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10 The Eclipse of the Astrologers: King Mongkut, His Successors, and the Reformation of Law in Thailand

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores in a speculative vein a few notions arising from a long view of the development of law in Thailand from the time of King Mongkut through the reform period under his successors. It was during Mongkut's reign, in 1855, that the first demeaning or 'unequal' treaty was signed. The Wako incident took place near the end of Mongkut's reign in 1868. At Songkran, the Siamese New Year, in April, Mongkut, as was his habit, had made predictions of celestial movements, including a total eclipse of the sun. The Law of the Three Seals was in its own limited way a reforming measure which was designed to ascertain, crystallise and index existing Siamese law based on the religious law, the thammasat, and royal decrees, the rajasat.

Keywords: rajasat; astrologers; King Mongkut; Law of the Three Seals; reformation; Siamese law; Thailand; thammasat; unequal treaty; Wako incident



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