Saturday, April 26, 2008

More on the history and rules of standing for the Royal Anthem

Prachatai has expanded on the historians' view of how the Royal Anthem came to be played in Thailand's cinemas.

Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian and former Rector of Thammasat University, traces it back to Britain, where in the 1910s, the image of King George VI was be shown at the end of the films while "God Save the King" was played.

Here's more from Prachatai:

The practice was strictly observed in Britain, and was forced in the British colonies worldwide, including India, Malaya, and Burma.

The practice was continued until the early reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was dropped in late 1950s and early 1960s when students of Oxford and Cambridge did not comply and protested. They walked out the cinemas after the movies finished. Authorities and cinema owners tried moving the anthem before movies, but to no avail.

The practice was adopted in Siam, now Thailand, by the British-educated Thais and cinema owners. Initially, the anthem was played after movies, while adverts preceded the movies. In 1970s, the anthem was moved to precede movies as it still does today.

Charnvit understood that nowadays the practice had been dropped in all European countries, as well as former colonies.

Somsak Jeamtheerasakul, also a historian from Thammasat University, argued in the Same Sky web-board that the practice in Siam did not begin with movies, but traditional entertainments, especially Likay or musical folk dramas. When movies, a new kind of entertainment, came in, the practice was applied to them as well.

Also in Prachatai, columnist Harrison George humorously recalls when he "slunk" off at the end of a screening of Far from the Maddening Crowd in 1960s London, and a time in 1970s Bangkok when the an ultra-nationalist government demanded "stock-still attention" from Thai citizens nationwide when the Royal Anthem was played at 8 in the morning and 6 at night.

George explains a bit more about Britain's anthem falling out of favor in Here I Stand. Or Not.

So they gave up. The National Anthem is no longer de rigueur at British cinemas, it's disappeared from the end of TV transmission for the day (well, it's 24 hours now, so there never is an end). It still gets played at those ‘non-political' events like the Olympics, but not often since Britain doesn't win that many gold medals ...

Prachatai also details some more laws that govern standing for the Royal Anthem:

The laws and penalties related to paying respect to the Royal Anthem can be listed as follows;

The National Culture Act B.E. 2485 (1942)

Article 6: The culture that individuals must practice, apart from that specified in this Act, is specified by the Royal Decree in the following cases;

1. Orderliness of dress, ethics, and etiquette when individuals are in public places or exposed to the general public

2. Orderliness in conducting oneself and in one’s conduct in one’s residence

3. Orderliness of one’s behaviour that has a bearing on the Thai nation and Buddhism

4. Capability and etiquette with respect to how one earns living

Article 15*: Those who violate Article 6 of the Royal Decree may face a fine of no more than 100 baht or a term of imprisonment of no more than one month, or both.

*[Article 15 was amended by virtue of the Act (version 2) B.E. 2486 (1943)]

Royal Decree on National Culture B.E. 2485 (1942)

Article 6: All individuals must show respect according to uniform rules and customs comprising:

1. Collectively to pay respect to the national anthem at 08.00 am every day

2. To pay respect to the national flag, the army flag, the naval flag, the Military Youth Division flag, or the Boy Scout flag, when it is raised or lowered on the site of a government office, when it is raised by a government office, or when it is raised in front of a formation or unit of the military, military youth or boy scouts.

3. To pay respect to the national anthem, the royal anthem, and other anthems played at an official service, social ceremony or entertainment venue.

The laws were enacted during the nationalist regime of Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram.

During the military's reign last year, there was a call to revive the practice of people on the street stopping and standing at 8am and 6pm daily, with archly conservative General Preecha Rojsem proposing a "patriotism bill" that would have required drivers to stop their cars and get out and stand. I don't think the National Legislative Assembly passed it, though in light of the 1942 laws cited by Prachatai, there are probably laws on the books that require it. Like many laws in Thailand, there is selective enforcement, and often there are contradictory laws.

See also:

(Photo from the 1953 Viewmaster set, "The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II", from Flickrstream of Olivander)

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