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LEXICON

 

 

Monument to the Expeditionary Force

Name of a war memorial to the north of and adjacent to Sanam Luang in Bangkok, and which is also known as the Thai World War Volunteers Memorial. It is erected to commemorate the Thai soldiers killed on the Western Front in World War I. The white edifice, topped with a bell-shaped stupa, is in the jaturamuk style, and has the names of 19 soldiers killed in action engraved on the sides. When the Great War broke out in the reign of King Rama VI, who studied at Oxford, trained at Sandhurst and served in the British Light Infantry, Thailand then still known as Siam was initially neutral. Yet, for future political gain and fearing that her neutrality might be held against her later, Thailand on 22 July 1917 joined the Allies and declared war on the Central Powers. It committed a relatively small contingent of 1,300 troops under the command of Major-General Phya Phichai Chahnrit (พิไชยชาญฤทธิ์), which arrived in France in 1918, towards the end of the war. After having joined in the victory parade in Paris on 19 July 1919, the Thai volunteers returned home on 21 September 1919, with only few casualties compared to other nations. However, the political gains for Thailand were significant, resulting in enhanced international standing, presence at the Versailles Peace Conference, and becoming one of the cofounders of the League of Nations, as well as achieving that the Western Powers ceded their extra-territorial rights, ridding Thailand of the unequal treaties which exempted foreign nationals from Thai laws and tariffs. The ashes of the 19 dead, cremated earlier in Europe, were enshrined in the Monument to the Expeditionary Force on 24 September 1919, after religious rites. The Monument to the Expeditionary Force, across from the entrance to the National Museum, is hardly noticeable in the small garden which doubles as a median strip for the heavy surrounding traffic, and is often blocked from view by parking buses. Though it doesn't attract many visitors, the monument nevertheless stands as a memorial to the voluntary servicemen who answered the call of duty of their King, not realizing then that the benefits to their nation went way beyond the battlefield. In Thai, the memorial is referred to as Anusawarih Thahaan Ahsah (อนุสาวรีย์ทหารอาสา), i.e. Army Volunteers Monument. See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1) and (2), and MAP.