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Long Live Her Majesty

As the New Year of 1932 slipped into being, who could foretell what events lay in store during the twelve months ahead. It was a Leap Year with the month of February having an extra day which, perhaps, augured well for some and not for others. Situations were to change around the world; Siam was easing its way through a transition period from Absolute to Constitutional Monarchy, Germany's President Hindenberg was to accept the status of the SS and the SA, Sydney would see its new Harbour Bridge being opened, Auguste Piccard would soar to a record height of 16,500 metres in an air balloon, Venice would host its first Film Festival while Los Angeles welcomed participants to the Summer Olympics.

On 12 August 1932 two unrelated happenings were recorded in Bangkok a baby daughter was born to General HRH Prince Nakkhadra and Mohm Luang Bua Kittyakara while in the United States President Herbert Hoover addressed a Press Conference and said "We have got a large conference for small news. I haven't anything of importance to say". But the birth and life of that baby girl has been more than important to the people and Kingdom of Thailand. Named Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit, the little girl was to become Thailand's beloved Queen Sirikit and wife to H.M. King Bhumibol, Rama IX, of Thailand. 1932 was a splendid year for the Kingdom!

The name Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit (meaning "Glory and Splendour of the Kittyakara Family") was suggested by her royal relative King Prajadipok, Rama VII, and so it came to be. Educated initially at the Rajini School, followed by the St. Francis Xavier Convent School, Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit was to join her parents in London where her father was Thai Ambassador to the Royal Court of St. James. That diplomatic posting was followed by an Ambassadorial transfer to Paris in 1948 where young Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit continued her education in one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

During her sojourn in Paris, this diplomat's daughter was to meet the man of her dreams he would court her, win her affection and love, and eventually marry her. The man was H.M. King Bhumibol, who had acceded to the Thai Throne in 1946. Although officially engaged, wedding plans were postponed until the King completed his university degrees in Switzerland so, on 28 April 1950, the Royal Couple was married in Bangkok to the tumultuous acclaim of the nation.

Since that momentous day Queen Sirikit has devoted her life to her husband the King, her children and to the Thai nation. Thus the Queen's birthday, 12 August, is also Mother's Day in Thailand. Queen Sirikit is, very much, Mother to the nation especially to the womenfolk whom the Queen has championed in a multitude of self-help programmes. In parallel with her husband the King, Queen Sirikit has the philosophy "give a man a fish and you give him a meal. Give him a fishing rod and you feed him for life".

So Royal Projects became the norm as Queen Sirikit thought of ideas and ways to improve the daily lives of Thai people in particular the lives of rural women. Funding for such start-up projects often came from the Queen's private purse; other times the Queen has effectively used her charm and position to coax and cajole funds from Government Departments and private sector businesses. The Queen has proved to be a most persuasive lady and the rural womenfolk of Thailand have benefited enormously.

The number of the Queen's Royal Projects are too lengthy to list (there are hundreds) but some examples include training the sight-impaired in the skill of traditional Thai massage, promoting hand woven silks, brocades and cottons in our Northern region (the Queen's wardrobe reflects the diversity and beauty of Thai fabric and design), the art of miniature clay-doll making in Angthong and Ayutthaya Provinces and the encouragement of Hilltribe embroidery and silver jewelry. Little in the Thai world of arts and crafts seems to have escaped the eye, and endeavours, of Queen Sirikit.

Other examples include environmental education and "green" projects in the South, sea turtles were threatened by local fishermen until the Queen explained that over-catching was self destructive and donated Mannai Island (which had been Crown Land) as a marine and sea turtle sanctuary. Native birds were not forgotten as Her Majesty persuaded authorities to create a sanctuary in Ayutthaya and, here in Chiang Mai, the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens (well worth a visit) are a wonderful example of tree and plant protection and propagation.

Thailand rejoices in the example, leadership and compassion of Her Majesty, Queen Sirikit as she has shown care to her people and to environmental issues in every region of Thailand. On this 12 August, our beloved Queen's 6th Cycle Birthday, we join the nation in wishing her a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY with many more to follow. Long live Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit!

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