On 27 december 1932, prince bhidayalongkorn, the President of the Royal Institute of Siam, delivered a special lecture titled “What are the conditions called ‘siwilai’?” [Phawa yangrai no thi riakwa khwam siwilai]. Transliterated from the English word civilized, the term was widely used in public without elaboration. Bhidayalongkorn reported that there was a debate whether Siam was or was not yet siwilai, often referring to England, China, Haiti, Tibet, and many other countries, but it was not clear what made them siwilai or not siwilai. He went on debunking the general understanding that wealth, power, territory, monogamy, gender equity, cleanliness, dress, etiquette, or mechanization constituted the notion of siwilai. The meaning was slippery, no matter how anybody tried to claim or use it politically (Bhidayalongkorn 1970).

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