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The Soul of the Nation: H.M. King Bhumibol

On 5th December 1927 at Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., a baby boy was born. One of perhaps many boys born on that day, this child's destiny was uniquely different -- and no one knew, not even his parents, just how different! He was destined to become His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX of the Royal House of Chakri, in the Kingdom of Siam.

The child was born as Prince Bhumibol, the third child and second son to Their Royal Highnesses Prince Mahidol of Songkla and Mohm Sangval Chookramol. Prince Mahidol was a son of the late King Chulalongkorn, Rama V of Siam (20 September 1853-23 October 1910). While studying medicine at Harvard University, his wife was also working in the medical profession. Baby Prince Bhumibol was, therefore, a grandson of King Chulalongkorn but he had an elder brother, Prince Ananda Mahidol, who would eventually take the reign of kingship in the Kingdom of Siam. Prince Bhumibol was never destined to become king and never would be king -- or so everyone assumed. How the hands of fate can change any scenario!

Sadly, Prince Bhumibol's father died from kidney failure at an early age in 1929 so his mother rather than residing in Siam or U.S.A., took her young family to live quietly in Switzerland where they had the opportunity to enjoy a more "normal" life and receive a comprehensive education. In Siam, political events were putting the Kingdom through difficult times; King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, one of King Chulalongkorn's sons, was Monarch and was trying to guide his Kingdom through the changes from an Absolute Monarchy to a Constitutional one. However, political clamor overtook him and, rather than sell his soul or his subjects, King Prajadhipok abdicated the Siamese Throne in 1935. Immediately, Prince Bhumibol's elder brother became King Ananda Mahidol, Rama VIII of Siam.

In Switzerland, Prince Bhumibol's family lived in a private villa near Lausanne. The Princess Mother, Sri Nagarindra formerly Mohm Sangvalya, ensured that family life was as "ordinary" as possible. The young Prince kept company with peer group friends, enjoyed hobbies and generally did the things boys like to do. Photography was a special interest (although initial efforts were a disappointing failure as his first exposed film came out blank!) and the young Prince did love tinkering with things -- repairing electric trains, model making and so on. With this aptitude for "tinkering" with items electrical and mechanical, it was no surprise when Prince Bhumibol eventually began to read Science at Lausanne University. A working "career" in that direction seemed most likely until, on 9 July 1946 in Bangkok, a thunderbolt struck the Thai Royal Household. That was the untimely death of King Ananda, Prince Bhumibol's elder brother. Prince Bhumibol, now a 19-year-old, was thrust to the fore and acceded to the Throne as H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX of Siam.

At that time, Siam was in a state of political and economic trauma. Japanese forces had been vanquished and expelled from the nation but the country was slow to recover from the war and its aftermath. Sensibly the Siamese Government decided that their new Sovereign, King Bhumibol, should remain in Lausanne and finish his university studies, with a coronation to take place later. King Bhumibol was happy to remain there because another matter had claimed his attention and his heart! He had fallen in love with a charming young woman, also of royal lineage, called Mohm Rajawongse Sirikit. She became H.M. Queen Sirikit and has dedicated her life to her Sovereign Husband, family and the Siamese Nation.

The Coronation of H.M. King Bhumibol in mid 1950 was preceded one week earlier by the marriage of the Royal Couple. The citizens of Bangkok and the entire nation were beside themselves with joy and celebration at these two great Royal Ceremonies only a week apart. Pomp, pageantry and the cultural traditions of Old Siam flowed freely through the streets of the Kingdom's capital and to every corner of every province in the nation. Multitudes of people acclaimed their new Sovereign -- H.M. King Bhumibol, the young boy who never aspired to be King. AND SO IT HAS REMAINED!

H.M. King Bhumibol is revered and adored by his subjects -- simply because he is Monarch but also because he has earned their respect (as well as that of the many foreign nationals who reside as guests in his Kingdom). Now the longest reigning Sovereign in the world, King Bhumibol has been a guiding light and steadying hand for his people. Many of his ancestors have been hailed as Great Kings -- some were warriors, and some were builders, some were educators and reformers. All, as Absolute Monarchs, had absolute power. As a constitutional Monarch, King Bhumibol has no political power, however, he has his own Royal Power. He leads his people by the power of his personality, his warmth and concern for their welfare (note the numerous Royal Projects instituted by the King) and, when need be, by exercising his "three rights" -- the right to encourage, the right to be consulted and the right to warn! So it is by example that His Majesty had earned the respect and homage of everyone in Thailand.

