History of the Thai Flag 🇹🇭 (It used to have an elephant 🐘!)

by | Dec 5, 2020 | Thai

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The Thai flag 🇹🇭 has 5 horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes are colored red, the inner top and inner bottom stripes are colored white, and the middle stripe is dark blue. The middle dark blue stripe is 2 times the height of the other stripes.

Thai Flag

Table Of Contents

History of Thailand’s flag

The origin of when the Thai flag was first established is not 100% known. It is believed that the first Flag of Thailand happened during the reign of King Narai the Great.

First Thai Flag ( Previous times – 1855)

Back when Thailand (back then known as Siam) did not yet have an official flag, different flags would be used when trading with other countries.

According to French archives, Siam raised the Dutch flag to salute the French. The French refused to accept this flag as being Siam’s flag (since the Dutch were their opposition), so Siam used was a plain red flag. This plain red flag was the one used in the Navy. The French accepted this flag and so this became the first flag.

This flag was used as the general flag to represent Siam until 1782 (or in Thai years 2325).

Thai Flag - First flag
First Thai Flag

Second Thai Flag (1782 – 1809)

Rama I made a new flag specific for royal ships. When using Royal ships they used the same red flag but with a white Buddhist Chakra (disk) in the middle.

However, for the general public merchant ships, the same plain red Flag was used.

Thai Flag - Second Flag

Third Thai Flag (1809 – 1851)

Rama II changed the flag to have a standing White Elephant in the center of the disk. He did this because he received 3 white elephants. So he wanted a White Elephant in the flag.

In Thailand, a white elephant is an animal that is considered to bring prosperity and luck.

The first plain red Flag was still used for the general public merchant ships at this time.

Thai Flag - Third Flag

Fourth Thai Flag (1851 – 1916)

At this time, King Rama IV opened trade to more western countries.

Rama IV noticed and was told that the plain red flag is too similar to other countries flags. So he changed the flag for the public merchant ships.
The King said the disc is a symbol for the King. So he ordered the removal of the disc from the flag, leaving only the elephant standing on the ground. The White elephant was made bigger.

After a few iterations, the ground was removed.

At this time, the Royal Ship flag was still using the Third flag, and the public merchant ships used this flag.

Thailand's old flag

Fifth Thai Flag (1916-1917)

Rama VI mentioned that the flag was not beautiful enough. The flag was amended to have the elephant stand on a stand and for the elephant to have green and red regalia.

This flag was used for all the Government officials.

Thai Flag - Fifth Flag

Sixth Thai Flag (1916-1917)

This flag was announced at the same time as the Fifth flag. The date was November 21, 1916.

The below striped flag was created because the king noticed the difficulty in ordering the flag from abroad and also the flag would be positioned with the elephant facing the wrong way or it would be printed with the elephant not in its correct position.

This flag is similar to the one used today except the middle stripe is dark red.

This flag was used for the public (also called the “trading” flag ธงการค้า tong gaan káa)

Thai Flag - Sixth flag

Current Thai Flag (1917 – Currently)

The flag was finally changed to the current one used today because it was decided the red flag with the white stripes was not beautiful.

This design was officially adopted on September 28, 1917 (Flag day) by Royal Decree from Rama VI.

The design is known as ธงไตรรงค์ (tong dtrai-rong), the Tri-colored flag.

Thai Flag

What do the colors of the Thai Flag represent?

The red color represents the nation and the unity of the Thai people.

The white color represents the Buddhist religion and purity. Buddhism is Thailand’s primary religion with 94% of all Thais being Buddhist.

The blue color represents the King.

Vocabulary

  • Elephant
    ช้าง
    cháang

  • White Elephant
    ช้างเผือก
    cháang pèuak

  • Flag
    ธง
    tong

  • Flag of Thailand
    ธงชาติไทย
    tong-châat-tai

  • White
    สีขาว
    sĕe kăao

  • Dark Blue
    สีน้ำเงิน
    sĕe náam ngern

  • Red
    สีแดง
    sĕe daeng

  • King
    กษัตริย์
    gà-sàt

  • History
    ประวัติศาสตร์
    bprà-wàt sàat

  • Design
    รูปแบบ
    rôop bàep

  • Stripe
    เส้นแถบ
    sâyn tàep

Summary and cool facts about Thailand’s flag

I hope you enjoyed reading about the history of the Thai Flag. Here are a few interesting facts to end the article!

  • Thailand’s flag day is on September 28.

  • It is illegal to disrespect the Thai flag. You cannot step on it, use it as clothing, etc.

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