Pridi Banomyong


Pridi Banomyong (Thai: ปรีดี พนมยงค์, RTGSPridi Phanomyong, pronounced [prīː.dīː pʰā.nōm.jōŋ]; 11 May 1900 – 2 May 1983) was a Thai politician and professor.[2]:13 He was a prime minister and senior statesman of Thailand, and the centenary of his birth was celebrated by UNESCO in 2000.[3]

Pridi Banomyong
ปรีดี พนมยงค์
7th Prime Minister of Thailand
In office
24 March 1946 – 23 August 1946
MonarchAnanda Mahidol 
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Preceded byKhuang Aphaiwong
Succeeded byThawan Thamrongnawasawat
Regent of Thailand
In office
16 December 1941 – 5 December 1945
MonarchAnanda Mahidol
Prime MinisterPlaek Phibunsongkhram 
Khuang Aphaiwong 
Thawi Bunyaket 
Seni Pramoj
Finance Minister of Thailand
In office
24 March 1946 – 23 August 1946
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byPhya Srivisaravaja
Succeeded byVijitr Luritanon
In office
20 December 1938 – 16 December 1941
Prime MinisterPlaek Phibunsongkhram
Preceded bySerm Kritsanamara
Succeeded byPao Pienlert Boripanyuthakit
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
12 July 1936 – 21 December 1938
Prime MinisterPlaek Phibunsongkhram
Preceded byPhya Srisena
Succeeded byChao Phya Sridharmadhibes
Minister of Interior
In office
29 March 1934 – 12 February 1935
Prime MinisterPhraya Phahonphonphayuhasena
Preceded byPhraya Phahonphonphayuhasena
Succeeded byThawan Thamrongnawasawat
Personal details
Born11 May 1900
Died2 May 1983(aged 82)
Political partyKhana Ratsadon
Other political
Free Thai Movement
Height1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)
Spouse(s)Poonsuk Banomyong
Alma materUniversity of Paris(Ph.D)
Thai Royal College of Law[1]


Family backgroundEdit

Pridi wrote that his great-great-great grandfather, Heng, was a native of Etang Village in the Chenghai County of Guangdong Province, southern China, who came to Siam during the reign of Boromaracha V (r. 1758–1767), leaving behind his wife, who was pregnant with their son, Seng. Heng lived in Siam among the Chinese relatives of King Taksin, who recruited some of the local Chinese, including Heng, to fight against the Burmese invaders in 1767. Heng died in the service of the half-Chinese king. Taksin compensated Heng’s family, after they sent a letter inquiring about him.[2]:8 Seng chose to live his life in China as a rice farmer.[2]:9

However, Seng’s son, Tan Nai Kok (陳盛于/陈盛于; Chen Chengyu; Tan Sêng-u),[4]emigrated to Siam in 1814, during the reign of King Rama II. Nai Kok settled in Ayutthayaand made his living by selling Chinese and Thai sweets; it is said he had made innovations by combining Chinese and Thai culinary skills. A devout Buddhist, Nai Kok married a Thai woman named Pin.[2]:9-10 Pin’s sister, Boonma, would become an ancestor of Pridi’s wife Poonsuk.[2]:19 Their son, Nai Koet, married Khum, daughter of a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur. When Nai Koet died, his wife directed that his remains were to be cremated and interred at the shrine at Phanomyong Hill, which is the origin of their Thai surname.[2]:10 Their son, Nai Siang, who became a wealthy rice merchant, married Lukchan; they were the parents of Pridi.[2]:19


Early lifeEdit

Pridi Banomyong at the Université de Caen

Pridi Phanomyong was born in Ayutthaya Province, the second of five children. He had two half-siblings from his father’s minor wife. In 1915, following a royal decree issued by King Vajiravudh, Pridi and his family dropped “Nai” from their names.[2]:13

After having graduated with an LLB from Thai Royal College of Law, he received a government scholarship to study law and political economy at Sciences Po in Paris. He earned a PhD in 1927 and returned to Siam that year to work for the Ministry of Justice. He quickly rose in rank, and was granted the royal title Luang Praditmanutham(Thai: หลวงประดิษฐ์มนูธรรม). He also began assembling a group of fifty civil servants who wanted to replace the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy.

People’s PartyEdit

Main article: Siamese Revolution of 1932

On 24 June 1932, Khana Ratsadon, the tiny People’s Party, with Pridi as the leader of the civilian faction, carried out a lightning coup that abruptly ended 150 years of absolute monarchy under the Chakri Dynasty.

