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Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's 75th Birthday

Her Majesty Queen Sirikit

On 12th August 1932, General HRH Prince Nakkhadra and his wife Mohm Luang Bua Kittyakara were graced by the birth of a daughter; Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit (the name means "The Glory and Splendor of the Kittyakara family"). Her primary years were spent in the loving care of her grandparents but after completing her early education, at age 13 years, she joined her parents in London where her father was the Siamese Ambassador to the Royal Court of St. James. The family transferred to Paris in 1948 where she completed her education and it was also during their time here that Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit met and fell in love with a student from Lausanne, Switzerland, who frequently visited the Siamese offices in Paris. This was to be no ordinary relationship, however, as the student in question was His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Siam. During his time in Lausanne the King suffered an injury in a motoring accident causing him to be hospitalized in Switzerland. Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit visited him regularly, in the company of her mother as etiquette demanded, and their relationship blossomed. With the approval of both families given, the happy couple officially announced their engagement on 19th July 1949 with the King presenting his intended bride with the same ring given by his father to the Queen Mother many years before.

The Thai people had suffered much deprivation during the years of the Second World War whilst under Japanese occupation and with the news of the King's accident as well were desperate for some good news and the announcement that their King would be bringing home a pretty young wife-to-be fitted the bill perfectly. Their wedding took place with all of the pomp and ceremony demanded of Siamese tradition in the Srapatoom Palace on 28th April 1950 and the following week the King officially ascended to the Siamese throne, this having been postponed to enable him to complete his studies. With the marriage his new wife was granted the rank and title of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

Her Majesty Queen Sirikit

In 1956 Her Majesty Queen Sirikit acted as Regent of Thailand during the short period her husband spent in the monkhood. By doing so she became only the second Queen ever to be so honored; Queen Sao Vabha Pongsee, wife of King Chulalongkom, being the first.

In the years following their marriage the King and Queen travelled extensively through the nation's impoverished regions. On one such occasion she remarked that "if you cannot abolish poverty, you cannot bring peace to your country or help your government". Since that time she has made it her life's work to strive towards this goal. Thus, the esteem in which she is held is not simply due to her position as Queen but is a respect she has earned over years of selfless service to her people and country. She has constantly taken the lead in launching Royal Initiatives aimed at bettering the life of ordinary Thai citizens. These projects vary widely but include income generation, handicrafts, health care and the environment. Perhaps the SUPPORT (Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques) Foundation, started in 1976, has become the jewel in the crown of her achievements. This Foundation has been credited as being the most thoroughly integrated social development program in Thailand and has become a model adopted for use throughout the world. Based on the old saying that, "if you give a man a fish he can feed his family for one day but if you give him a fishing net you give him the ability and the self esteem to feed his family for a lifetime". The Foundation provides access to education, training and the necessary material for the creation of self sustaining rural enterprises.

Her Majesty has a love for the environment in which we live and is concerned about the ongoing destruction of forests in Thailand. Of particular interest to Northern Thailand has been the role played by Her Majesty in the Hilltribe Handicraft Program and the Royal Reforestation Program, both originally targeted at reducing the hilltribe peoples dependence on slash and burn agriculture and their involvement in the growing and trade of opium. The projects have achieved much success with the first of these and the 'opium factor' has now been almost eradicated in Thailand. The promotion of alternative occupations also sprang from this concern. Where a family's immediate worry is where their next meal is coming from, then environmental issues will understandably take a back seat. By creating employment for the needy, even within the field of conservation, you can tackle both issues at once. The salary earned from working provides the means to alleviate the hunger, provide clothing and housing for a family whilst it is no longer necessary to carry out activities detrimental to their surroundings.

Perhaps whilst travelling with her husband Her Majesty became aware that those living in remote areas were lacking in basic amenities and health care and she launched a program directed specifically at these people. The Royal Medical Unit travels around the country providing 'missions of mercy' where required most. Originally staffed only by members of the Royal Medical Staff it now includes a fine body of volunteers, doctors and nurses from the Kingdoms leading hospitals.

