Every flag has a story, whether it be connected to nationalism, pride, or future goals. The national flag of Thailand is considered one of the most beautiful and well-recognized flags.
Full of historical insight, you will find that a lot goes behind the choice of color, design, and structure. However, there have been several flags in the history of Thailand that served multiple meanings.
So, what is the meaning behind the current flag of Thailand?
Thailand has been through six different changes in the flag starting from 1809 to 1917 and the development of the country from Siam to what it is today. The stripes of the flag represent a particular meaning when it comes to the colors and designs. The flag itself is seen as a symbol of nationalism.
Let’s look into the history behind the Thai flag and the stories behind each ruling. There were several decisions to keep adapting to the flag as time went along. The representation and symbolism behind the design have significant meaning for the Thai people. During each change and adjustment, we can see the importance of history in making the country’s current flag.
History Behind the Changes in Thailand’s Flags
The first flag of Thailand was introduced during the time the country was known as Siam. The flag was at first initiated as plain red. However, the design was considered weak regarding international standards (2). Early in those times, the simple red flag was the ensign of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and Thonburi.
However, when the Rattanakosin period began, the red flag was accompanied by a chakra symbol to symbolize connection to the royal ships. Moreover, the chakra symbol was known as the weapon of the Hindu God Vishnu, with deep ties to the Chakri dynasty. In 1809, King Rama II, also known as Phraphutthaloetla Naphalai, implemented the elephant inside the chakra symbol (4).
In 1916, the reign of King Rama IV had another redesign in the flag. This time, the flag was plain red but was accompanied by a single elephant in the center. Another version of this flag was one of the elephants standing on a podium (4).
Later on, the country adopted the current flag design with red, white, and blue stripes. However, during this period of 1917, the center stripe was red, which was changed to blue a few months later. The true inspiration behind the stripes lay with the idea that King Vajiravudh, also known as Rama VI, wanted a symmetrical flag. By sticking to this design, anyone could flip the flag upside-down, and the pattern and design would still be the same. (2)
There is also a story behind the stripes. According to a legend, King Rama VI took a boat trip on the Chao Pao when he noticed an upside-down hut. When he returned to the palace, he realized that the country needed a modern design that could be seen the same way upside down.
During this time, he also decided to remove the elephant and adapt to the simple design of colors (1). Today’s flag is one of the oldest and was adopted by Rama VI on September 28, 1917. The flag in Thai is known as Thong Trairong, translating to ‘tricolor’ (2).
Representation of Design: Thailand Flag Colors
Thai’s live by the motto: nation, religion, and king. In this case, each one of the three-stripe colors represents a different meaning.
The red stripes represent the blood and work gone into maintaining the country’s independence. The white symbolized the purity of Buddhism, which is the country’s main religion. Lastly, blue is the color for the Thai monarchy. It also stands for the country’s World War I allies: the United States, Russia, Great Britain, and France. All of these countries’ flags have the colors red, white, and blue (2).
While showing connection to these other countries, Thailand could continue to develop international relations and friendships across the border.
Flagging Respect for the Nation
Thai people place great value on their flag. It is part of the daily routine that locals practice and stand still, respecting the national flag, at least twice a day.
One such example is the routine of students reciting the national anthem every day at 8 am before school begins. Moreover, everyone stops walking or doing other activities upon hearing the national anthem played anywhere in public from movie theaters, the street, or an event (3).
The Public relations Department highlighted and stressed the importance of the sacredness of reciting national anthems in schools and using that as a symbol of 8 am serenity. The morning anthem and raising of the flag show respect for the monarchy and the nation; if you do not, you are betraying the country (3).
Why Thai’s Fly the Flag
At the Vajiravudh College in Bangkok, the tricolor flag was celebrated with its 101st anniversary. The colors of the flag are cherished more than ever before. The deputy Prime Minister, Krea-ngam noted that the tri-color flag represents the Thai nation.
“In paying respect to the flag, people demonstrate their respect for and pride in their nation. The flag is important to all Thai’s spirit. Destroying the flag is against the law” (5).
While raising the Thai flag, we show that we are a part of the community and identity. It demonstrates the unity of a group of people; when flags are lowered, it shows mourning and lack of respect (6). For this reason, you will notice that the Thai flag is hung above buildings and all over events to emphasize its importance.
Thailand and its people value national pride, especially when it comes to their country, their practice in religion, and the monarchy itself. When implementing the current flag we see today, Thailand has taken note of the relationship between each of the colors and what they serve.
Moreover, the simple design and historical significance play tribute to the importance of the flag for the people. Today, the flag holds significance as a sign of hope, and the binding of people by religion and utmost love for their precious King.
1. “Flag of Thailand- Colors, Meaning, History ??.” StackPath, www.edarabia.com/thailand/flag/.
2. Proebst, Iona. “What Does Thailand’s Flag Symbolize?” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 28 Aug. 2017, theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/the-story-behind-the-colours-of-thailands-flag/.
3. Svasti, Pichaya. “Flagging up Respect for the Nation.” Https://Www.bangkokpost.com, 15 Feb. 2016, www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/864200/flagging-up-respect-for-the-nation/.
4. “The Flag Of Thailand: 5 Best Facts To Know Today .” Ling Learn Languages, 9 July 2021,https://ling-app.medium.com/the-flag-of-thailand-5-best-facts-to-know-today-c96d61fdf713/.
5. “The Reasons We Fly the Flag.” Nation Thailand, 14 May 2021, www.nationthailand.com/in-focus/30352380/.
6. “Why Do We Fly Flags? Your Pride Is Showing.” COS, www.cos.net.au/c/cospedia/why-do-we-fly-flags/.