In 1933, accused of being a communist, Pridi went into exile when his radical economic plans, which called for the nationalisation of land, public ownership, and universal basic income, were rejected by royalists and a right-leaning faction of the People’s Party, who shut down parliament and the judiciary.[5]


Pridi returned to Thailand in 1934 to found Thammasat University as an open university, before assuming the posts of Minister of the Interior that year, Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1935, and Minister of Finance in 1938.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1935 to 1937, Pridi signed treaties revoking the extraterritorial rights of 12 countries.[6] With these treaties, Thailand was able to regain independence with regard to legal jurisdiction and taxation for the first time since unequal treaties were signed under duress during the reign of King Rama IV.[7]

Although he had been friends with Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram during the early days of the People’s Party, the two fell out in subsequent years. Pridi was anti-Japaneseas well as left-leaning. He opposed many of Phibun’s militaristic policies which tended to be more conciliatory toward the Japanese. The antipathy between the two characters would define how Thailand fared in World War II when Japan was on the march in Asia.

Free Thai movementEdit

Main article: Free Thai Movement

Pridi Banomyomg (right) at Europe in 1935

On 8 December 1941, Imperial Japan launched attacks on Southeast Asia and the Alliedpossessions in the region, opening the Pacific War. This included amphibious landings in Thailand and an invasion across the border from French Indochina. After initially resisting, the Thai government reluctantly agreed to let the Japanese pass through the country and use its military bases to strike other Allied possessions in the region, culminating in the Battle of Malaya.

When Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram issued a declaration of war against Britainand the United States in January 1942, Pridi refused to sign it. As a result, he was effectively demoted by Phibun to the figurehead role of Regent for the young monarch, who was studying in Switzerland. In this capacity, Pridi built the anti-Japanese underground, the Free Thai Movement (“Seri Thai”) network, in Thailand. Code named “Ruth”, he established contact with the Allies and Thai resistance organisations in Britain and the United States. As the war progressed and the fortunes of the Japanese declined, public dissatisfaction grew and Phibun was forced to resign as prime minister in 1944.

Khuang Abhaiwongse, a liberal lawyer and member of Seri Thai, was chosen to be prime minister due to “his ability to dissemble with the Japanese” to shield the growing Seri Thai movement while at the same time improving superficial relations with the Japanese occupiers.

When Japan’s surrender ended the war, the Seri Thai-dominated government immediately acted to “restore the pre-war status quo”. As regent, Pridi termed “the declaration of war illegal and null, and void” as improperly made, and repudiated all agreements made with Japan by Phibun.

When Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Commander, Southeast Asia, visited Bangkok in late-1945, he recorded a tribute to Pridi in which he said that there had existed a unique situation wherein “the Supreme Allied Commander was exchanging vital military plans with the Head of a State technically at war with us”.

Post-war yearsEdit

Pridi Banomyong in 1933

Pridi retired from the regency when King Ananda Mahidol returned in December 1945. He was formally named a Senior Statesman (Ratthaburut Awuso), and served as an advisor to the post-war, civilian governments of Tawee Boonyaket and Seni Pramoj.

In March 1946, Khuang Aphaiwong, who had been elected prime minister in January, resigned. Pridi assumed the position in an attempt to stabilize the political situation, now spiraling out of control. It was during the first months of the Pridi government that the war crimes trial of Phibun was dismissed on a legal technicality.

On the morning of 9 June 1946, the young king was found dead in his bed in the Baromphiman Mansion in the Grand Palace. The monarch’s died from a gunshot to his head. In October 1946, a commission of inquiry ruled that the king’s death could not have been accidental, but that neither suicide nor murder was satisfactorily proved.

After a general election, Pridi resigned as prime minister, resumed his status of senior statesman, and left on a world tour, visiting Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and US President Harry S. Truman along the way.

On 8 November 1947, army troops seized various government installations in Bangkok. The coup, led by Lieutenant General Phin Choonhavan and Colonel Kat Katsongkhram, ousted Thamrong‘s government. It marked the return to power of Phibun. At the same time, armoured cars arrived in front of Pridi’s riverside residence. When the troops entered they found that Pridi had departed. Pridi spent a week hiding with the Royal Thai Navy at Admiral Sindhu Songkhramchai’s headquarters. On 20 November, he was spirited to Singapore by British and US agents.

Phibun arrested King Ananda’s secretary, Senator Chaleo Patoomros, and two of his pages under charges of conspiracy to kill the king. Rumours were spread that Pridi was part of a conspiracy involved in the alleged regicide, and that he had plans to turn Thailand into a republic. After a farcical trial, during which the entire defense team resigned and two members of a subsequent team were arrested under charges of treason, the judges ruled that none of the accused could have fired the fatal shot. However, it did convict a royal page, Chit Singhaseni, of being a party to the crime. Chit appealed his conviction. The appeals court later dismissed Chit’s appeal and, undeterred by the legal doctrine of double jeopardy, found another page, But Pathamasarin, also guilty. The supreme court upheld the convictions, convicting Chaleo as well. All three were executed several years later.

