Which Southeast Asian country avoided direct foreign rule by a European power?

And the answer: Thailand.
Photo credit: Takeaway

Until 1939, Thailand was known as Siam. Much like the U.K., Thailand currently has a constitutional monarchy, and the British treated the nation as a “buffer zone” between territories. In 1932, a student-led revolution and a bloodless coup freed Thailand from its absolute monarchy, with the first permanent constitution adopted that same year.

Although Thailand was one of the first nations to sign the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, its path towards establishing a standard of human rights legislation has been a rocky one. The revolution of 1932 ended an absolute monarchy—stating in its first article that sovereign power belongs to the people of Siam—and set a hopeful tone for the political future of the nation. Yet, since the 1932 revolution, there have been twelve successful coups in the Thai government, and seven attempted ones.

Since 2020, a flood of youth protesters have made their stance on the restrictive government known. Thousands of younger individuals took to the streets throughout 2020 and 2021, nearly all displaying the iconic three-finger salute and demanding a new democratic constitution be introduced with reforms to the monarchy.

Did you know?

Yesterday was Thailand Constitution Day! Since 1932, Thailand has had 18 constitutions, or charters. Many of the redrafted versions have been adopted following military coups—including the current administration, which introduced its version on April 6th 2017. Support those who are fighting for their independence and learn more about the day here.


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