Plaek Pibulsonggram: Wikis


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Plaek Pibulsonggram
จอมพล แปลก พิบูลสงคราม

Pibulsonggram at Hyde Park, New York, 1955.

In office
December 16, 1938 – August 1, 1944
April 8, 1948 - September 16, 1957
Preceded by Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena (1938)
Khuang Abhaiwongse (1948)
Succeeded by Khuang Abhaiwongse (1944)
Pote Sarasin (1957)

In office
March 1, 1948 – September 16, 1957
Preceded by Khuang Abhaiwongse
Succeeded by Pote Sarasin

Born July 14, 1897(1897-07-14)
Nonthaburi, Thailand
Died June 11, 1964 (aged 66)
Sagamihara,Kanagawa, Japan
Nationality Thai
Spouse(s) La-iad Pibulsonggram
Religion Buddhism

Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram (Thai: แปลก พิบูลสงคราม, IPA: [plɛ̀ːk pʰí.būːnsŏŋkʰrāːm]), often known during his lifetime as Phibun Songkhram or simply Phibun in English, and as Chomphon Po. (จอมพล ป., Field Marshal P.) in Thai, born Plaek Khittasangkha, (14 July 1897 – 11 June 1964) was Prime Minister and military dictator of Thailand from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.


Early life

Pibulsonggram was born Plaek Khittasangkha in 1897, to parents Keed Khittasangkha and Sam-Ang[1]–a family of orchard cum durian farmers. He studied at various Wat schools before entering the Artillery Corps in 1914 upon graduation from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. Following advanced studies in France, the honorary title of Luang Pibulsonggram was bestowed upon him by King Prajadhipok in 1928. (He was later to adopt Pibulsonggram as his surname.)

1932 Revolution

One of the leaders of the military wing of the People's Party which staged a coup d'état and overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932, Lieutenant Colonel Pibulsonggram rose to prominence as a popular man-on-horseback.

Abdication of the king

The following year, Pibulsonggram, along with officers of the same cause, successfully crushed the Boworadet Rebellion. This was a royalist revolt led by Prince Boworadet. While King Prajadhipok was never directly involved in the rebellion, it marked the beginning of a slide which ended in his 1935 abdication and replacement by King Ananda Mahidol. As the new King was still a child and was then studying in Switzerland, the parliament appointed Colonel Prince Anuwatjaturong, Lieutenant Commander Prince Artit Thip-apa, and Chao Phraya Yommaraj (Pun Sukhum) as his Regents.

Prime Minister of Thailand

In 1938, Pibulsonggram replaced Phraya Phahol as Prime Minister, and consolidated his position by rewarding several members of his own army clique with influential positions in his government.

Pibulsonggram began to increase the pace of modernisation in Thailand. By manipulating the mass media, Pibulsonggram supported fascism and nationalism. Together with Luang Wichitwathakan, the Minister of Propaganda, he built a leadership cult in 1938 and thereafter. Photographs of Pibulsonggram were to be found everywhere and those of the abdicated King Prajadhipok were banned. His quotes appeared in newspapers, were plastered on billboards and repeated over the radio.

Thai poster from the Marshal Plaek era, noting prohibited "uncivilised" dress on the left, and proper western dress on the right.

"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 (written by Wichitwathakarn), and use the Thai language, not regional dialects. People were encouraged to adopt western attire, as opposed to the traditional dress of Thai men and women. Similarly, people were encouraged to eat with a fork and spoon, rather than their traditional hands. In Pibulsonggram's perspective, these policies were necessary for Thailand to change the minds of foreigners that Thailand was an undeveloped and barbaric country. In the interest in progressivism, Thailand needed to be recognised by foreigners as a civilized and modernized country.

In 1939, Pibulsonggram changed the country's name from Siam to Thailand. In 1941, in the midst of World War II, he decreed January 1 the official start of the new year instead of the traditional April 13. On 5 August 1941, Thailand joined a group of nations that recognized the puppet state of Manchukuo.

His administration also encouraged economic nationalism, in which the Thai people were to purchase as many Thai products as possible and therefore destroy the Chinese proportion in markets. Anti-Chinese policies were imposed. In a speech in 1938, Luang Wichitwathakan compared the Chinese in Siam to the Jews in Germany.