Biographer William Stevenson has said that King Bhumibol Adulyadej did not believe that Pridi was involved in his brother’s death.[8]

Pridi in London

Pridi supported the Vietnamese independence movement of Ho Chi Minh. As the cold war infected the post-war arena of Southeast Asia, Thailand became a focus of the US and the USSR. In 1949, when China turned communist, the Vietminh fought the anti-French war. The US doubted that Pridi would support the communist movement in the region, but his policy was controversial, leading to the coup which ousted him from power by his former ally, the wartime leader Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

Permanent exileEdit

Pridi secretly returned in 1949 in order to stage a coup d’état against Phibun’s dictatorship. When it failed, Pridi left for China, never to return to Thailand. In 1970 he travelled to France, where he spent the remainder of his life. Pridi died on 2 May 1983, at his home in the suburbs of Paris.


Statue of Pridi at Thammasat University. His office was in the building directly behind the statue.

Pridi remains a controversial figure in Thai modern history. As one of the leaders of the 1932 pro-democracy coup, he has been viewed in many ways. The first declaration of the “revolution”, which harshly attacked the king and his government, was written by Pridi himself. Nevertheless, Pridi held the position of regent when Rama VIII ascended to the throne.

During the period of military rule, Pridi was portrayed as a communist owing to the fact that several of his books and articles showed sympathy for Marxist, socialist, and communist ideologies.

With obvious conflict between Pridi and the King Rama VIII, the young king’s tragic death came to be blamed on Pridi. Pridi was accused of being the leader of a plot to assassinate the popular young monarch. This culminated in the military coup in 1957.

In his later years Seni Pramoj promoted the idea that he had saved Thailand from post-war British colonial rule that Pridi had been willing to accept.[9] Nigel Brailey treats the Free Thai movement as largely a sham and casts doubt on Pridi’s part, arguing “it appears questionable whether Pridi committed himself personally to the Allied cause much prior to August 1942, if even then,” suggesting that “his eventual anti-Japanese stance was a consequence primarily of his hostility to Phibun.”[10]

There is no doubt that Pridi wanted to remove Phibun from power, and the war offered an opportunity to do so. However, there is no question that Pridi recognised well before the war that Thailand’s alignment with the Axis powers would work to Phibun’s advantage and enable him to strengthen his dictatorship. Even the Japanese recognised Pridi’s hostility, which is why he was forced out of the cabinet in December 1941. It was the reason every knowledgeable person on the Allied side, from Seni Pramoj and Prince Suphasawat, a chief organiser of the movement in Great Britain, to former British ambassador Josiah Crosby, anticipated that Pridi would emerge as the head of a domestic resistance movement.

One-time conservative monarchist Sulak Sivaraksa has emerged as Pridi’s most ardent champion. A prolific critic of the Thai status quo, Sulak, in addition to praising the achievements of the Free Thai in saving Thailand’s sovereignty, has criticised Seni and his Democrat Party for alleged complicity in the military’s return to power in 1947.

Sulak led efforts to rehabilitate Pridi which achieved significant results. Four Bangkok streets now are named for Pridi: three as Pridi Banomyong Road and one called Praditmanutham (his royally-granted title) Road. His birthday, 11 May, is now celebrated as Pridi Banomyong Day. In 1997 the Thai government dedicated a park in eastern Bangkok to the Free Thai resistance movement. On 16 August 2003, a library-museum, built as a replica of Pridi’s wartime residence, opened at the park.

On 30 October 1999 UNESCO included the centenary of Pridi Phanomyong’s birth in its recognition of anniversaries of great personalities and historic events as tribute to not so much his achievements, but to his ideals and integrity.

There are two Pridi Banomyong Memorials, one in Pridi’s hometown, the other on the campus of Thammasat University, which he founded. Thammasat is home to the Pridi Banomyong Library and the Pridi Banomyong International College. The law faculty at Dhurakij Pundit University is called the Pridi Banomyong Faculty of Law. The Pridi (Chloropsis aurifrons pridii), a species of leafbird, and Pridi Banomyong Institute, a non-profit academic organisation, are named in his honour. The Pridi Banomyong Institute holds an annual Pridi Banomyong Lecture, initially on Pridi Banomyong Day, but moved in recent years to 24 June, in honour of his role in the 1932 coup.

Honours and awardsEdit

Academic rankEdit

Civil Service of Siam rankEdit

Thai royal and noble titleEdit

Royal decorationsEdit

Pridi received the following royal decorations in the Honours System of Thailand:

Foreign decorationsEdit

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pridi Banomyong.
Political offices
Preceded by
Khuang Abhaiwongse
Prime Minister of Thailand
Succeeded by
Thawal Thamrong Navaswadhi

Last edited 27 days ago by Certes


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