Hero Essay

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Pridi Banomyong

Pridi Banomyong was born on May 11, 1900 in Ayudhya, the former capital of Thailand. He
was the eldest son of a relatively well to do farming family. Pridi became interested in
revolutionaries when he was very young. At the age of 14, he completed his secondary
education. Too young to enroll in any institution for higher education, Pridi stayed with
his family for an extra two years, helping them in rice farming before darting off to law
school in 1917. Pridi was a bright student, he finished law school when he was 19, a year
short of the minimum age requirement to enter the bar (Naeti-Banditya Sapha). He became a
barrister at law and was simultaneously awarded a scholarship to do Master's and Ph.D.
studies in France. In 1924, he obtained his "Bachelier en Droit", "Licencié en Droit" and
in 1926 a "Doctorat d'Etat" and "Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures d'Economie Politique" from
Université de Paris. Pridi was the first Thai to earn this appellation. It was during his
time in Paris, that he and a few like-minded Thais set up the People's Party
(Khana-Rassadorn). They vowed to transform the Thai system of governance from absolute
monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The group elected Pridi as their provisional

Later in 1927, Pridi returned to Thailand and joined the bureaucracy and rose quickly
through the ranks. He was granted a non-hereditary title of Luang Praditmanuthum. At dawn
on 24 June 1932, the People's Party, consisting of government officials, military
officers, and ordinary civilians rapidly and bloodlessly took control of the government,
changing it from absolute to democratic, constitutional monarchy and installing the 1932
provisional constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Between 1933 and 1947, Pridi held various important positions including.. Minister of
Interior, Minister of Foreign affairs, Minister of Finance, Regent and Prime Minister.
King Rama VIII officially appointed him a "Senior Statesman" for life. Throughout these
years as government official and leader, Pridi assiduously worked to realize the Six

1. To maintain absolute national independence in all aspects, including political, judicial, and economics...
2. To maintain national cohesion and security...
3. To promote economic well being by creating full employment and by launching a national economic plan...
4. To guarantee equality to all...
5. To grant complete liberty and freedom to the people, provided that this does not
contradict the aforementioned principles...and...

6. To provide education to the people.

While in power, Pridi succeeded in making a number of changes which radically changed
certain aspects of Thai society. Among his notable accomplishments, some of them having
long term impacts ,for example:

 The drafting of the nation's first economic plan.
 The founding of the University of Moral and Political Science [Thammasart University].
 The Municipality Act which allowed the people to elect their own local governments.
 The revocation of unequal treaties that Thailand had been forced to sign with foreign powers.
 The reformation of the unfair tax system.
 The compilation of the country's first revenue code.
 The founding of what ultimately became the Bank of Thailand. Stabilizing the
country's financial resources. Prior to WWII, Pridi foresaw an imminent devaluation of the
Pound Sterling, and bought 1,000,000 ounces of gold which continue to be used as the
country's foreign reserve.

 Promoting the concept of peace and political neutrality by proposing the 1939
bill on neutrality. On the eve of WWII, Pridi made a film entitled The King of the White
Elephant, which urged peace and sought to argue how wars are exploited by rulers to obtain
power at the expense of civilians.

During the WWII , once the Japanese had invaded and occupied Thailand, even as Regent,
Pridi clandestinely led the Free Thai Movement (Seri Thai) to resist such action. In
recognition of the brave cooperation and assistance rendered by this movement, the United
States government subsequently recognized Thailand as an independent country that had been
under Japanese military occupation as opposed to a belligerent state subject to Allied
post war control. On 16 August 1945, at the advice of Lord Louis Mountbatten (the Allied
SEA commander), as Regent and Leader of Free Thai Movement, Pridi declared null and void
Pibulsonggram government's declaration of war on the Allied as it was against the will of
Thai people. Through the good work of the Free Thai Movement, Thailand had thus worked its
passage to peace and pre-war status. Fifty years later, in 1995, the Thai cabinet gave
belated recognition and declared 16 August "Thai Peace Day".

Throughout these turbulent years, Pridi never lost sight of what 'democracy as a way of
life' meant He never tired of nurturing and protecting the infantile Thai democracy
gurgling in its cradle. Unlike of his genteel contemporaries, Pridi never related to the
masses with distrust and trepidation. On the contrary, he had great faith in them. In the
essay "Which direction should Thailand take in the future" , Pridi vividly and
passionately reiterated his conception of participatory democracy, one that guide him all
his life. He wrote, "Any system favoring a small section of a community will not last. In
any community the majority must shape its future. The majority including the deprived
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