While ardently pro-Japanese at the beginning, Pibulsonggram and his administration soon considerably, but cordially, distanced itself from Japan following the aftermath of the French-Thai War, which lasted from October 1940 to May 1941, when Japanese territorial ambitions were skilfully realized during the peace talks. The Japanese gained the right to occupy French Indo-China. Being threatened by the war, Pibulsonggram stated that the Japanese would be the transgressors. The administration also realized that Thailand would fend for itself when the Japanese invasion came, considering the deteriorating relationships with the major Western powers in the area.

Alliance with Japan

When the Japanese invaded Thailand on December 8, 1941, (because of the international date line this occurred an hour and a half before Pearl Harbor)[2], hesitant Pibulsonggram was reluctantly forced to order a general ceasefire and to allow the Japanese armies to use the country as a station for the invasions of Burma and Malaya.[3] However, hesitancy gave way to enthusiasm when the Japanese surprisingly blitzkrieged their way through Malaya. On December 12, a military alliance with Japan was signed. A month later, on January 25, 1942, Thailand declared war on the allied powers. Those who opposed the declaration were sacked from the government: Pridi Phanomyong, who was appointed acting Regent for the absent King Ananda Mahidol, while Direk Jayanama, the prominent Foreign Minister who had advocated resistance against the Japanese, later became the Thai ambassador to Tokyo.

As Japan neared its defeat, Pibulsonggram was forced to resign by the pro-Seri Thai National Assembly, thus ending his six-year reign as the military commander in chief. Partly his resignation was forced by two megolomaniacal plans. One, to relocate the Thai capital city from Bangkok to a site in the jungle near Phetchabun in northern Thailand. The other, to build a "Buddhist city" near Saraburi. Announced during a time of economic difficulty, these schemes turned many government officers against the Prime Minister. Pibulsonggram went to reside at the army headquarters in Lopburi. Meanwhile, Khuang Abhaiwongse was made Prime Minister ostensibly to continue relations with the Japanese, while at the same time secretly assisting the Seri Thai underground.

At the war's end, Pibulsonggram was put on trial by the Allies 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 favourable to Pibulsonggram, since he was thought to have done his best to protect Thai interests.[4]

Coup, second premiership, and more coups

In November 1947, Army units under the control of Pibulsonggram carried out a coup which forced Thamrong to resign. The hapless Khuang was again installed as Prime Minister as the military coup risked international disapproval. Pridi Phanomyong was persecuted. However, he was aided by British and American intelligence officers, and thus managed to escape the country. On April 8 1948, the military forced Khuang out of office and Pibulsonggram assumed his second premiership.

On October 1, 1948, the unsuccessful Army General Staff Plot was launched to topple the government of Pibulsonggram. As a result of this plot, more than fifty Army and Reservist and several prominent supporters of Pridi Phanomyong were arrested.

A Palace Rebellion in 1949 was another failed coup attempt. The aims of its plotters were to overthrow the government of Pibulsonggram and to restore his main civilian rival Pridi Phanomyong to the Thai political scene.

Instead of the Fascism that characterized his first premiership, Pibulsonggram 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.

Pibulsonggram'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 Pibulsonggram 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.

On June 29, 1951, Pibulsonggram was attending a ceremony aboard the USS Manhattan when he was taken hostage by a group of naval officers, who were quick to confine 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. Pibulsonggram 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 November 29, 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 November 13, 1956, the Field Marshall co-signed Thailand's Criminal Code BE 2499 with His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej the King.

Sarit seizes power

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"[5] The resulting unrest led to a coup by Field Marshal Sarit Dhanaraj in 1957, who had earlier sworn to be his most loyal subordinate. Sarit was supported by many royalists who wanted to regain their foothold in Thailand's royalty. Pibulsonggram was then forced into exile in Japan. He lived there until his death in 1964.

Royal decorations

Plaek Pibulsonggram received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:[6]

See also


  1. ^ (Thai) ผู้นำทางการเมืองไทยกับสงครามโลกครั้งที่ 2: จอมพล ป.พิบูลสงคราม และ ปรีดี พนมยงค์
  2. ^ Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War, Vol 3, The Grand Alliance, p.548 Cassell & Co. Ltd, 1950
  3. ^ A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 (part one)
  4. ^ Aldrich, Richard J. The Key to the South: Britain, the United States, and Thailand during the Approach of the Pacific War, 1929-1942. Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-588612-7
  5. ^ Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 93-110
  6. ^ Biography of Field Marshal P., Royal Thai Army website. Retrieved on December 4, 2008.

External links

  • Duncan Stearn:A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 [1] (part one) [2] (part two) [3] (part three)
Preceded by
Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Preceded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Pote Sarasin


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