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Pridi Phanomyong (ปรีดี พนมยงค์)

Thai. Name of a highly-revered Thai politician, who was a former three-terms Prime Minister and a Senior Statesman of Thailand, as well as the founder of the Thammasat University. He was a writer of the first Thai Constitution, which in 1932 changed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. One of his legacies is his refusal to sign the declaration of war against Britain and the US, issued in January 1942 by the then Prime Minister, Field Marshal Phibun Songkram. Because of his anti-Japanese stance, he is often portrayed as an alleged member of the Thai resistance organization Seri Thai, that fought the Japanese occupation during WWII and for which he was after the war awarded the Medal of Freedom from the United States of America. His socialist views and overall opposition to Phibun Songkram, whom he had been friends with in the early days of his career, had eventually turned him into a personal rival. As a consequence, he was effectively demoted by being appointed regent for the young King Ananda, for whose untimely death he was later blamed by rightwing factions, who accused him of being the leader of a conspiracy to assassinate the King, a claim that was never substantiated. In the end, Pridi fled the country and spent the remainder of his life in exile. He was born on 11 May 1900 in Ayutthaya (fig.) and died on 2 May 1983 in Paris, the place where he, as a young doctorate student in Law, had first met with core members of the group that would bring about the 1932 revolution. On 11 May 2000, a century after his birth, UNESCO posthumously named him one of the world's great personalities for his roles in politics, administration, economics and education. In 2011, 111 years after his birth, Pridi was commemorated by a set of two Thai postage stamps (fig.). MORE ON THIS.