Singapore- Thai close relations go far back into history
King Chulalongkorn of Siam was 16 years old when his father King Mongkut (Rama IV) died in 1868. Siam was therefore under a Regent before Chulalongkorn was crowned King Rama V. King Mongkut, more than anyone else preserved the independence of Siam at a time when other states in South-east Asia had come under European domination. King Mongkut also opened Siam to European influence and began its modernisation.
Chulalongkorn continued the modernisation process; he centralised the government and made reforms in local administration. He travelled to Java and India to study methods of administration. He abolished the practice of prostration in the royal presence and also slavery in 1874. The King had his education under European teachers and he sent his subjects to study in British Universities.
The first Siamese King ever to leave his kingdom and travel overseas was King Chulalongkorn and he chose to visit Singapore in 1871. He and his Queen landed in Singapore on 15 March 1871; they were accompanied by two brothers of the King, two Ministers and retinue of sixty-six. They were received by the Officer Administering the Government, Colonel A.E.H. Anson. A military band and troops paraded along Battery Road in the King’s honour and a gun salute was given from the warships in the roads.
The royal couple stayed in Government House (Istana). Prominent Chinese residents including Tan Kim Seng, the Thai Consul, presented an address at Town Hall and the King responded appropriately in English. The royal couple visited Tan Tock Seng Hospital and made a donation of $1,000 to the Hospital. They attended a flower Show at the Botanical Gardens. The King was present at the Speech and Prize Giving Day at Raffles Institution. Seventeen Siamese boys were students there. The royal couple left Singapore on 23 March 1871.
Soon after his return to Siam, King Chulalongkorn presented the Elephant Statue to the Singapore Government; it was originally placed in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall where the Raffles Statue now stands. In 1919 when Singapore celebrated the centenary of it founding, the Raffles Statue which was at the Padang close to St Andrew’s Cathedral was bought to its present site.
The Bronze Elephant Statue was moved to stand opposite the Old Court House (Parliament House).
The Bronze Elephant Statue is a reminder to Singaporeans of the close relationship Thailand has with Singapore.