December 5th marks a special holiday in Thailand, Father’s Day! It is celebrated nationwide to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. This also marks the birthday anniversary of Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX – King Bhumibol.
King Bhumibol was seen as a father figure to Thailand and Thai people celebrate this occasion on a grand scale to show gratitude to their beloved King, who is “more than a monarch.”
From the day His Majesty the King ascended to the throne as King Rama IX, words cannot describe the immense kindness and compassion he demonstrates toward the people of Thailand. King Bhumibol has continuously devoted himself to the improvement of the nation and the people that call it home. He is regarded as a symbol of unity and social harmony in Thai society. Reigning as King for exactly 70 years and 127 days, we celebrate this beloved father.
As we celebrate the life of King Bhumibol, which is actually pronounced Pu-mee-pon. Meaning ‘Strength of the land, incomparable power’, we look back on his early life and how a young boy became one of Thailand’s most beloved King’s.
- Born on December 5, 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, King Bhumibol is the only monarch ever born in the United States.
- His father, Mahidol Adulyadej, studied medicine at Harvard and his mother, Princess Srinagarindra née Sangwan Talapat, a nurse. Bhumibol was the youngest of three children with an older sister Princess Galyani Vadhana and an older brother, Prince Ananda Mahidol.
- After his fathers death in 1929 the family returned to Thailand when Bhumibol was around 2 years old. Bhumibol’s mother took him, his older brother Ananda and sister Galyani to live in Lausanne, Switzerland.
- King Bhumibol’s brother became King in 1935 after their uncle Prajadhipok abdicated the throne, making his 9 year old brother Ananda the King.
- After mourning his brother’s death and assuming the role of king in 1946, Bhumibol made the bold decision to return to Switzerland to continue his studies. Originally majoring in science at Luasanne University, he switched to law and political science to better prepare for the demands of his reign.
“I have to leave this capital and leave you because it is essential that I re-create myself,” he said in a radio address before his departure
- While in Switzerland, Bhumibol’s met Sirikit Kitiyakara, the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. The couple married in Bangkok a week before his coronation on May 5th, 1950, and spent their honeymoon in Hua Hin. They went on to have three daughters and a son. Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak.
- Bhumibol is often referred to as King Rama IX in English, however many Thais referred to him as Nai Luangor Phra Chao Yu Hua, which translated to “the King” and “Lord Upon our Heads”. He was also called Chao Chiwit “Lord of Life”.
Heart of The Nation: 5 Ways King Bhumibol Transformed Thailand
As the world’s longest serving head of state, King Bhumibol is enormously popular and so highly revered in Thailand, regarded as the heart of the nation.
King Bhumibol was a tireless worker with a kind heart and superior devotion to the people of Thailand. His accomplishments within 70 years are insurmountable, with his majesty receiving over 2000 honorary doctorates, initiating and developing over 4,000 development projects, both in rural and urban areas, and registering 20 patents and 19 trademarks under his name with some earning international awards.
His efforts to improve the life and state of Thailand are clearly evident in his work that far exceeded his kingly duties. He was an inventor, philosopher, professional painter, photographer, Jazz musician, composer, engineer, architect, book author and translator, an inventor and a visionary thinker. Here are 5 ways King Bhumibol transformed Thailand:
Developed the royal rainmaking technology
- This technology took the form of cloud-seeding, a method whereby pilots disperse environmentally friendly chemicals to form cool and warm clouds at different altitudes in order to induce rain over drought-stricken areas. This was dubbed the “super sandwich”.
Industrialized the Chai Pattana wastewater aerator
- With an effort to reduce the level of water pollution Bhumibol developed an irrigation system using a Thai-made aerator to treat polluted water by adding air.
Introduced ‘Doi Kham’ Royal Project
- A rural farm development project aimed to provide income for Northern Hill Tribes by employing people who might otherwise be unemployed, and produce an amazing variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers for the commercial market.
- The word “doi” means “hill” while the word “kham” is a shortened word for “thongcome” which means “gold”.
Designed a system of small ‘Monkey Cheek’ dams to regulate water flow
- An initiative to prevent annual flooding in Bangkok by featuring reservoirs along the borders of the city to which surging water was diverted and later flushed into the sea or used for irrigation.
Conceived the philosophy of ‘Sufficiency Economy’
- A philosophy based on the fundamental principle of Thai culture. It is a method of development based on moderation, practicality, and social immunity.
- Sufficiency Economy encourages producers and consumers to produce or consume within the limit or limitation of existing income or resources.
“Economic development must be done step by step. It should begin with the strengthening of our economic foundation, by assuring that the majority if our population has enough to live on.”
King Rama XI has for many years captivated the world with his ability to lead an extraordinary life independent from his kingly duties.
It was during his earlier years in Lausanne, Switzerland where Bhumibol became interested in music. He began piano lessons that lead to a love for jazz music, into which he also began playing the trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone. At the age of 18 Bhumibol begin composing his own pieces and over several years he had composed over 50 songs, including a three-movement ballet previewed in Vienna and songs that are still frequently heard in Thailand. He also composed songs that were featured in the Broadway musical, Peepshow.
At 8 years old Bhumibol was given his first camera, a Coronet Midget. It was said that this Coronet never left his hands, as he developed a passion for photography and the arts. King Bhumibol was a professional self-taught artist, creating surrealistic oil pieces, along with sculptures, abstract and contemporary pieces, and frequently drew pictures of the Queen.
He was also an author, creating literature that spoke to his personal life and the life of the Thai people. One of his pieces was inspired from a beloved stray dog that he had adopted named Thongdaeng. Not surprisingly, he was also an avid sportsman, winning a gold medal at the SEAP Games in 1967 as a rather accomplished sailor and navigator.
King Bhumibol was a lifelong advocate of education. As an extremely well-educated man, he saw the importance of educating the people of Thailand, particularly those from poor and rural areas.
“Education is for everyone and endless. It is not one’s duty in any particular time. We have to learn since we are born. Once we reach higher education we still have to continue learning, otherwise we cannot survive.”
This message was crucial, as educating the populace is an important part of the development of Thailand. For example, by learning English, Thai people can get higher-level jobs in the business sector. They can then spend their salaries in their communities, supporting local business owners and the Thai economy as a whole. Those business owners can then afford to send their children to school to learn English, creating a cycle of growth.
We here at XploreAsia hope to honor the King’s legacy by educating and placing capable, compassionate English teachers throughout Thailand. We want to encourage our teachers to serve as positive role models and valuable members of their communities.
“In order to develop the nation, one should have not only knowledge but other necessary qualifications. These include being ashamed to commit a sin, honest in thought and action, grateful to the country and benefactors, unselfish, unwilling to exploit others, but being good hearted and kind to others.”