The Importance of Maintaining the Culture of the Nation

ความสำคัญในการบำรุงวัฒนธรรมของชาติ (“The Importance of Maintaining the Culture of the Nation”) was published by the Department for Publicity in 1941 under the government of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram (1897 – 1964). 

Printed for visitors to the Kathina Festival on 30 October 1941 at Wat Buranasirimatyaram, Phranakhon province, it outlines some of the government’s nationalist intentions at the time and alludes to their fears of colonisation by foreign powers.

Phibunsongkhram was a military leader in the People’s Party (คณะราษฎร, Khana Ratsadon) that in 1932 overthrew the system of absolute monarchy. In 1938 he became Prime Minister and Commander of the Siamese army and started a period of hyper-nationalism; his cultural mandates are well-known and were used to instill patriotism across the nation.

Central to Phibunsongkhram’s nationalist campaigns was Luang Wichitwathakan (1898 – 1962), a politician, historian, novelist and playwright. Wichit had switched his allegiance to the People’s Party and just a year prior to the publication of this book, he had been successful in campaigning for the country’s name to be changed from Siam to Thailand. It is very likely he had either contributed directly to this book or had been closely involved in its production.

The book is comprised of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. The scripts of a radio play series broadcast in six parts between 14-29 February 2484. The plays are fictitious conversations between the Mr Man Chuchart (literally Mr Stable Nation) with Mr Kong Rakthai (Mr Steady Patriot) about the subject topic maintaining the national culture. The first names “Man” and “Kong” together form the verb มั่นคง, to be secure, stable.
  3. A letter to all government departments from Phibunsongkhram outlining dress codes, behaviour standards, the importance of the national culture, and the importance of the Western countries in the region viewing Thailand as a cultured and advanced nation.
  4. Photos showing appropriate dress, mostly Western-inspired, taken at the opening ceremony of parliament; the prime minister and his wife at a celebration of the King’s birthday; the Thai Women’s Institute at a lecture; ladies attending the celebration of the King’s birthday; citizens at a market; and ladies relaxing at a park.

At this time Britain’s colonies had expanded from India into Burma, the French controlled Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia & Tokin, China) plus the Chinese and Japanese were at war with each other — a war which very shortly would become part of World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The threat of invasion was very real. This backdrop makes this for an interesting read.

While there may be other copies of this book in private collections, there only appears to be a few copies in Thai public libraries, hence the reason it is being made available for download here. As there is no accredited author, the copyright would have expired 50 years after publication, in 1991.

Click to download the complete book (PDF)

Further Reading

Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk (2005). A History of Thailand. Cambridge University Press.

Barmé, Scot (1993). Luang Wichit Wathakan and the Creation of a Thai identity. Social Issues in Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian studies.