The King of Thailand
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej
When Thai people think of their King, the first and foremost picture that comes to their minds is not that of a monarch on an elaborate throne, in full regalia, nor of a well-dressed Thai gentleman conducting state affairs, but rather of a familiar figure moving among his people in all corners of the country, equipped with a map under one arm and a camera slung round his neck.
Working with his subjects in the rural areas for over four decades, His Majesty the King has become acutely aware of their plight and problems.
On June 9, 1946 Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej, then 19 years old, suddenly found himself the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, following the death of his elder brother King Anamda in Bangkok on the same day.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej subsequently returned to Switzerland on August 19, 1946 to complete his education. His determination to be with the Thai people and to contribute to the development of the country has been evident as seen from an excerpt of his writing on "When I Leave Siam for Switzerland on August 19 , 1946". His Majesty wrote, "The royal car ran slowly amid throngs of people until it reached the Marble Temple, where it started to speed up. Along the way, I heard sameone shout, "Don't leave the people". I wished to tell him that if the people didn't "leave" me, how could I leave them?".
Throughout his 50 years on the throne, His Majesty through his utmost perseverance, industriousness and devotion, has gone to all corners cf his kingdom to give a helping hand to his subjects and gain first-hand knowledge about their living conditions and problems. Even while recuperating after his illness, His Majesty has never "left" his subjects. His mercy and merit which shower upon his people have been impressed upon and well recognised by all Thais.
1996 marked the 50th Anniversary of His Majesty the King's Ascension to the Throne, Thai people across the country in celebrated the grand celebrations for this unique and rare occasion, the Golden Jubilee of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Time in the USA
King Bhumibol was born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the United States, as the youngest son of Mahidol Adulyadej Prince of Songkhla (son of king Chulongkorn) and Mom Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani). At the time of birth, he was known to Thai people as Phra Worawongse Ther Phra Ong Chao Bhumibol Adulyadej, reflecting the fact that his mother was a commoner. In fact, were he born just a few years earlier, before his uncle King Prajadhipok passed a law allowing children of a prince and a commoner to be called Phra Ong Chao (a prince of a lesser status than Chao Fa), he would even have been called Mom Chao (the most junior class of the Thai 'princes'), similar to his older brother and sister. He was brought back to Thailand on the following year, after Prince Mahidol finished his medical study at Harvard University.
After a brief period of primary schooling at the Mater Dei school in Bangkok, Phra Ong Chao Bhumibol left from the age of six with the rest of his family for Switzerland where he continued his secondary education at the Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse romande, in Chailly-sur-Lausanne and received the baccalaureat dès lettres (high-school diploma with major in French literature, Latin, and Greek) from the Gymnase classique cantonal of Lausanne. He was studying science at the University of Lausanne when his elder brother, Phra Ong Chao Ananda Mahidol was crowned king of Thailand. King Ananda Mahidol then elevated his brother and sister to the ChaoFa status (the most senior class of the Thai princes) in 1935. They came to Thailand briefly in 1938, but returned to Switzerland for further study until 1945 (or 2488 in the Buddhist calendar).
Upon the mysterious and premature death (possibly a murder) of his brotherAnanda Mahidol (King Rama VIII) on June 9, 1946, Chao Fa Bhumibol acceded to the throne on the same day. However, he first wished to continue his education. His uncle, Rangsit Prince of Chainat, was therefore appointed Prince Regent while the King went back to Switzerland to finish his study. This time, he changed his fields to Law and Political Science as this would be more useful now that he was becoming king.
Marriage and family
While finishing his degree in Switzerland, he visited automobile manufacturing plants in Paris frequently. It was in Paris that he first met a distant cousin of his, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. He then became a frequent visitor to the ambassador's house. When he had a car accident which claimed one of his eyes and needed to be hospitalised in Lausanne, Mom Rajawongse Sirikit then became his frequent visitor. On one occasion, she also met the King's mother who asked her to continue her study in Lausanne, as the King had expressed his interest in her and wished to know her better. She obliged and the King chose Riante Rive, a boarding school in Lausanne for her. This eventually led to their quiet engagement while in Lausanne on July 19.1949. He later married her on April 28, 1950 — just a week before his coronation.
The King and his wife, Queen Sirikit, who is known as one of the world's great beauties, have four children:
- (Formerly HRH) Princess Ubol Ratana, born April 5, 1951 in Lausanne;
- HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, born July 28. 1952;
- HRH Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, born April 2, 1955;
- HRH Princess Chulabhornwalailak, born July 4, 1957.
One of the King's grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen (also known as Khun Poom), was killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He was the half-American son of Princess Ubol Ratana.
Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on May 5, 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok. His ceremonial name, according to the ancient tradition, is:
Phrabat Somdej Phra Paramindra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitaladhibet Ramadhibodi Chakrinarubodindara Sayamindaradhiraj Boromanatbophit
On the same day, he made his consort Queen Somdej Phra Boromarajini.
The second regency
Following the death of his grandmother Queen Savang Vadhana, (Sawang Watthana), the King entered a 15 days monkhood (October 22-November 5, 1956, as is customary. During the time, HM Queen Sirikit was appointed his regent. She was later appointed Queen Regent (Somdej Phra Boromarajininat) in recognition for this.
His full ceremonial name is provided in the above section.
Although often referred to as King Rama IX in English language translation, the name 'Rama' itself was never used in Thai. The name Rama IX was used to roughly approximate the word Ratchakal ti kao, lit. The Ninth Reign), which can be used to refer to this King.
