Opinion: Why Do Thais Continue to Debate About Their National Day?

Inauguration of Democracy Monument on June 24, 1940. The ceremony was presided by Prime Minister Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsongkram. Photo: National Archive.
Inauguration of Democracy Monument on June 24, 1940. The ceremony was presided by Prime Minister Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsongkram. Photo: National Archive.

The issue of the Thai National Day, or the lack thereof, depending on whom you ask, continues to trouble the psyche of some Thais.

Last week, on June 24, a group of activists submitted a letter to Move Forward Party, the party which is widely expected to lead the new coalition government, to reinstate June 24 as the Thai National Day.

From 1938 to 1960, June 24 was the Thai National Day and widely celebrated. There was even a beauty queen pageant on that day. The day marks the revolt on June 24, 1932, which ended absolute monarchy.

In 1960, however, military dictator Sarit Thanarat, who was fighting communism and supported by America, thought the focus should be on the king. So, Rama IX’s birthday, or Dec. 5, has since become the Thai National Day as well as Father’s Day in Thailand and that has not changed under the current King, Rama X.


Without doubt, those petitioners do not consider Dec. 5 Thai National Day. They do not feel it represents the whole nation – a king’s birthday yes, but national day no.

Amidst growing calls, particularly by young Thais, to reform the monarchy institution, amidst less and less people wanting to pay respect to the royal anthem before commercial theatre screen films, conservative royalists feel threatened.

Those opposing the reinstating of June 24 as Thai National Day include blueblood media commentator Nattakorn Devakula, who posted on social media last week that June 24 should not have even made Thai National Day from the start and highlighted the role of the monarchy institution over the centuries under absolute monarchy.

Nattakorn added in his Facebook post that Thailand copied Western democracy, which tends to lead to “illiberal democracy” and “liberal totalitarianism.”

“If we talk about the greatness of the Thai nation which occurred after 1932, that’s just a tiny slice of the long history … June 24 shouldn’t have been made Thai National Day from the beginning when the nationhood of the Thai people has been in existence for a long time since it was under absolute monarchy, which certainly was much longer.”

We can go on and debate whether what is ‘nationhood’ and sense of shared nation when most people were subjugated under absolute rule of kings. We can also debate whether June 24 truly deserves to be made National Day.


What is clear at the moment is that Thailand does not have a National Day that all, or at least most, can be proud of – there is no consensus as to which day should embody Thailand as a nation. (Among competing alternative dates could be November 6, the day King Taksin the Great, declared independence seven months after Burmese forces sacked and destroyed Ayutthaya.)

We should not be in a big rush to force all to agree – the ongoing debate is healthy and part of Thailand and Thai people defining themselves. There would not be a Thai-version of the Fourth of July or Bastille Day anytime soon.

As long as rogue Thai generals have a penchant for staging military coups and some Thais do not accept election results, it means even the desired political system is still contested and the lack of a consensus on what ought to be the definitive Thai National Day is just another symptom of that disagreement.