The King of Thailand
Today December 5 is the Birthday of The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol. It is the end of the seventh 12 year cycle of his life which makes it special. It is also poignant for many Thais because the precarious nature of The King‘s health may mean it is possibly his last birthday celebration.
Although the celebration lasts for about a week, on his birthday itself a grand festival was held near the palace with hundreds of thousands of people attending. There were fireworks exploding throughout the city as well as interminable speeches by politicians and endless chanting by hundreds of monks. Also, there was a short speech by the obviously very ill monarch in which he asked everyone to behave themselves.
As Kings go, Bhumibol in my opinion, is one of the best. Not that Kingship is one of the better systems of governance. It is not, being essentially a reward to the original biker gang-leader who slaughtered and raped his way to the top to allow his mostly inept descendants to have a free ride while participating in elaborate ceremonies, eating things too rich to be good for them, dressing uncomfortably and now and then putting someone they did not like to death in very horrible ways. As in everything, experience and expectation to the contrary, once in a while the system throws up an exemplary individual. King Bhumibol is one of them.
During most of Bhumibol‘s reign, some of the strangest dictators known to history exercised major political power in the country (One dictator even had the improbable name of “Weird”). Despite this, Bhumibol carved out an exemplary niche for himself. Rarely, if ever, during his reign have the other political powers in the country concerned themselves with anything other than the welfare of the small group that exercised control over the military and commercial resources of the country. This elite resided primarily in the nation’s capitol, largest city and commercial center, Bangkok.
Until recently Bhumibol was not only the spiritual leader of the country, but its conservationist, environmentalist and cultural preservationist in chief, as well as its water policy czar and rural development maven. He established and managed the nations national park system, developed and promoted the nations folk art, designed its water and flood protection systems, instituted a means of promoting village products throughout the country and the world and much much more.
He appears to be a most humble man. Most Kingships and nobility systems depend upon a system of religious deification, preservation of dignity, elaborate rituals and cultivation of support from the most powerful and conservative institutions in the nation. Bhumibol understood this but maintained only the slightest interest in it; only as much as necessary to preserve his authority. On formal occasions he meticulously observes the rituals such as prostration and the like. During his visits around the country pursuing his interests however, such rituals disappeared. For example, when reviewing a flood control site he often would roll out his maps and plans on the hood of the nearest vehicle, oblivious to the usual pomp that surrounds royal excursions.
He is a scientist and inventor with many patents to his name (mostly for water projects), musician and composer, sportsman (won a gold medal in sailing in the Asian Games on December 12th which has become National Sports Day in Thailand) and much more.
Nice going big guy. Happy Birthday.
- Thailand’s king pardons US man (bbc.co.uk)
- King Bhumibol recovers from bleeding (gpdhome.typepad.com)
- Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej recovers from health scare (telegraph.co.uk)
- Thailand: As Constitutional Court Toes The Line, Will Populists Ever Take Down The King? (ibtimes.com)
- King Bhumibol welcomes CP Naruhito (gpdhome.typepad.com)