Pictures of H.M. King Bhumibol

He immediately realized that he could never attain the ambitious targets he set himself if he remained in Bangkok for many years. Thus, he traveled extensively throughout the land, especially to the most remote, inaccessible and difficult to reach rural areas. He has personally visited each of the 75 provinces of Thailand listening to what his subjects have to say, offering guidance when required, sharing the peoples problems, their joys and often their food. He is at one with them and they love him for it. His Majesty's special quality of 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. He 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 initially financed from his own funds. His Majesty's personal involvement tends to promote the development of his country and creates ways and means to improve the quality of life of his people. These Projects have not been imposed upon his subjects but have resulted from consultations on how best to tackle particular difficulties pertaining to each region. His talents as a scientist and engineer have 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 have rid the country of opium production. Reforestation projects such as that at Doi Angkhang have also proved a great success.

His Majesty's various talents have greatly contributed to his subjects' well-being in the fields of agriculture, environment, education, health care and nutrition, along with human development that emphasizes economic growth and sustainability, human rights and security, equity and political participation. His Majesty has provided useful ideas and plans in the development of efficient traffic networks, as well as flood solutions. With his scientific knowledge, farsighted vision, and confidence, he has created the projects of alternative fuels -- ethanol and palm oil which are made from sugar cane and palm fruits respectively.

His Majesty's Sufficient Economy is a philosophy that stresses appropriate conduct and way of life while incorporating moderation in all modes of conduct, and the need for sufficient protection from internal and external shocks. It requires the application 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 -- sovereigns, presidents, prime ministers, as well as the many thousands of tourists who visit Thailand on vacation each year with love, admire and respect His Majesty.

During the past years, he and his older sister, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, had not enjoyed good health but the sight of hundreds of his subjects sitting devoted vigil outside Siriraj Hospital certainly gave them strength. His Majesty had recovered and was discharged but sadly left his sister struggling at the same hospital until she passed away peacefully at 02.54 a.m. on the morning of January 2nd 2008 after a battle with abdominal cancer. She was 84. At the official cremation that took place on November 14-19, 2008, the citizens of the nation mourned for their beloved princess.

His Majesty King Bhumibol has been attributed with many and varied titles, such as Thailand's Working Monarch, Champion of the Environment, and Champion of Rural Development. These titles, however, are only each a small part of what His Majesty represents to his people. As the unifier of the nation, he has always taken his role very seriously. From the very beginning of his reign in 1950, he has mapped out and planned a multitude of projects that he has since implemented. These include more than can be numbered here, the main ones being in the areas of farming and agriculture, home industry and self-sufficiency programs, rural development projects, hilltribe projects and environmental programs.

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, linguist, writer and jazz 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 of his right eye. He has sailed a dinghy single handled 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 saxophone are perhaps his favorite, along with Blues and Jazz. After hearing a Buddhist sermon, he penned the inspirational tale, "The Story of Mahajanaka" which was published in 1996 in picture form for everyone to understand and appreciate. In addition, His Majesty translated two books from English to Thai, "A Man Called Intrepid" by William Stevenson, and "Tito" by Phyllis Auty.

All of his many activities took place until just a few years ago. He no longer can do as much due to his health, however, Her Majesty the Queen, the Crown Prince and Princesses of the royal family proceed on behalf of His Majesty.

With his healthy longevity, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has marked yet another milestone in his glorious reign blessed with reserves of power, wisdom and absolute virtue. He becomes the ultimate symbol of the country's stability and he is presently the world's longest-reigning monarch. A sea of yellow greeted His Majesty on the celebrations of his coronation as well as birth days in 2007, with hundreds of well-wishers wearing yellow shirts lined the streets for several kilometers. They chanted "Long Live the King".

We at "Welcome to Chiangmai, Chiangrai & Mae Hong Sorn" Magazine wish His Gracious Majesty all the best for his birthday, and may he reign for many more years.

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