The Three Seals Law or Three Seals Code (Thai : กฎหมายตราสามดวง; RTGS: Kotmai Tra Sam Duang) is a collection of law texts compiled in 1805 on the orders of King Rama I of Siam. Most of the texts were laws from the Ayutthaya era which had survived the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767. The compilation remained the working law of Siam until partially replaced by modern law codes in the early 20th century. The texts are an important source for the history of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and legal history in Asia.
Thai, Central Thai, is the sole official and national language of Thailand and the first language of the Central Thai people. It is a member of the Tai group of the Kra–Dai language family. Over half of Thai vocabulary is derived from or borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon and Old Khmer. It is a tonal and analytic language, similar to Chinese and Vietnamese.
The Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS) is the official system for rendering Thai words in the Latin alphabet. It was published by the Royal Institute of Thailand.
Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok, born Thongduang and also known as Rama I, was the founder of Rattanakosin Kingdom and the first monarch of the reigning Chakri dynasty of Siam. His full title in Thai is Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paramoruracha Mahachakkriborommanat Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok. He ascended the throne in 1782, after defeating a rebellion which had deposed King Taksin of Thonburi. He was also celebrated as the founder of Rattanakosin as the new capital of the reunited kingdom.
Parts of the Three Seals Law are still in force, according to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of Thailand in 1978.
King Rama I paid attention to the preservation of Thai texts that had survived the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, including the royal chronicles and religious texts. Shortly after completing a revision of the Tipiṭaka, the Buddhist canonical scriptures, in 1804, he turned his attention to the laws.
Tripiṭaka or Tipiṭaka is the traditional term for the Buddhist scriptures. The version canonical to Theravada Buddhism is generally referred to in English as the Pali Canon. Mahayana Buddhism also holds the Tripiṭaka to be authoritative but, unlike Theravadins, it also includes in its canon various derivative literature and commentaries that were composed much later.
After a court awarded a divorce to a woman, Amdaeng Pom, even though she had committed adultery, her husband, Bunsi, sent a petition, claiming the judge had been biased. On examination, all copies of the marriage law showed the woman had the legal right to this divorce. Suspecting that this and others laws had been “modified,” King Rama I ordered a revision of all existing law texts:
Hence the king graciously commanded that subjects with knowledge be assigned to cleanse (chamra) the royal decrees and laws in the palace library from the Thammasat onwards; ensure they are correct in every detail according to the Pali with no inconsistencies in their content; arrange them into chapters and groups; and take pains to cleanse and adjust any aberrations to accord with justice, in keeping with the king’s gracious intent to be of benefit to kings who reign over the realm in future. (Royal preface to the Three Seals Law)
Dhammasattha "treatise on the law" is the Pali name of a genre of literature found in the Indianized kingdoms of Western mainland Southeast Asia principally written in Pali, Burmese, Mon or the Tai languages or in a bilingual nissaya or literal Pali translation. "Sattha" is the Pali cognate of the Sanskrit term for instruction, learning, or treatise, śāstra. Burmese ဓမ္မသတ် is often transliterated "dhammathat" and the Tai and Mon terms are typically romanized as "thammasāt" or "dhammasāt" Dhammasattha texts are historically related to Hindu dharmaśāstra literature, although they are very significantly influenced by the Theravada Buddhist traditions and literature of Southeast Asia.
Pali or Magadhan is a Middle Indo-Aryan liturgical language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of the Pāli Canon or Tipiṭaka, and is the sacred language of Theravāda Buddhism. The earliest archaeological evidence of the existence of canonical Pali comes from Pyu city-states inscriptions found in Burma dated to the mid 5th to mid 6th century CE.
The royally appointed commission, consisting of three judges, four royal scribes, and four officials from the Department of Royal Teachers, completed the task in 11 months, producing 27 laws in a total of 41 volumes of the accordion-style book known as samut thai khao . Each law was stamped with the seals of the ministries of Mahatthai (north), Kalahom (south), and Phrakhlang (treasury), hence the name of the compilation. Three working copies were made, kept in the Royal Bedchamber, court of justice, and the Palace Library, respectively. A fourth copy was made shortly after and stored as a backup.
The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand is a cabinet-level department in the Government of Thailand. The ministry has wide ranging responsibilities. The ministry is responsible for local administration, internal security, citizenship, disaster management, road safety, land management, issuance of national identity cards, and public works. The ministry is responsible for appointing the 76 governors of the Provinces of Thailand. The minister of interior is the head of the ministry. He is appointed by the King of Thailand on the recommendation of the prime minister. Since 30 August 2014, the head of the ministry has been retired General Anupong Paochinda. He is aided by one deputy minister.
