The Faculty of Law of Thammasat University is located within the old city of Bangkok, known as Rattanakosin Island, which was formed by the loop of the Chao Phraya River and adjoining canals. Since the establishment of Bangkok as the capital city, the Island has been used to accommodate the Grand Palace, royal palaces, and government buildings making it the center of power in the country. Several major political changes affecting Thai history have taken place within this area. Thammasat University, especially the Faculty of Law, is regarded as one of the active players in the country’s political development.
The origins of the Faculty of Law can be traced back to the country’s first law school, the Law School of the Ministry of Justice, which was established in 1897 by Prince Rabi, an Oxford-educated son of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) upon advice of Gustav Rolin-Jacquemyns, then General Advisor to King Chulalongkorn. In 1933, it was annexed to Chulalongkorn University. Only a year later, Pridi Banomyong, the civilian leader of the 1932 Revolution, founded Thammasat Lae Karn Muang University, which took over the Law School from Chulalongkorn University. In the beginning, the newly-established university focused primarily on law courses in addition to offering courses in a few other disciplines, namely economics, accountancy and political science. In 1949, the university’s name was shortened by an act of parliament to what it is today due to the junta‘s belief that the term “Lae Karn Muang” (and Politics) might lead students to pay too much attention to politics and cause recurring political troubles for the government. In the same year, several other humanities and social science faculties were established within Thammasat University.
Shaping Thai Society
As the country’s oldest Faculty of Law, it has played a significant role in shaping Thai ideologies, politics, legal education and the judicial system.
Its students and faculty members have participated in a number of struggles against dictatorship and injustice in Thai society. To rally against and overthrow a dictatorial regime in 1973, the student movement was centered at Thammasat University. A similar struggle occurred in 1976 which ended with bloodshed when a large number of students were massacred on campus. However, the quest for democracy among students was not abandoned as they again joined a democratic movement in marching along the streets of Bangkok to topple another dictatorial regime 1992.
The ideologies adhered to by the Faculty of Law are reflected in activities carried out not only by the students but also its graduates who have held a large number of key positions within both the public and private sectors. For instance, almost all of the Presidents of the Supreme Court of Thailand graduated from the Faculty of Law, which also produced more Thai Prime Ministers than any other higher-education institutions in the country. At one time, heads of three branches of government, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President of the Supreme Court were concurrently former graduates of the Faculty of Law.
Thammasat University consists of two main campuses: the Tha Prachan and Rangsit Campuses. The latter, established in 1985, is now developing into a university town. Most Thammasat students are based at the Rangsit Campus. Only a few undergraduate programs, including the LL.B. Program in Business Law, are operated at the Tha Prachan Campus, which is mainly used to accommodate postgraduate and international programs. Despite distance, students of both campuses are socially and academically connected.