Referred to among Thais as “Phra Piya Maharat,” or the Great Beloved King, King Chulalongkorn is internationally recognized as one of the greatest leaders that Thailand has ever had. He was the grandfather of the present monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
During his reign, the King faced many problems, domestic and foreign, which he dealt with very effectively. His period was a major turning point in modern Thai history. At that time, Thailand was under the threat of colonization from both the British and the French. Great Britain and France were competing for colonies to expand their influences in trading. Britain gained control of Burma, while France came to take over Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Both British and the French eyed Thailand to acquire further territory.
King Chulalongkorn successfully averted the risk through his subtle diplomacy, which also enhanced Siam’s role in the international arena. He was the first Thai king to make state visits to European heads of state. His meeting with Czar Nicholas II of Russia was a splendid move of diplomacy, since it kept England and France from colonizing Siam. He managed to chart a safe course for the country through troubled waters.
Although he passed away a century ago, his life and deeds are still so vividly remembered by the people in Thailand.