I’ve written before about the Thai royal family and in particular the affection and devotion most Thais have for their king and queen. As Swiss man, Oliver Jufer found out, insulting the king is a criminal offence and as resident in Thailand for over a decade, Jufer knew the consequences of his actions. The offence of lese majeste is a serious one in Thailand although King Bhumibol himself has expressed opinions that the law is too harsh, but for the moment at least the law remains in force.
For tourists and casual visitors to Thailand it’s highly unlikely you are going to get involved with in-depth discussions about the Thai royal family, so lese majeste is nothing to worry about, but it’s something you should be aware of. One possible way that you may inadvertently cause offence is by not standing for the Thai national anthem.
Thai National Anthem
So how are you meant to know when to stand up for an anthem you may never have heard before? The key thing to remember is that the Thai national anthem is played twice a day at 8.a.m. and 6p.m. If you are in a public place like a train or bus station at either of those times and you hear music coming over the loudspeakers and all the Thais around you stand up or suddenly stop walking, then you should follow suit. On the other hand, if you are in a restaurant or shop and the anthem comes on over the radio or TV it’s most unusual for people to stand up (or stop eating for that matter) but again take your cue from the Thai people around you. As a foreigner you won’t be expected to know about the anthem, but it’s good if you do.
At the Cinema
Before the start of every movie in Thai cinemas, a royal anthem is played. It’s not the national anthem, but an anthem paying homage to the king and is accompanied by pictures of the king on the screen. Two words of advice; stand up. In this situation, if you don’t stand up, a Thai person will probably request that you do so. To refuse could result in more than you bargained for.