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Pridi Banomyong, an Ordinary Man: A Hundred Years
Story by Vanchai Tan


Click to Bigger     He was born in a raft house on May 11, 1900 in Ayuddhya Province to farming parents. He went on to further his studies in Bangkok and later to earn a doctorate in Law from the University of Paris. He returned to Thailand to serve as judge in the Ministry of Justice, to teach law, and in 1932, seven years after the first meeting of core members in Paris, to bring about a swift but bloodless revolution that changed Thailands government from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. "I was very young," he admitted, and inexperienced. I did not communicate enough with the people. All my knowledge was book-learning. But he had ideals that were timeless and true, and never deviated from them.
    Pridi Banomyong drafted the country's first constitution, giving women rights to vote and to become MPs. He abolished taxes unfair to the poor, laid down foundations for social security, social welfare, and a national bank. His ideas were called communist and Thailand did not provide social security for its people until 60 years later.
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    Independence for Pridi was not only political. It covered freedom in judiciary matters, in economy and education. Extraterritoriality problems were addressed and new treaties negotiated. Thammasat University was established as the first independent open Thai public university.
    During WWII, Pridi became what Lord Mountbatten described as one of the most romantic figures of the war in South-East Asia. As leader of the underground Free Thai Movement resisting Japanese occupation, he was known under the code Ruth and his name only mentioned in whispers and the whole story was top secret.
Thailand was free after WWII but Pridi was not. Attacked by rumors that he was a communist and assassin of King Ananda (Rama VIII), he left his house minutes before a tank opened fire at it and eventually fled the country. History does not stop within a persons or peoples lifetimeI leave it to you and future generations who want truth to find the answer, he said in a speech to Thai students in England. On May 2, 1983, he died peacefully of heart failure while writing in his study in Paris.

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