The Phibul Songkram / Military Museum nestled on top of the hill overlooking Chiang Rai & the Kok River. An interesting & perhaps unusual museum to one of the countries strongmen. Phibun Songkhram (1897-1964), was born named Plaek Khittasangkha in Nonthaburi. He first went a temple school. In 1909 at 12 he enrolled in a military academy, graduated at 17 (1914) & joined the artillery. In 1924 he went to France to study. In France he met prominent Thai students of politics Pridi Phanomyong and Khuang Aphaiwong. He returned to Bangkok in 1927 & served in the army in “the directorate of operations and the general staff.” In 1928 he changed his name to Luang Phibun Songkhram In 1932 he was one of the leaders of the coup that overthrew the absolute monarchy. In 1933 he led government troops to put down a royalist rebellion. In 1934 he became minister of defence. He survived 3 assassination attempts in these few years. In 1938 he became PM, imposed a military dictatorship, appointed himself both defence & interior minister; arrested members of the royal family, members of the opposition and his rivals. In 1939 he changed the name of Thailand to Siam & started a strong campaign of nationalism – for Thai people. Anti Chinese policies were encouraged to curb ethnic Chinese dominance of the economy, restrict Chinese education, newspapers and culture. In his first term as PM (1938 – 1944), Phibun issued several decrees. • The national flag be saluted & the anthem played at 8am & 6pm. • Thais were told to wear Western dress; coat, trousers, shirt and tie for men; skirts, blouses, hats and gloves for women; and all in shoes. • New Year’s Day was changed from April, the traditional date to 1 January. However, Thais took the practical approach and celebrate on both dates. • Another of his decrees was to encourage Thai men to kiss their wives goodbye, in the mornings when they leave for work, that is. • Betel nut chewing was banned • Men who wanted to join the military had to prove their grandfathers were pure Thai In 1940-41 he provoked war with France in French Indochina. On 8 Dec 1941 Japan invaded Thailand & Phibun immediately allied Thailand with Japan. With this move he temporarily regained much territory that was lost to Britain and France in the 19th century. In 1944 Phibul was ousted in a coup. In 1947 Phibul was back with another coup. In 1951 Phibul was captured & held aboard the Sri Ayuttayah warship, by a group of naval officers in a failed coup. There was fierce fighting in Bangkok between the army & the navy. Phibul managed to escape from the warship & swim ashore; after which the warship was bombed by the air force. In 1957 he was ousted in a coup by Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat, his former ally and the army chief at the time. He retired to exile in Japan where he died on 11 June 1964. Whatever your views, he left his mark in Thai political history. The house on the hill by the army barracks in Chiang Rai was owned by Phibul & he apparently spent some time there.