Friday, April 24, 2009

Origins of the Siamese Flag - Tong Chang Pueak

The Birth of Siamese Naval, National, Royal and Governmental flags

As far as is known from recorded historical evidence, as Krung Sri Ayuttaya was the Official Capital City of Siam, Various flags were used by the different military sections, using different colors for each regiment or section. These flags were used by the different Regiments when going into battle in times of War. The naval sections of the Siamese military forces would use a red flag, as is popularly known to people in the present age, when thinking of the Siamese flag.

Around the era of the second King of the Ratanagosin Era (between 2160 and 2366 B.E.), as the British ewere stationed in Singapore and developed a Mercantile network, Phrabat Somdej Phra Putta Lerd La Napalay ordered 2 ships to be built for the purpose of merchant trading of military weapons between the Malayu port of Singapore and the ports of Macau.

For this reason, we can consider King Rama the second to be the principle responsible agent for the causes resulting in the necessity to create the "Tong Chang Pueak (ธงช้างเผือก), or, Siam Flag as it has come to be known by people today. Although there were many later developments ordered by later Kings of the Chakri Dynasty, if it hadn't have been for the distress cause in the English port authorities in Singapore, due to King Rama the second's merchant weapon ships, then the whole story which led to the creation fo the Siamese Flag may not have ever occured!

Both of these ships bore a red Siam Flag. As a result of this action, the British Foreign comission in Singapore called upon the Captains of these two ships to come and discuss the matter, due to the fact that the Malay traders who were trading in Singapore also used a red flag on their ships. The beseeched the King of Siam to choose another color, in order to enable the British Government to be able to administrate the arrival of merchant ships with more ease and less chance of confusion.

In this time, King Somdej Phra Putta Lerd La Napalay was in posession of two albino elephants, which, according to Siamese traditional belief, was considered a great blessing, and sign of greatness. So it was ordered that the image of a white albino elephant, within a circular chakra should be placed in the middle of the naval flags.

This symbolised the Chakri King, who posessed two white elephants. This symbol was only permitted to be used on Royal ships; common ships of Siam were to continue using a red flag. The white elephant in a chakra ring was only impressed upon the rear side of minted coins in Siam in the era of Rama 5.
In the time of the fourth King of the Chakri Dynasy, in the year 2398, a mercantile agreement was signed with the western world, and both U.S. and European ships began sailing into Siam and up the river to Krung Tep Mahanakorn (Bangkok). Foreign Consulates were erected in the Capital, and they raised their National flags . As a result, the need for an official Flag of Siam arose Phra Bat Somdej Phrajorm Glao Jao Yu Hua (Rama4), decided to make use of the National flag which was created in the era of King Rama 2 as the official flag of Siam, with the difference of removing the chakra disc, as this was to be used exclusively for flags directly related to the King of Siam himself. Only the white elephant remained on the National flag. In addition to this flag, another two flags were created; The forst wa snamed "Tong Maha Mongkud (ธงมหามงกุฏ), which was reserved exclusively for the King himself. Like the National flag of Siam, it was also red in color, but with a white area in the center, with a crown, a chatra (ฉัตร - parasol), and two yellow elephants. The second of the two flags was named "Tong Ayurapot" (ธงไอยุราพต); as in the forst two flags, it also had a red background, and had an image of Erawan the three headed elephant with a saddle on it. Four chatra parasols were designed around the elephant. This flag was reserved for representing the Siamese Government.

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