Thailand takes its national anthem extremely seriously. Played twice a day, morning and evening, every day Thais treat the national anthem with great respect and expect every one else to do the same.
Unfortunately, living in Thailand, I see a fair number of westerners who, through ignorance or disrespect, do not behave the way that is expected when the national anthem is played.
As a westerner in Thailand or one who’s planning on coming, here is what you need to know to behave respectfully and politely. After all, if you plan on being here, the least you can do is respect Thailand’s customs and traditions.
The Thai National Anthem – Called “Pheng Chat” in Thai, meaning ‘national song’, the Thai national anthem is one of the most important pieces of music in the country to every Thai.
The music itself was written by a German immigrant, and the lyrics by a Thai. The anthem was first played a few days after the 1932 military coup and the music has been in use ever since. The lyrics changed in 1939 when the original name of the country, Siam, was changed to Thailand and these lyrics are what you will hear today.
The lyrics to the Thai National Anthem in English are:
Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body.
The whole country belongs to the Thai people, maintaining thus far for the Thai.
All Thais intend to unite together.
Thais love peace but do not fear to fight.
They will never let anyone threaten their independence.
They will sacrifice every drop of their blood to contribute to the nation, will serve their country with pride and prestige full of victory.
Chai Yo. [Thai language for ‘Cheers’].
When Is The Thai National Anthem Played? – In Thailand, you will hear the Thai national anthem played every day at 8am and 6pm. Every TV and radio station plays it, and it will be played over government building speaker systems, at the sky train and underground in Bangkok, bus stations, in parks and in most other public places.
Thai schools also play the national anthem every morning at 8am. All students are expected to attend and to sing the national anthem, and two students will raise the Thai flag up the school’s flag pole.
How To Behave When You Hear the Thai National Anthem – Every Thai is brought up to know, when the national anthem plays, they must stop what they are doing and stand to attention to respect the song and, of course, the country.
That is why, at sky train stations, in parks, in shopping malls and in government buildings all over Thailand, you will see people stop what they are doing as the first strains of music are heard, and stand to attention.
See the video below to see what happens at a bustling market as the first strains of the Thai national anthem are heard.
For westerners visiting Thailand, you should do the same.
After all, whether you agree with the sentiment or not, most westerners would be angry if Thais came to their country and disrespected their national anthem. Thais, although forgiving people, do like it if westerners stop for the national anthem and, for something that takes less than a minute, it’s not a great hardship.
Also, if you are not sure when to stop, it’s easy. At 8am and 6pm every day, the national anthem is the music you’re hearing.
And just as an aside, there is actually a rule on the Thai law books saying people who do not stop for the national anthem, can be arrested and jailed. Although not enforced nowadays in most places, it shows how seriously Thais take their national anthem.
The King’s Song (or Royal Anthem) – Another important ‘anthem’ in Thailand, which you should be aware of, is the ‘King’s Song’ known in Thai as “Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami” or ‘A Salute to the Monarchy’. This song is played at state functions and whenever a member of the Thai royal family is present. It is also played before every movie in Thailand, and at live music performances and plays.
Thais revere their king almost like a god, and it is the height of disrespect if you do not stand for this song. I have seen several westerners refusing to stand during the playing of the song in local movie theaters. This could get you in trouble if a Thai takes offense, and it is an arrestable offense in Thailand.
Learning how to behave when the Thai national anthem is played is easy.
Treat the national anthem and King’s Song with respect when you are in Thailand. After all, it takes only a few seconds, both songs are beautiful and, when in your own country, you would expect Thais to behave respectfully to your national anthem. So please do the same for theirs.
By the way, if you don’t know what it sounds like, this is one of the videos of the Thai national anthem played on Thai TV every day at 8am and 6pm.