Her Majesty has also emerged as a champion of women in Thailand, voicing her concerns about gender disparities in education and in the workplace and is outspoken on general women's rights. She has given not only her time but contributions from her personal finances to aid the launching of cottage industries such as weaving, spinning and dying cotton, all of which are traditional female means of employment in rural Thailand. The list of HM Queen Sirikit's contributions to the improvements of Thai society at all levels is legion and unfortunately we have only been able to scratch the surface here.

In a speech on the occasion of her 75 th birthday, HM the Queen expressed concerns about environmental problems, including deforestation and pollution. She had campaigned vigorously against deforestation for decades but the effort seemed to be fruitless. Greedy people cut down the forests and led to mudslides that killed people and devastated property. Her Majesty urged the government and the public to help preserve existing forest and promote new forest plantation so that people will not suffer from droughts. fresh water would be in short supply in next 20 years. The country might be forced to buy water from other nations, and poor citizens will suffer the most. She cited His Majesty the King's advice that forest help soak up rainwater and prevent mudslides. She felt sad that the contamination of the Chao Phraya River has been fouled by chemical discharge from factory and sewerage. Practically, every species of freshwater fish in the river became extinct. She also refered to the King's struggle to protect mangroves that serve as nurseries for baby fish and prawns. Her Majesty continues her good works and in the recent month has represented her husband and the Kingdom of Thailand on a Royal visit to Russia and several other European countries. The significance was more than a reaffirmation of the cordial ties that mark the 110th anniversary of Russian-Thai diplomatic relations. It was an historic event closely linked to the first visit by a Siamese monarch, King Chulalongkorn to Russia during 1st - 11th July 1897. Her Majesty visited Peterhoff Summer Palace, near St. Petersburg, where King Chulalongkorn stayed during his visit on July 5, 1897. An important historical evidence of the two king's most cordial greeting is a photograph of King Chulalongkorn and Tzar Nicholas II, taken at the palace on July 5, 1897.

HM the Queen was well treated in the exact same spot as King Chulalongkorn had received, 110 years ago. The Queen described the warm welcome given her by Russian President Vladimir Putin, ministers, governor and officials during the state visit.

While she visited Germany, one of 4,000 Thai students asked for her opinion on the issue of declaring Buddhism as the state religion in the draft constitution. Her answer was that everybody does not want Buddhism to be mixed with politics. It should be held in high esteem as a guiding light for all Thai citizens. Many foreigners told her during the trips that they thought highly of Bangkok as a city of religious tolerance where Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches can stand side by side without conflict. All Thai citizens have the right to profess any religion or belief they see fit.

Although by the very nature of the Thai monarchy they are separated from the business of politics, HM Queen Sirikit is aware of the weight that her voice carries and does not bury her head in the sand or hide behind tradition where she feels her people are suffering. Several years ago, she made a speech expressing her concerns over the unrest in the south. She urged people to help government deal with the issues while at the same time expressing her disapproval at the injustices being served upon innocent people.But if their actions go far beyond acceptable limits, they must be warned or restrained. Her Majesty has lived up to her name throughout her life and is no longer solely the Glory and Splendor of the Kittyakara family but of the entire Thai nation. Not only has Her Majesty Queen Sirikit been blessed by being a mother to four children of her own; their Royal Highnesses Princess Ubolratana, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn, but she has also been adopted as mother of the nation. Accordingly August 12th is now celebrated as "Mother's Day" by all families in her honor.

HM Queen Sirikit is a regular visitor to Chiangmai loving to spend time amongst the flower gardens of the Phuping Royal Palace on Doi Suthep. All of the management, staff and associated writers for "Welcome to Chiangmai and Chiangrai" magazine would like to take this opportunity to send our warmest congratulations and deepest gratitude for her countless benevolent contributions to the Kingdom of Thailand.

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