Con-sti-ti-ti-ti-ti-tew-tion

Our second issue for November-December 2021 launches in connection to Thailand’s Constitution Day on December 10. The holiday is observed annually to commemorate the promulgation of the country’s “Permanent Constitution.”

The promulgation came five-and-a-half months after the revolutionary People’s Party (Khana Ratsadon), a group of young, western-educated military officers and civil servants, successfully overthrew Siam’s absolute monarchy on June 24, 1932 (the incident was also known as the 1932 Revolution).

King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), the by then Siam’s last absolutist king, demanded that the country’s first Constitution of June 27, written by the People’s Party, be “provisional” and that the Constitution of December 10, which vested in the king a broader set of powers, be called the “first” and “permanent” one. Whether this was an attempt to reassert his royal prerogatives, most of which had been stripped of after the bloodless coup, remains up for debate.

Since the abolition of the absolute monarchy and creation of a constitutional order in 1932, Thailand has seen 20 constitutions (as of 2021), an average of one roughly every 4.5 years.

Our agenda is to decenter the circular debates about who fathered democracy by exploring what having or losing constitutions feels like at each historical juncture since.

The mispronunciation in the headliner is taken from the headlining play Nine Reigns, which centres vernacular expressions about this “new” and apparently foreign thing.

Our selections under this theme include a street theatre play, poems, video documentaries, speeches, a short story and more. We also have a source that is not in standard Thai language.

Play by Prakai Fai Karn Lakorn
Translated by anonymous

Nine Reigns

Poem by Khun Phrom Prasart
Translated by Peera Songkünnatham

A Poem in Isan Explaining the Constitution of the Kingdom of Siam

Poem by Sujit Wongthes
Translated by Nalin Sindhuprama

Maha Asiarawat Raja Stuti
On the Occasion of His Majesty the King’s Birthday, 5 December 1973

Speech by Chiranuch Premchaiporn
Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn

Speaking Truth to Power
Chiranuch Premchaiporn Addresses Parliament on the People’s Draft Constitutional Amendment

Essay by Pandit Chanrochanakit
Translated by Samson Lim

Democracy Monument through 80 Years of Political Change, 1940-2021

Speech by Sutin Klangsaeng
Translated by Ann Norman

Sutin Klangsaeng’s Speech on PM Prayut’s Incomplete Oath of Allegiance: An Insight into the Workings of the Thai Moral Universe

Newspaper clippings by Nowwanij Siriphatiwirut
Translated by Peera Songkünnatham and Kanyanatt Kalfagiannis

The First DIY Guy at the Democracy Monument

About Sanam Ratsadon

Founded in 2021 by a group of volunteer translators, Sanam Ratsadon offers glimpses into Thai political history through stories that capture the resilience, creativity and voices of commoners.

As an online platform for Thai historical sources in English translation, we collect and promote the writings, art performances, and oral histories that shed light on the lived experience and the linked fate of ordinary people past and present. Each quarterly issue carries a theme. We welcome those who are interested in literary translation and who seek to unearth the people’s histories to join our network by contacting sanamratsadon@gmail.com. We will keep you posted on upcoming themes!

Why Sanam Ratsadon?

Sanam Ratsadon means Commoners Field. We take this name from pro-democracy activists’ subversive renaming of Sanam Luang, an open-air, historical site located in the heart of old Bangkok. Conceived as a royal field [‘Luang’ literally means ‘royal’], the common people from the middle and lower classes had at various points in time used and enjoyed Sanam Luang for various purposes: as a public space to fly kites, picnic, spend leisure time, sleep, cruise and sell sex, and also to stage political rallies. In recent years, it was fenced up and reserved mainly for state and royal functions. In September 2020, protestors from various activist groups placed a democracy plaque in the field to reclaim it for the masses. That symbol of resistance disappeared overnight. 

Sanam Ratsadon is a tribute to the generations who have fought for democracy in Thailand. This website showcases the contest for meanings in public spaces. It also tells and explores Thailand’s history as it questions and builds it from the points of view of commoners.

Logo and banner design by Karnt Thassanaphak