Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, the most influential European in Thailand
Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, born in Gent in 1835, was a renowned lawyer and a Belgian politician. Together with the Swiss Gustave Moynier, founding member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, he created in 1873 the Institute of International Law.
In 1904, this institution, which still exists today, received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its action in favour of arbitration among States, a peaceful means of settling disputes.
As former minister of Home affairs (1878-1884) and a reputed expert in international law, he was hired by King Rama V of Siam in order to contribute to the modernization of the country in 1892.
As General Advisor of the King, Rolin-Jaequemyns exercised for nine years the highest functions in the Siamese Cabinet. With the support of Belgian legal experts, he controlled the process in every department, reorganizing the judicial system, modernizing fiscal and military regulations as well as matters relating to ports, public works, police and foreign affairs.
He was also mandated by King Rama V to negotiate a compromise with the French government which resulted in 1893 in the Franco-Siamese Treaty through which Siam (Thailand) managed to maintain its independence.
Rolin-Jaequemyns left Siam in 1901 and Rama V bestowed upon him for all his accomplishments the highest Siamese honorary title he ever attributed to a European (Chao Phraya Abhai Raja).
© Photo: Collection P.H.L.