24.06.

1939: “Siam” Becomes “Thailand”

1939: “Siam” Becomes “Thailand”
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Thai poster from the Marshal Plaek era, noting prohibited "uncivilised" dress on the left, and proper western dress on the right.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 24 June 1939
  • The military dictator Field Marshal Plaek, who renamed the state, allegedly admired the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. He wanted to introduce stronger nationalism, and other reforms in his country.

On this day in 1939 Siam was renamed Thailand, according to the decision of Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

This dictator held the rank of field marshal. He also served as Prime Minister, and acted as a fascist, which wasn’t a rare case at the time. In 1939, many European countries had autocratic regimes, including fascist elements. Field Marshal Plaek allegedly admired the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

Field Marshal Plaek (also known as Phibun or Phibul) wanted to introduce stronger nationalism, and other reforms in his country. He advocated nationalist traditions such as saluting the flag in public places, and wanted one language to be used instead of the regional dialects. In terms of modernization, he promoted a Western lifestyle. For example, he wanted women to stop walking topless in public, wanted people to eat using a fork and knife, etc.

The mentioned change of the country’s name from Siam to Thailand was also his decision. Plaek wanted the name “Thai” to represent the nation, citizens and the state. Therefore, its inhabitants became “Thai”, and country “Thailand”. Names of all companies and institutions which contained the term “Siam” had to change it (e.g. “Siam Cement” was changed to “Thai Cement”).

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