It’s difficult to visit Thailand without realizing the genuine affection and admiration the Thai people have for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bangkok’s international airport has banners proclaiming ‘Long Live the King’ and portraits and pictures of the Thai king and queen can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the land. Wherever you venture in Thailand, you are almost certain at some stage to pass a roadside placard with their image.
Yellow is the colour associated with the king’s birthday (a Monday) and is the reason why you will see so many Thais wearing yellow shirts, particularly on a Monday. King Bhumibol* and Queen Sirikit are seen as the mother and father of the nation and their charity work and special projects have been extremely popular and influential throughout their long reign.
*(Bhumibol is the usual English spelling, but the actual pronunciation in Thai is more like ‘Poom-e-pon’).
The Thai king has an interesting background. Born on December 5th 1927 in Massachusetts, USA, he was educated in Thailand and Switzerland. It was in Switzerland in 1948 where the future monarch was involved in a motor accident which resulted in him losing the sight in his right eye.
Following the death of his brother (found in his bedroom with a gunshot injury to the head) Bhumibol ascended to the Thai throne in 1946 and became Rama IX. To allow the king to complete his education, the coronation was held over until May 5th 1950. Bhumibol married Sirikit on April 28th 1950, a week before his coronation.
Very much a modern king in touch with the Thai people, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit have founded numerous Royal Projects to improve life in villages throughout Thailand. The couple’s compassion and the longevity of their reign have both played a large part in their popularity. Many Thai people have viewed King Bhumibol as a stabling influence during the numerous political upheavals he has seen in the years he has been king. In 2006, celebrations were held throughout Thailand to mark the king’s 60 years as monarch. The celebrations have continued in 2007 to mark the king’s 80th birthday on December 5th.
The Thai king is a keen photographer and sailor, but it is music where King Bhumibol is particularly renowned. His fondness for jazz has seen him compose and perform his own works and he plays saxophone and clarinet.
King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit have four children. One of their grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen, was killed in the 2004 tsunami whilst staying in Khao Lak in the south of Thailand.
(Photos of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit are from soravij.com)