BANGKOK — History buffs are left scratching their heads on Wednesday after it surfaced that two halls in the army’s museum are named after royalist rebels who attempted to overthrow an elected government eight decades ago.
Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram, who led the 1933 failed revolt, now grace the two rooms at the Royal Thai Army headquarters’ newly renovated museum, which honors illustrious figures in army history. The rooms were inaugurated today by none other than Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong.
An army news outlet said the naming was meant to honor the two men for their loyalty to the monarchy, while an army spokeswoman said it was a routine practice for the force to name its venues after well-known army commanders in the past.
“There’s no need for excitement,” Col. Sirichan Nga-thong said by phone. “Our naming tradition relies on historical figures.”
But some observers, especially those in the pro-democracy camp, accused the army of glorifying ultraroyalist coup leaders who plotted against Thailand’s democratic regime.
“This is a declaration that even though they did not succeed that day … their legacies are being continued today,” activist Abhisit Sapnaphapan wrote online. “Welcome to the old regime of absolute monarchy.”
“Thai people united and brought down Bovoradej’s revolt to defend their constitution, yet Tuu is naming a meeting room after Bovoradej,” online social critic Sinchai Chaojaroenrat wrote, using Prayuth’s nickname.
Royalist troops led by Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram marched on Bangkok on Oct. 11, 1933, in an attempted counter-revolution against the government who overthrew the absolute monarchy a year earlier.
Prince Bovoradej – a relative of King Rama VII – said he wanted to restore the Royal Family back to its former glory and demanded the government’s surrender. The government refused, and the two sides fought in a military clash that later became known as Bovoradej Rebellion.
The campaign ended in defeat, with Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram killed in action and Prince Bovoradej fleeing to French-held Indochina.
To mark the victory, the government built a memorial over the battlefield in northern Bangkok, but it was dismantled in the dead of night in late 2018. No government agency would say where the monument was shipped off to, and the media were discouraged from reporting about its fate.
Army spokeswoman Sirichan said she did not know why the names of Prince Bovoradej and Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram were picked, but Wassana Nanuam, a reporter affiliated with the armed forces, said the army wanted to honor the two men for their allegiance to the Royal Family.
Phraya Si Sitthisongkhram is also a grandfather to former army chief Surayud Chulanont, Wassana wrote in an online post.