On 5th December 1927 a baby boy was born at Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massa- chusetts, USA. At that time nobody could have foreseen what lay ahead for that child but fate was to take a leading role in his life to write the history that we are now able to recount.
The boy in question, Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej, was the third child of their Highnes- ses Prince and Princess Mahidol of Songkla, Siam. After his graduation from Germany’s Naval Academy and career with Siam’s Navy, Prince Mahidol, a son of the late King Chulalongkorn, became interested in medicine and was studying at Harvard University while his wife was student nurse trained at Simmons College, Boston. While Prince Bhumibol was still a baby the family returned to Siam where they had crowned a new King, Prajadhipok, Bhumibol’s uncle, only two years previously.
Not long after returning to Siam, Prince Bhumibol’s father developed a health condition and subsequently died from kidney failure in 1929 leaving his widow the task of raising three young children.
On 24th June 1932 a small group of middle ranking off- icials staged a coup in Bangkok and brou- ght an end to the absolute monarchy that had ruled Siam for so many years. Prince Mahidol’s widow, decided to take her family abroad to further the children’s education and they made their home in Lausanne, Switzerland, enjoying a normal family life.
Forced into the background and a position of symbolic significance, King Pra- jadhipok abdicated his throne in 1935. Having no children of his own, the eldest son of his late brother Prince Mahidol became the successor to the throne. At the tender age of 10 years, there- fore, Prince Bhumibol’s brother Ananda became His Majesty King Ananda, Rama VIII.
Due to his age King Ananda remained with his family in Switzerland while the duties of the office were handled by appointed privy councilors.
Prince Bhumibol also continued to thrive in Switzerland living a down to earth life as, was his mother’s wish. He was already bilingual and enjoyed hobbies such as music and photography; pastimes that have stayed with him ever since. He also became fascinated by what made things work and later went on to study engineering and science at Lausanne University.
At the end of World War II the royal family were invited to come back to Siam so that the official coronation of King Ananda could take place. Fate had not finished with Prince Bhumibol, however, and the coronation of his brother never took place. On 9th June 1946 King Ananda was found shot in his bed in unknown circumstances. Suddenly Prince Bhumibol was thrust into the spotlight and at the age of 18 years became His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX of Siam. After a short spell in Bangkok it was agreed by everyone that it would be best for him to return to Switzerland and complete his studies. Engineering made way for a law and political science degree to prepare the young man for the duties that lay ahead of him.
During this time His Majesty would often find himself in Paris and it was here that he fell in love with Mhom Rajawongse Sirikit Kittiyakara the daughter of the Siamese Ambassador to France and in 1949 the happy couple announced their engagement.
1950 was to be a year long remembered for ceremonies that served to unite the Siamese people. In early March of that year His Majesty King Bhumibol returned home to the joy of all and on 29th March the ashes of his late brother King Ananda were finally laid to rest. On 28th April His Majesty and his fianc้e were married and just one week later, on 5th May, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned. In a separate ceremony on the same day his new wife was granted the title of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
Since that time their Majesties have been revered and adored by their subjects, not blindly because they are the monarchs, but out of a hard earned and well deserved respect. At the time of the coronation His Majesty pledged that “We shall reign with righteousness, for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”, a pledge the royal couple have more than fulfilled over the following 57 years.
When His Majesty came to the throne the constitutional monarch was still a new idea in Siam and as such does not have the absolute power of his Chakri predecessors. He has only three basic rights to fall back on; the right to encourage, the right to warn and the right to be consulted. By careful and clever application of these rights he has led, guided and helped all Thai people be they military generals, politicians or rural farmers. He has largely remained aloof from day to day politics but does not shy away from intervention when he feels people are erring from the democratic reform as outlined in the constitution.
Just to be the titular head of state was never going to be enough for King Bhumibol and he has immersed himself in his country accepting environmental and economic challenges on its behalf. He realized right away that he could never attain the ambitious targets he set himself while remaining in Bangkok for many years. He traveled extensively throughout his land especially the most remote, inaccessible and difficult to reach rural areas. He has personally visited each of the 75 provinces of Thailand listening to what people have to say, offering guidance where required, sharing the peoples problems, their joy and often their food. He is at one with his people and they love him for it. His Majesty’s special humanity owes much to his mother’s influence and the ideals that she taught him as a child in Switzerland where he learned to appreciate the simple things in life. His Majesty has also boosted national morale by reintroducing tradition ritual ceremonies such as the Royal Ploughing Ceremony which dates back to the Sukhothai era.
