Last modified: 2011-06-10 by ian macdonald
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Official Name: ราชอาณาจักรไทย [Ratcha Anachak Thai], Kingdom of Thailand
Former Name: Siam [สยาม] (before 24 Jun 1939; also between 1945 and 11 May, 1949)
Location: Southeast Asia
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Flag Adopted: 28 September 1917
Coat of Arms Adopted: 1910
The story goes that during the 1916 flood the king of Siam – since 26th June 1939 called Thailand – saw the national flag – red with a white elephant – hanging upside down. Because of the distress a new flag was adopted that could not be hung upside down. Initially it was a red field with two white bands, but on 28th September 1917, the middle stripe was changed to blue to show solidarity with the Allies during the First World War. The name of the flag is therefore Trairanga, meaning tricolour. The proportions of the flag are 2:3, while the stripes are arranged 1-1-2-1-1. Sources: Crampton 1992; Jos Poels 1990; Crampton 1991.
From contributions by
Roy Stilling, 21 Feb 1996
Jan Oskar Engene, 03 Oct 1996
Mark Sensen, 03 Mar 1997
King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), amongst other things, refashioned the flag of Siam in 1917, replacing the white elephant on a red field with the contemporary tricolor. Although not an official interpretation of the Thai flag, the prevailing view is that the central blue stripe represents the monarchy, the two white stripes are the Therevada Buddhist religion, and the outer red stripes represent the land or the nation.
Riley B. VanDyke, 22 Jun 1998
In Thailand (...) the Thai National Flag was used everywhere and every school day started with a flag raising and the singing of Thong Chat (The Flag) either assembled in the school courtyard or in the classrooms.
Phil Abbey, 17 Sep 1998
During the reign of King Vajiravut (1910-1925) the flag was changed to the 5 stripe flag – red and white from 1916-1917. In 1917 the middle red stripe was changed to blue to make the flag look much better and the blue colour is for Friday – the day King Vajiravut was born (1st January 1880). On 28th September 1917, the Flag Law of 1917 was promulgated and stated that the national flag became the trichelon [sic] flag, the one we use today.
Wisarut Bholsithi, 29 Oct 1999
The red flag with white stripes was used as the national flag during 1917, but the design was changed again the same year. A columnist with the Bangkok Daily Mail Newspaper suggested to King Rama VI, who had originally decreed the red and white striped flag as the national flag, that the central stripe of red should be changed to blue. The reasons for the suggested change were that blue was the colour of the King and the red/white/blue-coloured flag, which was similar to the national flags of the Allies, would remind Thailand of its participation in World War I. The King agreed with this idea and signed the Flag Act of B.E.2460 (1917), declaring the red / white / blue-coloured flag, which would be known as the "Trairanga," the national flag of Thailand.
from the Rama IX Art Museum Foundation, 10 Oct 2005
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.
Clay Moss, 04 Jul 2001
From the Singha Beer source:
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 [sic – 'under'?] 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.
Santiago Dotor, 27 May 2003
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.
Eugene Ipavec, 10 Oct 2007
There is a website, apparently set up by a brewing company, with scores of Thai flags. More than 70 flags are depicted and described on this site. The images are rather small and poor, so it is difficult to see the details of the emblems. Dates are given in the Buddhist calendar.
Jan Oskar Engene, 13 Aug 1997
The Singha Beer website contains many Thai flags which are not still in FOTW. They are divided into:
Santiago Dotor, 26 Oct 1999
Definitely, someone must have drawn the flags without the full descriptions which appeared close to them in the website; the Commander's Flag should be 2:5 and appears as 3:4, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army flag should be a 5:6 flag whereas the image is 7:10, etc. Those flags which also appear in Flaggenbuch 1939 follow the ratios of the descriptions. So I guess the descriptions are more precise as reference.
Santiago Dotor, 05 Nov 1999
One more thing. The Thai equivalent for "fleet" has been wrongly translated as "frigate". Thus, the Commander of the Fleet Flag is said to be that of a "Frigate Commander" and about the Pu Yai Flag it says "high ranking officers from a frigate were on board that particular vessel".
Santiago Dotor, 12 Nov 1999