Three Seals Law

The Three Seals Law or Three Seals Code (Thai: กฎหมายตราสามดวง; RTGSKotmai 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.

A copy of the Palace Law, displayed at the House of Representatives of Thailand.
The seals of the Mahatthai (represented by a rajasiha), Kalahom (a gajasiha) and Phrakhlang (the Bua Kaeo seal) give the law its name.

Parts of the Three Seals Law are still in force, according to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice of Thailand in 1978.[1]


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.

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:[2][3]

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)[2]

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.[4][5]

As a result of neglect, the volumes were lost and scattered. In 1980, a search located 80 volumes from the three original copies and 17 volumes from the backup.

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.[6]

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).[1]


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).[7] 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 in Chula Sakarat, many of these dates have clearly been corrupted during copying.[8][9]

Contents of the Three Seals Law
Thai title Transliteration Translation pp date
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
พระธรรมสาตร Phra thammasat Thammasat 35 -
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
ตัดสำนวน tat samnuan disqualification 6 -
ตัดพญาณ tat phayan rejection of witnesses 7 1926
ประวิงความ prawing khwam delay 3 -
อัญะมัญะปฎิภาศ anyamanyapatiphat substitution 8 -
พระไอยการลักษณกู้หนี้ Phra aiyakan laksana ku ni Law on Credit and Debt 35 1278
มรดก Moradok Inheritance 38 2155, 2158
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
กระบด krabot revolt 17 1373
ศึก suek warfare 32 1374
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.[10]

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.[10]

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).[11] 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.[12]

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).[7]


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.[4][11][13]

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.[14]

In 1986, Yoneo Ishii published an English-language summary and analysis of the Three Seals Law.[15] Ishii also headed a project at Kyoto University to produce a computer concordance of the complete text.[16] 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.[17][18]

Tamara Loos traced the replacement of the Three Seals Law by modern laws in a Cornell University doctoral thesis published in 2002.[19]

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.[20][21]



  1. ^ a b Prachumyat 2013, pp. 63–64
  2. ^ a b Royal Institute of Thailand 2007, vol. 1, p. 106
  3. ^ Lingat 1929, pp. 19–21
  4. ^ a b Lingat 1929
  5. ^ Ishii 1986, pp. 143–5
  6. ^ Loos 2002, pp. 47–71
  7. ^ a b Royal Institute of Thailand 2007
  8. ^ Vickery 1984, pp. 38–46
  9. ^ Vickery 1996, pp. 146–9
  10. ^ a b Paiboonwangcharoen 2004, p. 52
  11. ^ a b Lingat 1938–39
  12. ^ Khurusapha 2004
  13. ^ Lingat 1931
  14. ^ Pramoj 1957
  15. ^ Ishii 1986
  16. ^ Ishii 1991
  17. ^ Vickery 1984
  18. ^ Vickery 1996
  19. ^ Loos 2002
  20. ^ Pongsripian 2004
  21. ^ Pongsripian 2005


  • Ishii, Yoneo (1986). "The Thai Thammasat (with a Note on the Lao Thammasat)". In Hooker, M.B. (ed.). The Laws of South-East Asia. Vol. 1. Singapore: Butterworth. pp. 43–203.
  • Ishii, Yoneo; Shibayama, Mamoru; Wichienkiew, Aroonrut (1991). Computer Concordance to the Law of the Three Seals. Bangkok: Amarin.
  • Khurusapha (1994). Kotmai tra sam duang [Three Seals Code]. Bangkok: Khurusapha.
  • Lingat, Robert (1929). "Note sur la revision des lois siamoises en 1805". Journal of the Siam Society (23, 1): 19–27.
  • Lingat, Robert (1931). L'esclavage privé dans le vieux droit siamois. Paris: Les Editions Domat-Montchrestien.
  • Lingat, Robert (1938–39). 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]. Bangkok: Thammasat University.
  • Loos, Tamara (2002). Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Paiboonwangcharoen, Pimphan (2004). "Kotmai tra sam duang: kan sueksa ton chabap tua khian lae chabap tua phim" [Three Seals Code: Study of Manuscript and Printed Versions]. In Pongsripian, Winai (ed.). Kotmai tra sam duang: waen song sangkhom [Three Seals Code: Mirror of Thai Society]. Bangkok: Thailand Research Fund. pp. 33–60.
  • Pongsripian, Winai (2004). Kotmai tra sam duang: waen song sangkhom thai [Three Seals Code: Mirror of Thai Society]. Bangkok: Thailand Research Fund.
  • Pongsripian, Winai (2005). Kot monthianban chabap chaloemphrakiat [Palace Law, Royal Anniversary Edition]. Ithaca: Thailand Research Fund.
  • Prachumyat, Natthaphon Nanthamanop (2013-11-04). "Lak Inthaphat Nai Kotmai Tra Sam Duang Lae Saphap Bangkhap Khong Kotmai Tra Sam Duang Nai Patchuban" หลักอินทภาษในกฎหมายตราสามดวง และสภาพบังคับของกฎหมายตราสามดวงในปัจจุบัน [Indra' Tenets in Three Seals Law and Enforceability of Three Seals Law in Our Days] (PDF). Law Data Centre, Senate of Thailand (in Thai). Bangkok: Senate of Thailand. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  • Pramoj, Seni (1957). Pathakatha rueang kotmai samai si ayutthaya [A Lecture on Law in the Ayutthaya Era]. Bangkok: Committee for the Ayutthaya Memorial.
  • Royal Institute of Thailand (2007). Kotmai tra sam duang: chabap ratchabandittayasathan [Three Seals Code: Royal Institute Edition]. Bangkok: Royal Institute of Thailand.
  • Vickery, Michael (1984). "Prolegomena to Methods for Using the Ayutthayan Laws as Historical Source Material". Journal of the Siam Society (72): 37–58.
  • Vickery, Michael (1996). "The Constitution of Ayutthaya: An Investigation into the Three Seals Code". In Huxley, Andrew (ed.). Thai Law: Buddhist Law. Essays on the Legal History of Thailand, Laos and Burma. Bangkok: White Orchid. pp. 133–210.

External linksEdit