A Salute !:  To His Majesty, King Bhumibol Long Life and a Happy Birthday!

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, King of Thailand celebrates his birthday on 5th December and the entire nation celebrates with him. His Majesty, born in 1927, was crowned in May 1950 and he is the world's longest serving Monarch. A blessing for his Kingdom and his people, long may he reign!

For many visitors to our kingdom, perhaps visiting from countries that do not have a monarch or from countries where the monarch is not so "at one" with the people, it is something of a minor mystery as to why the people of Thailand so revere H.M. King Bhumibol. The answer is quite simple at the time of his coronation King Bhumibol pledged, "We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people". His Majesty has fulfilled his pledge many times over. Since ascending to the Siamese throne in 1946 (after the untimely death of his older brother King Ananda Mahidol), King Bhumibol has made himself part of his people and his people part of himself. Integration and fusion between sovereign and state where one becomes the all and the all is the Kingdom of Thailand.

His Royal Mother and, the Siamese government, wished their new King to continue his overseas studies, the coronation was postponed until mid-1950. In the interim, the young monarch had met a lovely girl, fallen in love, became engaged and married his fiancee one week before the royal coronation. This was Mom Rajawongse Sirikit H.M Queen Sirikit who has been a loyal and faithful wife to her King, mother to their children and dedicated to her country.

Behind a majestic and regal exterior, H.M. the King is very much a modest man. He is an accomplished musician/composer and enjoys painting (oil on canvas is his forte) as a relaxation. Likewise, the King is a talented writer and, 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.

H.M. King Bhumibol, is a constitutional monarch. That is, he is above politics and therefore has no political power. The King's has only threefold "rights" the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn. His Majesty has always exercised his latter right carefully but, on behalf of his subjects, the King has not been timorous when the need arises to caution wayward politicians be they prime ministers or military generals.

The remaining rights of being consulted and encouraging have been fully employed since the beginning of King Bhumibol's reign. In fact, the King has gone out of his way to undertake consulting. He has traveled the length and breadth of his Kingdom, numerous times, to talk with and listen to his people. To His Majesty, it was of the essence to discover "the state of the nation", to find out about people's problems, the condition of the countryside and encourage solutions for those difficulties. From such investigations sprang the many and varied Royal Projects that continue to this day.

With an inherent concern for both people and land coupled with a natural flair for things technical (His Majesty studied at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland from where he earned engineering degrees), the King was well placed to provide leadership and wise council in problem solving. An early example, of more than 30 years ago, was when His Majesty flew over the rugged, northern hills of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Sorn Provinces. People living on the steep slopes were using "slash & burn" agricultural techniques and, even worse, they were cultivating the opium poppy on a massive scale.

This, decided the King, has got to stop! By encouraging the people that there was a better way, and with expert aid from many quarters, His Majesty saw poppies giving way to tea, coffee, potatoes plus temperate climate fruit and flowers. A visit to King Bhumibol's Royal Project at Doi Angkhang (in the high hills northwest of Chiang Mai City close to the frontier with Myanmar) is an education in how both people and their land may be healed from earlier wounds. Covering a huge area, the Doi Angkhang project now produces temperate climate vegetables, plants, flowers and boasts a popular and well managed hotel. And, of course, those vegetables, plants and flowers find their way to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels, throughout Thailand, which depend upon quality produce for their customers.

Another, and quite unusual, example of His Majesty's thought provoking and innovative projects is that of the Royal Rainmaking. King Bhumibol was acutely aware that several areas of his Kingdom suffered from periodic drought especially the arid plateau of Northeast Thailand (I-San). In fact, at one time in I-san, monsoon storm clouds had built over the plateau but rain was not falling. A program of chemically "seeding" the cloud formations, with hygroscopic chemicals, might provide the answer. King Bhumibol researched the project personally, took opinion from experts in Israel and the United States, and compiled a "what to do" handbook. The handbook was presented to a Special Task Force in 1999 and there are now six rainmaking "basins" throughout the nation (including Chiang Mai and Phrae). This Royal Rainmaking Project claimed the Outstanding Innovative Award from Brussels, Belgium, in 2001 and was also declared one of the two most interesting projects at the 7th International Weather Modification Forum.

These are but two examples of projects motivated, researched and launched by H.M. King Bhumibol, Thailand's working Sovereign. There are hundreds of other examples in land conservation, damn building, resource management and irrigation. To be a hereditary monarch, and a titular head of state, has never been enough for His Majesty. He has immersed himself in the needs of his kingdom and the people. He has accepted environmental and economic challenges, on his subject's behalf, and come up with beneficial answers. It is little wonder that H.M. King Bhumibol, Rama IX, of Thailand has earned and won the love, admiration and respect of his people. During a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) film documentary on the working life of the Thai Monarch, King Bhumibol was described as "the Soul of the Nation". How rightly so!

A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our King, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, of Thailand. LONG LIVE THE KING!