to impose a punitive peace.
As Japan neared defeat and the underground anti-Japanese resistance Seri Thai steadily grew in strength, the National Assembly forced out Phibunsongkhram. His six-year reign as the military commander-in-chief was at an end. His resignation was partly forced by two grandiose plans. One was to relocate the capital from Bangkok to a remote site in the jungle near Phetchabun in North Central Thailand. The other was to build a "Buddhist city" near Saraburi. Announced at a time of severe economic difficulty, these ideas turned many government officers against him. Phibunsongkhram went to stay at the army headquarters in Lopburi.
Khuang Abhaiwongse replaced him as Prime Minister, ostensibly to continue relations with the Japanese, but in reality secretly assisting the Seri Thai.
At the war's end, Phibunsongkhram was put on trial at Allied insistence on charges of having committed war crimes, mainly that of collaborating with the Axis powers. However, he was acquitted amidst intense public pressure. Public opinion was still favourable to Phibunsongkhram, as he was thought to have done his best to protect Thai interests. His alliance with Japan had Thailand take advantage from Japanese support the expansion of Thai territory in Malaya and Burma.
This section does not cite any sources. (December 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In November 1947, Royal Thai Army units under the control of Phibunsongkhram carried out a coup which forced then Prime Minister Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi to resign. Khuang was again installed as Prime Minister as the military coup risked international disapproval. Pridi Phanomyong was persecuted. He was, however, aided by British and American intelligence officers, and thus managed to escape the country. On 8 April 1948, the military forced Khuang out of office and Phibunsongkhram assumed his second premiership.
On 1 October 1948, the unsuccessful Army General Staff Plot was launched to topple the government of Phibunsongkhram. As a result, more than fifty army and reservist officers and several prominent supporters of Pridi Phanomyong were arrested.
A Palace Rebellion in 1949 was another failed coup attempt. Its plotters' aim was to overthrow the government of Phibunsongkhram and to restore his main civilian rival Pridi Phanomyong to the Thai political scene.
Instead of the fascism that characterised his first premiership, Phibunsongkhram and his regime promoted a façade of democracy. American aid was received in large quantities following Thailand's entry into the Korean War as part of the United Nations' multi-national allied force in the Cold War against the communists.
Phibunsongkhram's anti-Chinese campaign was resumed, with the government restricting Chinese immigration and undertaking various measures to restrict economic domination of the Thai market by those of Chinese descent. Chinese schools and associations were once again shut down. Despite open pro-Western and anti-Chinese policies, in the late 1950s Phibunsongkhram arranged to send to China two of the children of Sang Phathanothai, his closest advisor, with the intention of establishing a backdoor channel for dialogue between China and Thailand. The girl, aged eight, and her brother, aged twelve, were sent to be brought up under the assistants of Premier Zhou Enlai as his wards; the girl, Sirin Phathanothai, later wrote The Dragon's Pearl, an autobiography telling her experiences growing up in the 1950s and 1960s among the leaders of China.
On 29 June 1951, Phibunsongkhram was attending a ceremony aboard the Manhattan dredge when he was taken hostage by a group of naval officers, who then quickly confined him on board the warship Sri Ayutthaya. Negotiations between the government and the coup organizers swiftly broke down, leading to violent street fighting in Bangkok between the navy and the army, which was supported by the air force. Phibunsongkhram was able to swim back ashore when the Sri Ayutthaya was bombed by the air force. With their hostage gone, the sailors and marines were forced to lay down their arms.
On 29 November 1951, the Silent Coup was staged by the army-led Coup Group and it consolidated the military's hold on the country. It reinstated the Constitution of 1932, which effectively eliminated the Senate, established a unicameral legislature composed equally of elected and government-appointed members, and allowed serving military officers to supplement their commands with important ministerial portfolios.
On 13 November 1956, Thailand's Criminal Code BE 2499 was signed into law by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram countersigned the Code.
At the end of his second term, suspicions of fraudulent practices during an election emerged. The American-equipped Thai army played a major role in the coup d'état of 1957, and the United States was "deeply involved". The resulting unrest led to a second coup in October 1958 by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanaraj, who had earlier sworn to be Phibun's most loyal subordinate. Sarit was supported by many royalists who wanted to regain a foothold. Phibunsongkhram was then forced into exile in Japan, where he lived until his death in 1964.
n. A man, usually a military leader, whose popular influence and power may afford him the position of dictator, as in a time of political crisis
Though outnumbered two-to-one, the Japanese never stopped to consolidate their gains, to rest or regroup or resupply; they came down the main roads on bicycles
Even the long legged Englishmen could not escape our troops on bicycles.
Judith A. Stowe, Siam becomes Thailand (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), pp. 228-283.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plaek Pibulsonggram.|
Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena
|Prime Minister of Thailand
|Prime Minister of Thailand