The King who gave birth to the Thai Red Cross
In Year 112 of the Rattanakosin Era (1893), a territorial dispute between France and Siam over land on the left bank of the Mekhong River resulted in many casualties on both sides. Because there was no charitable organization to help alleviate their suffering, Thanpuying Plien Pasakornravongs gathered together a group of female volunteers and proposed to Queen Sawang Wadhana that His Majesty the King’s permission be sought to set up “The Red Unalom Society of Siam,” the purpose of which was to help relieve the suffering of injured soldiers. His Majesty King Chulalongkorn’s response to the proposal was favorable. He offered his support and allowed for funds totaling 443,716 baht, an enormous sum at the time, to be collected. His Majesty the King also appointed Queen Sawang Wadhana as “the mother of the Society”, Queen Saovabha Bhongsri as “the Society’s President”, and Thanpuying Plien Pasakornravongs as “the Society’s Secretary”.
Thanpuying Plien was a modern, creative, intelligent and far-sighted woman, and it was she who initiated Red Cross activities in Siam.
His Majesty King Chulalongkorn appreciated the intention and dedication of Thanpuying Plien. He understood how the creation of “The Red Unalom Society” could contribute to efforts to modernize the kingdom. Therefore, His Majesty granted permission to found the organization on April 26, 1893, which is known as the Thai Red Cross Society Foundation Day.
Another major milestone in the history of the Society in Thailand came when King Vajiravudh passed through Japan on his way home from England, where he had completed his studies. His Majesty, then the Crown Prince, was deeply impressed by the work of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital. He believed that the creation of a similar hospital in Thailand would be tremendously beneficial to the people and the country. Thus, upon the death of his father, King Chulalongkorn, King Vajiravudh, together with his brothers and sisters, decided to raise funds from Royal donations and from the Red Unalom Society for the construction of a hospital belonging to the Red Cross Society of Siam on the King’s private land. Completed in 1914, the hospital was named the “King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital” by King Vajiravudh in honor of his father. The names “Red Unalom Society” and “Red Cross Society” were used alternately until 1910 when the name “Red Unalom Society” disappeared and the Society became known as the Siamese Red Cross Society. Later this was changed to the Thai Red Cross Society.
The Thai Red Cross was officially recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross on May 27, 1920, and was accepted as a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the former League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) on April 8, 1921.