The first few years of his reign were under a regency. King Chulalongkorn is perhaps the most revered of all the Chakri Kings during his long reign of 42 years great advances were achieved for the country. The King actively pursued a policy of "modernizing" the country and had a number of Europeans in his service to oversee such projects as the building of the first railway in Thailand. Besides abolishing slavery and the ancient practice of prostration before the monarch, Chulalongkorn continued the policies of his father and introduced major economic, administrative, educational, and transportation- communications reforms. He continued the vigorous modernization efforts of his father and managed to maintain the country's independence, albeit at considerable cost in territorial concessions.
In 1893 Thailand became embroiled in a boundary dispute with France, which was then the dominant power in Cochin China (Viet Nam), and Cambodia. The French dispatched warships to Bangkok and forced the Thais to yield Cambodia and all of Laos east of the Mekong River. Additional Thai territory, situated west of the Mekong, was acquired by France in 1904 and 1907. Thailand gave up control over four states in the Malay Peninsula to Great Britain in 1909.
The beginning of the 20th century was a period of positive growth for the Island of Phuket. Tin mining boomed, and the very capable and benevolent governor Rasada Korsimbi helped diversify the islands economy and the capital city of Phuket began its modern expansion. Rama V was the first Thai king to visit Phuket dramatizing the islands importance to the central government. He himself made two visits to Europe, one in 1897 and another in 1907, during which he became acquainted with most of the rulers of Europe.
Bonds of friendship between himself and the various European royal families were formed - which exist to the present day. Not only was he the first Thai King to travel abroad, (he made several visits to the Straits Settlements, the Malay States and the Dutch East Indies), but he also sent his sons to study in Europe, (to school in England and later for military training to Denmark, Germany and Russia).
He successfully managed to cultivate the idea of Siam as a buffer in South-East Asia. The price he paid of losing certain border territories was amply rewarded, for Siam was never colonized - the only country in the region to maintain its sovereignty throughout the period of colonial expansionism. Much beloved by his people he died on October 23rd. 1910.
1860 - 1880