Happy Birthday, King Bhumibol

middle-aged Thai man dressed casually, wiping a bead of sweat from his noseDecember the 5th is the 78th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand and is therefore Thai Father’s Day.

To Thais, the King is the father of the Thai nation. He’s been King longer than India has been independent, and has seen the country change from a rural backwater to a major developing economy. Through fascist military coups and brutal repression, he’s been the steadfast figurehead and is genuinely loved by the entire Thai population. You expect portraits of monarch and presidents in government buildings – but in Thailand, every private home has a portrait of the King, high on the wall so that his head is higher than anyone else’s. This is my favourite picture; he’s hiked into the countryside to visit some remote village, and he’s wiping sweat off his face. Thais love this picture, too; it shows how he cares about his subjects.

Ratchadamnoen Avenue will be thronged with hundreds of thousands of Thai people, sweltering but glad to be there to wish him happy birthday.

Behind the celebrations, however, is a worry that every Thai feels but few discuss. The King is 78, and a heavy smoker and can’t last forever. An old prophesy says that the Chakri dynasty, of which this king is King Rama 9, will end when its ninth member dies. And the problem is the succession.

The King has three children in the immediate succession (one daughter, Ubol Ratana, lost her rights when she married an American). The Thai people love his daughter, Sirinthorn, who devotes her life to the King’s projects, working for the poor, who speaks and publishes poetry in French, English, Chinese and Thai, and who is (I’m told by people who have met her) a delightful, cultured person. Many Thai people have photos of her in their house and speak admiringly of her, and the King changed the law to allow a woman to acceed to the throne.

But the heir to the throne is Sirinthorn’s elder brother, Prince Vajiralongkorn. I’ve never met the Prince, but met his ex-wife several times and know people who’ve met him. In a country where speaking ill of Royalty is against the law, dark rumours abound about the Prince’s lifestyle and behaviour. I’ve heard many and, although repeating them would be purely hearsay (and probably get me banned from ever visting the Kingdom again), it’s fair to say that the Prince has nothing like the level of popular affection that Sirinthorn enjoys. You’ll understand what I mean when I say that I’ve never seen a photo of the Prince in a private house or business.

But the Prince will certainly become King. He’s an army man, and in Thailand the army is never far from the levers of power. The army has shown itself capable of going against the wishes of the Thai people before: as recently as 1992, the army caused the “disappearance” of hundreds of pro-democracy protestors, demonstrating against the installation of General Suchinda as Prime Minister.

Put it this way: I wouldn’t like to be living in Bangkok when the King goes to meet the Buddha. So, happy birthday, King Bhumibol. May you have many more.

23 Responses to “ Happy Birthday, King Bhumibol ”

Comment by Clifford

I can definately vouch for the adoration of the king in thailand. How different is the respect and value of the monarchy compared to countries like the UK! Do you think we could ever “have another hero”?

Comment by Kelly

No one can compared to him.
I love him so much.
Without him I think Thailand never be Thailand anymore.
Love liv the King.

Comment by Lloydi

Just re-reading this some 18 months after leaving Thailand and a while after you posted this. It’s got to be said, the politicians are hated and come-and-go, but the king is revered. Who really knows what will happen when he goes? Gotta hope for the best, though.

Comment by natwipa

All Thai people love our king. God blesses our king to have long live.

Thailand does not have our present king, we will not have our country any more.

We love, respect, praise and proud of our king so much

Comment by g.eatock

Long life to king and queen .thailand loves and needs you very much ,and the world stands in awe of such love and devotion may lord buddah protect you always.

Comment by PRIBO

the man is a dictator who let his army of people be brainwashed and salute him in there yellow shirts
he thinks he is GOD , the Thai are blind .

Comment by ABC

Things happen for a reason. He’s more like father of the country than a god. The respect and adoration are from what he’s done or proved since the first day he stepped onto the throne. At the time, it was millions of hesitation toward him. Now there is only love and respect for him. Ones who don’t really know him or whom have never been influenced by his helps and generosity might easily misjudge him from the situations.
No matter what they say about him, what I know is true is that he’s done so much for Thai people that there is no way we can pay it off.

The drug and poverty were greatly decreased/gone from the conflict parts of the country.
The flooding problems were solved.
The arid land became abundant.
Thousands of lives were saved, tears were washed away.
These are only a fraction of what he’s done.

Long live his majesty the king, the beloved

Comment by julian clearsight

Thais love their King…yeah rignt, they better do because if they don’t they go to jail !!! In the west this kind of guy is called a dictator. The best thing that could happen to Thailand at this point is the end of the Chakri dynasty

Comment by Pure

Love or hate does not put your body to jail, only your mind. Most people who are really THAI, and also some foreigners, who are touch by his dedication to the country and his people wil understand this love and loyalty. Thai King is personally open to critic, more than some hyprocrite politicians. Clear the brain, not use only the sight. And the yellow T-shirt is at least we can show how Thai love the King, by voluntarily, no force no dictate.

Comment by Kingy Boy

Totally agree that the bloke is a dictator. If the Thais don’t love him, they go to jail… so what else can they do but love him ??? It’s sickening to see how low people bow before him in his presence. Who does he think he is ???

Comment by Blah

in response to the guy above me….the king accepts criticism of him as he beleives that critisicm will help shape how he rules. As he said…

“Actually, I must also be criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticised, it means that the king is not human,” he said. “If the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the King is not being treated as a human being. But the King can do wrong.”

source wikipedia

Comment by Y

Long live the King

To those people who said bad thing about my king, you should just shut up because clearly you have no idea what your talking about. The king has done so much for Thailand and theres no way we can thank him enough in this life time. It is pure love, no force and he’s not a dictator so those people who say he is you should get your facts right and I dont expect people with mind like yours to understand the meaning of pure love. and us thai loves him with all our hearts.
long live the king
and i curse you whoever said bad things about him but clearly have no idea or respect for him at all.

Comment by a

I love my king. And Thais love and respect him.

Fucking you mom, “Pribo “
If we know who are you, your feet can not touch thai area

Comment by Sukanya Kongsuban

I’m proud to be born in Thailand and have the love at king who does everything for thai people. I love the king forever.Long live the king.

Comment by Angkana Malroj

May the King be blessed with long live, happiness, good health, so as to be able to contribute further to the well-being of Thai people for good. Long Live the King.

Comment by Phonnaphad Rungphomma

May I bless King Bhumibol have happiness, Strong health and longvity with Thai people Long live the King.

Comment by Noppharat Khiawprasong

I can definately vouch for the adoration of the king in thailand. How different is the respect and value of the monarchy compared to countries like the UK! Do you think we could ever “have another hero”.

Comment by Rossaporn Kayan

May I bless King Bhumibol have happiness, Strong health and longvity with Thai people Long live the King.