More commonly, Thai people refer to him as Nai Luang or Phra Chao Yu Hua.
Formally, he would be referred to as Phrabat Somdej Phra Chao Yu Hua , in legal document, Phrabat Somdej Phra Paraminthara Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej ; and in English as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Life as King
The King and politics
While the King is nominally a constitutional monarch who serves as a figurehead, ceremonial leader, Thais nevertheless view him as an important figure within the national government. While the King normally refrains from getting involved in politics, there are times when a person who commands respect from all people and is perceived as genuinely benevolent, can be politically useful. This has occurred more than once, each time was arguably vital to the nation.
During the early years of his reign Bhumibol had little power and was little more than a ceremonial front for the various authoritarian regimes which had run Thailand most of the time since the "Democratic" Revolution of 1932. However, the respect he earned from his people after years of hard work would eventually help shape Thailand's democracy.
In 1973 King Bhumibol asserted himself by making it clear he favoured an end to Field Marshal Thanom Kittiachorn's military regime and the establishment of democracy. This ended the savage conflict between the military and the pro-democracy students.
In 1992 he again played a key role in the transition to a fully democratic system. A coup on Febfruary 23, 1991 effectively put Thailand back under military dictatorship (ironically, the civilian Prime Minister appointed by the junta was arguably one of the finest PMs of Thailand; he is still popular these days). After a general election, held in 1992, the majority parties invited General Suchinda Kraprayoon, a leader of the coup, to be the Prime Minister. This caused much dissent among the people: it was felt this confirmed that the General, despite what was manifested at the coup, did that for his own benefit and that the government would effectively be a military regime in disguise. The conflict escalated to demonstration, then arson, and then (allegedly massive) deaths of the pro-democracy demonstrators when the military was brought in to control the crowd. The situation became increasingly critical as neither side would back down and the violence escalated.
The King summoned General Kraprayoon and the leader of the pro-democracy movement, Major General Chamlong Srimuang, to a televised audience. In an extraordinary scene, both men appeared on their knees before their king. Afterwards General Kraprayoon, former leader of a coup and Prime Minister for 64 days, resigned. All the tension built up during the previous two months evaporated in that hour. A general election was held shortly afterward, and democracy was thus restored.
The royal projects
Those who have seen the south and west sides of his palace, The Chitralada Villa, would have noticed a few features unique to the palace of the King of Thailand including silos, processing plants and farms. These are just a small part of the so-called "royal projects", which range from research projects (mainly agriculturally-related), to alternative schools, skill training, water conservation, to land development (This list is by no means exhaustive). The knowledge from the research projects are transferred to the government so that it can be used for the people's benefit.
The King and the people
People celebrating King Bhumibol's birthday by lighting candles and singing
Popularity of the Crown was at its worst during the reign of Bhumibol's uncle, King Prajadhipok. This improved when his brother, King Ananda Madhidol, acceded to the throne, but certainly reached the level never before experienced during King Bhumibol's reign. The King commanded great respect among the Thai people, who view the monarchy in a semi-religious light and admire his hands-on approach in helping Thailand's rural poor. He managed this by extensively touring the various different corners of the country and by installing various medical aid and agricultural projects. Being identified as a hero of Democracy also added greatly to his already enormous prestige.
One of his avocations, unique to the Monarch of Thailand, is to preside over the commencements of the state's universities. Most of the graduates from the state's universities in Thailand received their diplomas from his royal hand. In recent years, however, this tedious work has been delegated to the prince and princesses.
Having ruled for more than 50 years, few Thais can remember or imagine any other head of state. King Bhumibol's image is prominently displayed all over the country, including on every coin and banknote. Thais take any suggestion of disrespect for the King, by Thais or foreigners, very seriously. On May 5, 1987, he received, by popular national referendum, the honorary epithet the Great.
The King's designated successor is Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
(Left you see a great photo of two most famous "KINGS" in the world in 1955)
King Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer. He was awarded honorary membership in the Vienna Institute of Music and Arts at the age of 32. He used to play jazz music on air on the Or Sor radio station earlier in his reign.
In addition, he is a painter and a photographer. He is a best-selling author as well. His works are "Tito" (The biography of Josip Broz Tito, former Yugoslavia president), "Nai In Phu Pid Tong Laang Phra" ("The man called intrepid"), national best-sellers "Phra Mahachanok" and "The story of Thong Daeng" (The story of his dog named Khun Thong Daeng). He suggested to make this book into a bilingual comic illustrated by a nationally famous comic illustrator "Chai Rajawat", which sold out quickly.
He was awarded honorary membership in the Vienna Institute of Music and Arts at the age of 32. He used to play jazz music on air on the Or Sor radio station earlier in his reign.
In addition, he is a painter and a photographer. He is a best-selling author as well. His works are "Tito" (The biography of Josip Broz Tito, former Yugoslavia president), "Nai In Phu Pid Tong Laang Phra" ("The man called intrepid"), national best-sellers "Phra Mahachanok" and "The story of Thong Daeng" (The story of his dog named Khun Thong Daeng). He suggested to make this book into a bilingual comic illustrated by a nationally famous comic illustrator "Chai Rajawat", which sold out quickly. He is the world's only monarch to hold a patent, holding several patents on rainmaking since 1955: the "sandwich" rainmaking patent in 1999 and lately the "supersandwich" patent in 2004