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A Man for All Reasons - His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama 9

A Man for All Reasons - King Bhumibol Adulyadej


 
December the fifth is when Thais celebrates the birthday of their monarch, and this year has particular significancefor several reasons. On Friday, June 9, 2006, His Majesty the King and the whole Thai Kingdom celebrated the 60th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the throne making him the longest-reigning monarch in the world. The anniversary was celebrated with pomp and grandeur befitting the people’s love for their King: plays, exhibitions and cultural performances were staged and main avenues were decorated and lighted up as tributes to His Majesty. And to express their love, people throughout the Kingdom donned Yellow, the colour of His Majesty’s day of birth - Monday 5th December 1927.

 

The tragic death of King Ananda in June of 1946 propelled his teenage brother, Prince Bhumibol to the throne. At the behest of his mother, however, the young prince continued with his academic studies abroad, and his coronation was postponed until 1950. Although his ancestors had ruled with absolute power, King Bhumibol has little direct power under the constitution, but remains a symbol of national identity and unity. It was to unity that His Majesty referred in his first public audience in seven years, when addressing a million strong crowd of his subjects in Bangkok this summer:

”Unity is a basis for all Thais to help preserve and bring prosperity to the country in the long run,” he said. “If Thais uphold these ethics, it will ensure that Thailand will stand firmly,” he told the crowd.

It is easy to see why this humble, soft-spoken, man of the people commands a respect bordering on worship from his Thai subjects at home and abroad. He enjoys the admiration and friendship of royal households and heads of state from around the world. Earlier this year, His Majesty received the UN’s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award from its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
 
The royal office of principal private secretary has a full record that Their Majesties the King and Queen made 33 state as well as official visits to foreign countries. Meanwhile, there were 65 state and official visits of heads of state (or their representatives) of foreign countries to the Kingdom of Thailand so that Their Majesties welcomed and greeted them at the airport.
 
The 60th Anniversary of TIME Magazine, November 13, 2006, published the stories of 60 years of Asian Heroes. The magazine devoted page 93 to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej __ “Over 60 years, a beloved minarcle has used his moral authority to guide Thailand through many crises. His stewarelship has been so masterful that in time of crisis Thai invariably turn to one man : King Bhumibol”.

In honor of the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej

 

But for all that adoration and respect, King Bhumibol appears to prefer to reverse his royal role, and to become the servant of his people. The king has initiated no fewer than 3,000 royal projects to help the poor.

His constant search for solutions to problems facing his subjects on a day-to-day basis touches on all manner of issues: pollution, over-logging, soil erosion, drought, crime, drugs, unemployment, health, education, and many other problems facing both rural and inner-city residents__the list of issues to which His Majesty has sought direct, hand’s-on involvement is almost endless. The list of Over 3,000 Royal Projects, many funded directly from the Privy Purse, bears testament to the devotion the King has for the Thai people.

An engineering graduate, he has an inbred desire to tinker with all matters demanding technical know-how. One particular project that displays the level of expertise which he brings to the table is the innovative art of rain-making, as the science of cloud-seeding has become commonly known. As a result of his painstaking research, squadrons of aircraft traverse the skies over Thailand spraying silver iodine, salt and dry ice, causing vapour droplets to freeze and fall earthwards. One thousand or so flights per month have eased drought conditions throughout the land by as much as eighty percent.

The Royal Rain-Making Project took the Outstanding Innovative award from Brussels at the start of the millennium, and was declared one of the most interesting projects at the seventh International Weather Modification forum.

King Bhumibol has, during his sixty years on the throne, been a pillar of rectitude and strength to his people; this he could have achieved in prepared speeches relayed via the electronic media from the comfort of a palace. King Bhumibol prefers instead to get his hands dirty while working alongside a poor rice farmer, or climbing steep mountainsides in searing heat to inspect at first hand the results of illegal logging.

When past administrations have drifted from the path of service to the people, the King has made known his displeasure, sometimes publicly, and directed them back on course with firm suggestions as opposed to rebukes.

In his younger days, the King applied the same vigour to what leisure time he had, as that he displayed in the service of his people. He became an avid photographer, an author, an artist, a linguist, a yachtsman, a composer and performer of music, with a particular love of jazz, and he achieved very high standards in all of these fields.

To take his love of jazz as one example: you do not get to play alongside giants such as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Stan Getz or Lionel Hampton regardless of your royal status; you have to be accepted on their terms as a fine musician, and a cool guy to boot. Should you be lucky enough to hear sultry numbers such as “Candlelight Blues” or “Hungry Man’s Blues”, it may surprise you to know that they were composed, arranged and performed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama 1X, King of Thailand!

There is an old black and white photograph on our living room wall of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. I imagine it was taken shortly after their wedding in 1950, and it reveals a warm, smiling young couple greeting villagers in some remote, rural hamlet.

The royal couple and the villagers have gathered a few years since then, but the smiles on the faces of the King and Queen are as genuine and warm today as they were when captured by that photographer some 56 years ago. The royal couple, indeed the entire royal family are today involved in charity work, royal projects, and public duties.

Despite the views of some who would prefer to see their monarch take on fewer tasks, and to relax and enjoy his senior years, King Bhumibol launches himself into each new project with the verve of a first year university student. Long may he continue to lead by example.
 

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