Thailand in the First World War

Thai Soldiers march at the Victory Parade in Paris in July 1919

In the northwest corner of Sanam Luang, near the National Museum, there is an often neglected memorial for the brave Thai soldiers that died during World War I. It may seem strange now, but on 22nd July 1917, King Rama VI declared war on Germany and called for volunteers to go and fight alongside the Allies in Europe. It has been speculated that the king wanted to elevate his kingdom to an equal footing with the British, French and Americans who had all forced Thailand to sign unfair treaties. The following year, an Expeditionary Force consisting of a contingent of Army Transport Corps and Army Air Corps arrived in Europe. A total of 1,284 troops were sent which also included nurses. The soldiers fought alongside British and American forces and at least 19 of them died. The members of the Army Air Corps took longer to train and by the time they were ready there was only a few weeks left of the war. The following year, in July 1919, the Thai Expeditionary Force took part in the Victory Parade in Paris. They returned to Thailand towards the end of that same year. The ashes of the fallen soldiers were placed inside the memorial in Sanam Luang. The gamble of King Rama VI was seemingly paid off. Thailand was invited to be a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920. The unfair treaties were then ceded by the Americans in 1920 and the British and French in 1925.

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