The Ministry of Defence, is a cabinet-level government department of the Kingdom of Thailand. The ministry controls and manages the Royal Thai Armed Forces to maintain national security, territorial integrity, and national defence. The armed forces of Thailand are composed of three branches: the Royal Thai Army, Royal Thai Navy, and Royal Thai Air Force.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the principal governmental department in charge of foreign relations for Thailand. The ministry is headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also a member of the Cabinet of Thailand. The minister is appointed by the prime minister. The ministry is charged with formulating and executing foreign policies for the Kingdom of Thailand. The ministry manages and maintains Thai diplomatic missions around the globe.
Parts of the Three Seals Law were replaced by modern laws drafted with the help of foreign advisers in a Penal Code promulgated in 1908 and a Civil and Commercial Code promulgated in parts between 1923 and 1935.
In 1978, the Supreme Court of Justice of Thailand ruled that the parts of the Three Seals Law not having been replaced or overruled by any other subsequent laws remain in force still. Those parts include Lak Inthaphat (Tenets of Indra).
In the table below, the laws are listed in the order they were approved in 1805 with the original titles and original Thai spelling, taken from facsimile texts published by the Royal Institute (now the Royal Society of Thailand).Some of the 27 listed texts contained multiple laws, giving a total of 41 laws. In subsequent publications, some titles were changed, and some laws amalgamated. The ‘pp’ column shows the number of pages of each law in the Khurusapha edition, as a gauge of relative length. The dates shown are as given in the prefaces of the laws. The era used for the dating of each text is not known, and many of these dates have clearly been corrupted during copying.
|ประกาศพระราชปรารภ||Prakat phraratchaprarop||Royal Announcement (preface)||6||1166|
|พระทำนูน||Phra thamnun||Royal Law||33|
|พระทำนูน||phra thamnun||Royal Law||12||1544|
|ใช้ตราด้วยราชการ||chai tra duai ratchakan||use of official seals||21||1555|
|หลักอินทภาษ||Lak inthaphat||Tenets of Indra||27||-|
|วิวาทด่าตี||Wiwat da ti||Dispute, Abuse, and Assault||24||1369|
|พระไอยการลักษณรับฟ้อง||Phra aiyakan laksana rap fong||Law on Acceptance of Cases||41|
|รับฟ้อง||rap fong||acceptance of cases||10||1899|
|โจทกะเฉทกะ||chothakachetthaka||dismissal of cases||7||1591|
|ตัดพญาณ||tat phayan||rejection of witnesses||7||1926|
|พระไอยการลักษณกู้หนี้||Phra aiyakan laksana ku ni||Law on Credit and Debt||35||1278|
|พระไอยการลักษณอุธร||Phra aiyakan laksana utthon||Law on Appeal||31||1555|
|พระไอยการลักษณตระลาการ||Phra aiyakan laksana tralakan||Law on Judges||51||1900|
|พระไอยการลักษณผัวเมีย||Phra aiyakan laksana phu mia||Law on Husband and Wife||80||1904|
|พระไอยการลักษณภญาน||Phra aiyakan laksana phayan||Law on Witnesses||37||1894|
|พระไอยการลักษณโจร||Phra aiyakan laksana chon||Law on Theft||95||1903|
|พระไอยการลักภาลูกเมียผู้คนท่าน บานผแนก||Phra aiyakan lakpha luk mia phu khon than ban phanaek||Law on Abduction of Children, Wives, and Dependents and Division of Persons||46|
|พระไอยการลักภาลูกเมียผู้คนท่าน||lakpha luk mia phu khon than||abduction of children, wives, or dependents||20||1899|
|พระไอยการบานผแนก||ban phanaek||division of persons||26||1052, 1095, 1086|
|พระไอยการทาษ||Phra aiyakan that||Law on Slaves||59||1359, 1387, 1557, 1267|
|พระไอยการกระบดศึก||Phra aiyakan krabot suek||Law on Revolt and Warfare||49|
|กฎพระสงฆ||Kot phra song||Law on the Monkhood||65||-|
|พระราชบัญญัติ||Phra ratchabanyat||Royal Legislation||35||1146-1167|
|นาทหารหัวเมือง||Na thahan hua mueang||Military and Provincial Lists||59||-|
|ลักษณพีสูทดำน้ำพิสูทลุยเพลิง||Laksana phisut dam nam phisut lui phloeng||Law on Ordeal by Water or Fire||18||1899|
|กฎมณเทิยรบาล||Kot monthianban||Palace Law||91||720|
|พระไอยการตำแหน่งนาพลเรือน||Phra aiyakan tamnaeng phonlaruean||Civil list||22||1298|
|พระไอยการอาญาหลวง||Phra aiyakan aya luang||Law of Crimes against Government||114|
|อาญาหลวง||aya luang||crimes against government||105||1895|
|อาญาราษ||aya rat||crimes against people||9||1902|
|พระไอยการเบดเสรจ||Phra aiyakan betset||Miscellaneous Laws||90|