Where His Majesty has been able to give the most to his subjects has been through the instigation of some 3000+ Royal Projects often in- itially financed from his own funds. His Majesty’s personal involvement tend to promote the develop- ment of his country and in creating ways and means to im- prove the quality of life of his people. These Projects have not been imposed upon people but have resulted from consultations on how best to tackle parti- cular difficulties per- taining to each region. His talents as a scientist and engineer have been focused on the land and agriculture. Irrigation and dams have increased rice yield, rural development projects have introduced new crops which have eased people, mainly the hilltribes, away from slash and burn farming and rid the country of the opium poppy. Reforestation projects such as that at Doi Angkhang have also proved a great success.
In 1967 the Thai people bestowed the title of ‘The Great’ on His Majesty in appreciation of his efforts on their behalf and in more recent years his endeavours have also been recognised and applauded on the international stage. An example of His Majesty’s ventures is ‘cloud seeding’ that has been particularly beneficial to the farmers of Isaan province in the northeast. Fully aware of the effects of drought in this region he researched the technique whereby small aircraft spray chemicals into clouds to induce much needed rainfall. The Royal Rainmaking Project won the Outstanding Innovative award from Brussels in 2001 and was declared one of the most interesting projects at the 7th International Weather Modification forum. His Majesty is also the inventor of the Chaipattana turbine which is used widely throughout the country combating water pollution and for which he has been granted an international patent.
His Majesty’s various talents have greatly contributed to his subjects’ well-being in the fields of agriculture, environment, education, healthcare and nutrition along with human development that emphasises economic growth and sustainability, human rights and security, equity and political participation. His Majesty furnished useful ideas and plans in the development of efficient traffic networks as well as flood solutions. With his scientific knowledge, far-sighted vision, and confidence, His Majesty created the projects of alternative fuels __ethanol and palm oil which are made from sugar cane and palm fruits respectively.
His Majesty’ Sufficient Economy is a philosophy that stresses appropriate conduct and way of life while incorporating moderation, due consideration in all modes of conduct, and the need for sufficient protection from internal and external shocks. It requires the appliction of accurate knowledge, care and giving, mutual assistance and collaboration.
Not only among the subjects of his Kingdom - officials, ordinary citizens, or simple farmers, but also many people from foreign lands - their sovereigns, presidents, prime ministers, many thousands of tourists who visit Thailand on vacation love, admire and respect His Majesty.
In 2006 His Majesty became the first recipient of the United Nations Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. In his speech at the award ceremony in Bangkok, the UN Secretary General summed up His Majesty’s gift to his country when he said “…as the world’s ‘Development King’ His Majesty reached out to the poorest and most vulnerable people of Thailand, listened to their problems and empowered them to take their lives into their own hands”.
Behind the scenes His Majesty remains a modest man who still tries to live a simple life. He is an accomplished photographer, painter, sailor, skier, marksman, writer and musician to name but a few of his talents. As a young man he loved motor car racing until an accident in 1948 took the sight from his right eye. He has sailed a dinghy single handedly across the Gulf of Thailand and won a gold medal at the 4th SEA Games in 1967. Besides playing many musical instruments His Majesty also composes. The clarinet and saxaphone are perhaps his favourites with Blues and Jazz his favourite genres. Benny Goodman, the world famous jazz musician, once said; “were His Majesty not already a King, he would certainly have been one in the world of music”.
In 2006, June 9th His Majesty celebrated his 60th anniversary as King of Thailand. He worked relentlessly throughout the year to make the celebrations a success and a cause for national pride for all Thais. This year he has not enjoyed good health but the sight of hundreds of his subjects sitting in devoted vigil outside his hospital must have given him great strength. He has recently been discharged from hospital but sadly leaves his sister, HRH Princess Galayani Vadhana still in ill health. Our sympathies reach out to His Majesty and we wish them both a speedy recovery.
His Majes- ty’s portrait hangs in almost every home and workplace in the country like a bene- volent father watching over his family. In recognition of His Majesty’s fatherly approach December 5th is also recognized as Fathers Day in Thailand and all of his extended family will be celebrating with him.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, is rightly regarded by his subjects as ‘The Light of Thailand’. He has consistently demonstrated a remarkable wisdom and talent for what is a most onerous ‘job’ and always led his country with great dignity and respect.
With his healthy longevity, King Bhumibol Adul- yadej has marked yet another milestone in his glorious reign blessed with reser- ves of power, wisdom and absolute virtue. He becomes the ultimate symbol of the country’ stability and he is presently the world’s longest reigning monarch. A sea of yellow greeted His Majesty. Hundreds of well-wishers wearing yellow shirts lined the streets for several kilometers. They chanted “Long Live the King”.
The pro- prietors, staff and readers of the ma- gazine, “Welcome to Chiangmai, Chiangrai and Mae Hong Sorn” wish His Majesty many more years of health and happiness. Long Live the King !
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