Seventy three years ago this month, Mohm Luang Bua Saritwongsa gave birth to a baby girl. The day was August 12th, and the child came to be known as Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit; named by her father, General HRH Prince Nakkhatra Manggala Kittiyakara Krommamuen Chandaburi Suranath upon the recommendation of HM King Prajadipok (Rama VII).
Any Thai will proudly tell you that the above paragraph refers to the birth of their beloved queen, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. \
Visitors to the country, however, may be unaware of the depth of feeling for Her Majesty by her loyal subjects. Many tourists have asked why August the twelfth is a public holiday, and are pleasantly surprised to hear that not only it is the Queen's birthday, but it is also celebrated as Mother's Day, Her Majesty being the mother of the nation.
Queen Sirikit's story, therefore will, we are sure, be of great interest to the many foreign visitors who come to our country throughout each year.
As a child, Mohm Rajawongse was sent to kindergarten at the Rajini school, before attending St Francis Xavier Convent school in Bangkok for her secondary education. Her father, then a prominent member of the Thai Diplomatic Corps, was posted to London where he took up his appointment to the Court of St James as Thailand's Ambassador to Britain. The family joined him in London and thereafter on successive postings to Copenhagen and to Paris.
While staying in the French capital, Mohm Rajawongse met and befriended a young man who had become a regular visitor to the Thai Embassy in the city during breaks from his university studies in Switzerland. The young man was King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the uncrowned King of Thailand. His Majesty's coronation had been postponed, allowing him to complete his academic studies.The young couple became good friends, and agreed to see as much of one another as possible during the King's visits to Paris.
Shortly after his return to Lausanne from one such visit, however, came the terrible news that King Bhumibol had been seriously injured in a car accident in Switzerland. Upon hearing the news, Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit, along with her mother, flew to Lausanne in a bid to comfort her dearest friend, who had been hospitalized and was facing a long convalescence. During the course of the King's recovery from his injuries, Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit became a regular commuter between Paris and Lausanne, where she offered comfort and support to the young King during his recovery. In the course of such visits, friendship turned to love, and the announcement of their engagement was made on July the 19th 1949.
The people of Thailand, still reeling from the news of their King's involvement in a car accident in far off Switzerland, rejoiced when they heard of his intention to return home with a young lady who was destined to be their Queen.The 28th of April was chosen as the royal wedding day, and the nation came to a standstill as the young couple were married with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding in the Srapatum Palace. The people of Thailand had but a week to get over the nationwide festivities, when on the fifth of May they were called upon to celebrate the coronation of His Majesty King Bhumibol, and the elevation of his young wife, Mohm Rajawongse, to that of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
Since those heady days when a nation fell in love with the young Queen Sirikit, Her Majesty has earned the loyalty and respect of an entire nation. Devoted to her husband, the King, their children, and to a life of public service, the Queen has performed her Royal duties with unparalleled grace and dignity.
Those duties have ranged from accompanying the King on official visits abroad, to listening to the plight of a young and impoverished mother in some rural hamlet. Indeed, the year 1969 marked the establishment of the Royal Project in the north of Thailand as originated from His Majesty's private study on the devastation of soil erosion that was caused by "slash & burn" agriculture. The King has mapped out and planned the multitude of projects he has since implemented in the country. The Royal Projects have pursued their missions in collaboration with the King's Chaipattana Foundation, Royal Thai Government , foreign governments, universities, public and private agencies and volunteers. Throughout 35 years there have been about 2,800 projects that His Majesty originated and initiated in the areas of farming and agriculture, home industries, rural development, hilltribes, living improvement, environment, and self-sufficiency programs. The royal couple have travelled throughout the country.
Her Majesty has been a beacon of hope and encouragement to the underprivileged in the nation, with particular emphasis on women's rights and needs. She gives freely of her time and personal finance to the launching of cottage industries, such as spinning, weaving and dying of cotton, or basketry, traditionally carried out by the women of rural villages.
Due to His Majesty's busy functions and health precaution, Her Majesty alone or with her children have carried out other new projects. Altogether between 1982-2004, it is about 348 projects that have spread out through the central, north, north east, and south regions.
During the last 6 years, Her Majesty granted an initiative to set up an experimental project to prove that after the people received training and possessed an awareness for preserving the forest and environment, it would then be possible for them to live harmoniously and interdependently with the forest without harming any of the natural resources. These hilltribe people would eventually gain educational training, cultivable land and overcome poverty. This is the philosophy of "A Little Home in the Big Forest", i.e. a self-help community has been developed to gain sufficiency of foods -- grain, plant, vegetable, fruits, farming animals, fish, herbs, and spices. This program eventually become a "Food Bank" project.
Her heartfelt concern for those affected by HIV AIDS has been unreservedly expressed in public, as has her desire to see every child, regardless of family income, receive a proper education. Her Majesty has also worked tirelessly to assist those involved in the conservation of the environment, and a seemingly endless list of organizations and associations in a variety of fields have benefited from the Queen's patronage.
Although divorced from the public business of politics, Her Majesty has refused to hide behind tradition when the very lives of Thai people are at risk. And so it was that she voiced her concern, during a 45 minute televised address, over the unrest in the south of the country. Queen Sirikit was addressing politicians and community leaders at the Royal Palace, but the decision was taken to broadcast her words to the nation. Her Majesty urged people to help the government solve the problems in the south and to express disapproval at the injustice against innocent people.
Queen Sirikit's devotion to all Thais is reflected in the love the people of this nation have for their Queen.The management of "Welcome to Chiangmai & Chiangrai" magazine would like to reflect this love by wishing her a long and happy life for many years to come.
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