|ทีบ้านที่สวน||thi ban thi suan||house and paddy field||20||1263|
|เสนียดแก่กัน||saniat kae kan||invective and cursing||18||1903|
|เช่า ยืม ซื้อ ขาย||chao yuem sue khai||rentals, lending, purchase||27||1565|
|พนันขันต่อกัน||phanan khanto kan||gambling||4||-|
|วิวาทด้วยความสาเหดุ||wiwat duai khwam sahet||just cause||9||1906|
|เวทวิทธยาคมแลกฤษติยาคุณ||wetwithayakhom lae krittiyakhun||magic and spirits||13||1146|
|กฎ ๓๖ ข้อ||Kot 36 kho||Thirty-six Laws||29||1012-1118|
|พระราชกำหนดใหม่||Phraratcha kamnot mai||New Royal Decrees||179||1144-1167|
|พระราชกำหนดเก่า||Phraratcha kamnot kao||Old Royal Decrees||254||1069-1117|
|พระไอยการพรมศักดิ||Phra aiyakan phrommasak||Law on Punishment||37|
|พิกัดกระเสียรอายุศม||phikat krasian ayut||valuation by age||12||955|
|พระไอยการพรมศักดิ||phra aiyakan phrommasak||law on punishment||25||-|
In 1849, Mot Amatyakun and the American missionary Dan Beach Bradley printed an edition of the Three Seals Law. King Rama III objected and had the books destroyed. One copy of the first volume survived (now in the National Library of Thailand), and the planned second volume may never have been printed.
In 1862–3, Dan Beach Bradley, with the permission of King Rama IV (Mongkut), printed the edition planned in 1849 in two volumes under the title Nangsue rueang kotmai mueang thai (Book on laws of Siam). The edition was printed ten times and widely used.
In 1938-9, a modern edition was prepared by the French legal scholar Robert Lingat and published in three volumes by Thammasat University under the title Pramuan kotmai ratchakan thi 1 C.S. 1166 phim tam chabap luang tra sam duang (Law code of King Rama I, 1805, printed following the Three Seals edition).All modern editions stem from this work.
In 1962-3, Ongkankha Khong Khurusapha (government printers for textbooks, etc.) published a 5-volume edition, based on the Thammasat University edition with corrections, entitled Kotmai tra sam duang (Three Seals Code). A third edition appeared in 1994.
To mark the 200th anniversary of the compilation of the Three Seals Law, the Royal Institute (now the Royal Society of Thailand) published a two-volume edition in 2007 with facsimiles of the manuscripts and transcription, entitled Kotmai tra sam duang: chabap ratchabandittayasathan (Three Seals Code, Royal Institute edition).
Robert Lingat, editor of the 1938-9 edition of the Three Seals Law, published several articles and books on the historical antecedents of the law, and on the law on slavery.
In 1957, MR Seni Pramoj, a lawyer and former prime minister, gave a lecture in Thai summarizing the Three Seals Law, subsequently published as a book.
In 1986, Yoneo Ishii published an English-language summary and analysis of the Three Seals Law.Ishii also headed a project at Kyoto University to produce a computer concordance of the complete text. Access to this database is available through the Center of Integrated Study at Kyoto University, and through the Ayutthaya Digital Archive Project of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (see External Links below).
Michael Vickery published two articles querying the accuracy of the dates appearing in the prefaces off the Three Seals Law texts.
Tamara Loos traced the replacement of the Three Seals Law by modern laws in a Cornell University doctoral thesis published in 2002.
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Three Seals Law in 2005, several researches were published by Thai scholars including Winai Pongsripian, Krisda Boonyasmit, Woraphon Phuphongphan, Pimpan Paiboonwangcharoen, Jakkrit Uttho, and Channarong Bunnun.
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Robert Lingat, was a French-born academic and legal scholar most known for his masterwork on the practice of classical Hindu Law. He died May 7, 1972, one year before the first English translation of his work established it as the single most authoritative text on the concept of dharma in Indian legal history. This followed three decades after his three-volume Thai-language edition of Siamese laws (1939-1940) earned him recognition from renowned legal scholar John Henry Wigmore as "the greatest authority on Siamese legal history," adding: "It will be a notable day when the learned editor will produce for us a translation in French."
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