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Long live the King : By Andrew Bond (9 June 2006)

With much pomp and ceremony befitting the world’s longest reigning monarch, Thailand celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of their beloved king’s coronation. Outlasting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II by 5 years, King Bhumibol Adunyadej, Rama IX, has lead Thailand since 1946. To understand just why the people of Thailand love their king so dearly is indeed the story of Thailand over the past half century – a story of altruism, and unceasing effort to transform the prosperity of all Thais caught up in the country’s heady growth of recent decades.

Long Live The King

Long Live The King

The King has seen the country transformed from agricultural backwater to one of Asia’s most rapidly growing nations during his reign so far. Ascending to the throne as an outside heir while still a teenager, the King could never have imagined as a little boy that he would become such an important role model to the seventy million Thais who universally praise him. Coups have come and gone in his time, the country has become infinitely richer and even now during this auspicious year – the fifth twelve-year cycle of his reign – Thai politics finds itself in a deadlocked mess and deferring to their wise old King for a way forward. At all important turns the King has discretely lent his advice, while strictly observing his status as a constitutional monarch.

Long Live The King

Long Live The King

So, just why do the people of Thailand, native and foreign alike, praise their King with such adulation? His image is plastered all over the country, from small amulets, coins and stamps to larger than life billboards. Thais you meet might even be at loss to try and explain, but put simply; he’s known as the world’s hardest working monarch. And a quick browse through picture archives or magazine features invariably confirm this with endless documentation of the humble King traipsing through rice paddies, listening to aggrieved farmers, out in the field studying his maps to understand water management challenges, or simple getting to see for himself how the poor of his Kingdom take on life.


The King is much more than a ribbon cutter and ceremonial ‘waver’, and he has spent much of his life earning his respect from his subjects. In addition to speaking four languages (which includes English, French and German) he is a respected musician who has jammed with some of the late greats such as Benny Goodman and even hung out with Elvis. The anthem which is played at movie houses prior to every screening was composed by His Majesty, and other timeless pieces by him, playing saxophone (et al!) are often heard on the radio. He’s also a scientist with a keen agricultural understanding that was recently re-enforced with the granting of rain making patents which he personally invented and had developed. And he is a photography and art enthusiast, always seen with his trusty camera around his neck, having produced some very commendable works which are now on display at the national museum.

But the impression that perhaps endears the Thai most are the frequent shots and footage of His Majesty out in the fields, usually with the Queen keeping notes and his equally serving daughter Princess Sirindorn in tow, as they visit every conceivable corner of the kingdom, usually inspecting the lives of the poor and suggesting ways to improve their lives. Often the financing comes from the King’s own estate, and it’s always aimed at teaching, developing and improving. Much of his efforts have been directed at water management, rain making and agricultural techniques to help improve the livelihood of Thailand’s 20 million farmers.


In the late nineteen seventies the King initiated a very successful program to help wean the hilltribes of the North off poppy cultivate to eradicate opium. He realised that an alternative income was needed so a series of King’s Projects helped them establish vegetable industries. He provided materials for communal green houses and markets were developed for the produce. After thirty years opium has been almost entirely eradicated from Thailand and the project has gained international recognition. This year, a few weeks before the celebration, the head of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, came to Bangkok to personally present the King with an award in recognition of his work.

Long Live The King

Long Live The King

Thailand is a country rich in cultural heritage that goes back to its zenith during the Ayuthaya era and beyond, when Siam ruled over a vast area and boasted a rich legacy of wealth in arts, ceremony, architecture and organisation. Visitors to the Kingdom are surrounded by proof of this, from the Grand Palace to the inspiring artefacts at the National museum, and the royal family have invariably been at the centre of much of this development. From King Taksin, Rama I, through to the current ruler in this dynasty, Thailand has placed enormous respect and importance on its monarchy.


But the ninth ruler of the Chakri dynasty couldn’t take any of this for granted, and was thrust into an important role through an unlikely succession of events that left the whole concept of a Thai monarchy on shaky grounds. His Uncle, Rama VI, had inherited a challenging mantle when King Chulalongkorn the Great, Rama V, passed away in 1910 after a long and very respected rule. Within 10 years the throne had passed on in unstable times to his brother King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) who was forced to accede control in a coup d’ etat in 1932. By 1935 he had abdicated and left to live abroad, leaving the country’s monarchy rudderless and without a named heir. With the present King’s own father, Prince Mahidol, dead, the title went to his brother, Ananda (who became Rama VIII) – both of them nephews of Rama VII. But the two boys were still seeing out their schooling in Switzerland and couldn’t return until after the end of the Second World War when the puppet government and Japanese occupiers had been driven out. Within a year King Ananda would be murdered under suspicious circumstances so that the young Bhumibol suddenly found himself as King Rama IX.

Long Live The King

Long Live The King

And so, at the age of 18, and married to Queen Sirikit just one week earlier, King Rama IX set out on this sixty year journey as father of the nation. Over the years he spent time as a monk, re-invigorated the ceremony of the monarchy, upheld the highest example of morals and judgement, correctly stepped into his role as a Buddhist leader and scholar and above all went to work every day like everyone else in the Kingdom, tirelessly striving to understand the problems and challenges of this land. Over the years in his addresses he has laid out important examples which have been assiduously followed for sustainable and environmentally friendly programs to help preserve Thailand’s resources while accommodating and uplifting the poor.

Over the course of the weekend, 9 to 12 June, with many royals from across the globe in attendance, the King will be praised and honoured by millions across the country. Many have already made their way to Bangkok to pay respect and witness this historic event (he is the Kingdom’s second longest reigning King) at various functions around the capital. Rare ceremonies, such as the Royal Barge Procession, and religious blessings, along with banquets and public festivals will all collectively show the Thai’s gratitude to his wise leadership and benevolence. And throughout the year his reign will continue to be commemorated with posters, exhibitions, commemorative bills and stamps, even ‘Live strong’ armbands.

If you are visiting the Kingdom during this time, you’ll certainly notice a national outpouring of pride and love quite unlike any other nation, all for a king who has earned it.
[Source of Content and Pictures : 1stopchiangmai.com]

 

READ :
King’s Birthday : Father’s Day In Thailand
Father’s Day : In Thailand & Around The World

Long Live The King

Long Live The King

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