From Red Unalom Society to The Thai Red Cross Society

The Thai Red Cross Society, a charity organization for humanity, was founded in 1893 (Ror Sor 112) due to the conflict between Thailand and France over the borders on the left bank of the Mekong River. The conflict led to a clash that resulted in a great number of soldiers’ death, injuries and suffering but there was no charity organization that took the trouble to help and provide relief from the disaster.
At the time, a Thai lady from an upper-class family, Thanphuying Plien Phasakaravongse, wife of Chao Phraya Phasakaravongse (Phorn Bunnag), urged Thai women to help her raise funds and collect things to be sent to help the injured soldiers. She thought that there ought to be an organization to help relieve the soldiers’ suffering in the same way as the International Red Cross. She conveyed her thoughts to Queen Savang Vadhana (Somdej Phra Srisavarin Thira Borom Racha Thevi Phra Phanvassa Aiyikachao) whom she asked to serve as “the Mother” (“the Chonnani Bumroung”) of the organization which was to be established to provide relief for the soldiers. This was brought to the notice of King Chulalongkorn, who was pleased with the idea. He granted permission for the establishment of the “Red Unalom Society of Siam” on 26 April 1893, which had been commemorated as the anniversary of the establishment of The Thai Red Cross Society. The King also accepted the Society under his royal patronage, having Queen Savang Vadhana as the “Mother of the Society (Sapha Chonnani)” and Queen Saovabha Bhongsri (Somdej Phra Sri Phacharin Dra Borom Rachininath Phra Borom Racha Chonnanee Phanpiluang) as President of the Society. Thanphuying Plien Phasakaravongse served as the Secretary and Phrachao Nongnangthoe Phraongchao Phuangsoisa-ang served as the Treasurer.

Major activities during the initial operation of the Red Unalom Society of Siam were involved with sending medicine, medical equipment, food, clothes and utensils to the soldiers and civilians who had been injured in the conflict between France and Siam. When the dispute came to an end, the work of the Red Unalom Society was halted and it was inactive for a long time before it was revived. King Vajiravudh, when he was the Crown Prince, returned from his education in England via Japan. He visited the hospital of the Japanese Red Cross Society and thought that if a Red Cross Hospital were established in Siam, it would be of great benefit to the country.
When King Chulalongkorn died, King Vajiravudh, together with all the sons and daughters of King Chulalongkorn, made a financial donation to the existing Red Unalom Society Fund to have a hospital built on the King’s private land on Rama IV Road. The land covered an area of approximately 141 rai (one rai= 1,600 square metres) and 48 square wa (one wa = two metres). The hospital was named to honour the late King “King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital”. On 30 May 1914, King Vajiravudh presided over the opening ceremony of the hospital, which was to provide medical treatment to people in general.
After the opening of the hospital, a nursing institute was established and on 16 June 1914, the “Siam Red Cross School of Nursing” opened. Later, the School developed to become the current Thai Red Cross College of Nursing. In 1920, Somdej Phrachaophinangthoe Chaofa Krom Luang Sriratanakosinthorn (Chaofa Sutthathipayaratana Sukhumkhattiya Kalayavadee) donated her private funds to have the Sutthathipayaratana Building constructed to serve as the residential hall for nursing students and the School’s administrative building.

After the cremation ceremony of Queen Saovabha Bhongsri on 24 May 1920, King Vajiravudh, considering the benevolence that his mother had shown to the country, decided to build a public place to honour her to stand next to the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital that had been established to honour of his father. So he donated a personal fund of 258,000 Baht to the Red Cross Society of Siam to have a new administrative building built at the corner where Sanam Ma Road (currently Henry Dunant Road) met Rama IV Road, to be used as the Office of the Pasteur Institute, which had been transferred to the Red Cross Society of Siam from the Ministry of the Interior in 1917. Members of the royal family and courtiers, both men and women, donated their personal funds, to join the King in merit making, in order to acquire furniture, equipment and utensils for the building.
King Vajiravudh had the name of the Pasteur Institute changed to “Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute” to honour his mother and presided over its opening ceremony on 7 December 1922.

In 1918, the Red Cross Society of Siam Act was approved with the objectives of giving medical care to the sick and the injured in time of war and in time of
peace as well as to provide relief in time of disaster, without discrimination in terms of race, nationality, ideology, religion or political beliefs of the sufferers, but adhering to humanitarian principle. In 1920, another Red Cross Society of Siam Act was passed as an amendment to regulate the Siamese Red Cross Society as an independent association. This resulted in the International Committee of the Red Cross accepting the status of the Red Cross Society of Siam on 27 May 1920 and the League of the Red Cross accepting the Red Cross Society of Siam as a member in 1921. In 1939, the name was changed to The Thai Red Cross Society.
As well as these two Acts concerning The Thai Red Cross Society, there was a third Act relating to The Thai Red Cross Society proclaimed on 1 August 1956, concerning Red Cross Emblem in order to follow the Geneva Convention in 1949; a fourth Act issued on 13 March 2007, concerning Red Cross Medals; and a fifth Act, on 12 August 2007, to add the following statement to the original Act of 1918, “The Thai Red Cross Society has the status of a juristic person that performs charitable work for humanity in accordance with the principles of the International Red Cross and should be supported in the execution of its work by the Government”.
In 1960, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, President of The Thai Red Cross Society, considering that the Provincial Red Cross Chapters that had been established in the past were not working properly, initiated the restoration of their work.
Chao Phraya Srithammathibes, Executive Vice President of The Thai Red Cross Society, responded to the Queen’s initiative and cooperated with Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien, Minister of the Interior, to re-establish the Provincial Red Cross Chapters. The Ministry of the Interior had all the provinces from Red Cross Chapters in 69 provinces and all of them were inaugurated on 27 January 1961, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Red Cross Fair 1961.