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The soul of a nation

Article - December 5, 2012
Reigning with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese People
Few Thai faces are as well known around the world as that of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The world's longest serving current head of state and the longest reigning monarch in Thai history, the King ascended to the throne on June 9 1946. The coronation ceremony came later on May 5 1950, where the King promising to “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” Having celebrated his 85th birthday on December 5, Thailand is taking advantage of the occasion to commemorate the King’s lifelong contributions to nationhood and community. Throughout his reign, the King has earned the respect and loyalty of the Thai people. 

Since he was crowned at the age of 22, King Bhumibol has served as the face of the nation abroad, maintaining diplomatic relationships with the international community while exerting a stabilising force at home. He has helped Thailand see its way through moments of political uncertainty, like the 1973 uprising and 1992 coup, and natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami in Phuket, which also claimed the life of the King’s 21-year-old Thai-American grandson, Prince Poomi Jensen. Seeking democracy not intervention, the King has been on hand to guide the nation when the state machinery failed to put an end to bloodshed, throwing open the palace gates to take in street demonstrators in the 1973 uprisings, for example, when confrontations led to armed repression by the authorities, and acting as a mediator between opposing sides after the military coup some two decades later.

In the televised meeting between the opposing parties in 1993, which the King arranged, he implored the two leaders to think of the country first. “There has been an unfathomable loss of public confidence and morale, as well as of credibility in the nation’s economy. Can there ever be a winner? Of course not. There will only be a loser. Each side in the confrontation is a loser,” he warned.

The King has spent much of his life travelling throughout Thailand, visiting village after village, where he inquired and looked after the needs of each particular community, devising innovative solutions to their social, climatic, geographical and agricultural problems. As a result, the King, who is a globally-renowned pioneer in natural sciences, has developed over 4,000 different projects covering a broad range of areas, including agriculture, water resources, environmental conservation, occupational promotion, public health and welfare and communication, all aimed at enhancing the quality of life of these communities.

Development of the nation must be carried out in stages by ensuring the majority of the people have their basic necessities.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej
of Thailand

The monarch’s unique development approach was created over two phases. He developed his New Theory of Agriculture in the 1950s, whose policies sought to help farm families help themselves, and in many cases, ended up increasing family incomes by more than 10 times. After gaining more experience, the King proposed his Sufficiency Economy theory in 1974, which elevated many elements of the New Theory to the national level, serving both urban and rural needs. Tenets of the philosophy provide guidelines for people at all levels on how to conduct themselves in life, in essence adhering the Buddhist concept of the Middle Path in that it enjoined citizens to avoid extremes, practice frugality and moderation, and avoid being lured by greed into taking big risks. Sufficiency Economy requires being constantly aware that while conditions are good today, they could change tomorrow, and a subsequent adjustment to lifestyle and spending habits. It envisages gradual development, making sure one is secure in one stage before moving on to the next.

“Development of the nation must be carried out in stages by ensuring the majority of the people have their basic necessities,” the King explained. “Once a reasonably firm foundation has been laid, higher levels of economic growth and development should be promoted. If we were to concentrate only on fast economic progress without allowing the plan of operation to harmonise with the conditions of the country and people, an imbalance would be caused and may bring about failure in the end.”

Although few foreign readers would have a true understanding of the reverence and deeply rooted love Thais have for their King, the Thai monarch’s contributions have been recognised in a multitude of honours, including more than 30 international awards and more than 20 honorary degrees. In 2006, the Secretary General of the United Nations awarded him the first and only United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of King Bhumibol’s “dedication to developing and industriously uplifting the living conditions of Thai people all through his 60-year reign.” In 2009, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) awarded him the first WIPO Global Leaders Award in recognition of his remarkable contribution to intellectual property both as an inventor and as an active proponent of intellectual property as a tool for development.

King Bhumibol’s dedication to public service is a trait that is also evident in the other members of the Thai royal family. Queen Sirikit’s interest in the welfare of Thailand’s rural communities closely parallels that of the King. Her Majesty is a keen proponent of finding sources of supplementary income for farmers in the off-season, or when crops are affected by natural disasters such as droughts or floods. Queen Sirikit is also at the forefront in promoting traditional Thai arts and culture, as well as the rich and exotic beauty of Thai silk.

Although he does not hold constitutional authority, King Bhumibol has guided by moral suasion and example, through his words and his writings. Numerous NGOs and foundations have been formed in response to his example to deal with small but important elements of development. His books and articles reveal a knack for telling stories which illustrate a larger point, conveying in a few words a portrait readily accessible to a broad spectrum of the population. As a practicing Buddhist monarch (King Bhumibol was ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of 29), he adheres to the Theravada form of Buddhism observed by 94.2 per cent of the Thai population, and his annual televised birthday address is watched by millions throughout the kingdom each year.

Speaking of the King in 1995, US Senator Max Baucus stated, “Thailand today is one of the anchors of the modern, prosperous Southeast Asia. Bangkok has become one of the world’s great cities and commercial centres. Much of this extraordinary success is due to the wise guidance of King Bhumibol. The King has led by example...  Together, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit have devoted decades to improving the lives of Thai people in rural and impoverished regions... The results are obvious.”


Thaksin Mongkut
16/09/2013  |  21:16
100% of 1

Wonderful country, Thai people are becoming more prosperous