Thailand’s Flag – How, Why & The French

Thailand’s national flag, ceremoniously raised each morning in every town and village, is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. The harmony of design expresses the complimentary nature of the three pillars of the Thai nation. This tri – colored flag, called in Thai the “trirong”, first introduced by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1917, succeeded an earlier design that placed a white elephant (emblem of the absolute monarch) on a red background. The flag of the Kingdom of Thailand shows five horizontal stripes in the colours red, white, blue, white and red, with the middle blue stripe being twice as wide as each of the other four. The three colours red-white-blue stand for nation-religion-king, an unofficial motto of Thailand.citation needed The flag was adopted on 28 September 1917, according to the royal decree about the flag in that year. The Thai name for the flag is (Thong Trairong), which simply means tricolour flag. Thailanders display their national flag with as much frequency as folks in the United States. In fact, it is not at all unusual to see giant Thai flags flying over corporate buildings much like US car dealers fly giant American flags. There are small flag makers everywhere and buying a Thai flag is easy. Thai flags are usually made of light weight polyester or open weave cotton type bunting. Occasionally I could spot one made of broad cloth. Thai folk are also proud of their history and demonstrate said pride by displaying historical flags. Virtually any old Thai flag with an elephant on it can be bought. Bangkok is also a good place to find flags of other countries. It is easy to find old flags off ships for sale on the streets. Many international Thai firms will have multiple sets of flag poles up in front of their headquarters. It is very inexpensive to have foreign flags made up in Bangkok’s flag shops, so flag display is popular. In older times no regulations existed as regards the etiquette involved in using flags; there was only the occasional Royal Command issued by His Majesty the King concerning the occasions on which particular flags were to be used. Until the Reign of King Rama V, however, was a set of Regulations established regarding their functions. These appeared in a Royal Decree issued on April, R.E. 110 (B.E.2434) [1891 AD] and were entitled, aptly enough, “Regulations pertaining to the use of various types of Siamese flag.” Subsequently, as more and more flags were created, these regulations were amended and the amendments duly enforced, the latest one being the Decree on Flags issued on April 22, B.E. 2522 [1979 AD]. Flags in general use are divided into two main categories: those whose functions are clearly delineated in the aforementioned Decrees, and those not covered by official regulations, namely those flown by various government agencies or by members of the private sector. Although, the latter are produced with the permission of the government and have been registered in accordance with the law, they are not specifically covered by any of the provisions set forth in the Decrees themselves. Further, various personal flags of King Rama IX are in wide use by civilians as a kind of de-facto second national flag, often flown along with the Trairanga as a pair. The flags are always yellow (the royal color), and bear an intricate pseudoheraldic emblem; these are commissioned at intervals to commemorate milestones in the King’s life. The most recent design issued is usually the one most commonly seen; the current is 2007′s “Eightieth Birthday” flag, incorporating the relevant emblem. OVERVIEW The first known national flag of Thailand seems to have been a plain red flag. Not all flag books are in agreement on when the various flags of Siam/Thailand were introduced. According to Crampton, the first flag of Thailand was red with a white chakra, that is a Buddhist wheel in a fan-like shape. Some sources state that the first flag was a plain red field. In 1817 a white elephant was added to the centre of the chakra. The white elephant is connected to the mythological origin of the founding dynasty of Thailand, and is an emblem of the Royal family. Beside the relatively small differences in years (1502 vs 1817 for the addition of the elephant; 1851 vs 1855 for the removal of the wheel), what is reported above is in fairly good agreement with the report shown on our website. The only main difference is the interpretation of the wheel. The relationship between the wheel on the flag and the prows of the king’s vessel is obscure for me, and I suspect a translation error from Thai to French. However, the “wheel” does not really look like a chakra.